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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.

Coming wave of midmarket collaboration adoption drivers

Techaisle’s SMB & Midmarket Collaboration adoption survey research shows that collaboration is already entrenched within many midmarket businesses. While the creation of a central information repository was the most important business driver for collaboration solutions adoption to the “first wave” of midmarket users, it is not so for the new buyers. Leadership’s desire to move forward with collaboration initiatives was the second most important driver for first wave of adopters, the need to meet leadership expectations is widespread within future adopters as well but this issue has been surpassed by the need to enable faster innovation within the new adopter group.

Key business drivers for collaboration are changing within SMBs and midmarket businesses. Specifically, within midmarket businesses, future collaboration adoption efforts will be driven by demands for decision agility, speed of innovation, customer intimacy and faster time to market.

Early midmarket collaboration solution users tell Techaisle that they were frequently investing in these solutions because a lack of teamwork was impacting productivity. New adopters are saying that they are having difficulty coordinating meetings (as a consequence of increased employee mobility, dispersed team members, ad hoc scheduling), and that they need to address slow decision-making within their organizations. In the Techaisle survey midmarket businesses also rated “need for faster innovation” as the third most prevalent driver for collaboration solutions.

The figure below shows the changes in adoption drivers from early adopters to the new wave of adopters for whom collaboration is one of the top IT priorities for business success.

techaisle-midmarket-collaboration-adoption-drivers

The first wave of users focused on asynchronous file-sharing cloud services. Looked at as a whole, there are several distinct generations of collaboration solution drivers within midmarket businesses. The first wave, reflected in the early users within the midmarket business segment was reacting to a requirement to create a central repository of information, to leadership mandates and to the need to coordinate geographically-dispersed teams. The next generation of midmarket business collaboration solution adopters will emphasize collaborative responses to specific pain points – slow decision making, difficulty in coordinating meetings, faster innovation – more than their predecessors.

A deeper review of the midmarket data in the Techaisle study provides additional context for the discussion of collaboration solution benefit metrics. Speed of customer/prospect response is very firmly positioned as a key determinant of solution success, and the importance of meeting deliverable timelines and decision accuracy are also underscored. Data also shows that businesses with 100-249 employees view a reduction in the cost of collaboration as a key success metrics.

The type of collaboration solution adoption data shows that the next stage in the collaboration platform/framework is the ability to enable richer online interaction by allowing simultaneous sharing and editing of files from PCs and mobile devices, to enable multiple simultaneous communication modes, mobile video collaboration and to integrate social networks thereby extending collaboration initiatives from file sharing to more interactive solutions.

Mobility is a key driver and a key support requirement for collaboration. There is a sound basis for believing that mobility has extended demand for collaboration solutions and collaboration investment priorities emphasize inclusion of mobile devices. It is expected that mobile video will drive the highest proportion of new technology needs. Data also shows that enabling teamwork and dealing with new mobility/geographic challenges will be a key investment driver and that individual employees will have a greater voice in shaping solution demand. For the IT staff deploying support for multiple simultaneous communications modes (text, chat, voice, and video) will be a key technology requirement.

Techaisle believes that this reflects a couple of broad trends: the initial centricity of file sharing to a more interactive communications in collaboration strategies, a recognition that there are now many different ways to connect midmarket employees beyond email and a move away from collaboration solutions as a stand-alone platform (like email) and towards collaboration solutions as a framework for integrating multiple capabilities.

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SMB Collaboration advocacy - the coming changing of the guard

Staffs within IT suppliers often like to remind each other that “people sell to people.” Generally, this is said to remind IT suppliers that marketing programs alone won’t (generally) make a B2B solution successful, that sales staff are important as well. The other side of the equation is important too, though: who within the SMB should IT suppliers target for collaboration solutions?

In SMB Collaboration Adoption Tends survey, Techaisle asked ITDM and BDM respondents, “who is the primary advocate for your organization’s collaboration efforts?” Looking at collaboration today, executive leadership is the key driving force behind collaboration solution investments. In many ways, this makes sense: collaboration has been positioned as a platform, and as a result, represents a major investment; and collaboration platforms become a central, every-day resource touching all users within an organization, meaning that senior leadership’s influence may be needed to align all stakeholders behind a single course of action.

Current vs. Future SMB Collaboration buyers
When we compare current users vs. future SMB buyers, though, we get a different perspective on this issue. Executive leadership will continue to be the primary driver of collaboration solution initiatives, but new solution initiatives are increasingly being driven from other quarters.

