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    2021 Top 10 SMB Business Issues, IT Priorities, IT Challenges
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  • CLOUD RESEARCH

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  • ANALYTICS & ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

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  • BUYERS JOURNEY

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  • SAAS RESEARCH

    SAAS RESEARCH

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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.

SMB and Midmarket workforce enablement through unified workspace and collaboration

Techaisle global research shows that 409 million SMB employees will still be in hybrid work mode at the end of 2021. As a result, SMBs are investing in processes, products, and policies to support hybrid workforces. Better hardware equipment and mobile devices are an essential component of remote work, but remote work enablement extends beyond hardware to applications, solutions, and work habits. Techaisle data also found that improving workforce productivity is among the top five business objectives for SMB and midmarket segments. Many factors drive productivity, including management approaches, processes and practices, and collaboration/synergy across activities and functions. But technology is a pivotal contributor to productivity directly and through its ability to affect operations and internal coordination positively. Moreover, as the chart below demonstrates, these benefits don't accrue to all SMBs equally. SMBs that are advanced in their approach to IT ("Enterprise IT") are about twice as likely to achieve the productivity-enabled benefits than lowest-performing firms and 30% more likely to realize productivity benefits than the average SMB. IT provides the tools to support greater employee efficiency and productivity. So what are the best ways to help the workforce to capture these benefits and be more productive?

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Dell Technologies’ Small Business Advisors Program is deeply devoted to small business success

Small businesses are increasingly dependent on information technology. 78% of small (1-99 employees) businesses consider technology critical to their success. These small businesses are dealing with an ever-expanding portfolio of increasingly complex applications and platform technologies. Techaisle's small business research data shows that 73% prefer to purchase from a supplier who provides business issues focused technology advisory guidance and 64% want an IT supplier vested in customer success. In an IT environment that is already very complex and likely to become more so, trusted advisors are essential to small businesses. Launched in May 2016, Dell Technologies' Small business Advisor program has been consistently simplifying the technology complexity and removing the friction from purchase decision inertia.

There is a perception that Dell advisors only sell PCs. Reality is quite different than perception. The advisors advise and sell end-to-end solutions. For complex needs, such as digital transformation, Dell has a clear second-level escalation path. The front-line advisors can raise the small business needs to large order specialists or technical resources to work on complex solutions. These specialists have the depth to look over the needs and the entire customer account from an end-to-end perspective, provide infrastructure guidance, including VMware products, and configure solutions based on the customer's requirements.

The advisors are not sales agents. Instead, they have the expertise to determine where a small business is in its technology journey and thereby provide contextual guidance. Their goal is to advise customers on what they need and what they could get, what needs to get fixed, how to fix it, and how to get the right next solution. It is a much more holistic way to drive the customer experience. For example, over the last year, a vast majority of advisor conversations were around the following topics:

  • Migration to a remote workforce – What is needed to support a work-from-home environment and individuals looking to maximize their home office setup?
  • General solution guidance – If using software applications such as QuickBooks, Office, or CAD, what system would work best?
  • The move from cloud to on-prem or hybrid environment – What are the benefits of data management, application performance, cost, and security?
  • Supporting the rapid expansion of specific industries, as a direct response to the pandemic. For example, private healthcare, transportation, and niche service companies in the market.
  • Private schools and other entities enabling remote learning/training.
  • Upgrading outdated technology – End-of-life software applications, operating systems, expiring warranties, and low-performing/over-tasked hardware.
  • Ensuring proper security in a rapidly changing IT landscape.

None of the above are simple technology adoption questions. They are also not point-and-click PC purchases. Techaisle data indicates that there is an interesting opportunity to connect high-value guidance with click-to-buy type options. However, this kind of offering needs a more extensive consultative capability in many cases. For example, nearly three-quarters of small business buyers would like their IT suppliers to provide technical advice directly connected to business issues. In addition, almost two-thirds want an IT advisor who is "invested in customer success." Dell has a very rigorous model of getting to know the customer. Customer conversations revolve around what solution the advisors are trying to help with and what problems they are trying to solve through technology.

