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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.

SMB and Midmarket: Cloud Software acquisition and the importance of “deep carpet selling”

Linoleum vs. Deep Carpet Selling

There is an old story about a consultant who was advising a client about changes in his market, and what they would mean to sales strategy. The consultant went through a series of tables demonstrating that, due to increased interconnectivity with other corporate systems, products in the client’s segment were increasingly purchased by senior managers rather than shop floor managers. The consultant stressed the importance of developing new marketing material and directing the sales force to call on the senior managers instead of the shop floor, to which the client replied, “You are talking about deep carpet selling. We don’t do deep carpet selling. We do linoleum selling here.”

Most IT vendors engage in a variation of “linoleum selling”, focused on engaging IT professionals in discussions that focus on the technical attributes of their products. However, BDMs (Business Decision Makers) – who tend to inhabit the “carpeted” realms of their businesses – are more likely to be engaged by discussions about business benefits and objectives than by “feeds and speeds”. In categories where the BDM is central to the needs identification and budget process, sales reps will need to develop “deep carpet” language and skills.

The data from Techaisle’s SMB and Midmarket IT Decision Making Authority survey demonstrates that we have already reached that point in cloud applications and software in both the small and midmarket segments.

Need vs. Enhancements

Survey data shows that in both micro/very small businesses (1-19 employees) and the smaller midmarket businesses (100-499 employees), BDMs are the primary drivers for determining the need for new cloud business applications.

These findings are broadly consistent with the results from the survey question on determining the need for enhancements to existing cloud solutions. While in most cases, IT has more influence in determining the need for enhancements than it does in determining the need for new solutions, BDMs are still generally the most important voice in the discussion. ITDM’s (IT Decision Maker) influence is directly attributable to the extent that enhancements are driven by technological rather than functional requirements.

Conclusively, survey data shows that business requirements are the prime mover for identifying the need for both new solutions and significant enhancements/upgrades in micro and very small businesses, and that technology concerns play a meaningful role in instigating discussions about enhancements to existing solutions in businesses with 20-499 employees.

Interestingly, within the 500-999 segments, there is more BDM influence over identifying the need for meaningful enhancements than for new applications. Following the logic applied to the other segments, this suggests that enhancements within these near-enterprise accounts result primarily from process optimization requirements, rather than from a need to upgrade the underlying technology.

Cloud Software budget authority

“Determining the need for” a new business application or a “meaningful enhancement” to an existing application is not, of course, identical to signing off on the purchase of a new solution. When Techaisle extended its questioning to include “budgetary control and authority,” it resulted in two interesting findings:

    • The proportion of SMBs where budgetary control and purchasing authority for new applications rests entirely with BDMs increases in all employee size segments, relative to the statistics for determining need in these segments. This means that BDM control over the final purchase decision is even higher than the “determining the need for” statistics suggest.

 

    • The proportion of respondents reporting that responsibility resides entirely with either IT or business – but is not shared between them – increases in five out of seven employee size segments (missing only the 10-19 and 20-49 employees groups). This suggests that needs identification may be more collaborative than final purchase decisions.



Both findings point to the same conclusion: that BDMs are extremely important to suppliers of cloud software. Chart below provides a graphical representation of the determining need vs. final purchase decision authority balance by employee size.

techaisle-blog-smb-midmarket-decision-making

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34 percent SMBs want out-of-box Collaboration within SaaS/Cloud applications

Techaisle’s SMB & Midmarket Collaboration adoption research found that apart from traditional collaboration solutions of file sharing and communication, SMBs need SaaS business applications to have collaborative properties. 34 percent of SMBs and 44 percent of midmarket businesses say that SaaS applications should have built-in collaboration properties out-of-the-box. They say that the success of a cloud business application is its ability to provide /support collaboration, including email and/or hosted telephony.