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SMB Key Success Metrics for Collaboration solutions

Key success metrics for collaboration systems center on speed of response to customers/prospects and business decision timeliness and accuracy.

Techaisle’s global SMB survey results show that 42 percent of SMBs assess the success of collaboration solution initiatives in terms of improved speed of response to customers and prospects. In the SMB survey Techaisle asked respondents “which metrics does your organization use to measure the business benefits of collaboration technologies?”  Small and midmarket business responses to the question show that the success of collaboration systems is primarily gauged by improvements in response time to customers or prospects. However, this is where the similarity between small and midmarket businesses’ measurement of key success metrics for collaboration solutions stops.

b2ap3_thumbnail_success-metrics-300x150.jpg

Small business View

Apart of speed of response, 36 percent of small businesses report that conversation views, comments and topics are used to evaluate collaboration solution success; Techaisle believes that while this makes sense from a couple of perspectives (it provides an indication of system use/adoption, and metrics can be easily collected and compared), it does not make sense from an important standpoint of “does this metric measure an important business outcome?”

Techaisle believes that counting conversation views, comments and topics is a relatively weak success metric for collaboration systems, one that will gradually give way to measurements, like decision timeliness, that are tightly coupled with key business outcomes. Somewhat surprisingly, internal response times, that is, speed of response to employees, is also an important measurement criterion for small businesses with 20-99 employees.

Midmarket View

Decision accuracy, a key evaluation criterion, is rated as the second most important collaboration solution success metric by 43 percent of midmarket businesses and the third-most important by small business respondents. Midmarket businesses are also focused on decision timeliness, which strikes Techaisle as a reasonable measure of collaboration success.  

Further analysis of the midmarket data shows that speed of customer/prospect response is more firmly positioned than small businesses as the key determinant of solution success. Survey data also shows that midmarket businesses with 100-249 employees also view a reduction in the cost of collaboration as a key success metrics. This is interesting because it is the only employee size segment to include cost among the top three measures of collaboration solution success.

Techaisle Take

It is always difficult to measure the impact of technology, especially when that technology has a broad purpose, rather than a narrowly-defined technical objective. One can measure the impact of a faster processor, network or database in response time, even if one is uncertain of how to assess the business relevance of better response time. But what is the best way to evaluate the success of collaboration solutions that are deployed to create corporate information repositories, to connect geographically-dispersed staff, to improve innovation or teamwork, to overcome constraints on decision speed, and/or to address corporate mandates?

Techaisle believes that the survey findings, reported in 360 on SMB Collaboration Solutions Adoption Trends contain important messages for collaboration solution providers. Marketing material aimed at SMB business management should emphasize, in clear and measurable terms, how investment in a solution will improve the timeliness of responses to customers and prospects. The messaging should also include information (again, in clear and preferably measurable terms) on how a solution can enable better decision timeliness. And while cost is always important, survey data indicates that reduction in the cost of collaboration should not be a central facet of solution positioning. Instead, suppliers are urged to look for ways (via case studies, perhaps) to illustrate how better collaboration solutions leads to more accurate business decisions.

Related blogs:

34 percent SMBs want out-of-box Collaboration within SaaS/Cloud applications

SMB and Midmarket File Sharing & Collaboration Adoption to Grow by 52 percent

SMB Content Management & Collaboration Solutions Adoption: Seven Key Trends

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34 percent SMBs want out-of-box Collaboration within SaaS/Cloud applications

Techaisle’s SMB & Midmarket Collaboration adoption research found that apart from traditional collaboration solutions of file sharing and communication, SMBs need SaaS business applications to have collaborative properties. 34 percent of SMBs and 44 percent of midmarket businesses say that SaaS applications should have built-in collaboration properties out-of-the-box. They say that the success of a cloud business application is its ability to provide /support collaboration, including email and/or hosted telephony.

Techaisle survey data shows that there is a strong connection between SaaS applications and collaboration. In some ways, these connections are intuitive: SaaS is a resource that can be accessed simultaneously by multiple individuals located anyplace where there is a network connection and cloud is inherently supportive of collaboration, and many applications are either explicitly focused on collaborative activities (ranging from SharePoint to CRM) or embed these capabilities (as with productivity applications like Office 365 or Google Apps).

