While there has been anecdotal evidence that SMBs are beginning to spend on IT again, this week a number of reports show that it’s actually happening, although not in the areas you might expect. CRM is a big winner, with British SMBs taking to hosted CRMs rather than on-premise options

SMBs Start Spending Again

If you haven’t heard already, the IT sector is spending its way out of the recession with most analysts guessing at a major reprise over the course of 2010. This particularly so of the SMB sector. A recent survey of 1000 SMP IT workers by Spiceworks over the course of January and February this year gives some kind of idea of how that reprise is shaping up.

Reported in the second semi-annual State of SMB IT technology survey the research is designed to investigate current technology purchasing, usage and staffing trends among SMBs and like all surveys it’s a mixed bag of the good and the bad.

Surprisingly, there is a huge increase in the number of companies looking to invest in existing or new CRMs, while hosted services seem to be suffering the brunt of the cutbacks, principally over security concerns. Virtualization technologies also appear to be doing well.

Some of highlights include:

  • The average IT budget climbed 9% in 2010 to US $117,200 with 43 percent of SMBs reporting budget increases.
  • Nearly half (47%) of 2010 IT budgets is allocated to new hardware purchases, 34 percent to new software and 19 percent to IT services.
  • 22% of SMBs plan to purchase, upgrade or renew CRM applications.
  • Hosted services purchase plans down 15% in the first six months of 2010 vs. the last six months of 2010.
  • 80% of SMBs plan new desktop, laptop and server purchases in the first six months of 2010 in order to refresh hardware that is on average 48 months old, although Netbooks and iPad are still not popular representing less than 3% of spending.
  • 55% of SMBs plan software purchases in the first six months of 2010. Top priorities include virtualization, antivirus/anti-spam, backup and recovery and Windows 7 upgrades.
  • 41% planning new or additional investments in virtualization solutions in the first six months of 2010.
  • Currently only 25% plan to utilize cloud computing services over the next 6 months.

Interested in reading more?

UK SMBs Take To Hosted CRM

If CRM investment over the coming year is a priority for US SMBs, in Britain SMBs are just as enthusiastic, but looking at CRM as a hosted service rather than on-premise deployments.

A recent survey conducted by Really Simple Systems shows that SMBs are embracing hosted applications such as web based CRM at a faster rate than ever.

It shows that simple hosted CRM continues to outshine ERP, Payroll, HR and Manufacturing as the preferred SaaS offering for SMBs. ERP, Payroll, HR and Manufacturing offerings have improved their penetration in the SME market but continue to lag behind.

Of the 466 IT professionals questioned, 67 percent said they are confident in online CRM with 41% actively using web based CRM applications. Hosted ERP trails behind CRM with only 13% of respondents using ERP SaaS applications and only 39% reporting confidence in hosted ERP applications.

Of note here is that in the UK, for the purposes of this survey, an SMB is a company with less than 50 employees. 62% report increased confidence in hosted applications between March 2009 and March 2010.

This is mirrored by the 62% who agreed that hosted applications had been made a more attractive proposition by the current state of the economy and in particular by the fact that they require less internal IT-support.

Web based CRM has almost completely caught up with in-house CRM for SMBs, with 41 percent of respondents now using online CRM applications as opposed to 42% using in-house CRM.

IBM Extends LotusLive For SMBs

IBM (news, site) continues its moves in the SMB market with the extension of its LotusLive cloud services that will see it offering social media and networking, and email as well as integrated business products and services from UPS, Skype, salesforce.com and Silanis for US $7/user/month.

Concentrating on collaboration and workflows in business as one of the waves of the future, it improves integration of the products so that, for example, users can access files from LotusLive in Silanis, launch them in a meeting from Salesforce, launch a call with Skype, or ship a package with UPS all in the same workflow from within LotusLive

While the industry norm is to offer cloud services in separate silos, IBM's integrations remove barriers between services, creating a seamless experience across the applications and business processes.

Add to that LotusLive Engage for Salesforce and you get the same collaborative abilities from within Salesforce.

The US $7 bundle can combine the capabilities of LotusLive iNotes and LotusLive Connections providing email, file store and share, activity management, instant messaging and social networking.

These services have also been extended to add 15 languages that should make it available to SMBs in almost any market in the world. Looking for more information?

SMBs Go Back To School

AS HP (news, site) and Cisco (news, site) slug it out for the heart and pockets of the SMB technology market, Cisco has introduced a new Web-based Small Business University, which includes new and updated partner tools and training offerings to help partners develop their sales, technical and business knowledge.

This one-stop-shop brings all the tools and trainings that partners need to build a successful small business practice to one central place. New and updated tools and training offerings include:

  • Business Specialization: Updates to the specialization skills for companies with less than 100 employees.
  • Partner Practice Builder: An enablement platform for building business using Cisco SMB technology.
  • Smart Business Roadmap: A Web-based training framework to improve partners' solution sales skills.

It also continues to push its Small Business Partner Development Funds program that provides interest-free credit for companies investing in Cisco SMB products.

You may remember in February that HP did exactly the same thing. HP It introduced a range of services for small- to midsize data center operations that help improve efficiency, increase the flexibility of IT budgets and ensure service-level commitments. Could packed lunches be next on the agenda?