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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.

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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Five9 driving customer experience solution success with a thoughtful and collaborative global partner program

Survival of every business depends upon customers, and 2020 saw a ground-breaking year when customer intimacy (acquisition, retention, experience & satisfaction) drove technology adoption and business process evolution within the SMB and midmarket segments. Businesses in general, and SMBs in particular, have many poorly automated or un-automated tasks and processes that they could meaningfully improve by using focused SaaS applications. 59% of small businesses, 86% of core midmarket firms, and 95% have prioritized customer experience solution deployment. Still, IT staff within 38% of small businesses, 47% of core midmarket firms, and 55% of upper midmarket firms face challenges in deploying customer experience solutions.

Five9, a cloud contact center software provider, aims to lessen the IT challenge by “reimagining customer experience” through fully customizable solutions that empower customer agents to address customer needs. Deploying customer intimacy is a little bit like making Baked Alaska: the promise is delicious, but the method is mysterious. The journey from IT systems to a better customer experience isn’t a matter of magical alchemy that wreathes unlikely ingredients with an alluring halo. Instead, it results from a roadmap that starts with digitizing data and processes, moves forward through connected systems that encourage and support fact-based customer-facing activity, and result in an organizational capacity to understand and respond to customer needs. Midmarket businesses understand the appeal of the outcome – and they need guidance from suppliers like Five9 that can define the recipe for customer experience.

Five9 knows that contact center software is only one component of a set of sales, marketing, and customer service solutions. It knows that, with customer experience, it’s the mystery of how to aggregate data and integrate it with customer-facing activities successfully. Recent global SMB and midmarket research from Techaisle shows that within US small businesses, customer-focused SaaS business application adoption increased by 49% in 2020 and will rise by another 33% in 2021. Techaisle data shows that by the end of 2021, 76% of new SaaS adoption within SMBs will be customer-focused. Similarly, within the US midmarket firms, the adoption reached 82% in 2020, with 74% planning to add adjacent customer-focused applications in 2021. Europe research shows similar trends. To deliver on the promise of “reimagining customer experience,” extending the functionality of its solutions, and automating entire customer-facing business processes, Five9’s software must integrate with CRM, online retail, automated quoting, eCommerce, social chatbots, email, forms management, help desk, and queue management.

Integration is a crucial impediment to customer experience. Executives often see examples of organizations using data drawn from integrated internal systems, or from social media, from far-flung sensors, or third-party services, or from a mix of all of these sources – to improve the critical operating parameters of their businesses. However, these answers aren’t simply a result of having technology within an organization. Instead, better customer experience results from linking technology (and the data it collects, shares, and enhances) with front-line functions, which requires understanding how to develop technical competencies and integrate them within the organization.

Five9 has identified several partner types, especially CRM solution providers, UC suppliers, and ISVs, to deliver an integrated customer experience solution. Five9 has built an adapter to enable clients of all sizes to seamlessly integrate its CTI with CRM solutions such as Kustomer, Microsoft Dynamics, NetSuite CRM, Oracle, Salesforce, ServiceNow, and Zendesk.

For the CRM solutions providers, Five9 follows three distinct engagement models, each of which can establish Five9 and its partners as a partner of the customer, invested in their business success. At the same time, if executed correctly, the models enhance the revenue stream of Five9 and its partners.

  • Sell into the customers who are already using CRM solutions from one of the Five9 integration partners
  • CRM solution providers get introduced to the Five9 installed base to help with total CX transformation
  • Joint selling into new customer accounts who are evaluating CRM and contact center solutions

The above is not a simple, straightforward set of changes to embrace. However, the changes are central to transitioning to where the opportunity is growing – and this, more than any adherence to tried and true practices, is the goal to position its businesses for long-term viability. The nature of the partner relationship is a critical determinant of Five9 success. From a strategic sales enablement perspective, Five9 is focused on alignment with its sales team to create a better system by educating its sales team on the benefits of selling together with its CRM partners.

