Small business are big business for MS

Steve Guggenheimer's target market grew by 15% last year. It's a statistic most organisations would welcome, but in Guggenheimer's case it means an increase of six million companies.

Steve Guggenheimer’s target market grew by 15% last year. It’s a statistic most organisations would welcome, but in Guggenheimer’s case it means an increase of six million companies.

Guggenheimer is Microsoft vice-president for small business and SMS & P (small mid-market solutions and partners) operations. His target market — companies with fewer than 50 employees — is one of Microsoft’s fastest-growing markets, currently numbering about 46 million, he says.

Those companies typically have about 25 computers and don’t have their own IT staff.

In New Zealand, companies with 50 staff aren’t commonly described as small. Microsoft NZ defines a small business as a company with fewer than four staff; about 140,000 of these exist in New Zealand, according to SME marketing manager Warwick Grey.

Guggenheimer says Microsoft SMS & P works with the vendor’s seven business units to offer the tools used by larger companies to SMEs.

“In 1995, we were in the desktop market. If you asked us what we did, we’d say desktop software,” he says. “We have still got that business, but at the same time, we have grown.”

Microsoft has moved into consumer items such as the X-box, into the server market, and into solutions such as the Great Plains financial software division. Small companies don’t have the resources to deal with several different business units, so the SMS & P operation does that for them.

Larger companies have switched their emphasis from personal productivity to business productivity, and Microsoft hopes its software will do the same for small businesses, Guggenheimer says. “If you look at the opportunity, it’s trying to help the smaller business act like a larger business.”

Microsoft hopes to encourage business productivity through the addition of server technology in Office 2003, moving away from the version-release cycle to ongoing releases, and through working closely with partner companies so small businesses can call on IT expertise when they need it, he says.

Asked whether the company is considering selling software through an ASP-type hosted model, Guggenheimer says it’s possible. “I think the telcos want to sell more bandwidth. We’re trying to find the right model, where a small business would feel like the proposition is the right proposition.”

Guggenheimer started his career at Microsoft working in the Windows for Workgroups team. He later became the first product manager for Internet Explorer, before moving on to positions with MSN, the X-box division and in special projects.

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