By Sramana Mitra and guest authors Pablo Chacin and Saurabh Mallik
SM: Yes, and what you just said applies also to small for-profit businesses. If you look at the numbers, in the United States there are about 28 million small businesses. About 22 million have no employees; these are mom-and-pop small businesses, and there are about 5 million to 6 million businesses that have fewer than 20 employees. In the small business category the level of IT expertise is incredibly low, and these are people who, for decades, have been left out of the technology availability or technology adoption cycle. With the advent of cloud computing and different service and delivery models, these firms can access information technology. So, what you said about nonprofits applies to the small business universe as well, right?
PT: Yes, I would agree with that. I would also add that in terms of features and functions, the key to a successful cloud model at the end of the day is to understand standardization and automation and really provide self-service functions to the community you are trying to serve. So it’s well beyond simplifying, virtualizing, or consolidating, and that’s where there is an opportunity for people who understand industries at a deeper level to figure out. The question they ask is, now that I have the capability, how do I create the self-service environment to apply to this particular business process in this industry? At the end of the day, I think that is where the key progress has to be made for cloud adoption and innovation to continue over time.
SM: Right. Also, I run a 1M/1M program, and we have entrepreneur roundtables every week. Yesterday there was an entrepreneur from India who was trying to deliver material requirements planning (MRP) functionality to the Indian textile and garment manufacturing industry, which is a highly backward industry. He’s trying to deliver this solution as an SaaS platform and cloud computing model, and he always has to intervene and conduct intensive training for these organizations. He’s frustrated that he can’t get to the self-service SaaS delivery model, and my response to that is that the market is not there, the market is not a point where people can do self-service, and so the training piece has to be a part of the business value proposition. I think the problem is lack of training, the lack of familiarity with IT, and in some regions the lack of penetration and computer adoption. So, if you look at it from a global point of view, the level of adoption and awareness is fairly low.
PT: That is so true. As you know, when you do any kind of business process engineering, you have to do the hard work of simplifying, and in some cases, radically simplifying to a standardized way of doing it, and from there you can find a way to automate certain features and finally get to a full understanding of what’s really evolved in self-service. Obviously, a large part of this requires change management to run all the technology.
SM: Yes. Change management and training – huge amounts of training.
PT: Training, yes, and enablement. That’s so true.
SM:Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us, Pat, and I would love to stay in touch as we develop the series. I hope we can bring some insights from the industry as well.
PT: Thank you, Sramana. I really look forward to reading the article.