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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.

Managing risk - protecting SMB business against operational threats

In the list of top 10 worldwide SMB business issues derived from Techaisle’s global survey of SMBs (1-999 employees), “managing uncertainty” ranks tenth, and the word “risk” doesn’t appear at all. This is likely more a reflection of how SMB executives would like the world to be, rather than a representation of everyday reality. The acronym FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) is familiar to most business managers, and not simply as a catch-phrase: SMBs walk a fine line between managing risk resulting from the actions that they take (for example, security or privacy exposure relating to new systems) and risk arising from actions that they have not yet taken (which has its own acronym – “FOMO, or “fear of missing out”).

Clearly, security technologies are a core component of corporate risk management strategies. Techaisle’s global research, however, has identified several other solutions, including VDI/DaaS, managed services and IoT, which help executives to understand and manage risk in their operations. By capitalizing on the attributes of the technologies that best fit an SMB organization, obe can define an approach that allows the business to address ‘downside’ issues and move ahead with ‘upside’ opportunities.

IT security

Risk management is best achieved by developing a portfolio that incorporates IT security. It’s also true that IT security relies on a portfolio approach: there are at least 10 major technology solutions that are in common use by SMBs today.

For example, Techaisle’s US research shows that the top two solutions, anti-spam/email security and anti-virus/anti-malware/anti-spyware, are ubiquitous, with effectively universal deployment. Two other technologies, firewalls and web/content filtering, are in widespread use, at 73% and 55% respectively. No other security technology is used by more than 50% of SMBs: 49% of US SMBs use breach detection, 45% use data loss prevention (DLP) technologies, and usage levels drop for the other solutions on the list, to 25% for vulnerability scanning.

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Cloud continuing to challenge SMB MSPs and frustrating VARs but helping CSPs

In a word, the most significant potential disruption factor for the managed services market and channel partners is still cloud. Techaisle data shows that 68% of VARs are offering managed services to their SMB customers but only 46%, that is, less than one-third (31%) of all SMB-focused VARs have been very successful in achieving consistent growth and profitability within managed services. On the flip-side, 83% SMB-focused MSPs have become very successful in their managed services business model. But the MSPs have not achieved the same success in cloud. Only 63% of MSPs are currently offering cloud and although 72% of them have achieved cloud success, it is still, only 45% of all SMB-focused MSPs, slightly less than half of the managed services success. In fact, when extended, data shows that VARs are still caught in a spaghetti junction, they are neither achieving great success in cloud nor in managed services. In the case of MSPs, the overwhelming vendor forces are proverbially narrowing the banks of the river with over capacity.

The success in SMB mobility-focused business model is even lower than cloud and managed services.

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Techaisle study reveals top 3 channel partner managed services success inhibitors

Inability to balance product resale and services revenue, inability to adjust to a customer-centric approach and inability to align recurring and non-recurring revenues are severely holding back the MSPs. Since 2008 Techaisle has been conducting managed services studies, both demand side within SMB & Midmarket segments and supply-side within the VARs, MSPs, SIs, SPs, Consultants offering managed services. Each year Techaisle (latest report deliverables are here) has been quantifying what separates the successful and unsuccessful managed services channel partners. And there are several data-evinced barriers to entry and success factors. To understand barriers to entry, it is important to first define the characteristics that are important to success as an MSP. There are many but let us discuss three that always percolate to the top:

  1. The ability to sell services independently from product sales (while maintaining the ability to sell products to customers as well).
  2. The ability to package and efficiently deliver standardized services to multiple customers, growing by expanding portfolios of discrete services rather than by simply agreeing to address sprawling customer requirements on a ‘one-off’ basis.
  3. The ability to align internal processes and costs/cash flow with a recurring revenue (rather than transactional) approach to the business.

Techaisle research substantiates the importance of each of these key characteristics.

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The connection between managed services and SMB business and IT challenges

The subject of “IT/business alignment” has been a hot topic of debate for many years. Yet despite this interest, business and IT interests and objectives frequently diverge. To some extent, this is inevitable: the business is concerned with issues that extend beyond IT, and IT needs to manage issues that are (at least, as long as they are working) beneath the notice of most business professionals. However, today’s business environment is increasingly dependent on IT support, and IT products and services that improve productivity and efficiency or which expand market reach and potential. IT initiatives that can be linked meaningfully to broader business objectives are best positioned to attract corporate support – meaning that products and services that address key business priorities have the greatest potential for growth.

The Techaisle SMB survey, which captured the perspectives of both business decision makers (BDMs) and IT decision makers (ITDMs) in US SMBs ranging from 1-999 employees, looked at key business issues and in particular IT challenges. The list of the most important IT challenges faced by SMBs such as budget constraints and the need to control IT costs and improve justification for new IT investments are both tied to the goal of reducing operational cost, and effective maintenance of current IT infrastructure contributes to reduction in operational uncertainty, and thereby get linked to managed services.

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