IBM has expanded its line of products and services for SMBs -- "small and mid-sized businesses."\u00a0 And in the process, IBM\u00a0has taken the opportunity to\u00a0clarify\u00a0its messaging for SMBs. Why is messaging\u00a0significant to you?\u00a0 Bear with me and I'll explain. IBM recently introduced two new products that have been scaled from their larger enterprise versions to suit SMBs. The IBM Rational Build Forge Express Edition provides a software delivery process management solution that enables small and mid-sized companies to standardize and automate end-to-end software release processes and better govern compliance implementation. The IBM Tivoli Network Manager IP Entry Edition is a network management product that helps organizations visualize and understand the layout of networks in their environment, allowing them to scale and grow as market demands dictate. It seems almost everybody's definition of small business differs. IBM's\u00a0latest announcement focuses\u00a0on larger businesses than\u00a0you might\u00a0typically think of as "small" businesses. According to Michele Grieshaber, director channel strategy and SMB marketing for IBM's Tivoli line, one group of customers that IBM targets falls roughly in the 100 to 1000 employee range. Another group is typically from 1,000 to 5,000 employees. Hence, the designation "SMB" or small and mid-sized business. Or, as IBM is now calling them,"growing midmarket businesses" especially when referring to the larger end.\u00a0 That's actually a better designation I think, than small and mid-sized businesses, which can be misleading. The SMB segment really is a different kettle of fish from a small business of say,\u00a020\u00a0employees, because the emphasis is more on that "mid-sized" part of the definition. But the needs of SMBs differ from very large corporations, too, so you can't really lump them in with enterprise customers. Caught in the middle! The unfortunate part is that\u00a0all too often\u00a0I see the term "small business" used loosely to describe these larger mid-sized or midmarket businesses.\u00a0 They may be smaller than your garden variety Fortune 1000 company, but they're hardly "small." The result is ... confusion. To address the differences, IBM has created two "sitelets" (sections of websites) to speak directly to these midmarket businesses, located at: www.ibm.com/tivoli/smb and www.ibm.com/rational/smb. You also can see the definition being discussed even more precisely in this presentation for IBM partners (PDF) that I found on the Web. IBM's move to speak specifically to the midsized or midmarket customer is a step in the right direction. In general, the small business and SMB marketplaces could use a lot more clarity -- clarity as in what size business a particular solution may be best suited for. Otherwise vendors risk confusing their prospective customers.\u00a0 And a confused\u00a0prospect means a\u00a0longer sales cycle.\u00a0\u00a0One party may be thinking of a small business\u00a0with eight people in it, while the other is imagining\u00a0a business with 800 employees. Those two businesses will be light years apart, as measured by their needs, their budgets, and their internal level of IT expertise. There's no sense in either side -- prospect\u00a0or vendor -- wasting time on a solution that isn't appropriate for the company needs.