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    2019 Top 10 SMB Business Issues, IT Priorities, IT Challenges
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Techaisle Blog

Insightful research, flexible data, and deep analysis by a global SMB IT Market Research and Industry Analyst organization dedicated to tracking the Future of SMBs and Channels.

Salesforce – a step closer to enabling connected business with connected insights

On Monday, 10th June, Salesforce announced a definitive agreement to acquire Tableau bringing Salesforce one step closer to empowering analytics-driven digital transformation for its customers, enabling enterprise performance management, driving connected businesses and hurtling itself on a collision course with Microsoft and SAP. Microsoft’s Power BI is rapidly dethroning many analytics platforms including Tableau and SAP is taking giant leaps towards customer experience management with Qualtrics.

Besides adding to topline revenue of Salesforce, the acquisition will likely not have any significant material effect on revenue growth rate as Tableau’s revenue is less than 10% of Salesforce’s revenue with Q/Q growth rate only slightly more than half of Salesforce.

Salesforce began as a SaaS company in 2000 with its famous “No Software” logo and attention-grabbing advertising of a fighter jet striking a biplane. In the last seven years it has transformed into a leading cloud SaaS company with creatively created and strategically segmented solution offerings – Sales Cloud, Marketing Cloud, Services Cloud, Commerce Cloud and Analytics Cloud. But collectively these are only customer-focused applications that operate within the Salesforce platform. But the scope of SaaS impact mirrors the scope of activity in the enterprise itself. SaaS is being meaningfully applied to IT operations, to core business functions (finance, HR, business operations, ERP) in addition to customer-facing tasks (customer service, marketing and sales). There are dozens of discrete SaaS application categories and thousands of applications that address part or all of the requirements in a specific area, or which bridge across process requirements.

The true benefits arise when cloud applications are connected to each other. Connected applications provide businesses the benefits of agility, efficiency, collaboration, alignment, customer intimacy and innovation. This cross-functional visibility is important to diagnosing issues within the business and formulating enterprise strategy. Almost all businesses, from small to enterprise are on their digital transformation journeys. Frequently, a key step in the digital transformation process is to automate related tasks within and across business process. In the absence of adjacent SaaS applications such as ERP, HR, financial management - Salesforce was forced to acquire MuleSoft, the integration solution to help businesses of all sizes create connected applications.

But a key missing piece from Salesforce’s portfolio has been analytics. Regardless of the business issue, analytics provides an answer. Businesses are prioritizing a wide range of improved outcomes: improvement within existing operations and processes, expansion of customer base, profitability, creation and accelerated delivery of new offerings, reduced cost, and enhanced ability to manage the unknown. Remarkably, each of the issues can be addressed with analytics solutions – and indeed, businesses are using analytics to address each today. This provides analytics vendors with a powerful ability to link product/service capabilities with critical ‘care-abouts’. And exactly this capability was missing from Salesforce’s portfolio. Its AI-led analytics platform Einstein was not proving to be a true analytics solution but rather a collection of dashboards. And for that matter, neither is Tableau (which leans more towards data visualization than analytics). However, with some of its recent announcements such as Ask Data and updates of VizQL, when combined with Salesforce platform may prove to be very useful for new and common customers.

If connected cloud applications is a logical starting point for connect businesses then connected insights is the logical destination. A fact that I feel is being pursued by Salesforce. Most businesses are developing an understanding of the power of advanced analytics, and many are well along the path of installing a “data culture” in which facts are used to identify options, not simply to justify decisions based on instinct or anecdotal feedback. Many cherished but complex metrics, such as return on marketing investment or lifetime customer value, can be established by providing analysts and data scientists with rich data and sophisticated tools. Both MuleSoft and Tableau bring Salesforce closer to delivering an Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) system which will allow businesses to have a new attitude and culture that values and uses data analytics as the quickest way to gauge overall performance and specific areas of interest at a glance. And a key reason why SAP purchased Business Objects many years ago, Oracle acquired Hyperion and IBM absorbed Cognos and SPSS, but some fell by the wayside.

Most businesses including SMBs and midmarket firms that have used CRM and ERP systems within the past few years are familiar with the dashboards that are available with many of these applications, either embedded or purchased/developed separately. Dashboards will continue to evolve and be dynamic in several ways; the way they use data from subsystems like ecommerce and other real time feed sources, the way users can personalize the layout of their dashboards, and the ability to build KPIs “on-the-fly” by calculating variables on the screen and saving the result in a meta-repository for all to use. While several SaaS vendors allow this kind of metric building and start the user at a dashboard, we have yet to see anything targeted to the mid-market or SMBs that connects the performance across front office, production, fulfillment and customer service almost out of the box – so the future has been here for a while and we are waiting for the market to catch up. Microsoft fired the most recent salvo with Power BI and now Salesforce is responding. If only Salesforce bought an ERP firm or HR or collaboration or virtual workspace or customer experience/survey. It would certainly be a game-changer.

