IBM Software Focuses On SMB

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IBM Software's push into the SMB market is gaining momentum going into the second half of the year, with growing numbers of customers and new products. For example, the company says it has attracted 10,000 new customers in the first half of 2004--that's twice the number of new customers attracted in the first half of 2003 and more than all new SMB customers added to its fold in 2002.

"We're focusing on the SMB market because SMB is growth. It is a section of the market that has not traditionally been addressed by IBM," says Kevin Hooper, director of SMB sales and business development for IBM Software. "But over the past two years, we have been addressing this by building out a suite of products and offerings aimed specifically at the SMB segment." Of the new customers, banking, life sciences and wholesale are the industries growing the fastest--in the double digits.

As part of IBM Software's realignment late last year, in which brands and product lines were aligned according to industry, the team decided to turn its focus more to the SMB area as well. "We realized that these customers purchase in many different ways, and we needed to figure out a robust way in which we could enable the customers to purchase from IBM," Hooper says. IBM's response? The Solutions Builder Express portfolio, launched earlier this year, offers hardware, middleware, servicing and financing tailored to the SMB market's needs. The Express offerings aim to be quickly and cost effectively acquired, installed and managed for fast ROI.

Earlier this month, IBM announced six new Starting Points, or templates, available in its Solutions Builder Express portfolio and its new Jump Start program. The template additions include Collaborative Document Management in Banking; Item Management and Synchronization for UCCnet; Retail e-commerce Website; Collaborative Community and Employee Portals for IBM eServer iSeries; and cross-industry B2B e-commerce and B2C e-commerce Analytics. Each Starting Point serves as a solution template with information on design, implementation, deployment, technical architecture, hardware and software specifications, reusable installation and integration instructions, and demo toolkits.

In addition to ease of use, Hooper says that SMB customers "want to buy from vendors who understand their business models and business needs and know their jargon and acronyms." IBM also educated its sales force to better serve the SMB market. "We have educated our sales force so they can speak the language, and we're educating our partners to understand the pain points within the SMB customer segment," Hooper says.

The continued investment is part of IBM's Small and Medium Business Advantage, a larger $500 million initiative to provide marketing and sales support for Business Partners selling into the SMB market. IBM also introduced its Jump Start program to help Business Partners quickly adopt and employ assets in the Solutions Builder Express toolkit. Interested partners can find more information and nominate themselves for the Jump Start program on the IBM PartnerWorld portal.

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