Techaisle’s SMB research found quantitative support for these perceptions. When SMB respondents were asked, “what are the key attributes of a successful cloud solution?” As would be expected, security, scalability, and data management (including disaster recovery) were prominent in these responses. However, the most common answer was “the ability to support mobility,” which speaks to the requirement to enable mobile collaboration. And the fifth-most common response was “the ability to provide or support collaboration.” As the figure below shows, this is an important issue across size categories: it was cited as an important cloud success attribute by nearly half of near-enterprise (500-999 employees) firms, and also by companies with just 10-19 employees.

techaisle-saas-collaboration-connection-blog-smb-attributes


Further analysis of current and planned SaaS workloads underscores the importance of collaborative capabilities within SaaS applications. Techaisle asked small business and midmarket respondents who are currently using or planning to use cloud to identify the top SaaS workloads in use today, and those that are in current adoption plans. The results, that collaboration plays a role in most SaaS applications:

Workloads explicitly focused on collaboration

    • Hosted VoIP (used today by 52 percent of midmarket businesses, with 35 percent planning adoption)

 

    • Content publishing (used today by 53 percent of midmarket businesses; 56 percent of SaaS using small businesses are planning deployment)

 

    • CRM (in use or planned by 93 percent of midmarket businesses and 71 percent of SaaS using small businesses)



Workloads where collaboration is a key differentiator, attribute or outcome

    • Office suites (both Google Apps and Office 365 emphasize intrinsic collaboration capabilities. Office suites are the most commonly used SaaS application type within small business, and the third most commonly used application type within midmarket business)

 

    • Project management (most commonly used SaaS application type within midmarket business, and the third most commonly used SaaS application type within small business)

 

    • Business Intelligence (53 percent of midmarket businesses and 44 percent of small business are planning adoption)



Workloads where better collaboration or reporting within/across departments/functions and/or with external stakeholders is a key outcome

    • Accounting/financial management and ERP (accounting/financial management is the second most widely used SaaS application type within small businesses)

 

    • HR management (deployed by more than half of midmarket business SaaS users)

 

    • Marketing automation (highest rate of planned adoption within midmarket business SaaS users)



These findings underscore trends that are apparent in the SMB SaaS and collaboration markets: that increasingly collaboration is important to SMBs (as a means of boosting productivity), and that cloud-based systems – including file sharing systems, and extending to SaaS applications as well – are expected to provide support for many forms of collaborative activities.

Deployment scope further impacts SMB buyer requirements

As Techaisle observes the evolution of collaborative solution capabilities within SaaS, it is important to also consider the scope across which these applications and solutions are expected to operate. Solutions that connect workers within a group or department benefit from a common understanding of context and source applications; those that connect users across groups/departments exist within a single company, and can focus on supporting IT-approved devices with reference to IT-defined security policies. Solutions that extend beyond the organization’s own staff may well offer more business impact than internal-only systems by speeding communications to customers, prospects and/or suppliers – but they come with increased issues in terms of support for seamless connectivity across multiple platforms, and potentially, may raise security concerts as well.

techaisle-saas-collaboration-connection-blog-smb-scope


In the research, Techaisle asked respondents to specify the scope of their collaboration solutions. The results help clarify the strong demand for collaboration within microbusinesses, and provide insight into why businesses view collaboration as an essential solution investment area. More than 40 percent of microbusinesses, and 39 percent of all SMBs, extend their collaboration infrastructure to support for customers. Midmarket businesses are more likely to focus on internal collaboration, but they join smaller peers in having a roughly 20 percent incidence of supporting supply chain relationships (suppliers/vendors) through their collaboration systems.

Looking at the above chart, one sees that there is the potential for missed connections within the emerging panoply of collaboration-enabling systems. Social media, mobility, BI and cloud all have important collaboration extensions. But how can businesses ensure that these technologies will connect internally once they are in place? Techaisle believes that collaboration is evolving in response to this market condition. IT vendors have traditionally tried to position collaboration solutions as a platform on which businesses can create new capabilities and integrated processes. However, data shows that businesses are instead acquiring collaborative capacities as part of other applications: social media, mobility, cloud and BI all provide discrete and important – but potentially disconnected – collaboration capabilities. Moving forward, Techaisle expects that collaborative technology solutions will increasingly be positioned as a framework that integrates and extends the value of these discrete system capabilities, rather than as a “first step” platform.

Related Blogs:

SMB and Midmarket File Sharing & Collaboration Adoption to Grow by 52 percent

SMB Content Management & Collaboration Solutions Adoption: Seven Key Trends

Report details:

360 on SMB & Midmarket File Sharing & Collaboration Solutions Adoption Trends

 

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