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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.

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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SMB SaaS adoption growth creating new services opportunities

Techaisle SMB and Midmarket SaaS adoption data comparison from 2015 to 2019, illustrates that US SMB SaaS adoption went from widespread to practically ubiquitous. In 2015, less than 60% of microbusinesses and only 62% of all US small businesses were using SaaS, though the balance reported an intent to adopt software-as-a-service. In 2019, microbusiness use of SaaS has reached 77%, and overall small business SaaS use is up more than 29% to 80% of all US firms within the 1-99 employee segment. Looked at another way, growth from 62% to 80% means that within four years, over 47% of small businesses that weren’t already using at least one SaaS service adopted the technology.

The relative increase in the midmarket is even more striking. In 2015, 83% of US firms with 100-999 employees were using SaaS; by 2019, this figure has reached 98%, meaning that 88% of the 17% of midmarket businesses that hadn’t adopted SaaS in 2015 began using SaaS in the 2016-2019-timeframe, and leaving only 2% of US midmarket businesses without any SaaS services in use.

Data gathered from Techaisle SMB and Midmarket SaaS adoption survey suggests that the immediate planned progression of SaaS portfolios will be measured in the US but not so in most other regions. European SMB SaaS adoption is still tepid at 49%, Asia/Pacific is not far behind Europe at 46%, and Latin America is still only 36%.

As is generally the case with cloud solutions, SMB buyers who have purchased or plan to acquire SaaS applications most often approach the ISV directly. While SPs/MSPs have traditionally been the most common alternative source of SaaS solutions, new SMB customers are increasingly turning to consultants – and to specialized cloud brokers – if they are not engaging directly with the ISV. The data indicates that these cloud service brokers are emerging as an important force in the SMB SaaS market.

Add-on services represent a large and essential source of revenue for SaaS suppliers; license spend represents less than 25% of total SMB customer spending, while non-license spend on services accounts for over 75% of the total. Support for analytics/dashboards and system integration are the two most widely adopted add-on services. Current SMB users are looking to invest in systems integration, sales process design, disaster recovery and deployment services, while new SaaS buyers are adding maintenance and operations, systems integration and analytics/dashboards to their new SaaS solutions. Some services are ‘stickier’ than others. Survey also found that SMBs often drop services after initial deployment is complete, but backup/DR, data cleaning, security, and analytics support are each retained by at least three-quarters of initial SMB SaaS buyers.

Stickiness, however, is mainly a function of company size. Very small (<10 employees) businesses tend to dramatically reduce annual spend after deployment, while small and mid-sized businesses report relatively flat year-over-year spending.

System configuration (including designing reports, dashboards and analytics), customization, data and/or application integration, consulting (including sales process design) and training are the top five non-license services acquired by SMBs, as measured by percentage of total services spending.

Let us drill down into services usage with the adoption of CRM.

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Techaisle data reveals SMBs regressing in their cloud security adoption

Techaisle’s 2019 US SMB and Midmarket Security solutions adoption trends survey research indicates that 55 percent of US SMBs suffered a security incident in the last one year. 20 percent of SMBs reported but as high as 70 percent did not formally report yet experienced PC security & data theft breaches in the last one year. In many ways data suggests that SMBs are regressing in their adoption of security solutions to protect their corporate and mobile environments. For example, in the 2019 study, 32 percent of SMBs believe that their IT security budgets are sufficient to meet their needs, which is substantially down from 43 percent in 2017 and 22 percent assert that they are better prepared than others when it comes to IT security, considerably lower than 32 percent in 2017. Even the presence of formal security protocols in case of a breach and/or security incident has gone down from being present in 34 percent of SMBs in 2017 to 26 percent in 2019. However, the belief that cloud usage/services puts them at a higher risk of a data breach has remained virtually unchanged from 40 percent in 2017 to 38 percent in 2019. To make a fair trend comparison Techaisle surveyed same number of SMBs in 2017 and 2019 with exactly same quota sampling.

It is not that SMBs are not concerned about security risks. Cloud security is the top IT challenge in 34 percent of small businesses and 42 percent of midmarket firms. 41 percent of SMBs feel vulnerable in the cloud and 34 percent worry about cyber-attacks and 39 percent consider password compromise to be a security risk to their business.

A review of cloud security threats to SMBs illustrates the fact that while cloud brings unique challenges. Data highlights many different points of security exposure that arise when applications, data and access extend outside the corporate facility. 38 percent of SMB survey respondents are concerned with data exposure during transfers to remote locations, 37 percent are concerned with the potential for cloud-based accounts to be hijacked. Similarly, other concerns are unauthorized access to or breaches of data repositories in the cloud, insecure interfaces used to access cloud-based systems, the potential for insiders within a cloud service provider to exfiltrate information, and denial of service (DDoS) attacks – all of which represent cloud-specific threats.

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Google Anthos - a big deal for the midmarket - if a partner strategy emerges

Today, at Cloud Next 2019 in San Francisco, Google’s annual industry conference, Google announced its Cloud Services Platform, Anthos, for managing hybrid clouds that span on-premise and cloud data centers, and across multi-cloud environments. It is a big deal. It uses Kubernetes to enable migration across environments, is hardware agnostic, supports Amazon AWS and Microsoft Azure, and is subscription-based with a starting list price of $10,000/month per 100 vCPU block.

There is a thought that Anthos is a shot across the bows of AWS and Azure – and certainly, an approach that abstracts functionality from underlying cloud architecture will impinge on the ‘data gravity’ customer retention approach being used by these vendors. But IBM is at risk with Anthos as well, as the positive reception of its recent Red Hat acquisition is rooted in the promise of a single-vendor approach to providing hybrid and multi-cloud management and orchestration capabilities.

Clearly, Anthos has been developed with large enterprises as the target segment; some enterprise accounts are already early beta customers. To ease the addition of cloud as a core infrastructure platform in these accounts (by simplifying migration across in-premise and cloud environments) Google introduced Anthos Migrate, a service which will auto-migrate VMs from on-premise or other clouds into containers in the Google Kubernetes Engine.

It’s important to note, though, that hybrid cloud management is not only a point of pain within enterprise customers – it is a challenge (and arguably, a more acute issue) within midmarket (100-999 employees) firms. Consider these stats from Techaisle study of 510 US midmarket firms:

  • 52% of midmarket firms are using multi-cloud
  • 45% of midmarket firms have hybrid cloud environments
  • 38% of midmarket firms are using multiple public cloud providers for IaaS and PaaS
  • 27% of midmarket firms are planning to adopt G-Suite
  • 25% of midmarket firms are challenged by how to migrate from one cloud platform to another
  • 18% of midmarket cloud workloads are on hybrid clouds

Data for Europe and Asia/Pacific also very interesting current and planned adoption percentages for hybrid/multi-cloud.

The multi-cloud, hybrid-cloud journey began within midmarket firms much before it became fashionable within enterprises.

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