The Yin and Yang of Open Source Commerce, Part 3 - page 3
Chewing Over the Numbers
The IT purchase decision in the SME market is generally a simple process, handled by qualified IT staff from begin to end. Accountants and financial staff like to feel involved, but they usually either rubber-stamp the purchase proposal, or delay it until funds are available.
Most purchases in this market are driven by technical needs. There is some tendency to outsource mundane IT management and installation work, but the bulk of it is handled in-house. The timing of a new project from concept to the start of deployment typically takes 6 to 12 months. Hardware life cycles are mostly 3-4 years, with some equipment subject to earlier replacement. There is not a lot of hardware recycling and the tendency is to live with the operating system that is first installed on new servers.
VARs reported relationships with the same set of customers for over 10 years, with a few as long as 20 years. The customer is loyal and typically does not like to waste time. Most SME customers despise operating systems religion. The only things that matter are whether the solution works and that it can be supported. Since the emergence of OSS a few customers demand a solution fall-back in case of trouble.
There is a tendency to stick with what works, and replace or change a solution only when the hardware is replaced. Customers are known to demand consistent services and support, and thrive on feedback.