Big economic recovery from small technology projects

In our polarized political climate, the economic debate seems limited between two opposing viewpoints.  One side insists that government spending will stimulate job creation.  The other insists that only private capital can do the job.

I would like to suggest that both sides may be missing a key point.  Neither government spending nor private capital alone do much of anything.  They can only provide the finances to potentially do something.

To create jobs and sustain economic activity, businesses have to actually create value.  In today's pervasively wired global marketplace, technology only creates value insofar as it delivers concrete competitive advantage. 

Evidence of this, of course, abounds.  Apple has risen to the top of the corporate ladder.  NetFlix just knocked out Blockbuster, and is immediately having to reinvent itself again.   In industry after industry, it is the differentiated use of digital technology that makes business happen.  Yet talking heads continue to discuss the economy as if it were the macro levers of tax policy and monetary policy that can get us from where we are now to where we want to be.

I raise this issue because it is also small to mid-market businesses (SMBs) that create most of our jobs.  It therefore stands to reason that if we want to increase employment, the most important thing we can do is to technologically empower SMBs.

And that's exactly what we're doing.  The cloud, managed service providers, and consumerization are all combining to make SMBs more nimble and innovative.  If you're really nimble and innovative, you don't really need anybody's money.  Not the government's and not Wall Street's.  You're going to disrupt your market and win -- even if you have to bootstrap it.

A lot of people are concerned about income inequality, too.  And I wouldn't disagree with all of those concerns.  But, again, I'm not sure either side in the political debate has the answer to this one.  Instead, I'd suggest that the answer lies in broader proliferation of the power of IT.  Technology, after all, has proven itself time and again to be the Great Equalizer.  Today, in fact, it's David who is the odds-on favorite to beat Goliath.

So I'm going to suggest that we as an industry focus more and more on empowering SMBs to implement and manage IT more effectively.  Let's figure out how we can price and package our technology so that it delivers the rapid time-to-value and elastic TCO that SMBs really need.  And let's work on building an industry culture that doesn't just acknowledge bigness, but that also sees the beauty and value of smallness.  Smallness, after all, offers significant advantages in a market where velocity and agility are essential.

We can all profit from better and more intentional downmarket strategies.  More than that, we can change the society we live in for the better.  Isn't that what business is really supposed to be about?

Chris O'Malley is CEO of Nimsoft.  He has devoted 25 years to innovation in the IT industry -- most recently growing businesses in cloud and IT Management as a Service solutions. Contact Chris via the comments below or via Twitter at @chris_t_omalley.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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