In the end, it is customers that create IT solutions for small business. That said, outside providers need to offer the building blocks of products and services that together providers and customers knit together as solutions. This distinction is important because it is not generally the case that one can just purchase products and services, drop them in and expect that business outcomes will change dramatically without active involvement. Like anything, what one puts into something one gets out. Let's take the example of something transformative like virtualization. This is a word that many small business owners do not understand; but it is a solution that requires their involvement in order to overcome the problems - excess power consumption and cooling, lengthy disaster recovery, burdensome management - that it addresses.
If we repurpose the framework laid out in Computer Services For Small Businesses - 6 Steps To Proactivity we can see some of the issues:
Both the provider and the customer play critical roles in introducing a transformative concept like virtualization. The provider may need to educate the small business owner on how virtualization can increase profits, efficiency, agility and robustness. The customer needs to sponsor this discussion. With tactical activities taking up the majority of the mind share, unless some time is spent "sharpening the saw," so to speak, strategic avances will not occur. In the inventory and survey steps, the provider needs to lay out best practices for server, storage, application and other types of virtualization and explain how following these paths will make a difference from the status quo. The customer needs to assess pain points, but also recognize the impact of future needs. There may be no pain currently, but there could be a lot of pain in a year's time if the company's infrastructure is not sufficient or flexible. In the gap analysis, the provider should have the concept of a reference architecture rather than reinventing the wheel for every project and the customer needs to identify which areas of the business IT can most affect. Feedback on budget constraints is also critical, because there are many different ways to address IT problems with different price/performance trade-offs (see Storage Virtualization For Small Business). In the outsourcing strategy step, the provider should have access to a wide range of sourcing alternatives for hardware and software and be able to complement the customer's internal resources. Perhaps the most important value the customer can bring is advocacy. Having someone responsible for evaluating and executing (or not executing, but providing feedback as to why) projects is critical to conscious change. Finally, both the provider and customer need to be committed to measurement and improvement through regular touchpoints and joint feedback.