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IBM helps SMEs in digitalization

By MA SI | China Daily | Updated: 2020-07-14 09:11
An IBM booth is seen at a high-tech exhibition in Shanghai. [Photo/CHINA DAILY]

US tech giant sets up sales center in Beijing to integrate products, services and solutions

Dianna Yao was under heavy pressure during the COVID-19 outbreak. As a producer for a Beijing-based video production company, Yao is in charge of producing high-quality video content for overseas entertainment companies.

But the pandemic made it hard for her company to deliver video materials to foreign clients either through cross-border travel or postal services.

"Our industry has very high standards on ensuring confidentiality of videos. But the pandemic left us no choice but to transmit videos online. Our videos amount to hundreds of gigabytes, in some cases, to one terabyte. I had to find a trustworthy tech company to help transmit the videos quickly and securely," Yao said.

While surfing online for solution providers, Yao came across a telecom number and reached IBM's China digital sales center for help. The Beijing-based center quickly arranged for IBM's technical and business personnel to help Yao's company solve the problem and everything was done online.

This is how the United States-based tech giant worked to quickly respond to the demands of local small and medium-sized enterprises through its new digital sales center.

Unveiled in June, the center is part of IBM's push to help more local companies accelerate their digital transformation and meet the challenges created by the epidemic.

IBM Greater China CEO Alain Benichou said as many companies cut costs and investment plans during the outbreak, "we opened a new digital sales center in China. It highlights IBM's investment and commitment to the country".

The move came as IBM recently set up a team of core banking and payments practice in China with around 800 people to better help local banks speed up their digital transformation. This is also a sign of IBM's confidence in the China market, which is dubbed by Benichou "a land of opportunity".

The senior executive said Chinese consumers already use highly digitalized tools such as WeChat every day. But when it comes to the business-to-business market, the digitalization level still has ample room for improvement.

"We aim to bring a highly digital culture to China's business-to-business market," Benichou said. "The digital sales center is also a growth strategy for IBM to expand our client base."

IBM is known for serving big clients like financial institutions and retail heavyweights. But the company is also stepping up efforts to tap into opportunities from small and medium-sized enterprises.

"SMEs are a key constituent of China's economy. They are a fragmented, dynamic, fast-growing group. We aim to reach them via digital tools and help them become more agile and flexible," Benichou said. "The center was established to help us win small, win fast, win often and win together."

The move came as the business-to-business market is becoming increasingly digitalized.

Market research company Gartner Inc said in a 2019 report that more than 90 percent of the procurement decisions of business-to-business customers are affected by online communication. Some 46 percent of these decision makers are millennials who have high demands for speed, efficiency and experience in digital sales.

To adapt to the trend, IBM realized that geographical proximity matters. The company put four squads who are in charge of businesses such as storage, cloud and cognitive products, software and technical services in the Beijing-based digital sales center.

As a result, cross-department collaboration is always handy and they can efficiently come up with systematic solutions and full-cycle services for clients.

"SMEs don't see business units by units. They directly demand systematic solutions. So we put all the skills here which are ready to meet clients' diversified demands," said Gill Zhou, chief marketing officer of IBM Asia-Pacific.

IBM said the Beijing-based digital sales center is partly modeled after its digital sales center in Dublin, Ireland, which completes billions of dollars worth of business cooperation with European customers a year.

But the Beijing-based center also comes with its own characteristics. First, the center is marketing-led. IBM hopes that the center can trigger a change in its digital sales culture.

The center decided to include IBM's business partners such as information technology services provider Digital China from day one so they can work together to create more value.

Zheng Dong, general manager of system security strategic business unit at Digital China, said the Beijing-based digital sales center integrates products, solutions and services for customers and brings new opportunities to companies such as Digital China. That is especially vital amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

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