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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.

Techaisle data shows 41 percent of global SMBs unsure about the next decade

It was once thought that the cloud would reduce the technology deficit SMBs face relative to larger firms – but it is difficult to say that this has proved to be the case. Indeed, the cloud has lowered the barriers to adopting new systems, giving SMBs access to applications and infrastructure resources that would have been well beyond their means five years ago. However, Techaisle’s SMB and Midmarket Cloud adoption trends research data show that cloud, and hybrid IT, has posed other challenges: difficulties in integrating systems with each other and with business processes, and in integrating data across applications (ensuring that data created by one application is input automatically into others); difficulty in securing systems that are based in multiple locations and managed by various organizations, each with their own set of operational rules; difficulty in applying appropriate levels of security and governance to an ever-expanding pool of data that moves at accelerating pace through an ever-more-complex constellation of systems, users and locations. Large organizations have IT teams dedicated to addressing specific issues within this shifting and complex set of requirements. SMBs rely on limited internal resources (often, small groups of generalists), supplemented by fractional headcount support from third-party channel members, to keep pace with the change that results from the constant advance of cloud and hybrid.

Despite these challenges, though, evidence suggests enormous scope for cloud growth in the global SMB segment. Data indicates an apparent leader/laggard dichotomy between midmarket and small businesses concerning IT-enabled innovation. Over 20% of midmarket firms have internal teams dedicated to “finding ‘what’s next?’ technology-driven innovations,” and 40% “have IT budgets specifically for technology-driven innovation;” 11% report that they have embedded IT professionals charged with finding innovations into business units. Small businesses are, on average, about half as likely to have taken these steps; instead, nearly half of firms with 1-99 employees state that their organizations do not expect IT to drive innovation actively.” Making the assumptions that a) midmarket firms will benefit from the express linkage of IT and innovation, and b) that the gap between large enterprises and midmarket firms is likely as significant as the delta between midmarket and small business. Additionally, large enterprises will, over time, capture IT-enabled business innovation benefits even more rapidly than midmarket competitors. Data illustrates the foundations of a cascade, where IT-enabled innovation drives business success and further cloud investments in larger firms, defining success patterns that small organizations then adopt.

The findings also expose the uncertainty that SMBs face as they structure their IT/business strategies. The most significant proportion of SMBs – 42% of small businesses and 32% of midmarket firms – state that they are unsure of what the next 10-15 years will look like for their industry. Other SMBs worry about their ability to cope with the pace of change: an average of about 25% of SMBs report that they “are struggling to keep up with the pace of change,” and nearly 20% state that they “do not know if they will be able to complete over the next decade.” Against this backdrop, a cadre of forward-looking organizations – 15% of small businesses, roughly a quarter of midmarket firms – “are battling barriers to become a digital business by 2030.” The successes that these firms realize over the next several years will increase their appetite for further cloud investments and encourage their peers to commit additional resources to cloud-based business initiatives. Techaisle expects that if and as these digital leaders realize tangible benefits from cloud and hybrid, the cloud will become an essential element of SMB business operations. As a result, SMBs will become a significant force in the cloud market. Moreover, suppliers to the SMB market and the SMBs themselves can align to bring about this positive change. Techaisle believes that mutual benefit will drive commitment and innovation on both the supply and demand side of the cloud equation.

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Xerox – an SMB IT services company you did not know about

Xerox, an innovative technology company, was among the early pioneers of PC and ethernet technologies, which are indispensable in today's digital transformation. 3D printing and digital manufacturing are some newer areas of modernization. Among the more critical innovation focus areas is CareAR, which enables live visual interaction and contextual self-guided instructions. From an augmented reality standpoint, it empowers an agent to see what the customer is seeing and walks them through how to resolve customer support issues.

Unbeknownst to many, Xerox IT services is part of the next innovation cycle within the organization. Formed out of three wholly-owned companies, ESI, Lewan, and RK Dixon, Xerox aims to expand its IT services footprint, especially in the SMB segment, which Xerox defines from 25 employees to 2500 employees. Xerox has a growing SMB-focused IT services business, working either as an outsourced provider or in conjunction with existing IT teams to provide hardware and managed IT solutions to SMB clients through Xerox locations in the US, UK, and Canada. Xerox has aspirations to be the leading provider of professional IT solutions to the SMB Market. It is a challenging aspiration, but having deep partnerships with major IT manufacturers, being brand agnostic positions Xerox well in providing solutions that fit SMB customers' needs and budget. Xerox's uniqueness and differentiation lie in its ability to listen to the voice of the customer, offering the best technology solution possible with discipline, uniformity, and consistency.

