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A simplified IT marketplace opens for business

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Fail to keep up with the technology curve, and your business can quickly lose much of its competitive edge. Spend too much time researching the right business technologies, and your business may still miss out on the ideal solutions to increase your competitive capabilities.

"Risk, quite simply, makes companies hesitate to adopt the very technologies they need to drive growth and profits," says Amanda Finch, director of strategic alliances at Journyx, Inc., a provider of Web-based time-tracking software products. "When IT is not your company's core business, the investment in IT capability makes technology more expensive."

That's why many midsized businesses find the IT buying process to be frustrating. Plus, once a solution is chosen, it can lock the organization into a single vendor for business technology. And to make matters more complicated, small and midsized businesses frequently lack the expertise to assemble, integrate, manage and troubleshoot increasingly complex IT environments in areas critical to operating in today's markets.

This back-end complexity can be found in three areas key to becoming more competitive, according to Finch. "Security, business optimization and collaboration—these three things can power a business, but if the solution benefits are offset by excessive IT costs, the companies can suffer."

The simplified marketplace opens for business

The need to simplify IT purchasing, installation and support hasn't been lost on IBM who recently introduced a new offering called IBM Smart Business. Multiple independent software vendors (ISVs) offer their solutions on the Smart Market, IBM's new marketplace and community, with the backing of IBM's trusted technology and systems expertise.

This model allows companies access to a broad range of applications that are pre-integrated and pre-tested on the Smart Cube, an application appliance. All this, including the application, is supported by IBM through a single point of contact helping small and midsized businesses lower their IT costs and eliminate the need for extensive training.

With this offering, IBM and its business partners use open standards and Web 2.0 capabilities to help small and midsized businesses stay ahead of the technology curve efficiently and cost-effectively. Aimed at streamlining all aspects of business technology, IBM Smart Business offers a single, Web-based catalog of software choices, allowing companies to find solutions that fit. And as companies review their options, they can also get advice through live chat from IBM and its partners to help make the right choices.

Support eases IT headaches

"Never underestimate the power of the easy install," says Finch, whose company participates in Smart Market. "Companies want to use the Web to do what the Web does best, and that's to find solutions fast." Unlike traditional models of software deployment, IBM Smart Business solutions do not come accompanied with lengthy installation manuals for deployment. Instead, users follow a few easy steps to download the software, thanks to a seamless combination of on-premises appliances and cloud computing delivered via the self-managed platform, Smart Cube.

Through IBM Smart Desk, solutions are always connected for autonomic management, updates and new application deployment. "If you need support you've got one place to go, it doesn't really matter what your problem is," Finch notes. "It proactively identifies problems and offers solutions. That's like giving companies extra hours in the day. All of this together reduces the overhead time and costs for our customers—and when they can get that overhead down and lower their business risk and cost, they can afford to innovate and gain advantage."

Lining up vendors leads to better choices

Continuing IT adoption has made small and midsized companies one of the fastest-growing segments of the global economy—and competitive software vendors don't want to miss out. "We all know it's getting harder and harder to reach customers," Finch says of IBM Smart Business. "As a software company, our challenge is to be seen and heard by customers who don't have time, who are swamped with choices, and who don't know who to trust."

While IBM Smart Business offerings may seem similar to the classic software-as-a-service (SaaS) model, there are significant differences, Finch says. In addition to support for each software program, she points to the way the program helps ensure that multiple downloadable solutions work together.

"SaaS alone is still that application-by-application proposition—so companies need to integrate different SAAS applications to get a complete solution for their business," she says. "Applications should install very easily, work together reliably and securely—and continue to work together reliably and securely over time. The IBM Smart Business framework allows a very secure and reliable integration of applications."

And with solutions offered from a single location, companies can put an end to long solution searches—and get back to business without missing a beat.

Content copyrighted by IBM Corporation.

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