Bigger isn’t better – why partnering with SMEs benefits business
By Elingo CEO Ian Goss-Ross
Bigger is not always better when it comes to ICT partners. When a corporate entity grows beyond a certain size, it has a tendency to become slower to adapt to change, bogged down in bureaucracy, and less inclined to focus on individual customer needs. To cope, it tends to compartmentalise customers and deliver the same services across the board.
This is in stark contrast with what CEOs and CIOs need from their ICT partners in an increasingly competitive landscape. Now, ICT needs to deliver in an agile, always-on manner, 100% in line with the business’s strategic goals and able to adapt on the fly.
Enter SMEs. Increasingly, enterprises are seeing the value of partnering with SMEs when IT matters. In the past five years, we have seen a growing volume of the work done through the channels involving numerous smaller implementation and support partners. In some cases, this may be due to empowerment procurement imperatives, but mostly, we believe it is due to the fact that SMEs offer several advantages over large enterprises when it comes to delivering.
SMEs care more. Quite simply, SMEs likely to have fewer customers than major enterprises do. Each of these customers contributes a significant portion of the SME’s revenue, unlike in a major corporate, where revenue from a single customer is just a drop in the bucket. Because each customer is so important to the SME’s survival, the small enterprise will try harder to ensure it delivers faster on its customer’s needs.
SME employees have a stake in customer satisfaction. By their very nature, SMEs employ only the best skills and have a low tolerance for employees who do not perform. There is nowhere for a non-performer to ‘hide’ within an SME environment and such staff tend to move on rapidly. Performers tend to take the SME’s success personally, and there is often a low staff turnover within an SME. Because SMEs are small, management is likely to be in regular contact with all staff, ensuring that strategy is communicated on an ongoing basis. This means staff within an SME tends to be skilled, enthusiastic and committed to its success – which ensures better service for its customers.
SMEs are agile. Because SMEs are smaller, and management is involved at every level, SMEs are able to action decisions and adapt to market conditions far faster than major corporates can.
SMEs will deliver. Because each customer is so crucial to an SME’s success, the SME is likely to go the extra mile to deliver. Now, SMEs can deliver the same product sets large corporates can. Reputable SMEs will ensure they have solid partnerships with top vendors, in order to support their solutions. If they do not have a specific skill in-house, they will likely partner with another SME in order to support their customers’ needs. They are cognisant of the competition, and will ensure that their employees remain certified and skilled in order to retain their competitiveness
When choosing an SME partner you should:
- Rely on word of mouth recommendations
- Pay site visits and carry out customer checks
- Establish its culture and values
- Assess projects the SME has implemented
- Look at the SME’s track record. In the case of start-ups, assess the track records of individual founding members.
It isn’t easy for ICT start-ups to succeed in South Africa. It takes funding, skills, resources, and up to three years to build a track record worthy of customer attention. Those that achieve this have invested heavily in their survival. The fact that they have survived in a highly challenging market demonstrates their agility, skill, problem-solving ability, perseverance and service excellence – and these qualities are all high on the CEO and CIO wish list when it comes to selecting partners.