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    SMB Path to Digitalization - Prologue and Epilogue
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Tavishi specializes in quantitative research focusing on Small and Medium (SMB) market segments and emerging technologies such as Mobility, Cloud Computing and the effect of Social Media on marketing strategies.

Office 365, A Path to the Cloud for SMBs?

It is a well-known fact that every new platform or major shift in technology requires a killer app. For PCs it was largely basic productivity apps such as word processing and spreadsheets and presentation software. While platforms have changed, these basic productivity apps maintain their killer app status.

Office 365 from Microsoft is a single suite that takes the popular, dominant Office applications and puts them in the Cloud. You can read the CNET review here. We believe this is a boon for SMBs. Over the years, these productivity apps have become very expensive as their capabilities have expanded. Even so, SMBs depend on these to such an extent that they bite the bullet and purchase these for every person in the office. With Office 365, SMBs can now shift that capital expense into the operating expense category, paying $6/month per user (for SMBs with fewer than 25 employees) for the suite of Office applications. These apps are not full featured online replicas of their desktop based kin. They offer limited functionality but the 80-20 rule applies here. The majority of functions most people need are in fact available. Even if an SMB does not shift all of its employees to Office 365, they can still save money by shifting part of their workforce that does not require the full featured desktop versions. In other words, why buy a Lexus when a Corolla will do.

One aspect that can be problematic for SMBs considering using Office 365 is that it forces a firm to move their domain to Microsoft or its partner hosting the solution. But companies that have already invested in a website will need the help of a Microsoft partner to make Office 365 work for the organization without having to move the domain. And this is where Microsoft faces its largest stumbling block. For small companies, Microsoft does not have the infrastructure to support potentially millions of small businesses who may not have a partner or may not want to engage a partner. This begs us to question whether Microsoft is really committed to real small business. All signs point towards Microsoft focusing their efforts on gaining larger small businesses where they win more seats per deal. Really small businesses are the subject of a “breadth” marketing strategy which basically means that Microsoft will rely exclusively on partners or on the savvy of the small business owners themselves to sign up for and properly configure Office 365 services.

Some of the recent surveys conducted by Techaisle with Channel Partners shows that channels will begin reselling Office 365 although reluctantly. The first mover channels would be the ones that currently offer BPOS, Hosted Exchange, and Hosted SharePoint. These channel partners could be service providers or smaller VARs who are the trusted advisors to the very small businesses typically less than 25 employees.

Office 365 is a great idea and is a good first attempt from Microsoft. But a good product must be backed by the right support systems. This is particularly important when products are being provided as a service. It changes the fundamental nature of Microsoft’s conversation with its customers. It is not software anymore. It is a service.

Abhijeet Rane
Techaisle

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Mobility and Why Should SMBs Care about it

Shifting Workplace
Information Technology has been impacting the way businesses operate, but the essential nature of an employees’ work has largely remained unchanged. Within a business environment conducting work has typically involved bringing people together in a single physical location for a specified period of time to execute tasks. And historically this has been the only choice.

As new technologies take hold, SMB CEOs attitudes toward requiring people to be physically present are also changing. The basic connotations of “showing up for work” and “normal working hours” are changing. Today most businesses in established markets allow work from anywhere and anytime. With increased globalization, the physical place of work is shifting from office to homes and from conference rooms to airport lounges.

Telecommuting is becoming a norm regardless of the size of the company. If you do not have a formal telecommuting policy you should set up a task force to actively begin developing such a policy. Even if your business does not require it, your employees will demand it. And over the years it will be considered an important perk and differentiator in retaining and motivating employees.

Techaisle surveys show that SMB CEOs agree that allowing employees to work from home benefits their business and mobility solutions seem to not only have improved productivity, but also improved quality of work and redundant communication. 62 percent of businesses say that they see improved productivity as employees can work from anywhere and anytime. What is surprising that within some emerging market countries 40 percent of businesses mention that mobility is allowing employees to spend more time with family/less stress.

Shifting Communication Devices
While typical landlines were the formal mode of communication, today it is the ubiquitous smart phone that is taking over. Where VoIP was a nomenclature, today Skype and web-conferencing are becoming verbs. Emails will remain the predominant form of asynchronous communication; however, there is a massive shift of emails from PC platform to a smart phone platform.

SMBs of today should not only plan for such shifts but also find partners who are willing and have expertise to help implement new collaboration and communication solutions that are built around mobility.

What will make it difficult for the SMBs is the subtle insistence of employees to bring their own preferred device into the work environment from smart phones to tablets and other consumer-like applications. It took Apple (Mac) more than a decade to find itself accepted in a typical business setting but it will take only a few short years for today’s devices to proliferate.

Many SMBs still have not implemented a formal procedure to allow or not allow personal devices into work environment, not because they do not want to but they do not know how to. IT Vendors and partners can help in bridging that practical knowledge and experience gap by introducing real world examples and case studies.  In fact SMBs should demand it of their vendor partners.

Device Management – an oft Ignored Priority
Going down the route of mobility is also fraught with unexpected surprises - most important being accidental loss of device with company data, employee walking off with device or malware creating havoc with the device.  Many surveys conducted by Techaisle reveal that SMBs worry about these issues a lot but fail to protect themselves adequately. If you have embarked on the mobility journey make sure that device management is on the top of your agenda. For example, within the businesses those have begun adopting mobility, 69 percent of IT Decision makers in the mature markets and 72 percent within emerging markets are concerned about accidental loss of devices containing sensitive data. And nearly 1/3rd of these decision makers are also concerned about inability to manage device configurations so that they comply with company policies. To top it all, there is the issue of managing employee devices that businesses did not buy.

