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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 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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SMB IT Solution Leadership Divide

Techaisle’s unique SMB research to understand the current state and implications of distributed IT influence and authority shows that today, the DMU (Decision Making Unit) is much bigger, much more diverse, much more difficult to inform, and can be much slower to take action. Business decision makers (BDMs) are an intrinsic force within DMUs in most SMB organizations, and are the primary decision makers in some high-growth areas. These BDMs have different objectives for technology, different perspectives on adoption drivers and impediments, and tend to be influenced by different information sources. The resulting diffusion in responsibility/authority and information channels has created an environment where buyers and sellers struggle to develop the cohesion needed to promote or embrace new IT/business capabilities within existing IT and business process structures.

The study shows that both ITDMs and BDMs play important roles in the (formal and shadow) acquisition of IT products and services. However, Techaisle’s research has found that the distinctions between these roles are not evenly applicable across all types of IT-enabled solutions: in some areas, the business will look to IT for leadership, and in others, it will take direction from BDMs.

Figure below illustrates the extent to which ITDMs and BDMs are seen as solution leaders within small and medium businesses, and across nine major solution areas. The solutions have been assigned to three groups: those on the left (virtualization, managed services and IaaS) are labeled “IT led,” and represent areas where IT is generally seen as leading corporate initiatives; they are focused on the core infrastructure used by IT to deliver corporate services to users. The ones at the right (collaboration, social media and analytics) are labelled “BDM led,” and are solutions in which BDMs provide most corporate leadership, and IT is cast very much in a supporting role. The solutions in the middle – Big Data, SaaS and mobility – have been labelled “IT/BDM collaborative.” These are solutions that respond to BDM needs, but where IT is important to supporting delivery capacity.

smb-solution-leadership-blog-techaisle


The positioning of these solutions is important to IT vendor sales and marketing strategies. Solutions in the “IT led” category need to have strong IT-focused positioning, with detailed information on product attributes; this material should be supported with a second layer of collateral containing information on the business case for the solutions, and aimed at BDMs.

Solutions in the “BDM led” category require very different positioning: here, vendors need to make a strong case for the business benefits and relevance of the solution and orient these messages towards BDMs, supporting this campaign with accompanying technical information designed to provide clear deployment and integration guidance to ITDMs.

The “IT/BDM collaborative” category is the trickiest to address. It requires deep information on business benefits and the process steps required to capture those benefits targeted at BDMs, and deep information on how to assemble, deploy, integrate and support/optimize these solutions targeted at ITDMs – and an understanding of how to position and convey the messages to each audience.

During the survey, Techaisle explored one other solution issue that is important to understanding the different perspectives of ITDMs and BDMs. Each respondent was asked to categorize the nine solution areas as having one of two primary impacts: driving growth or containing costs/”increasing the bottom line.”

The comparison of small and mid-sized ITDM and BDM perspectives provides an instructive view of the differences between the two communities. Looking first at the small business results the survey finds that in six of eight areas (IaaS and SaaS combined into a single “cloud” category), BDMs are more likely to view a solution as contributing to growth, and ITDMs are more likely to view a solution as helping to control costs; this may reflect a fundamental difference in how each group approaches its business objectives. In the mid-market findings study reveals that the perceptions of value of ITDMs and BDMs are very closely aligned in mobility, virtualization, Big Data and managed services. ITDMs are more likely to believe that cloud will drive growth than their BDM peers, while BDMs are much stronger believers in the growth contributions of the three IT-led solution areas (collaboration, social media and business intelligence/analytics).

