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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.

Addressing SMB and Midmarket buyers cloud & mobility journey

In the course of Techaisle’s SMB & Midmarket IT Decision Making Authority: IT vs LoB, BDMs (business decision maker) and ITDMs (technology decision maker) were asked to identify the “greatest benefits” and “key attributes” of both cloud and mobility solutions.

There is an interesting pattern apparent in the survey research findings. When adopting mobility solutions small business BDMs are focused on addressing near-term pain points: attracting new customers, improving accuracy, addressing work/life balance. The ITDMs appear to be taking a longer view, focused on applying automation to bring structure to business processes – improving the quality of interaction through application of mobility solutions, improving the quantity of those interactions, increasing process efficiency.

Midmarket BDMs are looking to mobility to help increase business process efficiency and customer interaction quality. Midmarket ITDMs, on the other hand are focused on increasing the quantity of customer interactions, which would logically impact other core areas (such as business user productivity and process efficiency) as well.

When discussing the mobility solution attributes that BDMs and ITDMs consider important to delivering on mobility benefits BDM and ITDM buyers have similar and common perceptions across all business sizes. “The ability for the mobile solution to be integrated seamlessly with existing corporate systems” – ensuring consistency across devices – is ranked as the most important mobility solution attribute by small business BDMs, and the second-most important attribute by midmarket BDMs. The ability to create and sustain secure connections for remote workers and the ability to deliver seamlessly across the “three screens” of PCs, tablets and smartphones are also priorities for BDMs in both small and midmarket businesses. ITDMs also have some key common areas of focus: the ability to integrate multiple media types into outbound communications and the ability to read or write data from/to corporate systems are the two top-ranked attributes in both employee size categories.

It is clear that each IT and business professional’s perspective on the mobility journey is shaped by their context – by their business objectives, and by the requirements imposed by the size of their organization. In the figure below we have taken the results from the Techaisle survey and plotted them in three dimensions.

techaisle-itdm-bdm-smb-mobility-attributes-resized

A look at the findings from parallel questions on cloud also reveals differences between ITDMs and BDMs, but similarities between small and midmarket firms. Looking at cloud benefits, BDMs, especially in small businesses, view cloud as a means of introducing capabilities that would have been cost or time prohibitive, and of reducing business process costs. ITDMs, on the other hand, view cloud primarily as a means of reducing IT costs. ITDMs in both small and midmarket businesses recognize that cloud can enable their organizations to be more agile, which connects well with a theme expressed by BDMs.

When analyzing the key attributes leading to realization of the above cloud benefits, data shows some differences in emphasis between small and midmarket firms. The most important difference between BDMs and ITDMs is the BDMs’ emphasis on collaboration: BDMs in both small and midmarket businesses are more likely than their ITDM counterparts to view support for collaboration as a key cloud solution attribute. BDMs are also more likely than ITDMs to look to the cloud for detailed reporting and for support of features – disaster recovery, on-demand data access, and mobility support – that may be lacking in their current environments. ITDMs, on the other hand, are focused on technical attributes (scalability, integration, IT management capabilities) that are difficult and/or expensive to develop without third party support.

Understanding the requirements, preferences, success metrics and areas of focus of BDMs and ITDMs within both small and mid-sized businesses is critical to structuring an effective SMB sales and marketing strategy. The findings open the door to an important issue: the requirements in structuring and communicating messages to ITDMs and BDMs within small and midmarket businesses. To effectively engage with and manage the increasingly-diverse decision making unit, IT suppliers will need to structure messages that address the "care-abouts" of BDMs and ITDMs, and deploy those messages through the channels that are most effective at reaching each community.

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SMB and midmarket Cloud adoption driving increased IT services outsourcing

Techaisle’s SMB cloud computing adoption survey shows that 90% of US SMBs and 77% of SMBs at worldwide level are either using or planning to engage with external professionals for cloud assessment and/or cloud implementation.

Both small and midmarket firms are using outsourcing, but they are doing so in different ways. In many small businesses (and most micro-businesses with fewer than 20 employees), outsourced IT services take the place of internal staff. In midmarket organizations, outsourcing provides specialized skills to augment in-house capabilities, and/or delivers additional bandwidth to address staff shortages.

Drilling down into the US market, data shows that in both small and midmarket businesses these outsourced resources are deployed across a wide range of areas and that cloud is prominent in this mix. There are several reasons why SMBs engage with external professionals and consultants. At least within midmarket businesses, 42% use external providers for cloud implementation whereas 31% of small businesses use consulting organizations for cloud readiness assessment and strategy development. Data further goes on to show that 35% of SMBs usually decide to use the supplier that helps them in formulating cloud strategy. Overall, data finds that 39% of SMBs are planning to outsource cloud migration services within the next one year. Looking at the same data from a regional geography lens, it is found that the trend of outsourcing cloud services is higher than the US in Asia/Pacific, similar in Europe and somewhat lower in Latin America.

