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  • SMB & MIDMARKET DIGITALIZATION

    SMB & MIDMARKET DIGITALIZATION

    US SMB & Midmarket Digitalization Trends
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  • DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION

    DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION

    US Midmarket Digital Transformation Trends
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  • FEATURED INFOGRAPHIC

    FEATURED INFOGRAPHIC

    2018 Top 10 SMB Business Issues, IT Priorities, IT Challenges
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  • SAAS TRENDS

    SAAS TRENDS

    US SMB & Midmarket SaaS Adoption Trends
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  • IT MATURITY SEGMENTS

    IT MATURITY SEGMENTS

    US technology adoption trends by SMB IT sophistication
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  • BUYERS JOURNEY

    BUYERS JOURNEY

    Understanding SMB & Midmarket Buyers Journey
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  • CLOUD STUDY

    CLOUD STUDY

    SMB & Midmarket Cloud Adoption Trends
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  • SECURITY SURVEY

    SECURITY SURVEY

    SMB & Midmarket Security Adoption Trends
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  • MOBILITY SURVEY

    MOBILITY SURVEY

    SMB & Midmarket Mobility Adoption Trends
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  • IOT STUDY

    IOT STUDY

    SMB & Midmarket IoT Adoption Trends
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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 - ITDMs and BDMs: the balance of purchase authority

Techaisle's SMB & midmarket research not only confirms that BDMs are increasingly present in the IT solution adoption process but the research deep-dived to understand the extent to which BDMs actually lead their organizations in adopting solutions. To develop a deeper perspective on this issue, Techaisle asked both ITDM and BDM respondents to address questions that explored the acquisition process around software (both new applications and meaningful upgrades to existing applications), infrastructure hardware and IT services. The results provide direction for sales strategies aimed at these product segments within the US SMB market.

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 system. When we extended our coverage to ask about having “budgetary control and authority,” we discovered two interesting findings:

  • The proportion of organizations where budgetary control and purchasing authority for new applications rests entirely with BDMs increases in all e-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 e-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 software.
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Video collaboration is necessary for SMB business agility – decision agility, innovation agility

It is common knowledge that cloud is being adopted by SMBs and midmarket businesses for business agility. Techaisle’s SMB & midmarket cloud adoption study data shows that 80 percent of SMBs consider cloud to be contributing to business growth and video-enabled collaboration is playing an ever-increasing role in contributing to business agility for high-growth and innovative businesses. But why?

Because Innovation happens best in collaboration and not in isolation.

High-growth, highly innovative SMBs and midmarket businesses differ greatly from low-growth firms in their use of advanced collaboration technologies. High-growth firms pursue a wide range of collaboration-related benefits – more rapid decision-making capacity, improved employee productivity, richer engagement with customers, and better internal collaboration – and make extensive use of face-to-face (F2F) video systems.

Techaisle survey data shows that initial centricity of file sharing is giving way to rich in-person interactive communications in collaboration strategies.

What are the key elements of a collaboration framework that can help IT decision makers (ITDMs) and business decision makers (BDMs) come to a mutual understanding of how, where and why to use video-enabled collaboration solutions, in particular, F2F video? To answer this question, Techaisle conducted a survey of 1,269 ITDMs and BDMs with SMBs and midmarket businesses, across the US, Latin America, Europe, and Asia Pacific.

Techaisle’s research identified key characteristics that distinguish these low-growth, moderate growth and high-growth/innovative businesses. As figure below demonstrates, use of face-to-face video (F2F video) is correlated with important outcomes within their businesses. Collectively, these attributes align strongly with market success. Techaisle’s research found that the high adopters of video grew nearly 2X faster than other low or non-adopters and they reported even more benefits from using video than slower growing businesses. By using video-enabled collaboration there are only upsides for businesses.