About the Study: 360 on SMB & Mid-Market IT Decision Making Authority - BDM vs. ITDM

The study covers:

    • Stakeholders and their roles in end-to-end IT solution adoption

 

    • ITDM vs. BDM : Balance of Authority (Needs, Budget, Purchasing)

 

    • ITDM & BDM: Locus of Leadership in driving different types of IT Solution Adoption

 

    • ITDM & BDM: Leadership roles in securing Cloud, Mobility

 

    • ITDM vs. BDM: Success Attributes and Benefits of Cloud & Mobility Solutions

 

    • SMB & Mid-Market Businesses: Shadow IT Spending

 

    • Business Impact of BDM vs. ITDM perspectives and expectations with respect to IT Solutions

 

    • ITDM vs. BDM: Differences in Business Issues, IT Challenges, IT Priorities

 

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SMB Hybrid Cloud usage will jump by 56 percent in 2015: Public vs. Private vs. Hybrid

Techaisle’s recent SMB Cloud computing adoption survey of 1455 US SMBs shows that hybrid cloud is gaining momentum in small businesses and is becoming entrenched in the mid-market businesses. According to the survey, hybrid cloud is currently being used by 18 percent of cloud-using SMBs and will be the approach of choice for 28 percent in 2015, an increase of 56 percent. Similarly, Hybrid Cloud accounts for 32 percent of cloud using mid-market businesses today, and is expected to capture a similar proportion of new spending in 2015.

The survey data also reveals that use of “hybrid-only” cloud is expected to increase by 87 percent, the proportion of SMBs using a combination of private and hybrid is expected to grow by over 100 percent and use of all three of public/private/hybrid cloud is expected to increase by an even higher percent.

Even SMBs that are pursuing Public or Private Clouds are ripe for Hybrid cloud in the future. In small businesses, survey shows that 50 percent of those planning new cloud initiatives in 2015 are looking to implement private cloud – in effect, using internal infrastructure to deliver on-demand services. However, these small businesses will most likely hit the limit of their internal resources and bridge to external cloud when they do so.

Techaisle survey data further shows that trust in public cloud is leaping within mid-market businesses with 44 percent anticipating use of public cloud in 2015 - up from 27 percent currently – typically for workloads including customer service, hosted VoIP, collaboration, marketing automation and business intelligence. These mid-market businesses are also looking to improve integration and manageability by connecting Public cloud workloads with internal systems creating an inevitable move to Hybrid cloud.

Small businesses (1-99 employees)

42 percent of small businesses are currently using only private cloud, less than 20 percent are using only public cloud and a small percent of small businesses are using only a hybrid approach connecting public and private clouds. This means that their cloud usage journey to date has consisted of using internal resources to deliver on-demand services.

Survey data also reveals that many small businesses are using more than one cloud approach. 15 percent are using both public and private cloud for discrete purposes and not configured as part of a single delivery infrastructure. Relatively small proportions of small businesses are using private and hybrid or public and hybrid. Segmentation of survey data reveals that small businesses using all three of public, private and hybrid clouds have an average of 43 employees and four locations making them noticeably larger than other small businesses.

Mid-market businesses (100-999 employees)

Techaisle SMB cloud survey also shows that less than 40 percent of cloud-using mid-market businesses rely on a single delivery approach for cloud. 25 percent use only private cloud and one-third use two different delivery approaches, with the most common being a combination of private and hybrid cloud or private/public cloud. 30 percent of cloud-using mid-market firms surveyed report that they have currently deployed all three of public, private and hybrid cloud. Unlike small businesses, these mid-market businesses are smaller is size than those using a single delivery method but they tend to have a higher number of locations.

Final Techaisle Take

Survey data suggests that selection of a Public vs. Private vs. Hybrid Cloud strategy is not a “religious issue” and that SMBs are selecting the best approach for their requirements and they change approaches in response to changing business needs. The decision to use one two or three cloud delivery models is also a result of IT finding that the best way to use cloud across a wider range of business requirements is to deploy a wider range of clouds. Although Hybrid Cloud is gaining momentum within SMBs, cloud suppliers should carefully consider the use cases for whichever of public, private and/or hybrid they are promoting, and to stress the ways in which the approach is optimal for the business requirement. SMBs are committing to workloads first before Public or Private or Hybrid.

