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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.

HPE boldly pivoting headlong into post-transactional market

Recently concluded HPE Discover was different than most other analyst events in more ways than one. First, HPE announced that it has strategically dived into the cloud swim-lane with a confident commitment to offer “everything-as-a-service” by 2022. HPE has plans to offer entire portfolio through a range of subscription, pay-per-use and consumption driven offerings. It is a bold strategy and in direct contrast to its key competitors. Second, the phrase “doubling down” on SMB and midmarket segments was not only mentioned in the HPE Global Partner Summit on the mainstage, but also in the keynote address by Antonio Neri as well as by several senior leaders in their respective breakout sessions thereby targeting SMBs as a priority market segment.

Specifically, “everything as a service” or XaaS is a very astute strategy. As we near the end this decade, it is clear that the IT industry as a whole has been transformed by cloud - by the way it alters IT service delivery options, by the way it impacts the economics & resource requirements associated with that delivery, and by the applications and business opportunities that cloud unlocks for user organizations of all sizes and in all industries. We are increasingly immersed in a post-transactional market, where discrete sales of individual products or integrated systems are replaced by agreements to provide IT capacity and business functionality “as-a-Service.”

No segment of the IT market is immune to this trend. Sales of on-premise hardware and software are declining and will continue to decline; at the same time, leading web service providers, including Microsoft (Azure), Amazon Web Services, Facebook, Google and Alibaba, are building 40 percent – 50 percent of all x86 servers for internal use, and then providing access to these servers on a pay-as-you-go basis, and software developers are creating systems on these platforms to automate sales, marketing, finance, HR and other business functions.

Inexorably, the market is shifting from one defined by discrete purchase-and-deploy deals aligned with refresh cycles to one where businesses take a hybrid approach that blends a limited number of on-premise assets with a growing range of on-demand services. Although hybrid IT is inherently a more flexible and efficient way of providing IT services needed by businesses, it still requires effective planning to address important issues within business operations. There are many different types of hybrid IT solutions, but they all belong to one of three basic types: Solutions that respond to IT department needs, and are adopted by IT professionals; Solutions that address business management needs, where demand is driven by non-IT executives or staff members; Solutions that change both business processes and IT systems, and which require IT/business management collaboration for effective delivery. And these are the hybrid market segments that HPE plans to address.

But Antonio Neri’s ambition is far bolder and greater than simply pivoting to an XaaS business model. His promise is for a zero-friction future in a cloud-less world for all segments of the market. A strong foundation has been laid with HPE GreenLake, an outcome of its acquisition of Cloud Cruiser in 2017. At HPE Discover, HPE extended its GreenLake offerings for the midmarket to enable quick deployments of workloads with right sized and ready to go storage, compute and virtualization. For midmarket firms which do not own and manage their own data centers, HPE has partnered with Equinix and CyrusOne to offer co-location solutions. To help its channel partners that serve the midmarket segment, HPE has developed a new quoting tool that reduces quote time from 18 hours to 15 minutes. In addition, HPE also announced the availability of HPE GreenLake Chatbot - an artificial intelligence driven, automated chatbot that quickly answers partners' HPE GreenLake inquiries.

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Digital transformation and operational efficiency for the modern midmarket

Senior executives in midmarket organizations care about digital transformation – and as a result, channel members can leverage their understanding of key DX objectives and roadmaps into long-term, sustainable relationships with senior decision makers.A Techaisle survey of nearly 900 midmarket firms in the US found that 59% believe that digital transformation is a key to operational efficiency, streamlining processes within the business. In fact, operational efficiency is the most important issue driving digital transformation for most advanced, mainstream and least advanced midmarket firms.

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techaisle digital transformation 1 1

Looking at the figure above, there is a clear progression as firms move from ‘siloed’ to ‘holistic’ DX strategies. The focus of innovation moves from containing IT costs to establishing IT sustainability – the ability to effectively manage IT delivery into the future. And primary business objectives also evolve, moving from a need to control operational cost to focus on profitability and product/process quality. IT advisors who can ‘connect the dots’ from tactical to strategic DX outcomes earn the opportunity to work with executive sponsors on long-term transformation roadmaps.

It is important that the channel step up to helping clients to build DX strategies – because midmarket firms are wrestling with a wide range of obstacles to digital transformation adoption. The ‘top 10’ list of midmarket DX inhibitors includes a lack of skills (the #1 impediment, cited by 31% of midmarket firms), reluctance to change current practices and corporate risk aversion, inadequate installed technology and a lack of investment capital for new systems, and an inability to build a compelling business case; lack of an executive sponsor and of technical leadership to support adoption of DX are also significant constraints.

Trusted channel members can help executive clients to address at least half of the top DX impediments. By working with executives to plot a DX path to operational excellence, the channel can provide the business case that underpins executive sponsorship for DX initiatives. And by investing in the technology skills needed to facilitate digital transformation – by delivering technical leadership – the channel can bridge the gap between the capabilities needed to achieve the DX vision and the constraints imposed by legacy systems and change-wary staff and management.

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It’s said that Henry Ford once claimed that “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” But that’s not really true. Ford knew that people wanted to move faster and farther – they wanted to see and do things that they could not previously achieve. He was responding to the underlying, driving desire, and moving beyond the current constraints.

The midmarket is clearly looking for its own innovative suppliers – firms that are able to deliver the operational excellence associated with digital transformation by finding ways to move beyond current constraints. In collaboration with suppliers who are capable of supporting the whole journey from legacy to DX, channel leaders will establish the technical and operational roadmaps that their clients need to make the leap into the ‘next stage’ of competition – helping the clients who depend on them to build capabilities that are attuned to the needs of the digital business world.

techaisle digital transformation 1 3

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Channel Partners landscape – four key questions

The channel industry examined by Techaisle’s 2018 SMB & midmarket channel research survey (separate studies conducted in the US and Worldwide) is very different from the community that existed a decade ago. Once a staid domain in which technologists provided IT infrastructure support to local customers, the channel is being reshaped by five key issues: cloud, and its wrenching effect on all aspects of the channel business structure; managed services efficiencies, especially vs. the pending opportunity associated with digital transformation; increasingly-complex data center technologies; integration demands that are expanding in multiple directions; and the need to sell on and deliver to business rather than technical outcomes. Let us discuss four key questions arising out of the research that is of interest to IT vendors and distributors.

Question 1. What are the top channel trends?

The channel is being reshaped by five key issues:

  1. cloud, and its wrenching effect on all aspects of the channel business structure;
  2. managed services efficiencies, especially vs. the pending opportunity associated with digital transformation;
  3. increasingly-complex data center technologies;
  4. orchestration & integration demands that are expanding in multiple directions; and
  5. the need to sell on and deliver to business rather than technical outcomes

A lot has been written about cloud so let us discuss the other four areas and the remaining three questions.

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