Friday, June 09, 2006

Thoughts on the Future of the SMB Space -- Part One

It is the job of the business owner/manager/Minder to try to look five years into the future and figure out where the business is going. This includes speculating on trends, business environment, major players, and the local market.

No one is great at this. If you're lucky, you're good. Most of us (self included) are neither great nor good.

But that's not to say that the process of thinking about a "five year plan" is wasted. Any time spent speculating about the future of your business is time well spent.

The Summer Lull is a good time to spend some effort speculating. Here are a few random thoughts.

Change Happens
I don't know why, but human beings have this real sticking point when it comes to change. I'm not talking about resistance to change, but simply accepting that change happens.

SBS and the SMB community have enjoyed a GREAT couple of years. Our industry has boomed. The SBS 2003 product is an awesome, over-the-top, great product. Microsoft is just finishing a year of intense focus on the SMB space. Most consultants don't really grasp how much the partner-facing infrastructure at Microsoft was reorganized last year.

At the same time, SMB Nation has grown from 100 to 300 to 500. This year, SMB Nation "classic" in Redmond will have 800 attendees. They've already had SMB Nation Amsterdam and SMB Nation East this year. These conferences are truly gifts to the SMB community. But change happens. Can this growth go on forever? What's the next step?

Change is accepted more readily in the mid-market and enterprise world. In some sense, it's built in. July brings the Microsoft Intergallactic Partner Conference in Boston. Every year, Microsoft ties up end-of-fiscal-year by shuffling people from one job to the next. In another month, no one will have the same title except Steve Ballmer, and that's not a given.

Last year (It's hard to believe it was only eleven months ago.) MS introduced the SBSC program. WPC was an SMB-fest last year. Other than a CRM rev, the only new thing they had was SBSC.

It won't be like that this year. The Small Biz Symposium on July 10th is looking great. [See and click on the "Small Business Symposium" button.]

But this year MS is introducing a new operating system, 64 bit technology, a new office version, and R2's all over the place. We'll have our day. Then . . .

When the sun rises on July 14th, our little slice of heaven will no longer be in the big spotlight. We'll still have a spotlight, but it will be the little, portable spotlight. Even now they're loading the big truck so they can carry the big spotlight over to the Vista launch area. You know that big contraption with three spotlights circling in the sky? That's being carted over to the Office camp.

So, if you're still squinting because the lights have been so bright, you're about to get a taste of what it's like to to be out of the stoplight.

It will be very interesting to see what our little community looks like in a few months. It's grown up a lot in the last few years. It has matured. It's got some great spokespeople and a handful of icons. It will be interesting to see what the community looks like with more people but less buzz.

I welcome your feedback.

To be continued . . .

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