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Opportunity Knocks for the SMB Market

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By Brian Reid, managing director of The Connect Partnership IBM and Oracle products are now more affordable to the smaller and medium sized business (SMB and MMB) marketplace. The opportunity to implement best in class technical and data architecture is now an economically viable proposition for these organisations.

At the recent TSAM conference on 3 March in London, providing better quality data and supporting greater regulatory reporting demands in a climate of recession were cited as major challenges to businesses today. Implementing best in class architecture with automated master data management tools will help achieve these competing demands, proving more accurate and timely information at less cost. Rock solid, highly scalable, best in class data and IT architectures have long been the preserve of the larger corporations. Smaller enterprises have had to settle for suffering ‘death by spreadsheet’, interspersed with the occasional best of breed applications supporting the primary business of the organisation. Now, CEOs across the board are asking for better analytics to help manage their businesses through a recession. Meanwhile, their chief financial officers are being required to meet the opposing challenges of reducing costs, while simultaneously satisfying the demands from the business to obtain ever more accurate data. CEOs need timely business intelligence and client reporting from a struggling non-scalable architecture that requires expensive manual processing to deliver the information required. It appears to be a classic example of conflicting needs, but there is a solution emerging from the blue chip information product providers, IBM and Oracle. Best in class architecture is now accessible to SMB and MMB enterprises. Now, it has become possible to implement a truly scalable enterprise message-based service bus (ESB), complemented by leading edge business intelligence products, for a fraction of the costs previously thought possible. Consultancies and integrators recognise this and are pulling together some compelling implementation packages. These offerings compete head to head, with traditional desktop market products on real costs and offer a truly incremental, future proofed solution. The reason for the increase in affordability is that IBM and Oracle now recognise that to engage with the SMB markets, they have to build lower priced express editions of their product sets. Their business partners are being given substantial support to provide these exciting new propositions and have the incentive of adding product sales to their existing service-based revenue streams. The end result is that customers can expect to see the benefits of more competitive pricing combined with richer features normally associated with the high end IT market. Data management and integration products and services are becoming more commoditised and IT technicians and consultancies are becoming architects and fitters. Of course, the installation of a best in class integration is not the whole story, as the issue of data quality raises its ever-present head. There is little point in transferring data from source through a near real-time process if the resulting information is sub-standard. Yet again, help is at hand. In addressing master data management issues, suites of software, previously within the reach only of larger enterprises, can now be brought to bear on data cleansing, profiling and maintenance. Master data management has moved from the world of the data expert in their ivory tower, proposing expensive procedures, to one in which readily available product with configurable software features can automatically detect and solve data problems. An example is Cisco systems. This company with a workforce of around 67,000 people dispersed globally is able to have its end of period figures confirmed and usable for analysis within four hours. Confirmed information delivered in such timeframes is essential to today’s agile organisation, to enable it to adjust rapidly to volatile markets. This is the type of response the CEO is demanding and it is now achievable at a cost the chief financial officer can accommodate. Thus bringing cost savings from reduced manual manipulation of the figures and providing opportunities for informed decision making that have not been apparent so early before. Organisations should now seriously consider these newly accessible options. Now is the optimum time to invest and prepare for the upturn. Consultancy costs are lower and companies are offering comprehensive one stop shop implementations and often fixed price propositions. Solutions underpinned by the worldwide 24/7 support of leading IT players, and delivered by the largest available market for technical resources that there is. Take note; the age of the IT supermarket is here for all.

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