How do you view inkjet vs. laser technology in terms of meeting the printing needs of small businesses?
Traditionally, if you wanted faster, clearer text you would go for a laser printer. And if you wanted to have better picture or image quality you would purchase an inkjet. But now, with Lexmark and some of your competitors in the inkjet area, that price performance rationality is not valid. The $200 to $400 price range of inkjet printers that are offered would suit the majority of small businesses and the need for a laser is not so important thanks to the increased text clarity and printing speeds offered by newer inkjets. A large number of small businesses don’t have a lot of funding for the upfront cost for a laser MFP, but now, with the superior page quality of inkjet printers and with printer manufacturers driving ink costs lower, which many small businesses appreciate, you get a good price performance ratio for inkjet.
What do you think will be the significant technology trends for small businesses in the next 3-5 years?
Mobility, utilizing the cloud and social media are major trends that SMBs need to consider. The cloud eliminates a lot of risks for small businesses and helps them because many SMBs can’t hire a technology consultant. Part of the rise in the usage of cloud services is due to mobility, as people want to access information anytime. Many SMBs go to client meetings, tradeshows, etc. and need their information to be accessible at any time. Google cloud print and scanning apps available on the Lexmark OfficeEdge Pro5500 help play into this trend.
Another trend, Software as a Service (SAAS), gives SMBs the ability to do things that they couldn’t do before for less cost than hiring their own IT advisor. Infrastructure as a Service (IAAS) options let technology-focused SMBs quickly scale to levels that were previously unthinkable for small organizations.
Social media is a great way for a SMB to stand out. Facebook has hundreds of millions of users and is only getting more popular. Twitter’s huge. This technology gives SMBs a global platform in which SMBs can come into contact with customers one-to-one and give them the personal touch people love to get from SMBs – it’s an important tool for SMBs to stand out moving forward. Customers anywhere can tell SMBs, “Hey, I had a problem with this” and minutes later SMBs can respond to the issue and get the problem solved. The relative lack of red tape at most SMBs gives them a major advantage over big businesses in the fast-paced world of social media.
National Small Business Week Trivia: The U.S. Federal Government buys nearly $100 billion worth of goods and services from small businesses each year.
Do you still find that most small businesses have to serve as their own IT support, or are they relying more and more on partners to provide and manage their office technology?
I think for the most part, most SMBs are still doing their own ad hoc and on-the-fly IT support, but support services are definitely growing. Gartner and IDC say that small businesses are a major driver of IT and are going to contribute $38 billion to IT services this year. SMBs can be over their head when it comes to technology – a computer breaks, what do you do? A business may be good at selling hamburgers, but may not know how to encrypt their hard drive. That’s where IT services come in.
What do you think is the one technology small businesses can’t live without?
To me, it’s just the Internet in general at this point, with everything being so connected. Internet sales. Mobile credit card readers. The cloud services being able to back up your data, take care of your support services, giving you the ability to access and share your documents any time, everywhere. On the flip side, however, the problem with using social media, etc., and being on 24 hours is that customers expect an answer NOW – so you have to drop everything. Thankfully, you can pick and choose which services or social media channels to use to fit your needs.
What do you think is the most transformative technology in the last 3-5 years that’s made a significant impact on the way small businesses run their operations?
Mobile devices and the cloud have transformed the way SMBs do business and will continue to do so. SMBs now have the ability to accept a credit card anywhere and to talk to customers anywhere. “Bring your own devices,” or BYOD, to work is a nightmare for some businesses, but for many small businesses, it’s helping to drive more customer engagement and sales in real time without having to invest significant upfront cash into the technology. Win-win!