In 2017, South Africa is expected to spend $10.5bn on information, technology and communications (ICT). This is according to the International Data Corporation (IDC), and the figure makes it the highest ICT spender across the Middle East, Turkey and Africa (META) regions. Without doubt, as a country heavily reliant on small and medium sized businesses (SMEs), a large portion of this spend will be traceable back to SMEs. And given that Internet connectivity has now become the lifeblood of any functioning business entity, much of the spend will be funnelled towards simply getting (and staying) online.
Yet despite all this planned investment, many SMEs are simply setting themselves up for frustration and recurring expenses with their standard approach to connectivity. As the past few years have demonstrated, it is not the lack of options and technology solutions that hamper under-resourced SMEs – rather, it is the way in which they go about choosing Internet service providers and the various products that ultimately cause headaches for busy small and medium business owners.
Take the arrival of more recent and very prevalent broadband fibre optics, for example. Broadband Fibre connectivity was trumpeted as a panacea for SMEs lacking affordable and high speed Internet. But here we are, 2 years down the line, and SMEs are still bemoaning their lack of access in comparison to what their bigger, enterprise rivals are seemingly enjoying.
Lost in the Crowd
There are several major reasons why SMEs need to change their connectivity tack. For one, businesses of fewer than 50 people are never going to command the same level of attention and customer care that their bigger counterparts enjoy. That’s simply a sad fact of the corporate hierarchy. So expecting to call a major telecoms provider (as a small or medium business) and to get any problem solved within a week is downright unrealistic.
Secondly, the major Internet service providers are not designed to cater for the custom and unique needs of an SME. They have been designed to meet the needs of the bigwig corporate and enterprise players. As a result, despite the fact that every SME has a very specific set of connectivity requirements, the major service providers are simply not equipped to meet these demands. Naturally, most solutions and product packages for SMEs are then ill-fitted – resulting in wasted resources and costly IT hiccups. One size certainly does not fit all when it comes to SMEs and connectivity!
Finally, many of the SMEs are just too busy being hands on in their businesses to dive into the notorious complexity of Internet connectivity and cloud. It is an increasingly crowded and competitive landscape, and the best SME connectivity solutions are most often those that involve the products and solutions of multiple Internet service providers – not just one. But for a harried small or medium business owner to delve into this complexity and figure it all out, he or she will have to take time out from a business that needs to rather focus on its core offering.
Finding a Translator
As any straight thinking monoglot would do when trying to navigate treacherous terrain in a foreign land, the smartest strategy for SMEs is to find a translator – an entity that will broker the best deals for them. More specifically, local SMEs need to partner with an IT partner or aggregator that can firstly understand their unique connectivity needs as a business, and then design a solution or connectivity package that harnesses the most relevant offerings across multiple Internet service providers.
This requires, on the part of the IT partner, an intuitive understanding of the SME business needs – as well as strong, enterprise-level relationships with the major Internet service providers themselves. If these elements are in place, SMEs stand to save money by getting more tailored and relevant IT solutions, and should in the long run enjoy far greater profitability (and professional harmony)…
As it stands, most SMEs are wandering blindly in the dark woods of IT connectivity, and are being offered off the shelf “fibre solutions” without any consideration for what the SME really needs!
By Brian Timperley