Emerging Enterprise: The 7 Practices of Highly Effective SMBs

What are the key IT advantages that small companies hold over larger enterprises? We list seven key practices that can afford SMBs a competitive edge.

November 18, 2005

3 Min Read
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One of the chief survival skills among emerging enterprises is the shrewd use of information technology, which lets them compete with the behemoths of the business jungle while remaining nimble enough to evolve in new directions. Here are seven practices that make SMB IT organizations successful in today's blog-eat-blog world.

» Adapt quickly to change. Large enterprises must wrestle with a legacy of IT that took years to build--and would take years to tear down. Small companies, on the other hand, can switch server hardware, OSs or network architecture quickly to gain business advantage.

» Vary your food sources. It's true, big companies can leverage their size to strike lucrative deals with vendors. But long-term contracts often make it difficult for them to take advantage of short-term deals from suppliers. Effective SMBs exploit a variety of purchasing paths--including online sellers, discount catalog houses and specialized suppliers--to get the technology they need.» Harness and domesticate. An SMB can't afford to keep all the IT skills it may need on its permanent staff, so effective competitors build a base of outside resources. Value-added resellers, IT outsourcing vendors and third-party service providers offer expertise and labor so a growing enterprise can operate more cost-efficiently than a Fortune 500 corporation.

» Try new behaviors. Large IT departments aren't much on experimentation. Sure, they have test beds and R&D funds, but they seldom do a pilot--let alone a system rollout or process change--on a small scale. Effective SMBs, on the other hand, can do a 10-node beta and get results immediately.

» Band together. Persuading IT pros from the Fortune 500 to share information can be like trying to pry a kill from the jaws of a T-rex. Many large companies won't discuss their IT practices for fear of giving away their "competitive advantage." Smaller companies, on the other hand, share knowledge through IT professional associations, local user groups and informal partnerships that help keep them abreast of broad technology market shifts.

» Carve out your niche. When it comes to business applications most SMBs may not be able to match the scale of a Fortune 500, but many small companies have developed custom applications that work as well or better than those developed by larger enterprises at much greater expense.

» Protect yourself. Big companies are prime targets for the jackals who would feed off them. Small companies have smaller perimeters to secure, and the best ones do so carefully and creatively. A good, strong fire--or firewall--keeps the wolves out of the cave.

These IT practices don't mean SMBs will reign supreme. But as any successful emerging enterprise knows, it pays to keep evolving. You don't have to be huge to make it big.

Tim Wilson is Network Computing's editor, business technology. Write to him at [email protected].

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