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HPE boldly pivoting headlong into post-transactional market

Recently concluded HPE Discover was different than most other analyst events in more ways than one. First, HPE announced that it has strategically dived into the cloud swim-lane with a confident commitment to offer “everything-as-a-service” by 2022. HPE has plans to offer entire portfolio through a range of subscription, pay-per-use and consumption driven offerings. It is a bold strategy and in direct contrast to its key competitors. Second, the phrase “doubling down” on SMB and midmarket segments was not only mentioned in the HPE Global Partner Summit on the mainstage, but also in the keynote address by Antonio Neri as well as by several senior leaders in their respective breakout sessions thereby targeting SMBs as a priority market segment.

Specifically, “everything as a service” or XaaS is a very astute strategy. As we near the end this decade, it is clear that the IT industry as a whole has been transformed by cloud - by the way it alters IT service delivery options, by the way it impacts the economics & resource requirements associated with that delivery, and by the applications and business opportunities that cloud unlocks for user organizations of all sizes and in all industries. We are increasingly immersed in a post-transactional market, where discrete sales of individual products or integrated systems are replaced by agreements to provide IT capacity and business functionality “as-a-Service.”

No segment of the IT market is immune to this trend. Sales of on-premise hardware and software are declining and will continue to decline; at the same time, leading web service providers, including Microsoft (Azure), Amazon Web Services, Facebook, Google and Alibaba, are building 40 percent – 50 percent of all x86 servers for internal use, and then providing access to these servers on a pay-as-you-go basis, and software developers are creating systems on these platforms to automate sales, marketing, finance, HR and other business functions.

Inexorably, the market is shifting from one defined by discrete purchase-and-deploy deals aligned with refresh cycles to one where businesses take a hybrid approach that blends a limited number of on-premise assets with a growing range of on-demand services. Although hybrid IT is inherently a more flexible and efficient way of providing IT services needed by businesses, it still requires effective planning to address important issues within business operations. There are many different types of hybrid IT solutions, but they all belong to one of three basic types: Solutions that respond to IT department needs, and are adopted by IT professionals; Solutions that address business management needs, where demand is driven by non-IT executives or staff members; Solutions that change both business processes and IT systems, and which require IT/business management collaboration for effective delivery. And these are the hybrid market segments that HPE plans to address.

But Antonio Neri’s ambition is far bolder and greater than simply pivoting to an XaaS business model. His promise is for a zero-friction future in a cloud-less world for all segments of the market. A strong foundation has been laid with HPE GreenLake, an outcome of its acquisition of Cloud Cruiser in 2017. At HPE Discover, HPE extended its GreenLake offerings for the midmarket to enable quick deployments of workloads with right sized and ready to go storage, compute and virtualization. For midmarket firms which do not own and manage their own data centers, HPE has partnered with Equinix and CyrusOne to offer co-location solutions. To help its channel partners that serve the midmarket segment, HPE has developed a new quoting tool that reduces quote time from 18 hours to 15 minutes. In addition, HPE also announced the availability of HPE GreenLake Chatbot - an artificial intelligence driven, automated chatbot that quickly answers partners' HPE GreenLake inquiries.

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Capturing the Midmarket digital transformation business value map

IT trends belong to one of two main categories. Some, like Linux or cloud, refer to a product or product category that changes IT strategies by providing breakthrough capabilities. Others are statements of IT strategy, highlighting opportunities to directly connect IT capabilities to broader business objectives.

Digital transformation (DX) is an example of this second type of trend. DX, according to a report by global research leader Techaisle, is the integration of digitalized processes to achieve enterprise-wide automation spanning multiple functions; modernization of current processes and supporting infrastructure to achieve previously-unattainable or unimaginable business outcomes.

Digital transformation isn’t defined by a single initiative or end-point. DX describes an evolving set of capabilities that connect investments in core technologies to enhanced operational efficiency, employee empowerment, product innovation and customer intimacy – which in turn enable DX adopters to increase revenue, decrease costs, reach new markets, deliver better products and services, and ultimately, drive more profit and improve shareholder value.