There is an important learning in the survey data for channel partners and IT services organizations. Simply reselling cloud solutions (SaaS, IaaS, PaaS) is not a long-term and sustainable strategy. They must be the trusted cloud advisor for the SMB end-customer. Fully 80% of midmarket firms planning new cloud initiatives are evaluating cloud options with only 7% focused on evaluating suppliers. Combining this data with the fact that 94% of SMBs are already using some form of cloud solution, one gets a picture of a midsized enterprise market that is in the process of assessing where and how the use of cloud should expand through the enterprise. Small businesses, on the other hand, have a roughly normal distribution across different stages of cloud expansion with 24% reporting that they are gathering information and 30% evaluating suppliers.

It is interesting to note the difference in scale between the two market segments. The midmarket results reflect a more strategic approach to outsourcing focused on the skills that are most important to meeting high-priority, emerging business requirements. This starts with cloud migration and SaaS services, and testing of these applications; advanced software systems like ERP and CRM come next and the other capabilities follow from there. The top three areas that midmarket businesses are planning to outsource are implementation of cloud packages such as ERP/CRM, cloud migration services, and mobility/mobile app development. Small businesses are giving equal importance to many different outsourcing initiatives, such as, cloud infrastructure rollout and support, cloud migration/SaaS services, mobility/mobile app development as well as custom software development.

 

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SMB Wheel of Productivity spins to cloud-based customer service applications

In a recent Techaisle's global SMB Cloud computing study, SMB IT and business decision makers were asked “Which one of the following is most important - increasing your customer base, Improving customer satisfaction, deriving better customer insights or delivering to customer needs? Clearly, these are all essential objectives; Techaisle’s intent was to understand which are most important in shaping current IT priorities. The research found that 35% of SMBs are most focused on improving customer satisfaction.” Customer satisfaction is an especially pressing issue within midmarket businesses: 39% of firms with 100-999 employees selected improving customer satisfaction as their top customer-focused priority, an even higher proportion than was logged for “Increasing customer base” (31%) within the midmarket.

Techaisle’s SMB “Wheel of productivity” data shows that customer service is usually the application that SMBs use after CRM and marketing automation. In fact, Techaisle’s most recent SMB cloud shows that of the SMBs using cloud customer service application, 53% are also using cloud CRM and another 24% are planning to add CRM to their customer service solution. Looked at another way, of the SMBs that are using CRM solutions, 38% are also using customer service applications and another 19% are planning to add customer service.

The impact of increasing the customer base and improving customer satisfaction is manifest across many different SMB business objectives – attracting and retaining new customers, increasing business growth, keeping pace with competition, and focusing on new markets are all C-level issues that rely on market reach and effective customer management. For example, executive focus on growth leads directly to demand for improvements in sales and marketing – and in today’s market, these improvements are generally delivered in the form of CRM systems that improve sales process efficiency and visibility, and social marketing systems that capitalize on connectedness within an economy that increasingly relies on person-to-person, cloud-enabled communications rather than broadcast and print media for information.

Social marketing and CRM are two of the key applications that link cloud infrastructure to top-line growth objectives. It is unusual for platform technologies to be viewed as business growth drivers, but cloud isn’t really a platform technology – it’s a means of rapidly delivering capabilities needed to compete in evolving markets. When asked whether cloud is primarily a driver of new opportunity or a way of achieving cost control, 80% of Techaisle’s SMB Cloud Computing Adoption and Trends study respondents reported that cloud helps their business grow. Cloud-based solutions (including, and particularly, CRM) provide the insight needed to manage a sales and marketing funnel and attract and retain new customers.

The improved visibility resulting from cloud-based sales and marketing automation systems has in turn illuminated the need for, and potential associated with, better and better-integrated customer management and support processes. This insight is prompting increased investment in systems automating customer support tasks: Techaisle’s global SMB survey data shows that customer service is among the top cloud applications planned for adoption within the next year.

smb-cloud-ww-customer-service-application-planned-adoption

This trend is particularly apparent within advanced IT users. Looking at the current and planned use of customer service applications through Techaisle’s SMB IT Sophistication Segmentation (SITSS ) framework, we find that the level of current and planned cloud-based customer service application adoption increases with IT sophistication within both small and midmarket businesses.

current-planned-use-cloud-customer-service-techaisle-it-sophistication-segment

Desk.com – enabling SMB customer service success
High customer satisfaction starts with great customer service, and Desk.com, part of Salesforce’s portfolio is enabling SMBs use technology to improve customer service. Desk.com has pre-configured and pre-connected tools such as knowledge base, agent productivity tools, native mobile app, activity reports and dashboards so that an SMB could actually be up and running in an average of two days.

