Markets in the Middle: Getting to the Heart of Mid-market Enterprises

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Mid-markets characteristically run their businesses with a tight rein – sometimes with low margins and little tolerance for surprises – especially technical ones. For these smaller-budgeting companies, technology just has to work.  And there are more small companies in the world than those of any other size (a few years ago, the average size of a French company was 19 employees[1]).

We see the mid-market as two different markets, because their technology acquisition patterns change as they grow from what is characteristically called SMB (small and medium business) organizations to what we refer to as mid-market enterprises—companies, usually peaking around $850 million in annual revenue. And in selecting technologies to run their businesses, they cannot afford to make a mistake. The software they chose just has to work and work as promised.

Backing Up to Go Forward

Recognizing that its commitments to its mid-market customers may have initially exceeded its ability to deliver “as promised,” Chicago-based SilkRoad, a provider of core HR and integrated talent management applications, is going back to the drawing board. At last week’s user conference in Chicago, attended by around 500 users, the new executive team discussed its plan for the next year as one centered on a “back to the basic of product excellence.” 

As a fairly young company entering the talent management market, in the last few years,  SilkRoad added functions horizontally, complementing its flagship Red Carpet, an onboarding product with the other expected applications in an integrated talent management suite.  Then they added Heartbeat, a Core HR application, again targeted at mid-market users.  But the quality across the product set was uneven, with few applications possessing the functional completeness and scalability of Red Carpet. Getting new products out the door superseded the attention to customer support and service, as witnessed by the complaints analysts heard at this user conference. Performance issues, bugs, and failure to work as advertised plagued these users.  One attendee stated “We cringed when a new release came out—something would always break.”

The new executive team led by John Shackleton understands its challenge—and its opportunity. The plans for the next year include the complete re-architecting of Heartbeat, the core HR product, accompanying, they promise, a palatable upgrade and migration plan for its current customers.  Integration between its disparate talent-related applications is also on the agenda for the year ahead.

The re-architecting of the SilkRoadHR product and working integration of the various modules will likely make customers happy—but the primary message at the conference that will resonate was their plan to address service and support. New automated call-back to service callers will likely go far with the customers who have been hanging on the phone awaiting customer support.

It is not uncommon for young software companies to outsell their capacity to provide the support and services their mid-market customers require, but it is unfortunate when it happens. Human capital management solution providers are increasingly recognizing the value of excellent service and support. A happy customer is one of the best marketers a company can have; and companies are wise to take the step back to address both the products and the service their customers need. 

 

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Deloitte shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by any person who relies on this publication.

 

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[1] The Small and Middle Market Enterprise: Addressing Today’s Business Issues Through Technology. Katherine Jones. Aberdeen Group. (April 2003)

 

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Christa Degnan Manning

Vice President, Solution Provider Research Leader / Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP

Christa leads technology and service provider research for Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP. In this role, she helps businesses align their workforce support strategies with appropriate third-party software developers, service partners, and governance models. A 25-year technology industry veteran, Christa’s expertise assists organizations in creating functional capabilities and employee experiences that increase productivity, engagement, and workforce efficiency. Frequently cited by business and trade media, she has presented market research on business to business trends, leading practices, and expected challenges and benefits at industry and user conferences globally throughout her career. Christa has a bachelor of arts in English from Barnard College, Columbia University, incorporating studies at University College, University of London. She also holds a master of arts degree in English from the University of Massachusetts and has completed executive coursework on business metrics at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.

4 thoughts on “Markets in the Middle: Getting to the Heart of Mid-market Enterprises

  1. Pingback: Sandra balan
  2. And here is the "creative" way I chose in order to promote my company’s products.

    It was very clear to me that only if the company products will be innovative, creative and of high-quality they could succeed. And that the customers opinions about the products are of extraordinary value.

    So that I did two things: First, I worked very hard and very long hours to make the products better and better. And yes, they are considered successful and innovative in their field.

    And second, I offered the products for evaluation, in many cases free of charge, to several higher education institutions and industry organizations around the world, such as SENA, Technoparque and Telecom in Colombia, Conalep in Mexico, INA in Costa Rica, American University in Venezuela, and other institutions in Portugal, Spain, Ecuador, Chile, Peru, Brazil and Argentina.

    It is a long and very difficult way I chose, but actually I made good working connections with interesting people, I got a lot of constructive and helpful feedback, and my customers are today, as you say, the best marketers that my company can have.

    And so happens that my company’s products are now included in big projects in many countries in Latin America, Europe and Africa, which are expected to start during the next coming months.

  3. My company, Treda Systems Ltd. is a very SMB, specialized in the development of a family of e-learning training systems in Information Technologies, Computer Communication and Networking, for higher education institutions, universities, colleges and companies.

    Treda’s learning method is based upon excellence in curriculum, and a hands-on approach to provide the students with both very comprehensive academic knowledge and practical, hands-on experience in the real-world uses of Information and Communication Technologies.

    The cornerstone of Treda’s development strategy is to design and create e-learning training systems according to standard, worldwide accepted models, methods and techniques and quality standards, using a content-rich, integrated platform, to provide user-friendly and easy-to-learn practical training, to improve and to update continually.

  4. Your analysis is excellent and bright, Katherine. And there is a lot to learn from it.

    I think that any company which develops products must do the best efforts to provide high-quality brands and outstanding customer service. And this is especially true for a small business company which competes in the market in unequal conditions with much bigger and more powerful companies.

    A SMB can compete and win in the market war only if its products are much better and more innovative than those of the competitors, only if they work really very well, are scalable, are not dependent on changes in the underlying technologies and operating systems, can be easily and seamless integrated with each other and with similar commercial products, can be localized and customized in various work environments.

    A SMB must invest much more hard work and use forward-thinking development strategies, because it will take much time from the moment it starts developing the first version of the brand until the product can and will succeed on the market.
    From the very beginning, a SMB is a long-range runner, and on the way to success it must pass through a long series of obstacles it must overcome. But eventually it can succeed, and it should succeed, even if it takes much more time to do it.

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