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.

The twin ladder approach to delivering digital transformation for SMB and Midmarket firms

Techaisle's most recent survey of 1600 SMBs & Midmarket firms (defined as 1 employee to 1000 employees), found that only 18% do not have any form of digital transformation initiative. Which means that 82% of SMBs are already on their digital transformation journey. And interestingly, 42% are taking a holistic view of digital transformation. What it means is that these 42% believe the Internet and digital technologies impact every aspect of the business and must become a core part of organizational strategy. What is more encouraging is that SMBs believe that in the next 2 years, 32% of their business activities would be digitized and increase of 30% from 2 years ago. Globally SMBs are expected to spend US$250 billion on digital transformation in 2018.

Techaisle’s extensive research also identified that successful implementation requires a journey through digitization and digitalization, from substitution to augmentation to modification and redefinition, spanning all of the functions in an organization and all of the technology used to support its activities. Based on both quantitative survey and depth-discussions with SMB and midmarket businesses on the transformation journey Techaisle has developed the twin ladder view of digital transformation. Figure below presents a single-image depiction of the ‘twin ladders’ of digital transformation. The bottom set of steps is labelled “the technology ladder,” and stretches from the deployment of modern, flexible infrastructure to advanced IT-enabled capabilities. The technology ladder begins with the building blocks needed to establish infrastructure that is capable of supporting digital transformation. It includes mobility, virtualization, hyperconverged infrastructure & converged infrastructure and other technologies essential to provisioning advanced IT services. Businesses need to deploy and make use of the building blocks and platform technologies before they can launch initiatives that are truly transformative for their businesses and customers.

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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 digital transformation needs orchestration

“IT and cloud orchestration” reflects the reality of a multi-platform world in the era of digital transformation. Techaisle research shows that within the SMB & midmarket segment, orchestrated connected cloud and technology will be the focus of substantial new investment over the next few years. Connected cloud itself forms the basis for an Interwork platform for successful digital transformation and is crucial for competitiveness and growth.

  • Upper midmarket firms use an average of 2.5 of the four leading public cloud providers (AWS, Microsoft, Google, IBM) – a true multi-cloud environment
  • For 25% of small businesses and 51% of midmarket firms, workloads and data migrate across cloud and/or on-premise platforms
  • 89% of midmarket firms state that orchestration tools are critical to their ability to deploy workloads on hybrid platforms
  • 46% of SMBs do not know which cloud services to use and in what order
  • 47% of SMB/midmarket-focused channel partners are offering orchestration but only 24% are delivering, but 55% are expecting substantial revenue increases in the next 1 year
  • Use of orchestration is poised for growth as 40% of midmarket firms and 15% of small businesses are implementing cloud connectivity

Using a large number of on-premise technology as well as cloud platforms is escalating complexity beyond reasonable manual management limits. In response to this conundrum, many SMBs & midmarket firms are turning to orchestration as a strategy for optimizing use of multiple platforms and multiple technologies (topic of another blog another time). But help and guidance are missing. Even Techaisle’s latest channel partner study shows that although 47% offer orchestration but only 24% are delivering, and that also partially. Their vendor partners are not helping because of intense focus on enterprise segment.

In the quest for digitalization and digital transformation there has been ad hoc adoption of technology – both cloud & on-premise - as responses to paint points within SMBs.

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Techaisle midmarket survey reveals holistic digital transformation strategy yields better business outcomes

Midmarket firms that adopt a holistic organization-wide digital transformation strategy are growing at 2.2X vs. Siloed digital transformation strategy. They are also experiencing 2.1X business process cost reduction, 1.9X better customer intimacy and 1.4X improved employee productivity vs. Siloed adopters. Techaisle’s US midmarket digital transformation trends study shows that it pays to have an organization-wide, holistic digital transformation strategy. Survey of 876 US midmarket firms reveals that Holistic adopters are experiencing better business outcomes than Siloed adopters of digital transformation.

We are all responsible for the pace of change – and to ensuring that it benefits rather than threatens our success. Nowhere is this clearer than with digital transformation – the adoption of digital infrastructure as the foundation for digital business processes, which enhance operational efficiency, employee empowerment, product innovation, customer intimacy, competitiveness and profitability throughout the organization. Businesses that embrace digitalization are more agile, more adept at using technology to accelerate cycle time and expand reach, better able to respond to market opportunities and requirements – while those that are left behind face an uncertain future in which one wrong step can lead to diminished business viability.

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