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    2020 Top 10 SMB Business Issues, IT Priorities, IT Challenges
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    Top 10 SMB & Midmarket Predictions for 2020
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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.

2020 Top 10 SMB and Midmarket business issues-challenges-priorities

Techaisle has released its annual research infographics on top 10 IT priorities, business issues and IT challenges of SMBs (1-999 employees), midmarket firms (100-999 employees) and small businesses (1-99 employees) for 2020. In its detailed SMB survey Techaisle investigated 27 different technology areas and several technology sub-categories, 25 different IT challenges and 24 different business issues. This is the 10th year of Techaisle’s annual survey research initiative that probes for top business issues, IT priorities and IT challenges. Tracking history provides a fascinating evolution in which new business goals drive new IT priorities and uncover challenges that must be addressed to enable progress on business objectives. Primary research was conducted among senior IT and business decision makers from Techaisle network of 1.8M B2B IT professionals spread across 30+ countries.

WW SMBs are expected to spend US$1 trillion on IT in 2028, growing at a faster rate than the enterprise segment. Innovation is increasingly becoming a line-item of IT budgets. 40% of midmarket firms and 15% of small businesses are carving out budgets specifically for technology-driven innovation. But there is a flip-side as well. Within 47% of small businesses and 22% of midmarket firms, IT is not expected to actively drive innovation. As data suggest, nearly half of the SMBs assert that either they do not have the right IT skills or not enough IT staff. However, data does show that move to pay-as-you-use/consumption-based financing is likely to reach an irreversible trend with 14% of SMBs either currently using or planning for it. But a mass-move to only OPEX-based technology acquisitions is still in distant future with 30% of SMBs still preferring a mix of CAPEX and OPEX.

2020 top10 smb it priorities business issues techaisle infographics blog

Download 2020 SMB infographic here

For 2020, data shows that for the first-time customer experience has appeared within the top 5 challenges being faced by IT within SMBs which has a direct correlation to the top business issue of attracting and retaining customers. A direct result of the new challenge and focus is in the increase in plans for adopting integrated CRM and customer service solutions (in some cases replacing one brand of CRM with another), acceleration in use of artificial intelligence and analytics. A small business CEO of a manufacturing firm told Techaisle, “we are planning to purchase more cloud-based applications to save time and effort. See being a start-up, currently we do not use many cloud applications and we know that there are requests from our sales and HR department to purchase additional cloud applications. Right now, we are not using any cloud application for customer service and for evaluating our progress, growth and tackle pain point of our business, we need to be more connected to our consumers. So, we are trying to purchase a cloud application like Salesforce or Zoho that can enable us connect with our consumers for feedback and registering customer support / complaints”.

For small businesses, upgrading to digital marketing and utilizing social media is among the top 10 IT challenges. These small businesses are not only experimenting themselves but seeking external assistance in how best to use major digital platforms like Google and LinkedIn to make their customers aware of the services and products that they have to offer. They are also hoping that such initiatives may help them get valuable feedback from their customers.

Security is not only the biggest IT challenge but it is also a key top priority in every region and across all employee size segments. As one SMB CIO told Techaisle, “security has been our biggest concern. The more we try to deploy latest technologies and software hackers always find new ways to breach. So, we are hiring more experts in our cyber security team and we are evaluating more vendors to have the best software and tools for security”. In fact, US survey data shows that 3% of small businesses and 94% of midmarket firms have employed IT security specialists within their organizations. If data from 1-19 employee size segment is excluded, then the percent of small businesses with full-time cybersecurity staff increases to 25% within 20-49 segment and 57% with 50-99 employee segment. The data is no different in Europe and Asia/Pacific, in fact, the percentages are higher in Europe. A small business IT director in Germany told Techaisle “as our company grows and evolves, security concerns are increasing. There are increasing number of cyber risks and we have plans to implement new security solutions, amending policies and hiring additional security professionals for protecting our organization from any cyber breaches or threats”.

Controlling IT costs, although number nine on the top 10 list is a challenge for SMBs. IT is known to be kinetic, complex and risky and costs can spiral out of control rapidly or SMBs are unable to realize the ROI of the investment in the shortest time. Most SMBs find controlling cost to be a major challenged because there have been situations where their spend was higher than budget allocation resulted in losses. Therefore, SMBs are becoming better on their budget forecasts and moving towards cloud eliminating Capex.