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Salesforce for SMBs – The Power of Sales and Service Together on One Platform

My days of being critical of Salesforce and their SMB strategy are over. With the introduction of Sales Cloud Essentials and Service Cloud Essentials, Salesforce has once again become relevant for SMBs, especially for the very small (1-19 employees) and overall small business (1-99 employees) segments. For an SMB, CRM is not only – or even primarily – a system used to manage pursuit of new accounts. The most common use of CRM is as a means of organizing customer services. Techaisle SMB & midmarket survey shows:

  • 18% of micro businesses (1-9 employees) are using a cloud CRM solution
  • Cloud CRM usage within small businesses has increased by 31% in the last 1 year
  • 40% of small businesses are planning to use a cloud CRM solution in the next 1 year
  • 15% of micro businesses (1-9 employees) are using a cloud Customer services solution
  • Cloud Customer Services usage within small businesses has increased by 15% in the last 1 year
  • 49% of small businesses are planning to use a Customer services solution in the next 1 year
  • 73% of very small businesses (1-19 employees) using CRM are also using Customer services
  • 56% of very small businesses (1-19 employees) using Customer services are also using CRM

Sales & Service together for better customer relationship management

Small businesses often struggle with processes around customer relationship management – maintaining contact with past buyers, preparing for renewals or new product upgrades, informing them of service releases, etc. – and a CRM system provides a central means of scheduling and tracking these activities with/for each customer.

The improved visibility resulting from cloud-based sales and marketing automation systems has in turn illuminated the need for a better-integrated customer management and support processes. This insight is prompting increased investment in systems automating customer support tasks.

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Digital Transformation Challenging the Channel - Five key issues

20% of channel partners are offering “digital transformation”, but most common is “digitalization” at 46% and balance 34% are still at the basic “digitization”. MSPs/SPs are the laggards and VARs/SIs the leaders. Among vendors, Dell & Cisco partners are leading the charge. The channel industry examined by Techaisle’s 2018 SMB/Midmarket focused channel research survey is very different from the community that existed a decade ago. Once a staid domain in which technologists provided IT infrastructure support to (mainly) local customers, the channel is being reshaped by five key issues in the face of digital transformation:

  1. Cloud, and its wrenching effect on all aspects of the channel business structure – only 69% of are partners selling cloud, out of which less than 2/3rd are successful
  2. Managed services efficiencies, especially vs. the pending opportunity associated with digital transformation – 77% are selling managed services but 50% are increasing on-site break-fix support
  3. Increasingly-complex data center technologies - there is a skills shortage in the SMB channel
  4. Orchestration & integration demands that are expanding in multiple directions – cloud orchestration expected to be a high-revenue growth area for only 23% of partners
  5. The need to sell on and deliver to business outcomes rather than technical outcomes

The data in the report illustrates the extent to which these factors are affecting channel management decisions today and influencing the future directions. The report covers:

  • What is the state of channel?
  • What does the channel offer?
  • Where does the channel land on digital transformation, orchestration & integration?
  • What does the channel want from vendors & distributors?
  • How does the channel sell?
  • What is channel doing in the cloud?
  • What is channel doing in managed services?
  • What data center solutions is the channel selling?

With digital transformation as the backdrop, let us look at a summary of the five issues highlighted above:


techaisle channel five key issues resized

Cloud

Partners continue to be challenged by the wrenching, organization-wide change that cloud demands at all levels of the organization. Cloud is forcing new metrics and disciplines on management, which has historically worked to maintain sustainable per-deal margins on individual current transactions. It is requiring sales staff to sell differently – stressing recurring-revenue, OPEX-heavy ‘pay as you go’ contracts over larger one-time product transactions – and it is requiring sales management to compensate staff differently. Finance is dealing with a far more complex set of cash management requirements and is also needing to understand the valuation impact of different revenue recognition approaches. In the cloud, marketing’s role is becoming larger, and its tools much more sophisticated; it is almost literally a different (and much higher value) activity in cloud than in conventional channel businesses. Even technical skills requirements are changing, as channel delivery staff is evolving from ‘just in case’ knowledge (often, recognized through certifications) to ‘just in time’ skills acquisition that responds to the rapidly-changing environment.

Clearly, cloud is imposing a daunting challenge on the channel. Techaisle data sees that some partners are working through this transition, but many, especially in markets where cloud has not caused large year-over-year decreases in product sales, are navigating a path that doesn’t include top-to-bottom change. These firms will be under intense pressure as the market increasingly demands that partners support migration to and efficient use of hybrid infrastructure.

