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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.

Indicators of managed services channel (MSP) success

Where is the SMB managed services channel today, as we enter 2016? Since 2013, managed services has taken deep root within the channel, and at the same time, some of the firms that were only casually involved with managed services have pulled back in order to focus in other areas. In the report, The SMB Channel & Managed Services: Success Metrics, Techaisle uses findings from 808 in-depth surveys with US-based channel firms to illuminate conditions within the US SMB managed services channel, and to develop perspectives that suppliers (and the channel itself) can use to construct successful managed services channel strategies. The survey identified a set of issues that is highly correlated with very successful managed services channel businesses, another that can be used to identify partners that are likely to be unsuccessful in managed services, and a third which lacks predictive value.

Results from three annual Techaisle channel surveys, shown in figure below, show that the trend towards specialization – in which channel members commit more strongly to managed services, or move away in order to focus on other areas – is well underway. 64 percent of the channel is ‘very successful’ in selling managed services, meaning that the population of very successful managed services channel members has increased by nearly 70 percent since 2013. A much smaller but growing proportion (currently 11 percent, more than double the 5 percent logged in 2013) acknowledges that it is not having success with managed services. MSPs and SPs report the highest level of success in selling managed services, while SIs, consultants and (especially) VARs are see less success.

techaisle channel msp resized

A view of these findings organized by core business model provides additional insight into the partner communities where managed services are – and are not – gaining traction. As would be expected, managed service providers themselves are most likely to report success in managed services sales. Beyond this group, there are several interesting observations contained within the data:

  • Nearly three-quarters of service providers state that they are “very successful” at selling managed services. This is an important issue within this community: SPs increasingly rely on managed services to differentiate their core hosting or connectivity services, which are (in many cases) relatively low-margin, and which offer limited prospects for future growth. Perhaps the most interesting finding for SPs is that 18 percent consider themselves to be unsuccessful in selling managed services. This group will be at risk as they compete with firms that augment core service presence with expanded, high-margin service portfolios that lock in an increased share of ‘customer wallet’.
  • SIs are not especially aggressive in this space. At a high level, this data makes intuitive sense: SIs tend to have engagements that have a fixed duration and deliverable and managed services involve longer-term relationships tied to SLAs rather than functional specifications. However, it might be expected that SIs facing a shrinking product delivery market (due to increased use of cloud) might look to solidify customer relationships via managed services. The data shows that some SIs are following this path, they are either not committed to this strategy or are actively pursuing other options.
  • Consultants and (especially) VARs are tepid in their pursuit of managed services business. Corresponding 2016 channel reports from Techaisle (see details below) show that VARs are finding great success in cloud, while consultants report that they are experiencing high levels of mobility sales success. Neither group seems particularly enthralled with managed services

It’s clear to all of us that today’s IT industry is comprised of many ‘moving pieces’. This is especially true in the SMB segment: with cloud, mobility and managed services, the buyer’s options have expanded; with the increased involvement of non-IT managers (in both ‘real’ and shadow IT), the buyer community has expanded; and with the channel’s struggle to understand and act on the new cloud-driven demands of a post-transactional IT market, the supply chain itself is undergoing tremendous change.

Techaisle is committed to working with the IT industry to ensure that these changes result in increased opportunity. Techaisle has recently completed two large-scale surveys – one of channel partners (VARs, SIs, MSPs, SPs and IT consultants) and another of SMBs (firms with 1-999 employees). We have also created a thought leadership piece, “Channel Imperatives for 2020: The Changing Channel for a Post-transactional IT market” which examines how 12 tenets of ‘conventional wisdom’ in the channel – mantras like the need to add value, or to increase service revenue, or to focus sales people on retiring quota, or to assemble and deliver best-of-breed solutions – are giving way to new management imperatives. We believe that this research is essential for suppliers looking to plot a channel-centric strategy for SMB market development by capitalizing on the insights contained in our analysis.

The series of three channel focused reports are The SMB Channel and Cloud: Success Metrics, The SMB Channel and Mobility: Success Metrics and The SMB Channel and Managed Services: Success Metrics. Each contains charts and analysis that can be used to identify high-value ‘very successful’ partners and avoid low-value ‘unsuccessful’ channel organizations. They are designed to connect with channel marketing, recruitment and management strategy.

techaisle channel success reports resized

 

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Channel Imperatives for 2020 - accelerating transformation

Inexorably, the market is shifting from one defined by discrete purchase-and-deploy deals aligned with refresh cycles to one where businesses take a ‘hybrid IT’ approach that blends a limited number of on-premise assets with a growing range of on-demand services. Recent work by Techaisle shows that the need for updated understandings of channel management imperatives has expanded beyond the tactical questions of sales or management metrics or marketing activities. This work has identified twelve fundamental areas where conventional wisdom has not kept pace with the business needs of the channel. In each area, policies based on conventional wisdom will lead channel organizations away from the practices needed to compete successfully in the post-transactional cloud market.

The channel transformation accelerator enablers, as laid out in the point-of-view white paper document (free), Channel Imperatives for 2020: The Changing Channel for a Post-transactional IT Market will be gut-wrenching but necessary. [Click on the image below to download the white paper or click on the link]. Within the white paper, Techaisle has developed the “Conventional Wisdom vs. Emerging Imperatives” table to illustrate ways that channel organizations must alter basic attitudes towards the business of the channel in order to be successful in the current and future IT market. 

techaisle pov channel imperatives for 2020 resized 

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Dell India: Priming for IT leadership position

Intense India Focus

Indian government's Digital India campaign is getting the attention of almost everybody in the IT industry, be it the multinationals or the local players. Sensing the vast potential, Dell started early with its governing body inaugurating the entire launch of Digital India in Delhi. Summing up his excitement, Alok Ohrie, President, Dell India said, “It is one of those campaigns which I believe is going to really position the country to a point where clearly it will continue to become stronger as an economy and would help realize the dreams of the nation with regards to it being a knowledge based economy. This is one initiative from the government that's going to really energize spend on IT and it is also going to be a big play for most of the players in the IT industry”.