Techaisle survey data shows that there is a strong connection between SaaS applications and collaboration. In some ways, these connections are intuitive: SaaS is a resource that can be accessed simultaneously by multiple individuals located anyplace where there is a network connection and cloud is inherently supportive of collaboration, and many applications are either explicitly focused on collaborative activities (ranging from SharePoint to CRM) or embed these capabilities (as with productivity applications like Office 365 or Google Apps).

Techaisle’s SMB research found quantitative support for these perceptions. When SMB respondents were asked, “what are the key attributes of a successful cloud solution?” As would be expected, security, scalability, and data management (including disaster recovery) were prominent in these responses. However, the most common answer was “the ability to support mobility,” which speaks to the requirement to enable mobile collaboration. And the fifth-most common response was “the ability to provide or support collaboration.” As the figure below shows, this is an important issue across size categories: it was cited as an important cloud success attribute by nearly half of near-enterprise (500-999 employees) firms, and also by companies with just 10-19 employees.

techaisle-saas-collaboration-connection-blog-smb-attributes


Further analysis of current and planned SaaS workloads underscores the importance of collaborative capabilities within SaaS applications. Techaisle asked small business and midmarket respondents who are currently using or planning to use cloud to identify the top SaaS workloads in use today, and those that are in current adoption plans. The results, that collaboration plays a role in most SaaS applications:

Workloads explicitly focused on collaboration

    • Hosted VoIP (used today by 52 percent of midmarket businesses, with 35 percent planning adoption)

 

    • Content publishing (used today by 53 percent of midmarket businesses; 56 percent of SaaS using small businesses are planning deployment)

 

    • CRM (in use or planned by 93 percent of midmarket businesses and 71 percent of SaaS using small businesses)



Workloads where collaboration is a key differentiator, attribute or outcome

    • Office suites (both Google Apps and Office 365 emphasize intrinsic collaboration capabilities. Office suites are the most commonly used SaaS application type within small business, and the third most commonly used application type within midmarket business)

 

    • Project management (most commonly used SaaS application type within midmarket business, and the third most commonly used SaaS application type within small business)

 

    • Business Intelligence (53 percent of midmarket businesses and 44 percent of small business are planning adoption)



Workloads where better collaboration or reporting within/across departments/functions and/or with external stakeholders is a key outcome

    • Accounting/financial management and ERP (accounting/financial management is the second most widely used SaaS application type within small businesses)

 

    • HR management (deployed by more than half of midmarket business SaaS users)

 

    • Marketing automation (highest rate of planned adoption within midmarket business SaaS users)



These findings underscore trends that are apparent in the SMB SaaS and collaboration markets: that increasingly collaboration is important to SMBs (as a means of boosting productivity), and that cloud-based systems – including file sharing systems, and extending to SaaS applications as well – are expected to provide support for many forms of collaborative activities.

Deployment scope further impacts SMB buyer requirements

As Techaisle observes the evolution of collaborative solution capabilities within SaaS, it is important to also consider the scope across which these applications and solutions are expected to operate. Solutions that connect workers within a group or department benefit from a common understanding of context and source applications; those that connect users across groups/departments exist within a single company, and can focus on supporting IT-approved devices with reference to IT-defined security policies. Solutions that extend beyond the organization’s own staff may well offer more business impact than internal-only systems by speeding communications to customers, prospects and/or suppliers – but they come with increased issues in terms of support for seamless connectivity across multiple platforms, and potentially, may raise security concerts as well.

techaisle-saas-collaboration-connection-blog-smb-scope


In the research, Techaisle asked respondents to specify the scope of their collaboration solutions. The results help clarify the strong demand for collaboration within microbusinesses, and provide insight into why businesses view collaboration as an essential solution investment area. More than 40 percent of microbusinesses, and 39 percent of all SMBs, extend their collaboration infrastructure to support for customers. Midmarket businesses are more likely to focus on internal collaboration, but they join smaller peers in having a roughly 20 percent incidence of supporting supply chain relationships (suppliers/vendors) through their collaboration systems.