Managed Services

Managed services, with its efficient delivery and promise of higher margins and better enterprise values (due to MRR rather than transactional revenue) has become a major factor in channel business strategy. MSPs can increase shareholder returns without needing to meaningfully expand their customer rosters; they can invest in internal efficiencies to boost margins while simultaneously keeping pace with customer expectations, even in areas like managed security, where threat sources advance continuously, driving need for increased response capabilities.

But there are clouds on the managed services horizon. One is digital transformation, “the next big wave” which aligns poorly with managed services. Digital transformation requires a mix of on-site and remotely-managed capabilities, packaged discretely for individual customers – and this isn’t what managed service providers aspire to. At the same time, the push towards everything-as-a-Service is morphing into SMB customer expectation of increasing service levels over time (or decreasing costs), rather than the fixed value for static service level approach used by today’s MSPs (and IaaS suppliers as well). Can traditional MSPs move past the core business notion of one service, one price, delivered with high efficiency from a remote location, to address digital transformation and progressive service delivery expectations? In fact, most are going back to on-site installation & support.

Data center technologies

Data center technologies are another source of challenge for partners. Data center products – especially converged and hyperconverged systems that combine server, storage, networking and virtualization technologies – are much more complex than the client and server technologies that many channel members have focused on in the past.

Typical “one stop shop” VARs are lacking the technical depth needed to work with contemporary data center products. Specializations in current solutions take time, cost money and require skilled staff who is usually not affordable for – or even available to – channel members. But data also shows that VARs have the maximum depth in digital transformation and are involved in orchestration.

Orchestration & Integration

The nature of integration is changing. In an environment where core resources are located in many different physical environments, “systems” integration is becoming less a matter of physical connections and more an issue of automation and orchestration, which call for a distinctly different skill set. Meanwhile, customer interest in a multi-platform world is centering on data rather than systems integration: how can dispersed systems exchange data, securely and with the low latency needed to support workloads that span different environments?

The issue of integration is becoming more complex as businesses embrace IoT to provide a far more detailed view of their markets, and AI to make sense of the vastly-increased base or evidence that is used to support ever-more-rapid decisions. And demands on technology suppliers have already deepened with the need to secure these multiple platforms and sources. Integration offers an enormous opportunity for the channel – but this opportunity is accompanied by a demanding set of requirements.

Business Outcomes

Beyond all of the technology-driven change that the channel is adapting to, there is a shift in how customers are acquiring IT solutions. SaaS has shown buyers that they can acquire IT capabilities that map directly to business needs – they no longer need to take on the risk and uncertain time-to-benefit inherent in the purchase, integration and deployment of building-block technologies. At the same time, IT budget authority continues to migrate from IT gatekeeps to business managers who view technology as a means to achievement of process objectives, rather than as an end in itself. Both trends affect for channel sales and marketing professionals: within client organizations, the key customers are often non-IT professionals who are looking for suppliers to respond to business pain points with approaches that directly address the business requirements, rather than with traditional product-centric ‘some assembly required’ solutions targeted at IT buyers.

The ability to talk credibly to business outcomes vs. technology issues has become the key to selling solutions in today’s market. Most vendors lack business-savvy sales staff – the issue is even more acute in channel firms. Cloud startups often speak to business rather than IT issues (and clients). Can the traditional channel keep pace – at least, enough to prevent services leakage to born-in-the-cloud alternatives?

In the report, Techaisle research demonstrates how channel partners are positioning their firms to navigate this turbulent environment. There may never have been a more stressful time to manage a channel business than 2018 – but channel managers have proven through time that they are adept at finding profitable paths through even the choppiest waters.

The report covers:

  • What is the state of channel? Channel Partner Business Issues, Firmographics
  • What is the global channel landscape? (Only in WW SMB/Midmarket Channel Report)
  • What does the channel offer? Channel & planned offerings including digital workplace
  • Where does the channel land on digital transformation, orchestration & integration?
  • What does the channel want? Channel Expectations from Vendors & Distributors
  • How does the channel sell? Channel sales Strategy
  • What is channel doing in the cloud? Channel Partner Cloud Trends
  • What is channel doing in managed services? Channel Partner Managed Services Trends
  • What data center solutions is the channel selling?

techaisle us channel partner trends report cover resized

techaisle ww channel partner trends report cover resized

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