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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.

2015 Predictions Review: did IT live up to the hype in 2015

December has traditionally served as the occasion for the publication of New Year forecasts. It’s understandable that we want to look ahead to the sources of opportunity that lie ahead. But in the business world, December also marks the beginning of the review season. And while detailed forecasts focus on the next twelve months, the planning horizon needs to look a little further, so that tactics provide support for business strategies, rather than simply delivering a series of course adjustments.

This is a two part blog article. The first part, below, reviews the predictions we made for 2015. Second part will focus on outlook for 2016 and for the longer term.

A look back – what was it we said was right around the corner, again?

Here are the issues we highlighted, “Ten predictions for 2015 – and five issues to keep an eye on for 2016 and beyond” and how we think we did in our prognostication.

The Top 10 for 2015

1. Hybrid arrives – not as a strategy but as the result of many discrete decisions

With the benefit of today’s perspective, we might fairly say that in 2015 and for several more years to come, a more apt description of hybrid is journey rather than destination. Digging into the detail, though, we believe our prediction that “an ability to manage hybrid infrastructure will become a key corporate IT requirement in 2015” has been borne out by the focus on tools and strategies (ranging from Docker to Agile) that we saw throughout the year. In Techaisle’ SMB Cloud adoption studies, there was a sense of growing ubiquity in the usage and plans for private, hybrid and public cloud. Use of hybrid cloud continued to increase as both a conscious strategy and as a reaction to use of both public and private resources within a single infrastructure; by the end of 2015, two-thirds of companies with 100-999 employees were using hybrid models.

2. Collaboration becomes a much bigger concept

In 2015, collaboration began to expand beyond file-sharing to become a necessary tool for driving decision-based agility, fostering innovation and extending customer intimacy. Collaboration is a process rather than a discrete outcome. Our key notion that collaboration “extends beyond the corporate staff (and as a result, beyond large enterprises) to include customers” clearly did reflect strategies and investments in 2015. Within the SMB segment collaboration is increasingly becoming a central component to virtually all business activities rather than a means to enable connections between discrete tasks. Other changes in this area will further reshape collaboration, but you’ll need to refer to the “forecast” part of the blog for that discussion.

3. Collabmobilicloud becomes a management reality

The core concept explained that despite vendor tendency towards defining collaboration, mobility and cloud as separate domains, both enterprise and SMB users have started viewing them as integrated components of business solutions. The user belief that collaboration, mobility and cloud should all be attributes of modern applications has become clearer, and even suppliers are starting to recognize the importance of an integrated collabmobilcloud approach.

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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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