Unified communications is another technology area where most SMBs and midmarket firms have high planned adoption rates. However, the inhibitor is the inability of a hosted solution to adequately meet the needs of an SMB organization which demands many feature sets - call hand-off, integration with CRM solutions, integration of vertical applications, group calling/directory, and regulatory compliance. To enable such features necessitates customization or integration expenses which wipes out the cost savings. Five9 has partnered with Nextiva, Microsoft Teams, fuze, Zoom, TetraVX, and Mitel to integrate contact center and back-office, which augments the telephony and conferencing solutions to enable agents to be more efficient in solving a customer problem. Since many UC suppliers work with resellers as well, Five9 has aligned its partner program to understand how to build complementary routes to market options to capture as much market share together as possible.

ISVs are essential to cloud suppliers serving all types of customers. For example, cloud vendors, such as Five9, looking to build an enterprise-level platform need ISVs to provide critical capabilities to the core offering. In addition, vendors attempting to penetrate target markets work with a specific application vendor to demonstrate the relevance of their services; the ISV, in turn, relies on the platform vendor to provide evidence of a trustworthy application delivery platform. And cloud solution suppliers may position cloud applications as an extension of their core relationship with a customer, even as the ISV involved views them as a resale channel with excellent access to a high-value target buyer community.

Five9 has a formal ISV partner program with co-sell agreements, provides development support and accreditation, and promotes ISV solutions via Five9 CX Marketplace. Five9 already has 70+ ISVs in its program. These ISVs get access to the development environment, documentation, APIs, and SDKs to build integrations. Once the ISVs have built their integrations, they get accredited, and solutions get listed on Five9’s marketplace. To drive success, Five9 has a two-way referral initiative along with a co-sell motion. As a result, the program is growing every quarter, with an increasing number of partners wanting to partner with Five9.

Five9 is anchoring its global partner program on white-glove service, empowering partners, certifications, and development support. This year, Five9 is moving to target the right partners and provide new and improved professional certification options. It is also focusing on specific routes to market around certifications. In Five9’s own words, “…our special sauce is aligning with the Five9 sales team, demonstrating value, building mutual interest and trust, through initiatives such internal newsletter.” Partner Loop, a monthly newsletter, keeps all of Five9’s salespeople in the loop on sales wins, resources, all the great things happening with the partners, and why they should continue to win together with the partners. In addition, to accelerate time to market for its sales teams, Five9 has a partner locator, partner profiles, and CRM and UC integration guides to reduce the complexity of sales conversations. Partner Hello is an onboarding and activation concept that is seeing tremendous success and driving engagement. Five9’s amplify education webinar series provides training to its partners on new services and products. Five9 is addressing essential partner requirements. Techaisle partner survey shows that onboarding training and webinars are the two most crucial training options for partners with certification programs and web training modules representing the next-most important training options

To top it all, Five9 has also launched its Five 9 Global Partner Advisory Board and new Five9 Partner Hello Onboard and Welcome Guide in June.

Modern IT generally delivers systems that improve sales process efficiency and visibility. The drive to develop new customers and retain existing ones directly impacts the desire to emphasize solutions that support business growth, including social media, mobility, and analytics. Additionally, growing business confidence affects all business-relevant solution areas, freeing up resources for new solution exploration, adoption, and optimizing or redesigning business processes. Besides pure SaaS business applications, including cloud solutions, analytics, marketing automation, customer service, CRM, and other adjacent solutions, data shows that SMBs are planning to increase spending in AI, Chatbots, voice assistants, UCaaS, and mobility solutions.

Five9 is positioning itself to be a key player in the customer experience solution segment by successfully embracing an industry-wide trend away from rigid solution definition towards fluid, flexible configurations that integrate multiple components and moving from opportunistic to strategic. In addition, it is accelerating collaboration across partners for predictable, rapid responses to customer demands, becoming proactive in building effective relationships with trusted allies.

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