A buyer’s market for SMB apps

The regional SMB business apps market has a lot of potential,but where do the best opportunities lie?

Tags: Focus Softnet LimitedMicrosoft CorporationRed Blue Blur Ideas (rbbideas.com)Systems integrator
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A buyer’s market for SMB apps
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By  Piers Ford Published  September 5, 2013

The SMB business apps market particularly in the region has a lot of potential and is highly competitive, but where do the best opportunities lie for channel partners?

If you are in the business of developing and providing apps for the SMB sector in the Middle East, you don’t need to be told that it’s a buyer’s market. Competition is intense and the array of apps is growing at an exponential rate, driven in no small part by increased demand for mobilised solutions and the rise of the BYOD phenomenon.

SMBs need innovative ways to integrate their own platforms, to engage with partners and customers in the cloud, and to fulfil the needs of their employees regardless of location or device. And they are looking to developers and vendors for the answer, putting the ball firmly in the court of nimble, up-to-date resellers who can bring the right layer of expertise to these integrated sales.

Globally, according to analyst IDC, SMBs will be spending almost $700bn a year on IT by 2016. Given the rise of the cloud, it’s likely that the bulk of that investment will be in services, tools and apps rather than hardcore infrastructure. Apps, therefore, is the place to be if you want to improve your prospects. But you will need the skills and access to the latest that vendors have to offer if you want to distinguish yourself in a market that is likely to evolve into a free-for-all battle.

“Applications provide flexibility and are naturally attuned to the way in which those working within the SMB sector want to do business,” said Michael Mansour, developer platform and technologies lead, Microsoft Gulf. “They provide an excellent way for businesses to connect with customers or clients, as well as to control administrative business functions without being confined to an office environment.”

As the range of end-user platforms grows, so does demand. “As smart mobile devices and tablets are becoming full-fledged business tools, businesses feel the need for the applications to be available on these devices,” said Ali Hyder, CEO of Focus Softnet. “The demands vary from industry to industry with fast food chains, wholesale distributors and banks leading demand, while other smaller services and retail outlets are not yet generating such strong demand.”

At the very least, according to Hyder, SMBs are looking for CRM, BI dashboard and order management apps. And because SMBs are the fastest growing business sector in the region, this should mean rich pickings for the industry.

“Many start-ups and new, innovative businesses have risen in the Middle East in the last few years,” said Amol Kadam, creative strategist and user experience (UX) director at digital performance marketing agency RBBi in Dubai.

“All these SMBs are leaner, sharper and smarter. They cite simple installation, reduced software and IT costs, minimal configuration, on-demand everywhere availability, and integrated data backup and disaster recovery as some of the most desirable features of app products. These core driving forces take SMBs automatically towards business apps for automation, efficiency and cost effectiveness.

“The demand for SMB apps isn’t limited to office, collaboration and email software. By far the most popular apps are core business productivity tools.”

This demand is mainly being driven by software as a service (SaaS) providers, who supply accounting and finance, sales, HR, project management and CRM automation, said Kadam.

And it isn’t all about the back office, said Microsoft’s Mansour. Because apps work seamlessly with social media channels, they are a natural meeting point for SMBs and consumers.

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