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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.

2013 SMB & Channel Outlook, Trends & Predictions: Techaisle Take

All predictions below are compiled based on SMB and channel surveys conducted in 2012 covering Cloud, Mobility, Virtualization, Business Intelligence, Marketing Automation, Managed Services, Business Issues, IT Priorities, Channel Challenges across several countries.

SMB focused Predictions

  • As SMBs continue to adopt cloud computing aggressively they will continue to move away from capital budgets; Revenue will become the focus rather than tight cost control. The buyer will move toward the department that is responsible for delivering business results and thereby revenue. The CMO becomes increasingly important as this unfolds.  Further, countries are coming out of economic slump which was a major factor in the initial move to the Cloud, as firms were scrambling to reduce capital outlays and reduce OPEX. But SMBs are now priming themselves for growth, and the Cloud is firmly established as an important tool to build the business.
  • SMBs’ emphasis on front-office, revenue-generating applications will continue with CRM at the hub and with more marketing automation and business intelligence applications. The base of marketing automation vendors will continue to consolidate as start-ups fail and pure-plays are acquired and big players roll out integrated solutions. Cloud CRM spend will continue to grow at a healthy rate of 21 percent.
  • Communications, Collaboration, Content and Context will be the primary computing scenarios of SMB IT departments, driven by Mobility, Cloud-based Applications and Process Optimization. Virtualization, Cloud, Mobility, Managed Services will together form the Four Pillars of IT that will support the transformation of SMB, enabling them to reach their full potential in the shortest period of time. The foundation for these four pillars will be the datacenter, both off-site and on-premise depending upon SMB segmentation. Techaisle forecasts that global SMB Cloud spend will grow by 22 percent in 2013, Mobility by 14 percent, Managed Services by 15 percent, Virtualization by 25 percent and datacenter by 8 percent.
  • The adoption of cloud-based productivity suites among SMBs will accelerate which will begin to balance usage of collaborative and individual SaaS applications. Office365 will go main stream along with increased usage of ERP and more sophisticated applications, offering new customer and other value-added opportunities in data and application integration. We expect SMB Cloud productivity suites spend will almost double from relatively slow adoption through 2012.
  • There will be a significant increase in emphasis on data integration rather than application integration; data will be combined from several sources to power different application blocks and embedded business intelligence functionality, as we first predicted in 2008.
  • The SMB server and network will start becoming less visible as they progressively move offsite physically and from a remote management perspective. Cloud-based server spend will likely grow by 40 percent as compared to on-premise new server spend growth of 5 percent, the benefits of remote management overwhelming the on premise for headcount-constrained firms.
  • Although social media will gain importance, SMBs will continue to struggle to determine ROMI from their social media initiatives and its usage will be considered a “productivity drainer” by many lean-staffed and short-skilled SMBs, unless they are in a local business that requires high customer intimacy to grow and build business. Aggressive SMB adopters will realize benefits but many others will be disillusioned unless advised, encouraged and shown a path by early adopters. The market will be inundated by advisors causing more confusion, especially as big data analytics start showing strong results for Enterprise-level companies.
  • ISVs will focus their attention on developing client applications that integrate email, context and workflow to build other productivity applications. New business models and solutions from ISVs and Service providers will appear for SMB mobile apps that will deliver content based on context, beginning with a few verticals and then spreading horizontally.
  • BYOD will be the new normal; with priority for SMBs on data and applications management rather than managing devices.
  • The next generation of business intelligence and Mobile BI will be widely adopted within SMBs; Upper mid-market firms will experiment Big Data using combinations of Hadoop and other technology (e.g. Greenplum) whereas lower-mid-market and small businesses will look for insights from federated big data deliverables provisioned by cloud application vendors.