Being tightly integrated with Salesforce’s flagship CRM product certainly helps. 

Although Desk.com is well integrated within the Salesforce organization it has its own product road map clearly building on the success achieved by Salesforce. Techaisle believes that this is important for the product suite and its users. Techaisle has written extensively about Salesforce in the past (click here for the most resent post “The Good, the bad, the Ugly). Desk.com comes across as being different from the core Salesforce product in that it is better aligned with SMB requirements. The Desk.com team has clearly learned about how SMBs work and behave differently than enterprises – and it is using that knowledge in the development of the solution.

Natively enabled Mobile Platform
SMBs are more committed to mobility than enterprises. Within an SMB, customer service agents may double as sales staff, the office manager, or even the CEO. Because they work on the road, from their homes and from an office, enabling customer service through a mobile platform is of tremendous importance. What is really great about the Desk.com solution is it comes with a native mobile app on both iOS and Android so the SMB gets end-to-end case management for agents, meaning that they do not have to be tethered to their desk to access customer support systems. The agents can use the same productivity tools, knowledge base and same features that come with the standard Desk.com desktop experience on their mobile device.

Improving Agent Productivity
Mobility is a key requirement for SMBs, but it isn’t really the core requirement: the central business issue for resource-constrained SMBs is improving productivity. A “single pane” view that provides all relevant customer information is essential for customer service agents who fill multiple roles within the organization. Desk.com does a good job of responding to this requirement with its focus on agent productivity. One of the tools included as part of the application is “Macros,” which can by invoked either with a mouse or by keyboard shortcuts. Macros can insert a knowledge article link into the case, apply multiple labels, update different statuses, update and apply custom fields, and/or update one or more cases, accelerating workflow and driving efficiency in the customer support process.

Helping SMB customers help themselves
SMBs are increasingly focusing on their customers’ ability to help themselves. Desk.com comes with self- service support templates designed to look good not just on a desktop but on any mobile device. The templates are customizable to allow SMBs to echo the look and feel of their main websites. If an SMB’s customer is looking for a very simple FAQ-type experience they can go in and search for a particular topic or connect to more details with the ability to call into a customer support line. The knowledgebase also extends support for multiple brands and allows an SMB’s customers to self-select into a particular product or service and be served the most relevant content.

Down the Road
Desk.com is continuing to invest in product development and one of the most important aspects is how the solution interacts with Salesforce and how Desk.com provides end-to-end service, sales and other business process solutions that are integrated appropriately for an SMB. A key area of investment is in the synchronization of metadata to provide a 360 degree view of the SMB’s customer to the support agent. A key second area of investment is in case management, embedding native support center within native mobile apps. As noted above, this is a critical capability in the SMB segment: for many SMBs, the mobile app is the primary (and sometimes the only) touchpoint with customers. Techaisle’s SMB Collaboration studies have shown that SMB focus is expanding from creating information repositories (largely complete) to adding rich media and media escalation and Desk.com is working on additional support for rich media and images and emails out of a service channel, adding collaboration layer to case management process.

Techaisle Take
Desk.com is a differently abled organization than Salesforce, whose focus seems to be primarily on enterprise customers. Desk.com is on a path to help SMBs grow by providing an out-of-the-box solution that helps SMBs help their customers faster, thereby improving customer satisfaction and customer retention. With an inbox that brings together all of the different channels that SMB might be using to provide customer service - email, phone, social panels - into the same interface, Desk.com helps SMB customer service agents to work on solving customer problems rather than navigating between mismatched system components.

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Best Positioned Cloud Infrastructure Vendors - SMB & Channel View

Best positioned cloud infrastructure supplier
In Techaisle’s recent SMB Cloud Computing adoption survey, respondents were asked “which of the following do you think is best positioned to deliver cloud infrastructure solutions”. IBM was rated as being “best positioned to deliver cloud infrastructure solutions” by 24% of small businesses, and 23% of midmarket firms. Microsoft is similarly entrenched, seen as best-positioned by 21% of companies with 1-99 employees and 33% of midsized enterprises. Given that Cisco is stronger in larger accounts than in the small business market it is the third-ranked cloud infrastructure vendor in the small business segment, cited by 19% of small accounts, but just 11% of midmarket companies. Clearly, Cisco’s brand equity is helping to support its position in a market where it has sparse actual presence. AWS is viewed as best-positioned by 10% of both small and mid-sized firms, putting it slightly ahead of Dell in both markets. Perhaps as a consequence of its high-end cloud product line, HP is not viewed as a leading cloud infrastructure vendor in the small business segment but is still the third-most prominent brand in the midmarket.

Who is ‘top of mind’ for converged infrastructure?

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