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According to US data, a staggering 99.7% of companies are classed as a small business with under 500 workers. Among those, almost 90% have under 20 staff. In the UK, its a similar story with 99% of companies having less than 250 employees.

With the rapid amount of startup activity, there’s growing focus on small and nimble businesses. These companies run rings around those slowly trudging their way to large business or enterprise status. And IT providers need to refine their products to meet the needs of small companies without specialist tech workers.

This is a valuable market too, with IDC data suggesting that small U.S. companies will spend $229 billion on IT this year. That’s as everyone from mom-and-pop outfits to space-age startups realize recognize the benefits. They can replace accountants with cloud-based accounting services, that Google Docs is easier to use and share files than legacy office apps. Even expensive specialist apps like Adobe Pagemaker and Photoshop are available on a low-cost subscription basis.

Huge storage, smart services and AI available to all

When a company used to start up, it would load up on servers and networking technology. Now it can buy some low-cost laptops and get everything else it needs from the cloud. There’s unlimited storage, services, applications, massive amounts of computer power, and much more.

Advanced services are also easily accessible to any size of business, IBM’s Watson artificial intelligence cloud service can be used by anyone for visual analysis, language recognition, and translation, information and trend discovery and many other uses. Amazon’s Web Services (AWS) is used by vast numbers of companies for number crunching and processing while increasingly specialist companies provide services for businesses in particular markets or verticals.

There are providers like WorkFusion for process automation and other services, Snatchbot for chatbots with analytics and no coding skills required. These tools provide best-in-class features that anyone can use, but were considered high-end enterprise-only technology just a few years ago.

Talking to small business is a different game

Whatever the size of the provider, if it doesn’t appeal to small business, if it still jabbers on in enterprise-lingo to non-experts, it will lose money and interest as small companies talk about what works for them. They might not publish white papers, proofs of concept, but small business will drive adoption of much of the next batch of technology innovation, so vendors need to be ready to meet them head-on.

Also, small business operators stick with what they know. So, Twitter is more useful for digital marketing than LinkedIn, Google has better awareness than Salesforce. That means big IT businesses need to reach down to the small, personal level faster than ever before.

Lots of big-name companies have tried. For example, Intel launched its Small Business Advantage program in 2012 and discontinued it in 2016. If you work for a small business, let us know your experience, good or bad, with big IT.

Photo credit: Takashi Hososhima / Sebastiaan ter Burg
Source: Natalie Gagliordi (ZDNet) / Intel support

Chris Knight

I’ve been writing about technology. PCs and mobile for over 10 years, covering news, tutorials, reviews, comparisons and other pieces across magazines and websites.