Channel Partner focused Predictions

  • There will be an accelerating trend to vendor direct through development of remote integrated-service interfaces and inbound marketing initiatives. To counter, channel partners will aggressively develop outbound sales capabilities to compete with vendor direct sales and rise of the Independent Consultant to prevent from being cut out of the distribution chain.
  • Successful Channels will finally realize and pursue their individual respective competencies and roles as consultants, business process advisors, integrators, aggregators or plain vanilla cloud deliverers.
  • Expect that channel partners will be more successful going deep with integrated suites or a few applications that they integrate rather than trying to provide a complete infrastructure, communications, applications and vertical solutions.
  • Channel partners will begin to put together a repeatable, profitable SMB solution that will include proprietary integration value-added services or software, accelerated with productivity suites and collaborative combinations, such as Office 365 and SharePoint, or Google Apps, or the new Citrix ApplicationMe@Work or XenDesktop.
  • Cloud aggregators will continue to enter the market, however, few will be profitable as aggregators will need to be able manage reseller relationships with structured sales and marketing programs, implementation and post-implementation support for the channel, and tier-2 customer support for end users.
  • Mid-market focused channels will look up to their vendor partners to help combine mobility, cloud, virtualization offerings while others will rely on a partner-to-partner network

Tavishi Agrawal
Techaisle

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SMB IT Spend: Emerging Markets Push European Countries down the Rankings

Top 10 SMB IT Market Rankings by CountryIn the first part of a three-part series, this post examines the growth of BRIC SMB IT markets, and their ranking relative to other markets. Here we will discuss the Top 10 markets from an SMB IT Spending perspective, and while it is well known that emerging markets grow faster from a smaller base, the absolute rankings of large markets tend to be relatively stable except in the case of exceptional growth, making it an important milestone. This is the case for China, in this forecast as it replaces Germany in its’ longstanding position of the third largest SMB IT Market. Other changes in ranking are that Brazil replaces Italy, and India comes into the Top 10 by the end of the forecast period. Korea displaced Australia as #10 in 2011 and manages to stay within the group throughout the forecast. The primary reason for this displacement is similar to that of other economic segments: sheer volume increase based on population and higher GDP per capita.

According to this Forbes article, the equity value of the BRIC economy financial markets peaked at 18% of the global value in mid-2011, and grew four-fold in the previous ten years. As a general rule, technology adoption lags economic growth and depends on many factors. This accounts for the slower climb up the rankings when compared with the overall economy, and is exacerbated by the fact that SMB IT adoption radiates from Tier 1 Cities to Tiers 2 and 3 as infrastructure allows.

China and Germany SMB IT Market ComparisonEven so, we can see the fundamental differences in the market structures between Germany and China shown in this graph, despite the huge volume increase in China. Germany demonstrates a much more mature mix of IT products and services, weighted toward value-added segments of Software and Services, while the China market remains very hardware centric; almost half the opportunity is still hardware devices by the end of the forecast period. However, China is different than many other emerging markets because it is not only strategic as an end user market, it is also critical as a supplier to the world and to its’ own domestic market. The history of the IT market in Asia Pacific, especially since introduction of the standard PC architecture, has been a race between US brands and local manufacturers whose production is adopted in the domestic market through osmosis along with cultural and distribution advantages. In the case of China, this is more serious as it becomes an increasingly important global segment; on one hand there is a push to open the market while on the other US giants like Apple, IBM, Intel and Microsoft become more reliant on the Chinese Consumer and Enterprise IT markets.

There will be increasing international pressure to make sure there is a “level playing field” in China, as we have seen from initial forays like the Huawei controversy earlier this year. PC maker Lenovo is going very strong in the global market, having reached the #1 vendor in unit shipments worldwide in a relatively short period of time, and snatching three times more domestic market share than the nearest competitor. Lenovo and Huawei have also pushed Apple to sixth place in the Chinese mobile handset market, despite Apple manufacturing tens of millions of handsets and tablets in China. Welcome to the global economy.

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Global SMB IT Spending in 2016 - Infographic

How big is the SMB IT market opportunity? What is the potential market size of mobility, cloud, datacenter, PCs/Tablets? What is the growth in spend in regions? What are average the spends per business? What are the key business issues?

That is the topic of our Infographic. Click the image to download.

Global SMB IT Spend is poised to reach ~600 Billion dollar by 2016. Worldwide, there are still 26 million SMBs yet to buy a PC, 30 million SMBs do not have a server; some of these may directly move to cloud. They are already using internet to a very large extent. Granted that many of them are less than 20 employees but they are not going to be static. Approximately 560,000 new businesses were started each month in 2012. About 10,000 of small businesses become mid-market businesses each year.

North America and EMEA are infrastructure, software and services driven while Asia/Pacific is product driven. North America has the highest average IT spend per business spend while Asia/Pacific and Latin America the lowest. There is a vast difference between emerging market and mature market SMBs in terms of average spend per business. It is also useful to note that while Asia/Pacific has the highest number of SMB cloud users, average spend per user is less than 1/5th of SMB user in North America.