Looking at the above chart, one sees that there is the potential for missed connections within the emerging panoply of collaboration-enabling systems. Social media, mobility, BI and cloud all have important collaboration extensions. But how can businesses ensure that these technologies will connect internally once they are in place? Techaisle believes that collaboration is evolving in response to this market condition. IT vendors have traditionally tried to position collaboration solutions as a platform on which businesses can create new capabilities and integrated processes. However, data shows that businesses are instead acquiring collaborative capacities as part of other applications: social media, mobility, cloud and BI all provide discrete and important – but potentially disconnected – collaboration capabilities. Moving forward, Techaisle expects that collaborative technology solutions will increasingly be positioned as a framework that integrates and extends the value of these discrete system capabilities, rather than as a “first step” platform.

Related Blogs:

SMB and Midmarket File Sharing & Collaboration Adoption to Grow by 52 percent

SMB Content Management & Collaboration Solutions Adoption: Seven Key Trends

Report details:

360 on SMB & Midmarket File Sharing & Collaboration Solutions Adoption Trends

 

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SMB and Midmarket File Sharing & Collaboration Adoption to Grow by 52 percent

Techaisle’s study on SMB Collaboration Solutions Adoption Trends shows that for 59 percent of US small businesses and 93 percent of US midmarket businesses, collaboration is among the Top 5 IT priorities for investments. In Asia/Pacific, 63 percent of SMBs are turning towards it as a business growth driver and in Western Europe, 68 percent of SMBs are finding that collaboration drives better teamwork and customer responsiveness.

Overall 38 percent of US SMBs are currently using one or more collaboration solutions and another 20 percent are planning to use one within the next year, a growth of 52 percent. Overwhelmingly, SMB customers view online file sharing as the most important aspect of a collaboration solution as 64 percent of SMBs using collaboration are currently using online file sharing (24 percent of all US SMBs) and another 32 percent are planning to use it within the next one year.

The survey data also shows that the next stage in the SMB collaboration adoption is their need for online interaction, that is, simultaneously share and edits files from PCs and mobile devices, mobile video collaboration, integration with social networks, and richer media escalations, such as using chat, text, voice, video at the same time.

As per the study, key business drivers for SMB collaboration adoption are also changing. While currently there is a strong desire to build robust content repositories, the next wave of SMB collaboration adopters are emphasizing speed of innovation, demands for improved productivity, and imperatives for faster time to market.

In terms of brand solution adoption, the SMB market is quite fragmented with Google, Microsoft, and Cisco leading, but there are many other smaller collaboration solution brands that are being used extensively by SMBs. Further analysis of data also underscores the importance and use of collaborative capabilities within SaaS applications such as CRM, ERP, accounting, project management, HR management, business intelligence and content publishing.

With respect to file sharing, Dropbox has had a very strong impact on the SMB collaboration solutions market. By enabling mobile users to share files freely, they at once underscored the central importance of mobility, enabled individual users to be drivers of corporate collaboration activity, and proved the centricity of file-first rather than person-first collaboration models.

Box (another important vendor in the space), on the other hand has gone on record saying that SMBs are not its target market segment. There is a market opportunity for traditional backup and file-sharing IT companies such as Hightail, Carbonite, Egnyte as well as those delivering mobile workspaces such as Citrix and managed services platform providers such as Continuum and security IT vendors such as Trend Micro. However, the reach for each of these will be limited to the reach of their respective SMB focused channel partners.

Techaisle believes that there are additional file-centric developments that will further shape the nature of SMB file sharing solutions in the years to come. Today, most files are intrinsically connected to the applications that created them. If cloud and mobility are the key determinants of IT delivery, then there would be a need for the decoupling of data from applications. Application-independent data wrapped in rich metadata would allow new cloud-based applications (potentially based on BI platforms) to combine existing data to meet new business requirements. In addition, freed of originating applications, it is also likely that data could be optimally formatted for a wide range of displays: large screen PCs, smaller screen smartphones and tablets, and new display types ranging from signage to digital paper to wearable heads-up displays.

