Expanding Your Market: Taking Enterprise Products to the SMB

Solving the SMB Problem with SaaS

If you’re struggling with how to solve this problem for your company, then Software as a Service (SaaS) may be what you need. The model is pretty simple: take your existing management appliances, make the modifications to them so that they can manage remotely and for multiple administrators (assuming they don’t already do that), and introduce a reduced functionality version of your enterprise products which are managed by this cloud solution.

I know what you’re thinking: “simple, he says”. OK, maybe it’s not simple — if it were, everyone would already be doing this. But it’s not impossible either. Obviously, the details will vary depending on your specific niche and what sort of equipment you manufacture, but, at a high level, here are the steps.

First, figure out their requirements. You’re a product manager, so you’re already used to doing this. But if you’re an enterprise product manager, you may be used to coming at the problem from the other end. For most enterprise products, your challenge is that you’re overwhelmed by requirements from your customers, and your job is to figure out which ones will really move the needle, since there’s no way you’re going to be able to implement all of them. When looking at the SMB, you need to realize that the problem is the opposite: your product already has too many features. The challenge here is that you genuinely need to be creative. You can’t just go ask SMB customers what they need, because they probably don’t know. And you can’t go copy and innovate on top of a competitor, because probably no one else is meeting their needs yet. You really do need to sit and look at your enterprise features, and think about which of them really make a difference to the SMB.

Step two also requires a fair amount of creativity. You can’t just trim back to that feature set, because it will still be too hard for the typical SMB to administer. Now you have to think almost like a consumer product PLM. You need to think about sensible defaults. You need to think about taking away knobs (configuration options) — but not too many. You may need to add a GUI and get away from relying on a CLI. And when you think about that GUI, you may need to think about changing the names of many of the things in it, because they may not make sense to the SMB.

Finally, you need to think about management, and that’s where SaaS comes in. There are essentially two ways you can do this, and which is right will depend on your particular business situation and model. Either way, assuming you don’t want to get into the services business, you’re going to need to find some partners. From an investment perspective, the best thing is to find some service providers who would be willing to offer managed services for your product to their SMB clients. Then they can simply take your existing management solution, stick it into their cloud, and offer SaaS management to clients who buy your new SMB products. If you can’t leverage an existing service provider network, then you’ll have to find some hosting providers with whom you can partner, and this will require a little more development work on your end. The difference between the hosting provider and the service provider boils down to who actually logs into the management devices and administers things. With the service providers, it’s the provider who does it, and so you were able to use your existing management paradigm, because they’re sophisticated enough to work with it. With hosting providers, it will be the SMB that logs into the management device. And so, from that angle, you need to take a similar look at your management device as you did for your product’s UI back in step 2. The same sorts of decisions apply.


I know this didn’t give you all of the answers, but the SMB market has been on my mind lately, and I think it’s a huge, largely untapped opportunity. Hopefully, this gave you enough to think about to get you started in solving the needs of this tremendously underserved market. There’s a lot of money to be made here, for the company that’s willing to do what it takes to meet the needs of the SMB.



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