In today’s SMB market, it is critical for vendors to build detailed understanding of the small and midmarket segments, and to align resources and strategies with requirements as SMBs move from initial experimentation with sophisticated solutions towards mass-market adoption.

In its latest study, Techaisle analyzes 1,116 survey responses to provide the insight needed to build and execute on cloud solution strategies for the small and midmarket customer segments. Techaisle’s deep understanding of SMB IT and business requirements enables vendors to understand the ‘why’ and ‘when’ of solution adoption, current and planned approaches to solution use, the benefits that drive user investments, and key issues in aligning with buyers and building and intercepting demand.

Highlights of findings presented in the report include:

Cloud is ubiquitous within US SMBs.

Fully 80% of small businesses (1-99 employees) and 96% of midmarket firms (100-999 employees) report that they are using cloud today. This is an extraordinarily high usage rate for SMBs: in Canada, the use of cloud by SMBs is barely more than 40%. Cloud is also expanding within user environments, with 24% of small businesses (up from 14% in 2014) and 37% of midmarket enterprises (up from 25%) reporting that cloud is now “the center-point of IT operations.” Cloud adoption patterns may be somewhat different in SMBs than in large enterprises – for example, SMBs are focused on deploying ‘systems of record’ in the cloud, while large organizations are generally advancing use of cloud-based ‘systems of engagement’ – but there is investment in at least some level of cloud in the vast majority of US SMBs.

Demand for cloud is accelerating in the US SMB market.

Cloud aligns well with SMB business issues and IT challenges. Cloud systems are recognized for their capacity to automate processes, improve productivity, and expand market reach – capabilities that address the top three business issues cited by survey respondents. From a technology perspective, cloud is a cost-effective way of meeting IT demand, and is very well suited to supporting mobility and as a platform for storage; here again, cloud offers a clear means of responding to the top IT challenges experienced by small and midmarket businesses. The impact of these connections between pressing business issues and cloud capabilities is apparent in findings that reflect top SMB IT priorities: cloud is atop the list, with 92% of respondents reporting that it is prominent on the IT agenda.

ITDMs are taking greater notice of BDM perspectives on cloud.

There is evidence that ITDMs are becoming attuned to BDM drivers and imperatives for cloud. For example, there is a belief that IT is increasingly taking a ‘right not fight’ approach to shadow IT, attempting to guide and support rather than stifle business-led forays into cloud. Survey data showing the two groups’ understanding of success attributes reinforces this idea: in areas like support for mobility and collaboration and delivery of seamless integration across applications, alignment of BDM and ITDM responses indicates that the concerns of BDMs are becoming increasingly important to ITDMs as well. This observation gains further support from findings regarding cloud strategy challenges: business-specific issues such as guidance in choosing the right/best cloud solutions, developing business cases to win stakeholder support and responses to concerns regarding data location and jurisdiction are much more pressing in 2016 than they were a year ago.

Near-term trends will include ‘multiple clouds’ with more sophisticated automation.

The data shows that over 70% of small business users and just over half of midmarket firms are working with a single type of cloud platform (public, private or hybrid). Techaisle believes that over time, most midmarket accounts and a more substantial proportion of the small business community will opt to use multiple different cloud platforms, deploying workloads on the infrastructure that is best suited (or most cost effective) for the application’s needs. This will in turn require users to connect clouds – to each other, and to on-premise equipment – to ensure that management requirements associated with these diffuse IT delivery platforms doesn’t overwhelm the IT staff. Techaisle expects to see increased use of orchestration and advanced security technologies and other sophisticated tools to help the IT generalists who are common within SMB IT units to keep pace with increases in IT management complexity.

The ‘channel issue’ will attract more focus – and will be a key differentiator for future SMB cloud market leaders.

Although cloud is widespread within SMBs today, further increases in usage intensity will rely on delivering not just product but strategy, planning, integration and deployment support to the mainstream midmarket and (especially) small business. In the past – and with traditional technology – this is a role that the channel has filled. The channel has not been a major part of cloud services vendor go-to-market (GTM) strategies to this point, but Techaisle sees support for channel members as a key factor in determining future SMB cloud market leadership, as firms with different strengths in the market look to build ecosystems that will respond to the individual needs of SMB customers.

Benefits and the ‘eye of the beholder’.

Analysis of cloud benefits reveals that business decision makers (BDMs) and IT decision makers (ITDMs) have differing notions of why cloud investments benefit the business. BDMs see cloud as a way of obtaining capabilities that they can’t deploy through the IT department, on conventional platform technology – a finding that illustrates the motivation for shadow IT initiatives. ITDMs, on the other hand, are much more likely than business colleagues to position cloud as a means of reducing IT expense. Both groups agree that agility is a cloud benefit; this support from the ‘two solitudes’ of IT and business users explains the fact that agility is frequently seen as the most compelling reason for businesses to embrace cloud.

For more details of the report please check detailed table of contents available at 360° on Cloud Computing in US SMBs.

Related Research

US Businesses – Hybrid Cloud Adoption Trends
US Enterprise Cloud Adoption Trends
SMB & Midmarket Buyers Journey
SMB & Midmarket Cloud Computing Adoption Trends
The SMB Channel and Cloud: Success Metrics

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