Dell in India is also beyond just domestic operations. Almost all business functions that exist globally are represented in India including an R&D setup of about 2,500 engineers and PhDs. The India-based R&D unit seems to have played a big hand in the development of Dell’s 13G server technology.

Capitalizing on privatization

Immediately after privatization, Dell executives saw the potential for an accelerated pace of execution of various initiatives at a global level as well as a whole lot of flexibility and encouragement to try new go-to-market models. This agility is what Dell India needed and as per its executives “has benefited Dell India big time”. In fact, they are quick to point out that the India operations have grown a little faster than the global business, “our growth in India versus the competition is five to six times faster”.

Midmarket businesses in India are listening and are accepting Dell’s end-to-end solution story and are expecting an advisory role and a consultative approach from Dell in their engagements. Many digital commerce businesses are also looking for Dell to help them define a blueprint for future with regards to IT deployment. Being private with an end-to-end solution orientation Dell’s India sales organization is neither getting limited nor getting constrained in its alignments with customer business objectives, nudging the customers to a future ready infrastructure capable of delivering a future ready enterprise. Playing an advisory role is also forcing the sales organization to be creative in its solution design, unrestricted as it does not have any legacy to protect.

The new GTM

In early 2014, Dell India rolled out a new GTM strategy for the India market. The new GTM strategy was first piloted in India and provides customers with a choice of being with Dell, either direct or indirectly through a partner. It is a GTM model that lends itself extremely well to improving Dell India’s engagement across different customer segments. This strategy brings a change from Dell India’s direct approach in the past with Dell introducing three RTMs: 1/Dell Led for direct sales engagement, 2/ Partner Led for business accounts with special pricing and products; and 3/ Distribution Led for consumer IT products.

Within the GTM model there are three different RTMs (routes-to-market). First is the Dell-led RTM which is Dell’s direct engagement with end-customers. Some of the account managers’ training modules have been modified to help them have deeper, richer, more mature conversations with customers in the form of advisory roles and consultative approaches. However, Dell-led RTM does not mean that partners are shut out from engaging in the same account along with Dell. The partners bring complementary skill-sets to work along with Dell solution experts. Dell asserts that it is more than willing to work with a partner and hence Dell has named the RTM as Dell-led and not Dell direct.

Within the Dell-led RTM, Dell has further segregated accounts into two: one that is more of reach, development & penetration consists of Dell India’s existing accounts and where a lot is already known about the customer; and in the other are those accounts that Dell calls as activation. There are close to 2,500 accounts in Dell-led RTM which are split into four geographies - the north, south, east and west.

The second RTM is the Partner-led RTM for business accounts with special pricing and products. Apart from the 2,500 accounts, the rest of the named accounts have been identified for partners to engage with by identifying, developing and addressing the opportunities. Dell is in a support mode in these opportunities.

The third RTM is distribution-led RTM focused on consumer IT products. This RTM was developed to expand reach into customers in tier 3/4/5 cities as well as customers who are not IT savvy. Dell currently has five distributors in India and a web of local distributors to reach into remote areas of India.

Disappearing Partner Conflict

Dell is recognizing the need to erase the perception of consistent channel conflict and hopes that the three different RTMs will help. Alok Ohrie points out, “anomalies have been removed through the new GTM model and it is a very, very predictable model for the partners”.

Techaisle’s India analyst, Gitika Bajaj and Arun Mishra crisscross the entire country directly meeting with channel partners. Not every Dell channel partner is happy but from an overall perspective there is obviously tremendous momentum and Dell’s RTM has legs. Comparing Dell with its closest competitors, channel partners say that “Dell's responsiveness is impeccable when a deal is being struck at the end user level”.

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Mobility becoming a niche within SMB Channel Partners

Where is the SMB mobility channel today, as we enter 2016? Results from three Techaisle SMB channel surveys and compiled in report The Channel and Mobility: SMB Supply Options show that there has been substantial retreat from mobility as a core offering in the SMB and midmarket channel. In two years, the proportion of partners stating that they are unsuccessful at selling mobility has increased from 5% to 17%. There are likely two main reasons for this, a “push” and a “pull,” both related to the increased need for specialization in 1-2 of four main market areas (mobility, cloud, managed services, converged infrastructure/virtualization).

On the “push” side, Techaisle believes that many channel partners are struggling to find a profitable entry point to mobility. Supply of the devices themselves is not sufficient: buyers are deploying a wide range of client technology (PCs, smartphones, tablets) which has the effect of diffusing investments in PCs, diverting investment from the channel (since some technologies, especially smartphones, are generally acquired from telcos or other non-traditional-channel sources), and slowing PC refresh cycles (since client technology investment is now spread across 2-3 different devices). Additionally, the rise of BYOD is a double-edged sword: on the one hand, it increases the need for mobility management solutions (since these devices have greater need for security and related capabilities, such as audit/compliance monitoring), but on the other, authority for these devices doesn’t reside entirely within IT. And SMB channel partners are continuing to struggle on how best to offer mobility management solutions, mobility security solutions and bet on which vendor suppliers.

smb channel mobility success trend techaisle

On the “pull” side, channel members who are being forced to abandon the ‘one stop solution shop’ positioning in favor of specialization in 1-2 of the core four areas need to decide if the uncertain journey into mobility has a greater overall benefit than focus on cloud, managed services and/or converged infrastructure/virtualization.

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