IT Life: Tech To Help SMEs Enter The Big Leagues

Peter Judge has been involved with tech B2B publishing in the UK for many years, working at Ziff-Davis, ZDNet, IDG and Reed. His main interests are networking security, mobility and cloud

Hibu’s Matt Anderson wants to even things so small businesses can take on the giants

hibu is a multinational internet services company with its roots in the paper phonebooks of BT. Now it looks after the digital needs of small and medium sized businesses, and Matt Anderson manages those products.

The Post Office launched the Yellow Pages in 1966. It became a separate company within British Telecom after BT’s privatisation in 1984, and bought the US YellowPages in 1999. It was renamed as Yell in 2000, and separated from BT in 2001: the hibu name appeared in 2012.

As chief digital officer, Matt Anderson oversees the company’s  digital business and is responsible for product creation and development, providing that platform for SMEs. He has been in tech and marketing for ten years, and was previously a partner at Booz & Co, making use of ecommerce and social media.

Helping smaller firms beat the giants

Yellow Pages Directory service fingers walk © Stephen Coburn ShutterstockWhat’s the favourite IT project that you’ve ever worked on?
We’ve recently announced the launch of the hibu business store which allows SMEs to really start competing against large enterprises in the battle for mobile and online customers.

I know from my own experience, growing up working in my grandfather’s paint shop, what a small business owner goes through to attract and retain customers. The store provided a superior product and service to the larger stores in the area, yet could never truly contend due to size. Because of my passion for helping small businesses be successful, the launch of hibu business was very exciting for me.

What technologies were you involved with ten years ago?
Ten years ago I was working with First Data; a global company that makes payment transactions secure, fast and easy for merchants, financial institutions and their customers. Part of my responsibility was looking at payment fraud and supporting in the development of a self-learning algorithm to prevent it, using neural networks. There was a lot of data science and data warehousing involved.

More than text

What do you expect to be using in ten years’ time?
The real innovation in IT is with transcending text. The web is currently driven by tagging, attaching words to things in order to give them meaning. But we are already starting to see a shift, notably in the gaming industry. Rather than attach words, they are using data, bypassing text. In the future, photos and movies and virtual reality will have an inherent meaning and not be associated with words. Motion and non-spelling based input will be significant and revolutionise the way we think about customer experience and user design.

What do you think is the greatest challenge for an IT company or department today?
The greatest challenge is around innovation. As companies continue to see a move into offshore and non-owned models, they are trying to figure out where the business advantage is in order to compete. It will be a challenge to work out how to extract innovation from partners and how that creates competitive advantage. In order to deliver new business value, businesses need to partner and collaborate but keep their core level of innovation.

To cloud or not to cloud?
When we talk about the opportunities that cloud presents, it is often in relation to enterprise businesses but it’s also a direction that SMEs should consider going in. Some are beginning to embrace a hybrid model – storing mission critical applications on their server and everything else in a form of public cloud. But the greatest point of failure for an SME is around network connectivity – can cloud providers offer reliability for an SME, at the right price?

amazon Jeff Bezos squareWho is your tech hero and who is your tech villain?
My tech hero is undoubtedly Jeff Bezos, an entrepreneur who played a key role in the growth of
e-commerce as the founder and CEO of Amazon.

Jeff quite famously said: “I can’t imagine that ten years from now they (customers) are going to say, ‘I love Amazon, but if only they could deliver my products a little more slowly.’ And they’re not going to, ten years from now, say, ‘I really love Amazon, but I wish their prices were a little higher.’”

With a ruthless yet elegant approach, he very much innovated around that ethos. He engineered the company so that everything operates with high level of quality and a focus on customer processes, with no need for customer support via the phone.

Who is your tech villain?
I don’t believe in tech villains. Every failing enables people to progress with what technology can do and how it makes life better. Technology is always to serve a bigger purpose. For us, it’s to enable SMEs to compete on mobile in 10 minutes.

microphone sound, music MP3 © Shutterstock MR.LIGHTMANWhat’s your favourite device ever made and what do you use the most?
Like many, the device I use most is my phone, but my favourite is the microphone. In my younger days, I did audio engineering from my house for emerging artists. The microphone was the first device to give words meaning, sound, and context. Video has obviously gone some way to improve on this but that development couldn’t have happened without the microphone.

Apart from your own, which company do you admire the most and why?
Tumblr. My roommate at college was Josh Nguyen, who led product management there. They did something similar to Amazon whereby they used technology to serve a single minded purpose (in this case blogging) and enable true innovation.

They did something different by making sharing simple in an easy format. They latched onto the way that real humans work by allowing anonymity. As humans we like to watch or do things, not necessarily wrong or bad things, without people knowing, and the birth of Tumblr enabled this. It created different modes of sharing. The technology underneath was also quite significant, evident by the fact that Yahoo has recently purchased it for $1.1 billion.

What did you want to be when you were a child?
The President. But I hear it’s a tough job.

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