Viewed from this outcome’s perspective, DX success is rooted in the ability to connect incremental investments in technology with milestone achievements, aligned within a roadmap that ties to the organizational vision of modern capabilities delivering new levels of business performance.

The channel will play a critical role in guiding midmarket firms through the DX transformation. This starts with helping IT and executives within client organizations to define their vision for the key competency areas: mapping the digital transformation pillars to business outcomes provides IT and non-IT management with a cohesive set of meaningful objectives for addressing business pain points.

techaisle midmarket business value map

Capturing the midmarket DX opportunity

What does the channel need to do to translate midmarket demand for DX and its attendant benefits into long-term customer relationships? To capitalize on the DX opportunity, channel partners need to develop deep understanding of how the DX platform is built – how this framework supports process evolution – and how to cleanly align the IT and process frameworks with a delivery plan that addresses midmarket executive care-abouts.

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Salesforce – a step closer to enabling connected business with connected insights

On Monday, 10th June, Salesforce announced a definitive agreement to acquire Tableau bringing Salesforce one step closer to empowering analytics-driven digital transformation for its customers, enabling enterprise performance management, driving connected businesses and hurtling itself on a collision course with Microsoft and SAP. Microsoft’s Power BI is rapidly dethroning many analytics platforms including Tableau and SAP is taking giant leaps towards customer experience management with Qualtrics.

Besides adding to topline revenue of Salesforce, the acquisition will likely not have any significant material effect on revenue growth rate as Tableau’s revenue is less than 10% of Salesforce’s revenue with Q/Q growth rate only slightly more than half of Salesforce.

Salesforce began as a SaaS company in 2000 with its famous “No Software” logo and attention-grabbing advertising of a fighter jet striking a biplane. In the last seven years it has transformed into a leading cloud SaaS company with creatively created and strategically segmented solution offerings – Sales Cloud, Marketing Cloud, Services Cloud, Commerce Cloud and Analytics Cloud. But collectively these are only customer-focused applications that operate within the Salesforce platform. But the scope of SaaS impact mirrors the scope of activity in the enterprise itself. SaaS is being meaningfully applied to IT operations, to core business functions (finance, HR, business operations, ERP) in addition to customer-facing tasks (customer service, marketing and sales). There are dozens of discrete SaaS application categories and thousands of applications that address part or all of the requirements in a specific area, or which bridge across process requirements.

The true benefits arise when cloud applications are connected to each other. Connected applications provide businesses the benefits of agility, efficiency, collaboration, alignment, customer intimacy and innovation. This cross-functional visibility is important to diagnosing issues within the business and formulating enterprise strategy. Almost all businesses, from small to enterprise are on their digital transformation journeys. Frequently, a key step in the digital transformation process is to automate related tasks within and across business process. In the absence of adjacent SaaS applications such as ERP, HR, financial management - Salesforce was forced to acquire MuleSoft, the integration solution to help businesses of all sizes create connected applications.

But a key missing piece from Salesforce’s portfolio has been analytics. Regardless of the business issue, analytics provides an answer. Businesses are prioritizing a wide range of improved outcomes: improvement within existing operations and processes, expansion of customer base, profitability, creation and accelerated delivery of new offerings, reduced cost, and enhanced ability to manage the unknown. Remarkably, each of the issues can be addressed with analytics solutions – and indeed, businesses are using analytics to address each today. This provides analytics vendors with a powerful ability to link product/service capabilities with critical ‘care-abouts’. And exactly this capability was missing from Salesforce’s portfolio. Its AI-led analytics platform Einstein was not proving to be a true analytics solution but rather a collection of dashboards. And for that matter, neither is Tableau (which leans more towards data visualization than analytics). However, with some of its recent announcements such as Ask Data and updates of VizQL, when combined with Salesforce platform may prove to be very useful for new and common customers.

