THE BLOG
01/07/2013 11:07 BST | Updated 28/08/2013 06:12 BST

Don't Get Stuck in the Middle

'In the middle' or 'mid-tier' is rarely the most exciting place to be. If you're not an extremist, you're part of the silent majority and must fight to be heard. The middle-classes hardly ever rock the boat - and the middle-aged often say they feel invisible.

It's the same in business; small start-ups are regarded as the risk-taking heroes of the commercial world, large corporations are the respected elder statesmen. But mid-sized companies are often ignored. They may be the backbone of this country's economy, but they're certainly not the mouthpiece.

This lack of attention has its repercussions. For example, there are fewer IT solutions and services aimed at this mid-tier market, despite the fact that their need is just as pressing. Smaller software developers and services providers typically address only the small business market, while larger suppliers are only prepared to take on contracts for business from large corporates to ensure optimum margins.

But this is short-sighted; mid-sized businesses have both more resources than smaller firms and less of the baggage weighing down larger enterprises. They have the capacity to be bold - but still the agility to be highly responsive to market demands.

It is true of course that they often don't have the budget for large-scale IT implementations. A recent report revealed that businesses of 250 - 500 employees spend an average of six to seven per cent of their turnover on IT, whereas larger companies spend around 12 per cent.

But some of the more forward-thinking companies in this mid-size group are discovering the benefits of managed services. Already today, around 20% of organisations no longer own their IT resources and the various managed services and outsourcing markets continue to show strong growth and future potential. By paying for their infrastructure on a monthly or annual basis, companies keep their infrastructure updated and flexible without major capital investment and the expenditure is classed as an operational overhead.

Yet others are missing out. Experience shows that if there's one thing these mid-sized companies have in common, it's aversion to risk. Senior board-level decision-makers have an eye on recent highly-publicised IT failures and don't want to be tarred with the same brush.

CIOs are reluctant to make the case. Only 9 per cent of CIO respondents to a recent survey by Bull said that they had the freedom to set their own agenda in their current job and they fear being made a scapegoat if IT projects fail. As far as managed services are concerned, they worry that they will be forced into adopting an inflexible, fixed process tied to one particular vendor's architecture.

So what do they do as an alternative? Spend more money on maintaining legacy systems - instead of using managed services as a route to innovative IT solutions designed to achieve true business transformation.

Yet, although these businesses tend to be conservative about spending and investment, they tend to be far more open-minded about changing their business model. They know only too well their advantages over larger companies weighed down by rigorous compliance and governance issues. And they are prepared to adopt new processes and strategies to maintain this flexibility; 'bring your own device' (BYOD) or the use of sophisticated analytics for forecasting as a great example.

So providers need to give mid-sized companies the confidence to take advantage of managed services. They can do this by ensuring these services and solutions are tailored to their customer's size and growth plans - and by offering sound strategies that help mitigate risk.

First generation managed service implementations will address pain points around reducing costs, achieve guaranteed service levels and ensure IT is optimised. After that, next generation strategies can include accessing the latest delivery models, including cloud computing and delivering solutions to address core business applications - from more resilient data recovery services to enhance storage and security.

This huge layer of businesses has great potential and shouldn't be ignored any longer. With the right IT infrastructure and expert advice it can begin to compete with its larger counterparts and achieve business success that goes far beyond meandering along in the middle.