In terms of business issues, SMBs in the US are focused on collaboration and communications. The three business issues feeding into this focus are reducing operational costs, focusing on new markets and improving effectiveness of sales and marketing. On the other hand Western Europe SMBs are concerned about workforce efficiency with focus on costs was a key driver for SMBs in in that region, improving workforce productivity (getting more out of the workforce) and reducing operational costs. On the other hand Asia/Pacific SMBs want to grow faster than the market and are constantly worrying about market penetration. If they do not act now, they think that the opportunity will slip by.

Download the Infographic (click on image) to get a great snapshot of SMB opportunity including spend on PCs/Tablets, Mobility, Cloud, Data Center, Security.

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Can Microfinance Save The American Small Business?

Despite the bank bailout, American small businesses have had limited access to financing. The blame game has focused on the greed of bankers who are taking advantage of the “free” (meaning zero interest) dollars given to them by the government and using that to make Wall Street bets as opposed to lending to small businesses and homeowners. But are they really to blame? Money is efficient. It finds its way to places that give the best returns. It so happens that the best returns no longer come through lending activities but from high frequency trading. The fact that the bankers asked for and were given the money to engage in this activity at no cost to them was a mistake the Bush and Obama administrations made. No question about it. But why blame the bankers? They are simply fulfilling their obligations to their shareholders. Should they make such obscene amounts of money in bonuses? Why not? The amount of money they contribute back to the country is a matter of taxation and tax reform. That said, proprietary trading seems to be on its way out and banks are gradually returning to their boring old lending practices.

In a recent survey, nearly 35% of small businesses clearly mention that availability of credit/loans is impacting their business, as shown in the chart below.



The real issue though is the lack of good options for delivering financing to small business in an efficient manner. Bank consolidation over the last decade has left business lending to small businesses largely in control of large and mega banks. Small businesses can and often do turn to the Small Business Administration (www.sba.gov) for financing. The SBA has a number of micro-financing schemes that allow small businesses to borrow a maximum of $35,000. SBA data suggests the average amount borrowed hovers around $13,000. The delivery of those loans however is done through various local, community and national/global banks. The process is onerous, locks in collateral and is often not available to the weakest of small businesses. These initiatives also do not help START small businesses as most loans require a documented operating history. Small businesses therefore often start businesses by using credit cards as a way to finance ventures. This is dangerous as cards have higher interest rates and defaults can negatively impact personal credit histories for years to come. The result is a dampening of the ability of individuals to take risks. The result is less innovation and fewer small businesses.

Perhaps this is an opportunity for us to look to the third world where micro-finance lending has created whole new businesses by the hundreds. These businesses are small but successful enough that loan repayments are above the 90% level. Because of the small amount of money in each loan, the risk per loan is low often requiring no collateral commitments. Micro-financing organizations such as Grameen Bank have turned in impressive performances both in terms of the amount of money they have lent over the years and the number of businesses they have helped. Grameen Bank’s history is well documented having been in existence since 1976. In some ways they could be hailed as the world’s most successful venture capital firm. By the end of 2009 Grameen had lent over $8 BILLION (since inception) in micro-credit to nearly 8 million small businesses. What is impressive is the low default rate. At the end of 2009 less than 3% of the loans outstanding were overdue. All of this has been accomplished in an impoverished country like Bangladesh with 2500 branches and about 13000 loan agents.

Can the model be replicated in the US? Absolutely! But it demands structural change in the way small businesses access financing today. Perhaps the solution lies in establishing a micro-finance exchange – a clearinghouse for micro-credit made specifically to allow people to start businesses. What would the benefits of such an exchange be?

    1. Access to low interest financing with low or no fees. Access is limited to companies with fewer than 20 employees (80% of all small businesses)

 

    1. A cap equivalent to current micro-finance initiatives or slightly lower (say a maximum of $35,000)

 

    1. No collateral requirements but the applicant must submit a business plan

 

    1. No impact on personal credit history if the loan is not repaid

 

    1. Operational support for small businesses including better rates on things like internet access, mobile service plans, transportation and logistics, import/export, legal services, banking, insurance and talent acquisition.



Micro-finance in developing countries has proven to work well and it demands serious consideration as an option here as well.

Abhijeet Rane
Techaisle

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