Last week Microsoft announced the international availability of Total Solution Financing, a joint programme between Mirosoft Capital and Microsoft Business Solutions, designed to help SME organisations.
Available to Microsoft Business Solutions customers, this financing programme will now expand internationally to encourage organisations to commit to IT investments sooner and to provide another weapon in the ongoing battle of better cash flow management.
For many customers, the initial investigation of an IT solutions may identify a significant business benefits, but it can still be difficult to find any upfront investment necessary to implement the solution. Providing the means to get over this hurdle often calls for a degree of creativity on the part of salesmen, and finding a financial solution acceptable to customers is often the final step in the solution acquisition process.
To address this, Microsoft has launched Total Solution Financing, covering hardware and software along with implementation and related services through Microsoft Certified Business Solutions Partners. The programme was launched last year through Microsoft’s US-based business partners and is now expanding into several European countries (the UK, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands and Belgium) along with Canada.
Financing plans offered run for 36, 48 or 60 months and apply to deals with a minimum financing value of $10,000. Total Solution Financing can apply to all elements of a Microsoft Business Solutions' implementation, including selected Microsoft products (such as Office XP and SQL Server) as well as any associated hardware and implementation costs. As in any financing deal the interest rates utilised are calculated based on the size of the purchase and the credit-worthiness of the customer.
Dave Kaminski, general manager of world-wide financial services, Microsoft Capital, states: "The purpose of this programme is to help businesses make more strategic IT purchases by easing cash flow constraints. So far, interest in the programme has exceeded expectations, with more than double the number of customers using the programme than originally anticipated.
"Investing in technology can be difficult for a small or mid-market business, but giving customers the option to spread the expense out over three years can make the investment much more manageable from a cash flow perspective."
The application process has been kept simple with everything included on a single page. The approval process can also be turned around in one business day if the total amount to be financed is less than $100,000 and the business has a rating with Dun & Bradstreet.
Such financial offerings clearly have a role to play in the plans of many organisations, a fact long recognised by vendors working in the enterprise space. Microsoft's public entry into the world of alternative financial offerings will certainly prove attractive to some. The targeting of the SME market in Europe is a shrewd move, as this sector has much potential and has not been supplied with significant major vendor-supplied finance until recently. Financing may also provide the vendors with the continuous revenue streams that they seek.