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2019 Top 10 SMB and Midmarket business issues-challenges-priorities

Techaisle has released its annual research infographics on top 10 IT priorities, business issues and IT challenges of SMBs (1-999 employees), midmarket firms (100-999 employees) and small businesses (1-99 employees) for 2019. In its detailed SMB survey Techaisle investigated 21 different technology areas and several technology sub-categories, 23 different IT challenges and 21 different business issues. This is the 9th year of Techaisle’s annual survey research initiative that probes for top business issues, IT priorities and IT challenges. Tracking history provides a fascinating evolution in which new business goals drive new IT priorities and uncover challenges that must be addressed to enable progress on business objectives.

Primary research was conducted among senior IT and business decision makers from Techaisle network of 1.2M B2B IT professionals spread across 30+ countries.

There are some interesting differences in IT priorities as compared to 2018. IoT and VR/AR fell below top 10 (but still within top 15) and replaced by Voice/Digital assistants as well as Open source solutions. Across all regions (US, Europe, Asia/Pacific, Latin America) digital unified workspace and software-defined are becoming a priority for both SMBs and midmarket firms. Security many places within the top 10 IT challenges in different forms – cloud security, mobile device security, data protection/recovery/business continuity – with Cloud security as the top IT challenge.

Global SMB & Midmarket IT spend (excluding telecom services) in 2019 is projected to be US$665B and corresponding cloud spend is expected to be US$115B. Research also found that IT budget growths in 2019 will be the highest in Asia/Pacific (6.2%) and lowest in Latin America (1.8%). While IT budget constraint is not the top challenge within SMBs in the US and Asia/Pacific, it is the top concern in Latin America.

Managing data growth is continuing to pose challenge for SMBs and when probed further Techaisle research found that only 11% of SMBs and 29% of midmarket firms have evidence-driven culture with data-driven decision-making business processes in which data defines requirements or opportunities and management then determines the best option for moving forward. In the US, 17% of small business and 34% of midmarket firms consider themselves to be innovative.

2019 Top 10 SMB business issues, IT priorities, IT challenges

2019 top10 smb it priorities business issues techaisle infographics low res

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Techaisle Take – HPE vs Dell SMB IT solution stack

Comparing Dell and HPE offerings and ecosystems against the Techaisle SMB IT solution stack model

Techaisle’s latest report is designed to help SMB buyers and suppliers identify IT stack requirements, and to compare the offerings and ecosystems of the two current market leaders, Dell and HPE, against Techaisle’s definition of essential SMB & midmarket business technologies. The report is structured in three parts:

  • The IT stack: the report begins by outlining the technologies that SMBs require – and require integration across – in order to support current and emerging business requirements
  • Vendor comparison: an evaluation of Dell and HPE offerings, including core products, non-core products and partner-delivered capabilities, against the stack requirements
  • Evaluating stack suppliers: advice on how to use the stack comparison, and additional Techaisle research findings, to evaluate Dell and HPE strengths
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Survey shows SMB and Midmarket BDMs control cloud business applications purchase

Techaisle's SMB & midmarket decision making & buyers journey report confirms that business decision makers (BDMs) – who tend to inhabit the ‘carpeted’ realms of their businesses – are more engaged by discussions about business benefits and objectives than by ‘feeds and speeds’. Cloud business application sales reps will need to develop ‘deep carpet’ language and skills. Techaisle survey data shows that:

  • Determining the need for new cloud business applications is the prerogative of business management. The balance of authority within SMBs is nearly 7:1 in favor of business management except in the case of midmarket businesses where it is nearly 2:1
  • Neither business nor IT have a clear authority within 29 percent of small businesses and 22 percent of midmarket businesses to purchase new business applications, yet, cloud applications do get adopted driven by need, experimentation, and rogue adoption
  • At 32 percent, ad-hoc purchases are more popular within upper midmarket businesses than any other employee size business
  • Business management also has authority over determining the needs for enhancements to cloud business applications. The balance of authority within small businesses is 5:1 in favor of business management and 1.2:1 for mid-market businesses
  • Neither business nor IT have a clear authority within 17 percent of Small Businesses and 21 percent of midmarket businesses to enhance already deployed business applications, yet, these applications do go through significant modifications and upgrades to better serve the needs of business management
  • SMB Business management controls the budget and purchase authority by 8:1 as compared to IT management. However, within the midmarket businesses, the control ratio drops to 2:1 indicating that it is easier to sell cloud technology to small businesses than midmarket businesses since the decision-making units are dissimilar
  • In 15 percent of SMBs budget for new business application is usually created at the time of ad hoc decisions for purchase to meet business needs
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