For more details on the report, click SMB and Midmarket Collaboration Adoption Trends

 

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SMB Content Management & Collaboration Solutions Adoption: Seven Key Trends

 

    1. Collaboration is a critical solution priority. In a list of ten solutions ranked by SMB use and planned use, “content management & collaboration solutions” is positioned as the fifth highest-ranked solution. However, the four solutions that are more highly ranked – social media, mobility, BI, and cloud – all deliver, and are expected to deliver, collaboration-related benefits. Viewed not just as a solution category but as an organizational capability, it is clear that collaboration is pervasive and critical to SMB IT buyers. This is reflected in data demonstrating that collaboration (and cloud, social media and mobility) is seen as contributing to business growth, and not strictly to cost savings. Larger SMBs are explicit in recognizing this imperative: within mid-market (100-999 employees) businesses, content management & collaboration is ranked as the second most important IT priority.

 

    1. Content Management & Collaboration systems are in broad use. Collaboration has traditionally been seen as a mid/large business solution, but broad market trends, including the enormous reliance on mobility, the trend towards flexible partnerships between SMBs and between SMBs and corporate clients, and the general trend of including customers within the framework of collaboration solutions have all contributed to much broader demand for collaboration solutions.

 

    1. Content Management & Collaboration solutions are file-first, not person-first. Collaboration is often seen as enabling human-to-human connections, but Techaisle’s SMB survey data shows that SMB users consider content management & collaboration around files – such as that offered by Dropbox or Box – to be the most important aspect of a collaboration solution. In today’s market, SMB content management and collaboration is a three step process. The central SMB buyer requirement for a content management & collaboration solution is the ability to share files from desktop or mobile devices, the second is to enable online interaction, and the third is to provide richer media and media escalation for person-to-person communications.

 

    1. There is a strong connection between cloud, mobility and collaboration. Mobility, cloud and collaboration are all important trends in today’s IT market, and Techaisle SMB survey data indicates that they are tightly interconnected. Mobility is a key driver of collaboration demand, with 300 million WW SMB mobile workers (42 percent of workforce) looking for framework technologies enabling them to connect with suppliers, customers and each other. At the same time, collaboration is seen as a key attribute of successful cloud solutions, with more than one-third of US SMBs citing “the ability to provide or support collaboration” as a key success factor in cloud solutions.

 

    1. Key business drivers for content management & collaboration solution adoption are changing. Both small and mid-sized firms have viewed creation of a central repository of information as the most important business driver for content management & collaboration investments, and both groups report that a need to build synergy across geographically-dispersed team members and a need to respond to leadership mandates are also key business drivers for content & collaboration solution adoption. However, these drivers are changing. New SMB buyers are still focused on creating central information repositories, but are more likely than existing solution users to emphasize speed of innovation and improving the ability to schedule meetings (in mid-sized firms) and the need to speed decision making and improve teamwork (in small businesses).

 

    1. SMB BDMs are the key champions for content management & collaboration solutions. Techaisle research looked at the issue of internal leadership for content management & collaboration adoption from two perspectives. In both cases, BDMs, and not IT, emerged as the key force driving decisions to deploy collaboration solutions. Techaisle believes that in response, collaboration vendors need to position their wares as business solutions and not as technology systems.

 

    1. Key success metrics for collaboration systems center on speed of response to customers/prospects and business decision timeliness and accuracy. Survey results show that both small and mid-sized businesses are most likely to assess the success of content management & collaboration solution initiatives in terms of improved speed of response to customers and prospects. They are also likely to consider timeliness and accuracy of business decisions as key success indicators. Techaisle urges suppliers to create marketing messages that emphasize, in clear and measurable terms, how investment in a solution will improve the timeliness of responses to customers and prospects, and to provide insight into how these solutions also enhance internal decision processes.



 

 

 

Table of Contents of the report is here: 360 on SMB & Mid-Market Content Management & Collaboration Solutions Adoption Trends Study

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