Software firms chase SMEs worldwide

AUCKLAND (11/18/2003) - The recent spate of enterprise-level software offerings aimed at small and medium-sized businesses may seem well suited to New Zealand, given the country's high proportion of companies employing only a few staff.

The truth is, we're not so different from the rest of the world in that regard, says IDC New Zealand analyst Graeme Muller.

"If you look at the U.S. and U.K., proportionately they're not that different -- the proportion of businesses with more than 1,000 employees is still very small."

This year Oracle and SAP have released SME-oriented products in New Zealand and IBM is pitching Express, a pared-down version of Lotus and other products for that market.

Muller says vendors who have traditionally gone after large corporates have had to change their approach when selling to SMEs.

"For example, IBM Express will be (distributed) through partners because the types of companies they're targeting go down to 10 employees, and I don't think (companies that size) would go direct to IBM or a consultant." SAP recently released its Business One product in New Zealand and Australia, following its release in Europe a year ago and in the U.S. in the middle of the year.

SAP New Zealand managing director Ian Black puts the delay in bringing Business One to Australasia party down to finalizing distributor arrangements.

Business One is the result of SAP's acquisition of Israeli firm Top Manage and is aimed at organizations with 10-250 employees. It sits below mySAP All-In-One, a product which is aimed at bigger SMEs. All-In-One is being implemented at Lighting Direct. Computerworld understands two early-adopter customers went live with Business One earlier this month.

Oracle's SME offering, the E-Business Suite special edition, is being resold in New Zealand by MiServices and Asparona, after an earlier release overseas. Microsoft is also getting in on SMEs, but from a different angle than SAP, Oracle and IBM, as it already has a presence on the small-business desktop.

"It's moving horizontally, not vertically. What it has to do is convince people it can do CRM and ERP," says Muller.

He sees PeopleSoft's purchase of J.D. Edwards as a macro version of SAP and Microsoft's SME acquisitions. "It was PeopleSoft's way of getting into the mid-market. They tried to shoehorn PeopleSoft into medium-sized companies, but now have the modular JD Edwards products."

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