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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.

Manageability drives SMB mobility solution supplier evaluation, especially in Midmarket

Techaisle’s 2015 SMB and Midmarket Mobility Adoption study shows that to emerge as leaders in the mobility solution market, suppliers will need to tailor their offerings and strategies to specific clusters within the SMB market. Successful suppliers will need to be cognizant of, and visible in addressing, key SMB selection criteria.

Figure below presents an analysis of SMB mobility solution evaluation criteria, tied to the attitudinal groups used for SMB segmentation analysis. This segmentation and perspective highlights how increased sophistication changes the requirements that SMB users have of suppliers.

techaisle-smb-mobility-solution-evaluation-criteria-image 

Small Business Segments
Within the small businesses, the Pre-IT segment is looking first and foremost for a trusted brand. These small business buyers opt for horizontal suppliers for their first step into mobility solutions. Data from other segments suggests that increasing sophistication leads to more exacting expectations.

Basic IT buyers are looking for help with managing BYOD and for effective customer support, while Advanced IT buyers look for assurances of information security, for manageability, and for suppliers’ credible brands.

Midmarket segments
“Manageability” is the most essential attribute for suppliers targeting midmarket firms. The basic IT segment is looking for assistance in supporting a large number of mobile platforms as a means of dealing with the BYOD needs of a larger (relative to small business) workforce, and/or as a means of supporting customer access to public systems.

The midmarket Advanced IT group, like its small business peers, requires a combination of manageability and information security, and adds customer support and the requirement for multi-device/platform support.

The enterprise IT group –the largest spenders represented in this chart – have a few unique requirements. This group demands interoperability and customizability as it seeks to integrate mobility solutions within the broader IT infrastructure, and looks as well for ease of use as it rolls out mobility solutions to a (relatively) large and diverse workforce. Techaisle expects that over time, an increasing number of SMBs will pursue these capabilities as they, too, tie mobility into their overall IT/business architectures.

 

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SMB big data adoption - from over-hype to must-have

Techaisle’s quantitative study (survey of nearly 900 SMBs) on SMB & Midmarket Big Data Adoption and Trends shows that 7 percent of small businesses and 20 percent of midmarket businesses are currently using Big Data solutions and that another 17 percent & 38 percent respectively are planning to adopt within the 1-2 years. These businesses are looking at a big data solution from 3 perspectives:

First, what are the organizational needs, second, what could be served as a solution and, third, what could be the best combination of the tools and technologies available today which will provide value add. Based on all one should decide on a solution because the Big Data space is very enormous and could be applied for any domain,” aptly quoted by CIO of a midmarket firm who has successfully implemented big data solutions in his organization.

Common findings that run through corresponding depth interviews (over 60 interviews conducted globally) conducted by Techaisle, Insights from the Trenches of SMB Big Data Implementers, are:

  • PoC – more is better, timing is of essence
  • Cost efficiencies of Hadoop, especially Cloudera
  • Plethora of tools deployment – emergence of Spark and Flume
  • On-premise only – now and the future
  • Must conduct skills training and gap analysis
  • Lessons learned – not to underestimate complexity but uniform voice – go for it

The promise of superior data-driven decision making is motivating 24 percent of US small businesses (1-99 employees) and 58 percent of midmarket businesses (100-999 employees) to invest in Big Data technology.

us-smb-current-planned-big-data-adoption

In addition, the possibility of analyzing a variety of data producing action-driven business insights is too big to ignore for midmarket businesses. This represents a sizable opportunity considering that the segment is relatively new, it requires a certain level of IT sophistication and a history in linear investment in information technology enablers to be successful.

smb-current-planned-bigdata-by-techaisle-it-sophistication-segments

Specifically, midmarket attitude towards big data has transitioned from “over-hype” to “must-have” technology with the increase in employee size. Only 11 percent of midmarket businesses consider big data to be an over hype suggesting that it has crossed the tipping point faster than similar sentiments for cloud adoption at its introduction. However, nearly one-fourth of lower mid-market businesses still consider it to be over-hyped yet 29 percent think that it will be an important part of their business decision making process.

Nevertheless, SMBs face many challenges in implementing big data solutions.

top-5-challenges-being-faced-by-smbs-in-implementing-bigdata-solutions

There are many different tactical objectives for deploying big data projects and SMBs are expecting some clear cut benefits from big data analytics such as increased sales, more efficient operations, and improved customer service.