If connected cloud applications is a logical starting point for connect businesses then connected insights is the logical destination. A fact that I feel is being pursued by Salesforce. Most businesses are developing an understanding of the power of advanced analytics, and many are well along the path of installing a “data culture” in which facts are used to identify options, not simply to justify decisions based on instinct or anecdotal feedback. Many cherished but complex metrics, such as return on marketing investment or lifetime customer value, can be established by providing analysts and data scientists with rich data and sophisticated tools. Both MuleSoft and Tableau bring Salesforce closer to delivering an Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) system which will allow businesses to have a new attitude and culture that values and uses data analytics as the quickest way to gauge overall performance and specific areas of interest at a glance. And a key reason why SAP purchased Business Objects many years ago, Oracle acquired Hyperion and IBM absorbed Cognos and SPSS, but some fell by the wayside.

Most businesses including SMBs and midmarket firms that have used CRM and ERP systems within the past few years are familiar with the dashboards that are available with many of these applications, either embedded or purchased/developed separately. Dashboards will continue to evolve and be dynamic in several ways; the way they use data from subsystems like ecommerce and other real time feed sources, the way users can personalize the layout of their dashboards, and the ability to build KPIs “on-the-fly” by calculating variables on the screen and saving the result in a meta-repository for all to use. While several SaaS vendors allow this kind of metric building and start the user at a dashboard, we have yet to see anything targeted to the mid-market or SMBs that connects the performance across front office, production, fulfillment and customer service almost out of the box – so the future has been here for a while and we are waiting for the market to catch up. Microsoft fired the most recent salvo with Power BI and now Salesforce is responding. If only Salesforce bought an ERP firm or HR or collaboration or virtual workspace or customer experience/survey. It would certainly be a game-changer.

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Artificial Intelligence – visibly absent in small businesses but notably present in midmarket firms

The IT industry is abuzz with discussion of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and blockchain. Both AI and blockchain are currently aspirational within SMBs and Midmarket firms. It is not because these firms are not open to the technologies but they have limited understanding of deployment processes.

Regardless of the aspirational nature, both the technologies are showing a very promising adoption trends within midmarket firms. Techaisle’s survey research of 1100 US firms shows that 26% of midmarket firms are currently using AI and another 28% plan to deploy within the next one year. If they stick to the plan, by mid-2020, over 50% of firms will have at least either begun trials or accomplished full deployment of AI within their organizations.

Similarly, blockchain adoption shows an important trend. Although, less than 1/5th of midmarket firms are currently using the technology, a full 40% do plan to adopt blockchain within the year. In fact, when the two datasets are combined, data shows that 42% are currently experimenting and another 42% are developing protypes. Drilling down into the data we find that 26% of midmarket firms are seriously investigating the possibility of implementing blockchain.

In contrast to midmarket’s current and planned adoption of artificial intelligence, only 5% of small businesses are currently using artificial intelligence and 10% of small businesses which are planning to deploy AI are conducting trials.

Not only is the adoption trend different between small and midmarket businesses, the expected benefits and application usages also differ. For example, 38% of small businesses believe that use of AI in marketing / advertising and 32% in improving customer experiences will be integral to their business success whereas 43% of midmarket firms believe that use of AI in process automation and 42% in improving analytics will be integral to their business success. Nevertheless, one-third of both small and midmarket firms believe that use of AI in cybersecurity will be essential for improved security.

Identical percentage, 54% of US small and midmarket businesses agree that artificial intelligence refers to a system consisting of a series of algorithms that can learn from constant inputs. 45% of small businesses and 46% of midmarket firms aspire to use AI for automating IT and a similar percentage plan to initially use AI for non-core processes and applications.

Artificial intelligence adoption within SMBs is at a stage where cloud was a decade ago. Visibly absent within small businesses but notably present within midmarket firms. However, it is not a question of when AI adoption will take firm root but how. The responsibility lies with the vendors and other suppliers for guidance, deployment alacrity and outcomes.

 

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