Chris Fieldhouse: Hewlett Packard

Chris Fieldhouse, Hewlett Packard PSG UK SMB Sales Manager, says cloud computing is beginning to make a big difference to SMEs, from cost savings to facilitating international trading.

Chris Fieldhouse, Hewlett Packard PSG UK SMB Sales Manager, recently addressed delegates at Santander’s Breakthrough Live event in London. His presentation focused on current technology trends and how small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) can benefit from the latest advances. The buzzwords at the centre of his presentation were ‘cloud computing’. This is where a third party hosts a company’s databases or software, giving businesses access to their data via the internet.

Cloud computing enables businesses to access and share data wherever they are. Chris believes this is particularly important now that consumers are much more IT savvy and increasingly take their own devices into the workplace. “Before, you’d have an IT manager who would know that everyone was using the same device and the same software, but now people bring in iPads, Galaxy devices, notebooks and smartphones and it’s difficult to ensure each device is compatible,” said Chris. “With cloud computing, as long as all these devices have a web browser, which they mostly do, employees can access their company data at any time, wherever they are.”

Financial benefits for SMEs

Chris explained that cloud computing offers many benefits for SMEs, not least cost. “A business will typically buy their own IT infrastructure, which means making an initial capital outlay, which not many people want to do in the current climate. Conversely, cloud computing is almost like a utility in that you pay monthly. If you want to expand your capability later, you just pay for what you add on, so it can be very dynamic and flexible. As a business grows, it can scale up without having to buy lots of hardware, and if a company shrinks, it can scale back down.”

He also pointed out that by outsourcing their IT needs, smaller businesses can concentrate on their core business and not have to worry about maintaining and fixing the IT infrastructure.

“SMEs want a service and they don’t want to worry about becoming IT literate themselves. Companies can outsource all that to a specialist, and all they have to do is log in.”

Cloud computing for worldwide business

Social media is a form of cloud computing, allowing users to access their content remotely via sites such as Facebook and YouTube. Chris used this parallel to explain how businesses can benefit. “In the same way, customers can have their customer relations database or business intelligence software stored remotely in a cloud – or central server – and run from there.”

He added that the use of cloud computing, in its many forms, is empowering SMEs by allowing them to remain agile and dynamic but also giving them the scope of a much larger company. “Now, a lot of smaller businesses have global reach and they can use social media and cloud computing to appear bigger than they are and trade across the world. This is giving them a key advantage – they are no longer constrained by size and location. They can easily trade globally from a small office or even a home office in the UK.”

The opportunities for web conferencing

SMEs are also being liberated by web conferencing, which Chris identified as another growing trend. “It gives the same sort of interactive experience you get from being face-to-face in a room with someone, which email and telephone don’t allow,” said Chris. “You can pick up on body language and gauge people’s reactions, and get positive reinforcement to what you are saying. Small businesses can interact and trade with partners all over the world in a more intimate way, without having to travel.”

Chris found that the Breakthrough event offered Hewlett Packard an opportunity to get closer to SMEs and ensure that the company understands their changing needs. He was also supportive of the event’s emphasis on advice-sharing. “It wasn’t a sales pitch, it was a chance for Santander to say it wants to help small businesses in the UK grow, and that really came across well. It is exactly what we are trying to do.”

Lara Morgan, founder of Pacific Direct, also impressed Chris with her insightful advice to delegates. “A lot of it was based around people. You can talk about technology and finance but whether you’re a large organisation, or a small business, you need to make sure you have the right people around you and that they are being motivated to deliver. Lara made the point that, as long as you have that, anything is possible.”

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John Carroll - Helping businesses achieve International success. Head of Product Management & International Business, Santander UK