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.

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.

Continue reading

2018 Top 10 SMB and Midmarket Business Issues and IT Challenges and IT Priorities

They are here - Techaisle's annual SMB and Midmarket Top 10 IT Priorities, IT Challenges and Business Issues infographics. This is the 7th year of Techaisle tracking at a WW level and is much sought after by IT vendors, channels and media. There is an ongoing trend – in both the buy-side and supplier communities – towards positioning IT initiatives and expenditures in a business context.

To help readers connect positioning with core market drivers, Techaisle research provides insight into the most pressing business issues, IT priorities and IT challenges faced by small (1-99 employees) and midmarket (100-999 employees) businesses in 2018.

For 2018, Techaisle investigated 21 different technology areas, each with several sub-technology categories, 24 different IT challenges and 24 different business issues. At the request of our clients, this year, not only are we releasing data & infographics (shown below) as usual for SMBs (1-999 employee segment), Midmarket (100-999 employee segment) but also for Small businesses (1-99 employee segment).

In 2018, the new and upcoming IT Priorities within SMBs are Virtual Reality (VR)/Augmented Reality (AR) and Hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI). Within midmarket firms, Artificial Intelligence (AI) appears for the first time for 2018. Workplace transformation is one of the new top IT challenges for SMBs – number 1 on the list for midmarket firms and overall at number six across all SMBs. This obviously points to a need for unified workspace experience. In addition, Cloud orchestration and integration are among the top five key IT challenges for both SMBs and midmarket firms.

Continue reading

Techaisle survey shows Customer-focused Cloud applications top SMB SaaS list

The data contained in Techaisle’s recent detailed survey, US SMB & Midmarket SaaS Adoption Trends, covering over 2500 responses, with a margin of error of +/- 1.94% at 95% confidence level, paints a fascinating picture of the sea change that is occurring within SMBs, and which is reflected in SaaS adoption patterns.

Techaisle was the first to highlight and has very well documented the role of SaaS as a deepening force within SMBs. Latest survey builds on the argument and shows that Customer-focused SaaS applications are at the top of the SMB SaaS list with 76% of US SMBs planning to adopt one or more customer cloud applications in the next one year. This is line with the four pillars of midmarket digital transformation identified by Techaisle. Customer intimacy is one of the pillars.

The vision of customer-centric business has long been beyond most organizations’ operational capabilities (hence, customer segments rather than customer activities), but with increased data/intelligence and the vastly lower cost of processing, storage and applications afforded by cloud, it is becoming more attainable.

Continue reading

Dell XPS 13 – Straight from the heart

Since the last 3 years I have been listening to Jeff Clarke, Dell’s vice-chairman of Operations and president of Client Solutions, and his team talk about innovation within Dell and how XPS-13, Dell’s flagship, initially consumer-focused and now business-ready notebook, is one of the most innovative laptops in the market. I must confess that after every meeting I walked away with a bit of cynicism. Every single time I had questions but no answers. Did a borderless InfinityEdge display define innovation? Did premium materials explain innovation? Did high-performance describe innovation? What about the issues that small businesses really cared about – improve productivity, provide security, easy manageability, exceptional support and low price? These would certainly count towards innovation. But then many of these improvements are usually driven by underlying software and not the hardware.

I have been a ThinkPad user for most of my working life – from my IDC days in Hong Kong to present time at Techaisle. Except for the time period when I was at Gartner. I am not a case of old-habits-die-hard but I have had a genuine admiration for the IBM & now Lenovo ThinkPad series. It never needed any support, except for that one occasion when I foolishly crushed it that cracked the screen. There was also a period as an analyst when I maintained three different brands. HP notebooks to bring to meetings with HP, IBM/Lenovo for their respective meetings, and Dell for meetings with Dell. However, I realized that a ThinkPad brand was one of the most non-controversial notebook to bring to meetings & presentations without evoking any sarcastic banter.


Full disclosure - one day, two months ago, Dell sent me an XPS 13, fully-loaded with the Intel 7th gen Core i7 processor, 512GB PCIe Solid State Drive, QHD InfinityEdge Touch Screen, and 3 years of Premium Support services. Within a few days of using it I realized the meaning of innovation. Innovation in design. Innovation in support. Innovation in marketing.

Let us begin backwards. Innovation in marketing. XPS 13 has become synonymous with notebook much like MacBook or ThinkPad. I do not even know what brands of HP have the same level of desirability and emotional connect. Some may say HP Spectre, but I do not think so. And ThinkPads are not even targeted at consumer segment, they are not usually available in technology retail stores, so they miss out on the small business market. If price is not the only purchase criteria then XPS 13 is the brand to own. Dell’s marketing has also been bolstered by the numerous awards XPS 13 has been winning which feeds back into its marketing motions. XPS 13 also tends to be first to market with new technologies and gets more frequent refreshes than Dell’s business laptop products. And it also helps how the model is displayed in a retail store – makes it look real cool. So far, I have not experienced any complaints from PC OEMs when fishing out the XPS 13 from my bag for presentations.

