Access for smaller businesses to relevant and practical IT advice has been improved following the launch today (16 September) of the new Approved Centre programme from Technology Means Business (TMB), the Government backed IT advice scheme. This new programme – accrediting organisations that offer IT advice and services - builds upon TMB's existing network of 250 Accredited Advisers.

The TMB accreditation was first launched in 2000 and continues to improve the quality and consistency of IT advice to small and medium enterprises (SMEs), with the emphasis on providing relevant and practical advice. Supported by the DTI under the 'UK online for business' initiative, TMB is run by the Chartered Management Institute with support from commercial sponsors such as Hewlett Packard, Microsoft, Intel and BT.

The 17 new organisations achieving Approved Centre status today will provide a further boost to the access that smaller businesses have to high quality IT advice around the UK. Smaller businesses seeking advice on a whole range of IT-related business issues, such as e-commerce, on-line marketing, data management, web development and hardware and software solutions can select a TMB Approved Centre or Adviser via the TMB website, selecting by location or IT specialism. TMB accreditation gives assurance that the Approved Centre or Adviser selected has been vetted and assessed in terms of SME and IT knowledge and has proved their competence by completing a rigorous and formal assessment process.

Neil Southern, Director of Technology Means Business at the Chartered Management Institute said "Being a TMB Approved Centre provides an excellent benchmark against which owners and managers of SMEs can judge the standard of IT advice they will receive from an organisation. For some time, research has shown that SMEs do not know who to turn to for IT advice they can trust. TMB accreditation now addresses that need."

Approved Centres and Advisers come from a broad range of backgrounds, from both the private and public sectors; they work for business support organisations, such as Business Links and 'UK online for business', and now increasingly they can be found in IT resellers and consultancies.

TMB accreditation offers a wide range of benefits to organisations and individuals offering IT advice, as well as benefiting their SME clients. It provides formal confirmation of their expertise and knowledge and, by joining the network of TMB Approved Centres and Advisers, it gives access to a supply of learning resources and information via the TMB website, and the support of a nationwide marketing initiative.

Liz Grant, Director of 'UK online for business' at the DTI, said "I am delighted to support the launch of this new Technology Means Business (TMB) accreditation scheme for organisations. This new Approved Centre programme complements the existing Adviser programme and is just what is needed to raise the profile of TMB and make sure that many more SMEs start hearing about, and taking advantage of what TMB has to offer. In particular it should start to increase the availability of high quality IT advice in the IT reseller channel, which is where many SMEs obtain their IT advice".

The 17 new Approved Centres are :
Biz-KIT Team, Durham Business School
Business Link for Essex
Business Link for West Yorkshire
Business Link Herefordshire and Worcestershire
Business Link Somerset Ltd
Business Link Tyne and Wear
Chamber Business Enterprises Ltd - Manchester
Compuwiz - Bristol
Comtec Plc - Bath
CometNET Ltd – North London
Ibbd – South Wales
Lanway Business Systems Ltd - Burnley
Online Agenda Ltd - Batley
Parity Computers ICT - Merseyside
PBI – West Wales
Services to Software Ltd - Glasgow
The Lapworth Consultancy - Reading

For further information, please contact:
Sally Lingard/Alison Agmen-Smith,
Chartered Management Institute Press Office 020 7421 2718.
If you wish to contact us on Monday morning, please call 07775 802163.

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