Magazine Article | October 13, 2009

Q&A: Key Verticals For Mobile Computing

Has the economy changed what you've held as truths for the SMB and healthcare verticals?
Business Solutions, November 2009
Mike Monocello

If you're selling laptops as part of your mobility solutions, you're probably always looking for new verticals to move into. But what about existing verticals? The SMB vertical has traditionally been a strong one for VARs, and healthcare has received a lot of press in the last couple years. And yet, with how deeply the economy has changed the world in which we do business, it's possible what we held as truths for certain markets are no longer the reality. I recently spoke with two experts on mobile computing to find out what VARs need to know about the SMB and healthcare verticals today.

Are there any good ways VARs can get in front of decision makers?
Jay McBain, director of small and medium business, Lenovo Americas: Traditionally, VARs used a geographic approach for the SMB market, regardless of segment or vertical. Today, the approach is more targeted with specific vertical solutions. Additionally, with managed services and the introduction of cloud-based technologies such as a Software-as-a-Service, geographic limitations are quickly becoming a thing of the past.

Matt McManus, VP channel sales, Fujitsu America: Not all healthcare decision makers are aware of what the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) really means to their organization. VARs can create demand by educating physicians and hospitals on the ARRA. With the passage of the Act, up to $19 billion in stimulus funding will be available to individual private practice physicians and hospitals starting in 2011. This will be for the implementation of EMRs (electronic medical records) and associated technology such as mobile computing and back office technology.

How has the economy affected the SMB and healthcare verticals?
McBain: It is usually reported that SMBs enter a recession later than other segments and recover first. This time, however, several very large channel organizations reported slumping SMB sales beyond those of large enterprise and public sector. With federal stimulus funding and tightening credit lines, SMBs experienced a more severe downturn than in the past.

McManus: As with all verticals, the healthcare market saw a slight downturn as projects were delayed due to budget cuts. And yet, healthcare remains well-positioned to rebound quickly with ARRA stimulus funding driving technology adoption.

What is the length of the average sales cycle today?
McBain: As compared with other segments, SMBs still have a short sales cycle. This is due to the fact that they usually buy products/services based on pain with immediate requirements, and the decision hierarchy is much simpler.

McManus: The sales cycle for mobile technology in healthcare is typically 90 to 120 days from evaluation to deployment.

What issues face this market?
McBain: SMBs tend to have the same IT challenges as large enterprises; however, fewer resources (both people and money) to address them. Key areas of concern include reducing cost and complexity and increasing security, compatibility, and manageability of solutions.

Mobility is increasingly important to SMBs with the ability to connect anywhere and transact business closer to the customer. Mobile solutions also allow SMBs to manage the business outside of the work site — a key improvement for SMBs. With the growth of mobility, new issues have surfaced, including physical asset security, data protection, and increased cost of managing a decentralized IT infrastructure.

McManus: The transition from paper-based to electronic applications plays a factor in technology adoption in the healthcare market. For medical practices adopting electronic medical records, there will also be a learning curve that can impact productivity before the full benefit of automating patient records is realized.