SMB portfolio of services offerings – device procurement to complex consulting

As we had written in our 2021 predictions, SMB executive and corporate interest in digital transformation is a unique business driver for IT services' scale-up. The fear of digital inequality is acute. To accelerate migration to support a mobile workforce, anxious SMBs prioritize automation, application bandwidth, and analytics, each of which requires outlay services. SMBs increasingly need support for hybrid IT environments spanning conventional and cloud infrastructure, which strains the IT staff necessitating professional services skills. There is an urgent need to provide business consulting aligning cloud capabilities with SMB's business requirements, map specific cloud services to these needs, integrate cloud services with existing infrastructure and each other, and provide ongoing support. SMB issues in servicing hardware at home are demanding home office software/hardware packs for service.

Xerox has developed an entire portfolio of offerings that address each of the above.

  • IT Hardware and Software - trusted advisor to source and support all foundational hardware and software needs
  • IT product support services – deployment, installation and configuration, PC imaging and asset tagging, depot repair, warranty services
  • IT Professional Engineering Services - Cybersecurity & device security, policy-writing, and threat assessment, Cloud technologies and migration, Data Center and network design, staffing
  • Managed IT Services - Help desk support, Virtual CIO, network admin, remote monitoring & management, data Backup & Recovery

Techaisle expects strong growth for services spend. Techaisle market sizing data shows that the US SMB and Midmarket spend on IT services will be US$244B in 2023. Data also shows that 97% of SMBs have become more dependent on technology over the last three years because technology delivers enormous productivity, efficiency, reach, and related advantages. However, these benefits are not always readily accessible to SMBs with limited resources. Moreover, the complexity associated with advanced technology can discourage firms from investing in new technologies – to the extent that 61% of midmarket firms admit to ignoring technologies even though they may be helpful to the business. And the issue is unlikely to disappear in the future: more than half of midmarket firms believe that technology adoption is becoming more complex.

SMBs seeking to keep pace with global enterprises boasting far more extensive IT resources – are increasingly reliant on technology but have a limited pool of skilled IT staff members capable of delivering the services their operations require. Techaisle's research shows that many small and midmarket firms are making extensive use of external assistance – IT services provided by suppliers, rather than internal staff – and that use of service suppliers correlates directly with IT sophistication. Techaisle's research divides midmarket operators into three groups: basic IT or firms that are "focused on delivering core IT capabilities to internal users, but lack ability to expand into more sophisticated applications and technology categories;" advanced IT, businesses that have "progressed beyond core applications and are actively working with more sophisticated solutions;" and organizations with enterprise IT operations, in which "IT is run as a business, providing enterprise-grade support to all aspects of the organization. Roughly 60% of firms in the more sophisticated groups use managed services today, compared with less than half that number for organizations with only "basic IT." And even those that aren't already capitalizing on external services are moving in that direction: more than half of sophisticated IT user organizations who are not currently using managed services plan to do so soon. Xerox is aiming to bridge the gap between fully outsourced and on-staff capabilities to reduce the digital divide.

Xerox trains its sales personnel to sell products that fit the SMBs' needs and are not limited to Xerox's portfolio. As Rich Artese, General Manager, Xerox IT Services, says, "our brand agnostic approach to IT Services enables us to design the right solution for customers while taking into account their brand preferences and budget requirements."

Not a box pusher, not a copier supplier only – but an eight-story building

Xerox is not a box pusher. It is far from it. Besides deploying and managing laptops and desktops, Xerox serves cloud subscriptions. Its in-house solution architects design complex solutions for SMB customers, whether cloud migration or cloud technologies in general or data center solutions and wireless networking.

Xerox illustrates its portfolio of offerings in an eight-story building, representing a typical technology stack, technologies that SMBs require – and require integration across – to support current and emerging business requirements. Partnerships with Acer, Dell, HP, Lenovo for computing devices fit into the bottom floor. Moving up the building takes one to managed services requiring a specific skill set, managing software, and licensing for Microsoft, VMware and Cisco. Middle of the building are infrastructure technology solutions such as data centers, networking, storage, unified communications, security, and at the top are cloud solutions. The Xerox IT Services team holds many industry certifications. In fact, one of their engineers holds the prestigious HPE Aruba Ambassador designation, which is granted to only a limited number of people.

techaisle xerox floors image blog

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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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