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Integrated ICT services on verge of an explosion

The spread of sophisticated cloud-based services has opened up a vast array of premium ICT services for the SME sector, which can now enjoy them as if they were big budget corporate behemoths themselves. And they are increasingly doing so by picking one single provider to satisfy their ICT needs.

Dániel Filep, COO of SimplexIT Kft.

There is not much to dispute about the fact that the so-called SOHO (small office, home office) segment holds great promise for growth for telco companies. The problem with living up to those ambitious expectations has typically been the lack of resources on the part of SMEs to invest in and continuously upgrade their infotech equipment and to couple it with costly subscriptions. However, the emergence of cloud-based services and affordable monthly fee plans has changed the landscape dramatically and smaller budgets can now buy cutting-edge solutions more easily than ever before. 

Still, conquering the hearts and minds of small- and medium-sized firms can be tricky. As stated in the report “Big Business in Small Business Cloud Services for SMBs” by McKinsey, a consultancy service providers must realize that they need to couple flexibility with non-standard decision-making processes. “The key to success will be addressing the uniqueness of the SMB market and not treating it like a larger version of the consumer market or a smaller version of the large enterprise market. Building on SMB segmentation and piloting new sales models will make it possible to create a holistic cloud journey for SMB customers joining the cloud,” the paper says.

Accordingly, major local market players are turning every stone to attract as many clients from the SME pool as possible. And the bulletproof method to do so, apparently, is based on offering the widest possible range of infocommunications services as a sort of one-stop-shop where everything is available from the same provider. The extent to which efforts are focused in this regard is perfectly shown by developments at Invitel, the second biggest player of the domestic integrated telco and ICT market. Whereas IT services generated only a few percent of its revenues until a few years ago, now they make up nearly a quarter of them. That fast-paced growth also pushed Invitel Group to split up into two separate entities this summer: Invitech Solutions dealing with enterprises and wholesale activities, and Invitel focusing on retail and small businesses.

Treating ICT services as a public utility 

“Whilst 40% of total yearly spending on cloud services stems from firms employing 1-99 workers, larger entities with more than 500 people make up 28% of that spending,” Invitech said in a statement to the Budapest Business Journal. “Cloud-based applications are expected to grow by 34% in the next five years, which also demonstrates that SMEs need rather complex services and not products. The solution for them is a professional partner that is capable of understanding their business needs, providing them with appropriate technology and operating it in a cost-effective and reliable manner.”

Magyar Telekom, the leading provider of integrated IT services, has gathered the experience that customers are often not even aware of their own need to get everything from a single provider; however, their expectations raise needs with regards to a quality provider that can be offered only under a package plan. Telekom’s strategy allows SMEs to access ICT solutions that would normally be used by big corporations only, such as teamwork or videoconference tools and security packages. Such integrated services then form a deal package, which includes cell phone, mobile internet, fixed line internet, landline phone and all related IT solutions.

SimplexIT Kft. aims to keep the pace with its heavyweight rivals. It has detected the vast potential of integrated ICT services, but as COO Dániel Filep said to the BBJ, many SMEs are still suspicious about the fact that a third-party firm would handle corporate data and confidential information. Yet, things are expected to change for the better.

“I believe more such enterprises will use integrated services. Their top aim is to be able to pursue their core activity with utmost attention. Therefore, our objective is to treat infocommunications as a ‘public utilityʼ, that is it should be self-evident that it works and it serves clients,” Filep said. In order to make this happen, SimplexIT continuously trains its staff and offers personalized services. “This way the SME sector can use top-notch technology at all times by which its competitiveness is bound to grow,” he added.

Growing cloud-service portfolios serve exploding teleworking needs 

Competitiveness goes hand-in-hand with mobile working. According to a recent survey by the British Chamber of Commerce and BT Business, 19% of SMEs claimed that more than half of their employees already do teleworking, and 53% of respondents agreed that such work arrangements are of critical importance for them. Their Hungarian counterparts have a long way to go in this regard for sure, but providers are doing their best to help them go down the same road smoothly. Telekom, for that matter, has special deals for devices and gadgets as part of its package deals whereby mobile phones, laptops or tablets can be bought for a reduced price. Telekom’s free anti-virus service and the Basic Business Version of Office 365 offering legal software and business correspondence further encourages mobile working.

As Invitech pointed out to the BBJ, applications that were initially developed on a cloud platform not only provide flexibility in a mobile environment, but they also allow corporate applications to consistently offer the same functionality regardless of device or platform. “This is valid not only within the enterprise, but it also goes for the relationship between the enterprise and its clients and partners.” Invitech further emphasized the importance of customer experience in a digital environment, which can be enhanced to a large extent with the help of cloud applications. Invitech is therefore working on expanding its cloud-service portfolio intensively.

Filep agrees with this approach; in his view, seamless mobile working cannot take place without slick cloud-based systems. “Nowadays it’s getting ever more important that any employee should be able to log into a platform via their e-mail account and password, as if they were sitting at their office computer, regardless of the device they use at any given time. Tech support – available 24/7 – is another must here,” Filep pointed out. “As companies grow, so do the number of their tasks and their staff, and ICT support should keep pace in parallel. Our partners need not to look for technology-related solutions; we will find the most ideal options for them. All they have to do is to choose from them.”