Small Businesses News Briefs

Monday Jul 21st 2003 by SmallBusinessComputing.com Staff
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National survey reveals that half of U.S. small businesses say software is still difficult to use, another study says small businesses see open-source solutions as viable alternatives to Microsoft products, and Best Software touts a pair of mid-market awards.

SMBs Tell Software Makers: 'Keep It Simple'
Despite legendary innovations in computer software since the PC revolution began, small businesses say software is still too hard to use. In a nationwide survey commissioned by FileMaker, 52 percent of small businesses with less than 100 employees say their top two complaints about new software are the learning curve and lack of ease of use.

The survey also revealed that 28 percent of small businesses say their employees' biggest complaint about upgrading is that the newer versions of software are usually more difficult to use than earlier versions.

Dominique Goupil, president of FileMaker, maker of the popular FileMaker Pro database, said clearly, small businesses value simplicity over complexity.

"Businesses buy software to help their employees be more productive, so it's not unreasonable for companies to demand easy-to-use software," Goupil said. "Ease of use should be the primary guideline for any software company developing new or upgrading current applications."

On the plus side, the FileMaker survey also found that employees are never too old to learn — nearly 79 percent of small businesses say that compared to younger employees there is no noticeable difference in the ability of older employees to learn new technology. Other key findings include:

  • 82 percent of small businesses say it's "important" or "very important" that software is easy for employees to use.

  • 25 percent of larger small businesses say that at least 25 percent employees fail to adequately learn new software, even after training.

Greenfield Online, an independent data collection firm, conducted the nationwide survey of 200 small business owners and managers. Respondents to the survey included 200 business owners and managers whose companies' employ less than 100 people.

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SMBs See Open-Source as Microsoft Alternative
New findings from Jupiter Research, a division of Jupitermedia and SmallBusinessComputing.com's parent company, report that some price-sensitive small and midsize businesses are turning to Linux and other open-source products as a low-cost alternatives to business solutions from Microsoft.

Surveying several hundred businesses with fewer than 1,000 employees, Jupiter found that 19 percent were using some form of Linux on their desktop computers.

Joe Wilcox, Jupiter Research senior analyst, said six percent of the small businesses surveyed said they used OpenOffice, an open-source suite of productivity applications, with an additional three percent reporting plans to deploy it in their next fiscal year.

The pricey licensing schemes and security bugs associated with Microsoft products, and the increasing ease of access to open-source software, is luring small businesses to try products such as OpenOffice and Red Hat's Linux solutions, Wilcox said.

Small businesses often buy their business computing software at retail outlets. When Red Hat's Linux operating systems was made available in retail outlets placed right next to the latest version of Microsoft's Windows operating system for a quarter of the cost, the price difference tempted thrifty shoppers to test less expensive business computing options.

As Microsoft looks to win more business from the SMB market, it also faces obstacles in the way it's perceived by the small business market — 52 percent of those surveyed by Jupiter Research said Microsoft was focused mainly on its own interests, with just four percent saying the company is focused on customer interests.

Wilcox said to address this issue, "Microsoft is spending $2.0 billion to improve its image and increase sales to SMBs, which presents an unprecedented sales opportunity for vendors selling adjacent or competing products to Microsoft's."

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Gartner Grants Abra Suite Top Slot
Gartner Research recently named Best Software's Abra Suite — a human resource, payroll, benefits and compliance solution — the leader of the mid-market for 2003. Out of the 11 vendors evaluated, Best Software was one of only four that achieved "leader" status, based both on completeness of vision and ability to execute the program.

Abra Suite is Best Software's flagship human resource and payroll offering from its portfolio of complementary front-office and back office-solutions, which also include accounting, fixed asset management, customer relationship management (CRM,) and e-commerce software. In addition to its best-of-breed status, Abra Suite integrates with the company's MAS 90 and MAS 200, MAS 500, and MIP Fund Accounting and Government Series products, among other solutions for the mid-market.

For its mid-market study, Gartner evaluated vendors across a range of criteria and ranked them as leaders, challengers, visionaries, or niche players. According to Gartner, mid-market leaders have a proven track record of financial performance and are prepared for the future.

SalesLogix, Best Software's leading small business and mid-market CRM solution, also achieved a "leader" ranking from Gartner's 2003 study of CRM suites. Out of the 18 vendors evaluated, Best Software was one of only three that achieved leader status in the study.

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