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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.

Techaisle research shows SMB and midmarket technology purchase process becoming more complex

We are in the midst of a transition from an IT industry shaped by small decision making units (DMUs) comprised of IT professionals to an industry that must respond to the varied needs of BDMs and ITDMs. This makes for a very complex selling environment; many IT suppliers would no doubt like to have ‘the genie hop back into the bottle,’ as many members of their sales and marketing teams lack the skills and understanding needed to sell to BDMs.

Techaisle research on SMB and Midmarket buyers journey and decision-making shows that ITDMs and BDMs have differences in ‘care-abouts, are focused on applying IT to different business objectives, have different perceptions of success measures, and use different information sources. The data is not only helpful in building relevant marketing messages, but also serves to underscore the complexity of working with a diverse DMU. This DMU becomes further complicated with the presence of IT conversant business specialists (embedded IT staff), increasingly residing within line of business units, reporting to business, and away from IT.

  • Business management has seized a much greater role in technology acquisition, deployment & management than IT management – varying from 3.4X in “needs identification” to 2.0X in “solution evaluation & selection”
  • Within small businesses, business management plays a more influential role than IT in five out of nine stages of technology solution adoption
  • Within mid-market businesses, role of business management is predominant in the first three stages of decision making (needs identification to solution options), equal to IT in the next two (solution evaluation & selection) and substantially higher than IT in the last two stages (determining solution effectiveness and optimization)
  • In nearly 1/4th of small businesses and slightly over 1/3rd of medium businesses, technology specialists (embedded IT staff) are employed within Business Units not reporting to IT management. In nearly 50 percent of midmarket firms that have IT specialists, they are the primary decision makers
  • Determining the need for new cloud business applications is the prerogative of business management. The balance of authority within SMBs is nearly 7:1 in favor of business management except in the case of mid-market businesses where it is nearly 2:1
  • Ad-hoc purchase and deployment of new cloud business applications is prevalent within 22 percent of mid-market businesses
  • In 15 percent of SMBs budget for new business application is usually created at the time of ad hoc decisions for purchase to meet business needs
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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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