CRM solutions had first established the analytics for analyzing customer data but the data was mostly two-way transactional data. This changed when customers began visiting business websites to explore, browse and perhaps make purchases thus leaving behind a trail of information. IT vendors and mid-market businesses figured out the need to analyze the data and combine it with transactional information.

However, everything changed with the onset of social media, blogs, forums and opinion platforms where the identification of false positives and negatives became difficult and knowledge about the customer and resulting segmentation became an inaccurate undertaking. Big data analytics presents the possibilities of connecting together a variety of data sets from disconnected sources to produce business insights whether for generating sales, improving products or detecting fraud. It is therefore not surprising that globally SMBs and midmarket businesses are turning towards big data analytics to analyze social media data, web data, customer and sales data along with click-stream machine generated data and even communications data in the form of emails, chat, voicemails.

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SMB MSP Channel fragmentation and role of IT vendor

The SMB IT channel has hit a point of fragmentation. Today, channel can be all things to all people but not in 2018 unless channel finds a way to generate more than 150% of revenue. Faced with an expanded SMB buyer community and requirements for specialized skills to support different solutions, the SMB channel is beginning to segment by focus area. Although the different specialties are starting from a common point today, Techaisle expects to see each develop unique characteristics over the next several years.

Highlights of Techaisle’s report on State of SMB Managed Services Channel include:

The business of the SMB channel: migrating to specializations

  • Overall, currently, the SMB channel has a reasonable balance between product and services revenue and engagements.
  • There is no ‘silver bullet’ leading to financial health in the SMB channel. Execution, not time allocation, is the key to sales success.
  • Sales cycles vary with several factors, including solution expertise. SMB-focused MSPs have relatively long sales cycles overall, but channel partners that are “very comfortable” with managed services have superior time-to-revenue results.
  • Four key specializations are emerging in the SMB channel and this fragmentation will accelerate in the 2015-2018 timeframe.

Managed services in the channel: pervasive as a delivery vehicle, becoming more of a specialty

  • MSPs are hardly the only source of managed services: more than 60% of VARs, SPs and SIs sell managed services today, and there has been an increase in managed services activity in all of these channels.
  • The variety and depth of managed services will make it difficult for non-specialists to keep pace with MSP specialists.
  • SMB preference for a single source of managed services will have an impact on managed services market and channel development.
  • SMBs have a definitive view of pricing and per user/ per device is not the way forward 

The role of the vendor in the managed services channel

  • Vendors must navigate a mix of generic channel requirements and requirements that are specific to managed services partners.
  • Generic requirements for end-to-end solutions are less important in managed services (where best-of-breed is paramount) than in other areas.
  • Vendors must understand and address the challenges faced by partners migrating to managed services specializations; this course will be complex and expensive.
  • Vendors will benefit from aligning with managed services partners’ value propositions, which are in turn well aligned with business outcomes (and business buyers).

Working with the SMB managed services customer: managed services addresses key buy-side imperatives

  • SMBs are more dependent on technology than ever before.
  • Since 2010, IT staffing has dropped in microbusinesses, and increased in small and midmarket firms. Accordingly, managed services acts as a substitute for IT staff in firms with 1-19 employees, and as a means of augmenting IT management in larger SMBs.
  • SMBs are struggling with IT complexity, and turning to managed services providers for support.

The survey data shows that channel partners struggle to transition from delivering some managed services to building viable businesses on a managed services model. To be successful, vendors will need to set objectives spanning a three-year period over which managed services specialization will emerge.

Many IT vendors will struggle with simply understanding this fundamental change in the market, and more will fail to understand the focus and investment required to grow with partners through this transitional period.

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SMB managed services adoption increases amidst acquisition challenges

SMB Current and Planned adoption
Techaisle’s SMB Managed Services adoption study (US, UK, Germany, Brazil, Mexico, Australia, China) shows that a substantial and rapidly-growing segment of SMBs across different geographies are using some combination of managed services to support IT and business requirements. Drilling into the US data, 40% of SMBs are currently using one or more types of managed services, increase of 21% from a year ago. Take-up of managed services within micro businesses is relatively low but doubles within the 10-19 employee size businesses. Techaisle survey data also shows that confusion around what managed services is and how they work has a negative impact on take-up in this segment, reinforcing the importance of education to building acceptance within this market.

