IBM Midmarket General Manager John Mason recently published “When Small Businesses Use Cloud and Mobile to Go Global” on IBM’s Smarter Planet Blog. Mason's commentary was created to suggest that cloud computing and the growing use of mobile communications technology could be the platform for growth and expansion. Here are Mason's exact words:
"For the first time ever, there exists a massive global communications platform, providing tremendous reach for even the most modest of companies wishing to expand their horizons – literally."
Mason went on to say that Cloud Computing leveled the playing field and offered SMBs opportunities that were previously limited to large enterprises. While the technology offers a great deal of promise, I would urge that SMB decision makers move forward with caution rather than leaping onto the world stage with both feet.
Large enterprises have staff members with deep expertise in the regulations, the tax laws, the requirements for privacy and data protection that exist in each country they serve. SMBs often don't have either the staff or the expertise. For example it would be wise to understand the answers to the following questions and many more:
- What are the implications of the regulations protecting customer data?
- Are there special requirements for the length of warranties in some countries that differ from those in other countries?
- Do some countries require sales or other taxes be collected and the proceeds to them on a regular basis?
While it is quite possible that a SMB would enjoy increased levels of success by reaching out to a broader market, I'd suggest building a large base in their home country and incrementally reaching out more broadly as the company gains needed experience. Jumping into the world market before a company is ready could lead to "interesting challenges" rather than to the promised land of a world wide presence and greater revenues.
If cloud computing and the newest mobility technology are used properly, it is possible that SMBs can find the promised land of increased sales and reaching a broader market. Used improperly, those same tools can also lead high costs of litigation, unhappy customers and heartache. I'd advise SMB decision makers use caution and careful planning not just blind enthusiasm. I'd also advise that these decision makers seek out those who have already taken that journey and ask for advice. There are many service providers, IT suppliers (Including IBM, of course), and other SMBs who have experience and expertise to share.