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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.

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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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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