I also experienced innovation in support. Not willing to take help from my IT to configure my new notebook to my exacting specifications I decided to call Dell’s premium support. A quick connect with technician, Brandon A, made me realize that my support request was very unique and was not included within the knowledgebase. I was ready to give up but the technician stayed on the call, spent the next two hours and successfully replicated XPS 13 configuration with that of ThinkPad. I also learned that Premium support includes a proactive support feature, SupportAssist, where Dell support experts actually contact the user if they detect an issue.

This type of support is ideal for SMBs. Latest Techaisle survey shows that smaller businesses use friends, internal non-IT personnel or channel partner for support, almost always reactive. Larger small businesses use internal IT but data shows that they would rather be focused on strategic IT issues than supporting PCs. 57% mention that managing newer PCs is significantly easier which allows unmanaged IT businesses to run their business without disruption and businesses with IT staff are able to efficiently reallocate the staff’s time to other initiatives. Interestingly, 56% also agree that new PCs reduce overall maintenance costs. And if SMBs opt for Dell's ProSupport and even ProDeploy they may gain even better advantages.

Design is an important element of a mobile device. But like every other SMB executive, the design should contribute to improved productivity and better mobility experience. I am one of those 39% of SMB employees who spend 20+% time away from primary workplace. Being an analyst and a data hound I constantly work on spreadsheets, data visualizations, analytics and presentations, typically seated in tight places – the airplanes, United Club lounges and occasionally in the back seat of ride-sharing vehicles. The placement of cursor in the precise location on the screen is very important to me. The XPS 13’s precision touchpad with integrated glass is much appreciated. It is responsive, not overly sensitive to slight movements and gets my work done without having to erase and retrace. In contrast, I have had to disable the touchpad on ThinkPad and only use the red trackpoint. By the way, has anyone tried using the trackpoint while munching on snacks in airplanes or with the laptop on the lap? The trackpoint assumes a track movement of its own.

The Dell InfinityEdge display also gives me a bright and clearly visible real estate to view and play around with massive amounts of data or create crammed-with-data PowerPoint slides. The chiclet keyboard with “just–enough” shallow depth also helps, although the too-narrow arrow keys are annoying. I really do not use the touch screen a lot but the few times I did use I found the display hinge to be stable enough to avoid exasperating shaking.

I consider myself to be a very organized person, but recently I did the unfathomable: I flew to the east coast for a 2-hour client presentation but forgot to bring my XPS 13 power adapter. By the time I returned the following evening from my coast-to-coast flight there was still enough battery power left in my notebook to reply to emails before plugging it back into the adapter for charging. By the way, one must buy the add-on Power Companion which extends the notebook’s battery life and also charges other mobile devices simultaneously. Living dangerously is not my calling so I made a note to get a spare charger. But if I ever make that grievous error again, then at least I can take comfort in the battery life of XPS 13 and the Power Companion.

XPS 13 is somewhat heavier than the ThinkPad I have been using, I can easily make out the difference as soon as I pick up the notebook in one hand. The Power Companion and the necessary Adapter to connect USB-C port to HDMI or USB 3.0 makes it a little bulky, occupies space and adds to the “carry weight”. But they are not inconvenient.

Collaboration is essential to me and video collaboration is integral when traveling. The placement of the webcam on XPS 13 throws me off but I understand that in the newly announced XPS 13 2 in 1 version the webcam has been put back in its rightful place, at the center.

All of the above experiences point to a device that improves productivity, especially mobility-enabled productivity. Techaisle’s survey also shows that 62% of small businesses experience better mobility with newer PCs thus empowering their workforce. Nearly identical percent say that newer applications run better, and more applications can be run simultaneously contributing to less frustration and improved productivity.

When purchasing a laptop, competitive benchmark comparisons are important but they are certainly not the deciding criteria. Millennials have a different selection criteria; I listen to them as well. After all, 51% of US SMB employees are millennials. Even within my household, when my son and daughter, both millennials, wanted to replace their respective notebooks, they were clear in not getting an HP brand. “No HP decision” was driven by – previous painful product experiences, prolonged and unpredictable support, not-so captivating design of recent products and unflattering word-of-mouth from my son’s fellow college friends.

I took my son and daughter, on different days, to the Microsoft Store and bought each one of them a Dell XPS 13. It was an easy decision for them. Last time I checked, they were very happy. I hope that my initial euphoria stays intact and there will not be any reason to retract and redact my new connect with XPS 13. As of now, I will retract my cynicism.

Search Blogs

Find Research

SMB Data You Can Rely On | Analysis You Can Act Upon

Techaisle - TA