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121 percent likely increase in adoption of vertical industry cloud solutions within US SMB and Midmarket segments

Industry-specific solutions that connect digital capabilities to real-world challenges are critical factors in transitioning from digitalized to digitally transformed organizations. In the past few years, globally, a clear trend has emerged of offering cloud solutions for vertical industries. Financial services, healthcare, and industrial equipment manufacturers have witnessed high adoption of such solutions. US SMB and Midmarket cloud adoption trends research by Techaisle shows that there is likely to be 121 percent increase in the adoption of vertical Line of business cloud solutions within the next year. Top adoption growth will be for ERP solutions.

Corresponding Techaisle channel research finds quantitative, meaningful, and actionable differences between channel partners who successfully sell cloud and those that have not developed successful cloud practices. Industry expertise and the ability to offer vertical solutions is one key area that is creating a distance. Channel partners providing vertical solutions are 2.6 times more likely to be very successful than their less/not successful counterparts.

Techaisle's channel survey research data shows that 60% of successful cloud channel partners emphasize their industry expertise and industry knowledge during their interactions with their clients. Conversely, 60% of not-so-successful partners lead with their technical knowledge, and 43% lead with price. These channel partners lack the understanding of their customers' businesses needed to offer sophisticated cloud solutions. They claim that they can demonstrate an understanding of their customer's business needs, mainly at a technical level, but get constrained by a lack of vertical application availability and experience. Only 26% of very successful partners lead with price. They can demonstrate knowledge of the industry and are therefore able to create confidence within their clients. They are also the most likely to build and maintain long-term relationships with customers.

Most channel partners position themselves as "your one-stop solution provider." However, the approach is coming under pressure. More successful channel partners focus on understanding how technology can benefit business processes. Understanding the connection between vertical business processes and IT represents a kind of expertise that will support a long-term billable relationship between "trusted advisor" channel partners and clients. This kind of relationship will become more important than the capacity to deliver IT as a horizontal solution source.

Techaisle's channel research reveals that a channel partner serves an average of 8.0 verticals but lacks deep expertise in all verticals. Vertical applications stand out as the solution needed by SMBs, midmarket, and enterprise firms the most, but only a tiny percentage of channel partners offer them.

Almost all channel partners agree that manufacturing, healthcare, retail, and financial services segments are the fastest growing with high demand for cloud business applications. Customer-facing apps (50%) and apps that support internal processes/operations (48%) are the top two in-demand applications, followed by solutions that replace legacy apps (36%), apps that involve AI/ML (27%), and IoT (14%).
techaisle industry vertical cloud solutions

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SMBs innovating at the Edge to address business challenges

From the perspective of the technology world, 2021 and several years following will witness the benefits of the interconnection of all types of resources: platforms/environments, information, devices, and applications. With the connective fabric rapidly becoming ubiquitous, SMBs of all types and sizes will move beyond a focus on network access and concentrate instead on using edge technologies to drive progress across business processes and enable innovation.

Connectedness is an intrinsic component of the edge. It applies in two directions: client devices ranging from PCs to smartphones to sensors connect to more gateways and other powerful edge systems, which process time-critical responses and then communicate data safely back to clouds at the core of the infrastructure fabric.

Consider these data points from Techaisle's latest SMB technology adoption research study covering 2410 SMBs:

  • 30% of SMBs have a "very innovative" mindset and are investing in edge technologies that drive innovation; 51% are in the "somewhat innovative" segment with a focus on transitioning to being very innovative and are evaluating edge solutions
  • 38% of SMBs are investing in digital transformation to initiate innovation in products, services, and business processes
  • 9.9 is the number of technology categories that very innovative SMBs use, which is 1.8X non-innovative SMBs. Cloud, security, virtualization, mobility, AI, analytics, IoT, SD-WAN, AR/VR, HCI are the leading technology areas where very innovative SMBs are increasing investment and deploying edge solutions

Innovation at the Edge

Cloud is not only the IT business infrastructure; it is also the essential business infrastructure for SMBs. While the cloud replaces conventional data centers at the core of the network, an entirely new technology tier – "edge" – is emerging as a complementary IT infrastructure source. Edge supports many innovative technologies that promise to extend technology's use and impact into entirely new domains.

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