Managed services usage rates are far higher within larger SMBs. Firms with 20-499 employees, who are trying to scale IT faster than can be achieved through in-house staff, are very avid users of managed services. Larger midmarket firms, where managed services is often a means of augmenting current staff (to deliver on niche specialities and/or to cover standard tasks so that in-house resources can move on to new initiatives), are also heavy users of managed services.

As impressive as these figures are, the ranks of managed services SMB users are poised to swell further within the next 12-24 months. Survey responses from companies with 1-9 employees indicate that the proportion of very small businesses using one or more managed services will double during this period. Growth within other SMB e-size segments will be less dramatic, but aggressive nonetheless.

The combination of increased reliance on technology as a key element of business success (as shown in the study), burgeoning complexity and cost constraint has created a “perfect storm” for use of managed services. SMBs are not just dealing with more technology, but with more complex technology.

SMB Managed Services acquisition challenges
A question exploring the issue of “what are the toughest challenges faced by SMBs when purchasing managed services” in the Techaisle SMB Managed Services Adoption Trends survey found four broad challenges: 1/ identifying solutions that address operational support requirements, 2/ selection of qualified providers, 3/ presenting a valid business case to senior management, and 4/ available funding.

The primacy of these issues changes with employee size:

  • Microbusinesses (1-19 employees) struggle most with finding appropriate suppliers – MSPs who understand and can work with companies that lack internal IT resources.
  • Small businesses (20-99 employees) struggle most with providing a valid business case to management. These firms are on the line separating the “managed services as a replacement for in-house staff” approach of microbusinesses and the “managed services as a means of augmenting IT management” approach of larger SMBs. At least in some cases, management considers outsourced services to be an either/or proposition rather than an “and” and needs help in understanding why a mixed approach to IT service delivery makes both technical and economic sense.
  • Available funding is the key issue for smaller midmarket (100-499 employees) businesses. These firms are pulled between the need to keep pace with IT opportunities and requirements (as defined by larger competitors) and the need to watch cash flow very carefully (as is the case with small businesses).
  • Larger midmarket firms (500-999 employees) are challenged primarily by identifying solutions addressing operational support requirements. These companies have specific needs and require complex solutions. It’s telling that it is also a challenge for these firms to find qualified suppliers and to develop a business case that can be absorbed by senior management.

SMB's use careful evaluation of supplier and platform
Techaisle’s corresponding SMB Channel Partners trend study (survey across several countries) and The State of US SMB Managed Services Channel study shows that the percent of US SMB channel partners offering managed services has increased to 71% from just below 70% in 2013.

There is a tight connection between managed services supply and demand. The interaction between SMB buyers and the firms that supply managed services is important to the vibrancy of the managed services market. The SMB Managed Services Adoption Trends explored some of the key issues in supplier evaluation and managed services sourcing. Once a relationship has been struck, SMBs and managed service providers need to connect effectively through the managed service delivery platform. Survey results indicate that there are five key elements that are integral to a compelling platform and SMBs use an average of 3.2 factors for MSP evaluation criteria.

SMB MSP fragmentation and coming channel transformation
Techaisle believes that the channel is at the beginning of a migration from generalist to specialist firms that will play out over the next few years. The variety and depth of managed services will make it difficult for non-specialists to keep pace with MSP specialists. Techaisle survey trend data clearly reveals that SMB channel partners have hit a point of fragmentation: they can be all things to all people today, but not in 2018. On this topic and more in Techaisle’s channel subscription services consisting of:

Related research areas

  • SMB Channel Trends
  • The State of SMB Cloud Channel
  • The State of SMB Managed Services Channel
  • The State of SMB Virtualization Channel
  • The State of SMB Mobility Channel

and corresponding SMB coverage:

  • SMB Cloud Adoption Trends
  • SMB Mobility Adoption Trends
  • SMB Managed Services Adoption Trends
  • SMB Virtualization and Converged Infrastructure Adoption Trends
  • SMB Collaboration Adoption Trends
  • SMB IT Decision Makers: TDM vs. LoB
  • SMB Big Data Adoption Trends
  • SMB Security Adoption Trends
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