The need for device and data security for mobile devices may be an important deterrent in mobility adoption, especially as the consumer and business apps converge onto the same devices. However, this also clearly demonstrates the need for remote management, authentication, and remote erasure of data on mobile devices. Data no longer resides on tethered devices such as desktops but is spread across multiple devices that “move”. Plan for it and mobility will be an enjoyable and productive experience.

 

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SMB Mobility Solutions Adoption Trends

Recently, Techaisle conducted a very detailed study on SMBs adoption of Mobility Solutions across several countries. It is quite evident that Mobility Solutions are important for SMBs and a high percentage of these businesses are actively implementing them. The level and mode of implementation varies by country. For example, US & UK SMBs have a more holistic approach to mobility implementation that includes notebooks, smart phones, tablets, and applications. A country like Brazil is more focused on smart phone enabled applications with continued usage of notebooks.

What is interesting is that SMBs within countries such as Italy, Germany, Canada and Brazil have also indicated that they do not have a formal company policy to implement mobile solutions yet they are going ahead in an experimental fashion.

The chart below highlights the rankings within a country of various statements related to mobility solution implementation. The actual question was “To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statements, where 1 is completely agree and 5 is completely disagree?”



Security and confidentiality about data on mobile devices consistently ranks #4 within all the above six countries. This is not to say that accidental loss of device with sensitive data is not of concern to the IT decision makers, but it takes a somewhat lower priority than mobilizing the organization. This is similar to the fact that notebooks have been used pervasively by the traveling workforce, however, not many SMBs have implemented any form of device lock-down, purge or recovery applications. Nevertheless, IT vendors should focus the attention of SMBs on device management especially when these SMBs allow employees to purchase and use their own devices within business environment.

Mobility solutions affordability has also ranked either 6 or 7 but when asked specifically the biggest inhibitor is the cost of device and data plan when adopting mobility solutions.

When SMBs rank “Mobility solutions are important but we do not know how to implement”, it does not mean that they know everything about mobility solutions. It simply suggests that there are SMBs who are satisfied with the simplest implementation of mobility that revolves around their unique business environment, ability to access information from anywhere and able to communicate and collaborate within the organization. However, the complexity of solutions varies by the type of business, availability of public domain cloud applications as well as the number of employees.

When we dig deeper into the data, we find that mid-market businesses are the early adopters of mobility solutions; small businesses do realize the importance of such solutions but have not yet been able to develop any formal company policy to implement

The top challenges to adopting new mobility solutions can be broadly divided into 4 groups – Cost and complexity, management and employee issues, network and device issues and security. Of these cost and complexity issues dominate SMB thinking.

Both small and mid-market businesses, cost of solution, data service pricing, and security are top concerns for implementing mobility solutions

More details can be found in our country level reports titled “SMB Mobility & Adoption Trends including Tablets & Smart phones”.

Tavishi Agrawal
Techaisle

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Mobile App Developers Should Focus on “Transformative” apps

At the recent GigaOm-Appconomy conference the talks and panel discussions centered around app development and the challenges associated with it. There was a great set of panels that honed in on some of the key challenges faced by app developers as well as app marketing companies. Some notes and learning from that conference:

    1. Too many apps: There are obviously a huge number of apps available but that does nt mean that app economy is robust – yet. The research firm Localytics reports that on an average there are 48 apps installed on a typical iPhone and 26% of these apps are only used once. While usage is a separate issue, the first problem is that of discovery. How does a user discover new apps ? While apps are organized into categories it still requires the user to flip through and find apps that suit their needs. On the enterprise side the challenges are the same. Should an enterprise IT department play the role of a curator for these apps?

 

    1. Rise of Mobile IT departments: There are two trends that are increasingly impacting enterprise IT departments – one is that IT departments are increasingly allowing users to bring in their own devices. This is how phones like iPhones have gotten into enterprises bringing the issue of managing and supporting these devices to center stage. But managing mobile devices brings forth a new set of challenges different from managing devices that IT has purchased. What happens when the device changes? How do you ensure data security? How do you ensure corporate security policies are being followed? This is not just driving a new set of IT policies but a new mind set within IT departments that shifts away from traditional “command and control” to one that is more democratic and focused on user needs. With users taking over the role of managing their own device and app updates, It departments are free to advise and support ad focus on areas that are critical to the business.

 

    1.  Which apps are likely to succeed: The vast app market has apps in every possible category. However, there needs to be some criteria by which enterprise mobile apps developers. This was well articulated by Raj Nathan, SVP at SAP who stated that there were two kinds of apps that developers should look at – one simply extends existing functionality onto mobile devices. This, he said, is not very compelling. The other kind are transformative in nature in  that they extend and enhance the role of the person using the apps. The example given was that of a truck driver who receives his or her travel route on a mobile device. This would be an example of the former type of application. Now consider if the same app also allows the driver to record and send back information about a competitor’s pricing and discounts tied to a particular store on their route. That person’s role is now transformed and indeed elevated to being a competitive weapon that can be used to decide marketing actions in real-time. What Raj Nathan is saying is that mobile apps offer the opportunity to fundamentally alter the playing field. So in what areas can such transformative apps be created for the enterprise. There are four according to Vishy Gopalakrishnan, Director of Mobility Solutions at AT&T:a.   IT change management
      b.   Knowledge management
      c.   Transaction management, and
      d.   Business analytics and reporting



The above list makes sense and there are apps in each of these areas but how many are really Transformative?

When it comes to developing mobile apps, It departments and developers must think differently about the purpose of the app taking into context its role in the larger business picture and by focusing on the transformative opportunity hidden within.

 

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