Detailed data and analysis is available in report: 360 on SMB & Mid-Market Cloud Computing Adoption Trends

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21 percent of SMBs have IT Specialists reporting to Business Management

Emerging Trend - SMB IT Specialists empowering business units, blurring the IT-Business divide

Techaisle’s study on “360 on SMB & Mid-Market IT Decision Making Authority - BDM vs. ITDM” reveals an emerging trend of IT specialists with purchase authority being resident within business units and reporting to business rather than IT management. The data is significant enough for marketers to pay close attention as the survey shows that already in 21 percent of small (1-99 employees) and 36 percent of midsized (100-999 employees) businesses IT Specialists are embedded within business units and even more are planning to hire specialists within their business units. Further, the study also shows that these IT specialists are an important influence point for new IT solutions purchase and that in 29 percent of small businesses and 49 percent of mid-sized firms that have “business unit resident IT specialists” these staff members are the primary decision makers for new IT solution purchases. This trend will naturally tilt the balance of decision making authority towards business management by empowering them with knowledge and decision-making agility.

The need for IT and business to work together to ensure that all stages of IT adoption process meet both technical and business process requirements is an important factor in IT solution success. Survey data clearly demonstrates that SMBs have taken this a step further to address the need for what is sometimes referred to as “double deep” employees (with respect to IT and business experience) by positioning IT specialists within business units reporting to business (rather than IT) management. In a way these IT Specialists reporting to Business Management in SMBs are blurring the IT and Business divide.

Small businesses - informal

The trend is widespread and informal in small businesses in the 10-99 employee size categories with 45 percent of firms reporting the presence of IT specialists within business units. In most cases this is an informal connection with IT-savvy employees responsible for IT-dependent processes.

Mid-market businesses - pronounced

However, within mid-sized businesses the trend is more pronounced and is becoming a more conscious strategy with IT support embedded within the line of business departments. As the balance of IT decision making authority continues to shift towards business decision makers the presence of IT specialists who can identify appropriate IT solutions within a mid-market business unit is gaining tremendous relevance. This also means that rogue implementations of solutions may well accelerate. More importantly, in the next 3-5 years it is highly likely that a business unit will begin to think and operate like an IT department as they learn from their missteps.

IT or BDM-led Solutions

To understand an SMB buyer’s journey Techaisle research considered nine IT solution categories and the influence of various stakeholders from needs identification to selection and adoption process. At a high-level the nine IT solutions were found to belong to one of three categories – IT-led solutions, areas where IT is generally seen as leading corporate IT initiatives; BDM-led solutions, solutions in which BDMs provide most corporate leadership, and IT is cast very much in a supporting role; and IT/BDM collaborative solutions that respond to BDM needs, but where IT is important to supporting delivery capacity. The positioning of these solutions is important to shaping the focus of IT vendor sales and marketing initiatives.

It is important for IT suppliers to understand whether their current and prospective accounts have IT specialists assigned within business units, and where they do, to establish strong relationships that will enable the supplier to understand and respond to IT/business solution demand.

About the Study: 360 on SMB & Mid-Market IT Decision Making Authority - BDM vs. ITDM

To understand the current state and implications of distributed IT influence and authority Techaisle conducted a unique survey of SMB organizations where we surveyed roughly equal numbers of business decision makers (BDMs) and IT decision makers (ITDMs) across seven employee size categories, and then analyzed results to create a unified view of the new IT decision authority realities.

The study covers:

    • Stakeholders and their roles in end-to-end IT solution adoption

 

    • ITDM vs. BDM : Balance of Authority (Needs, Budget, Purchasing)

 

    • ITDM & BDM: Locus of Leadership in driving different types of IT Solution Adoption

 

    • ITDM & BDM: Leadership roles in securing Cloud, Mobility

 

    • ITDM vs. BDM: Success Attributes and Benefits of Cloud & Mobility Solutions

 

    • SMB & Mid-Market Businesses: Shadow IT Spending

 

    • Business Impact of BDM vs. ITDM perspectives and expectations with respect to IT Solutions

 

    • ITDM vs. BDM: Differences in Business Issues, IT Challenges, IT Priorities

 

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