Accelerating cloud adoption is a given but there is a new initiative to consolidate IT workloads. A Vice President of IT in Asia/Pacific elaborated on this topic, “we have a lot of IT workloads that is spread over public and private cloud. It is very important for us to have our data consolidated at a single place that would be a private cloud so that only our internal team has access to it and no one else could access the data without our permission. We have plans to work on private cloud provided by Microsoft Azure and AWS”. There are many other SMBs and midmarket firms who have tasked their IT departments to research and add new cloud technologies based on business requirements.

Hyperconverged Infrastructure (HCI) has moved up in its list of IT priorities driven by the promise of agility, reduced costs, scalability and centralized management. SMBs and midmarket firms are showing their preference for VMware, Cisco and Nutanix HCI offerings.

Cloud-managed SD-WAN service is a new top 10 IT priority for midmarket firms because of faster deployment, optimization of WAN bandwidth and improved operational efficiency due to automation and self-provisioning.

Scroll down or  click read more for infographics

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WW Midmarket Hybrid Cloud penetration has reached 37 percent and 17 percent workload

Techaisle’s SMB and Midmarket Cloud adoption survey of 3200 midmarket firms and 3000 small businesses globally shows that hybrid cloud has been gaining momentum in small businesses, and is already entrenched in the mid-market firms. Hybrid accounts for 37 percent of cloud using mid-market businesses today, up 28% from 2018, and is expected to capture a lot higher proportion of new spending in the next one year. Midmarket firms are moving from public clouds to hybrid deployments with current hybrid workload at 17%, up from 12% in 2018. The current penetration is the highest in the US but planned usage is highest in Europe and Asia/Pacific.

There is no clear trend on the types of workloads on hybrid environments which shows that most deployments are very specific to a customer’s needs and application delivery partner’s expertise. Typical hybrid workloads include ERP, HR, CRM, finance, operations, IoT, analytics, AI, Machine Learning, SAP 4/HANA deployments, disaster recovery, critical event management, mass storage, cloud security and cloud database. Both Azure and AWS are being used by over 90% of US midmarket firms. Red Hat OpenStack is the preferred private cloud platform for 74% of US firms and Red Hat Cloudforms is the most used cloud management solution by 80% of US midmarket firms followed by VMware vRealize. Hypergrid, Morpheus, platform9 and Scalr are in low single digits. Ansible is being used by most channel partners for orchestration and automation.

Corresponding Techaisle survey with partners delivering cloud solutions to SMBs and midmarket customers reveals that Azure Stack is the most popular platform because of Microsoft’s proactive engagement, powerful and extensive Microsoft ecosystem as well as deep product portfolio. Google Anthos and AWS Outposts are picking up pace. Interesting trend is being seen from AWS partners who are beginning to use Google Anthos instead of AWS Outposts. These partners are not only working with AWS native solutions, but offering cloud solutions which are based around other cloud platforms like GCP, Oracle or Microsoft. Some of these partners prefer to use Anthos because they find it to be more of an open technology and AWS Outposts and can be easily implemented across other environments. It gives them a wider approach in terms of compatibility. They have to pay a fixed amount when using using Anthos which is variable with Outposts. None of the application delivery partners are using tools and technology from only a single vendor. The use of Open Source is dominant.

Another view of the data collected in the survey provides fascinating insight into the extent that midmarket cloud users are willing to align different delivery methods with internal requirements. Detailed analysis and segmentation of data reveals that there are pockets of demand (and overlap in these pockets) that exist for public, private and hybrid models in each segment.

Mid-market businesses
Looking at the mid-market segmentation, we see that larger firms are likely to employ multiple cloud delivery strategies. Overall, 51 percent rely on a single delivery approach for cloud, for example, 31 percent use only private. 29 percent of mid-market businesses use two different delivery approaches, with the most common being a combination of private and public models (but not in a hybrid setting). Firms in these overlap areas are not, on average, larger than those using a single delivery method, but they do face added complexity in that they tend to have more locations.

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Top 10 SMB and Midmarket Predictions for 2020

1. Connected business will be everyone’s problem.

The key focus of business investment will be more about the “work”: the ways that an increasingly-connected business can support pursuit of previously-unattainable objectives. The most important SMB & Midmarket technology-related adoption in 2020 will be this focus on connectedness – cloud, platforms, edge, devices, applications, security, collaboration, workspaces and insights. With the connective fabric rapidly becoming ubiquitous, businesses of all types and sizes will move beyond just the network access, and concentrate instead on using technologies to drive progress across the four pillars of digital transformation: operational effi-ciency, customer intimacy, employee empowerment and product innovation.

2. Momentum building for consumption-based IT acquisition.

Increasingly within SMBs and midmarket firms discrete sales of individual products or integrated systems will be replaced by agreements to provide IT capacity and business functionality “as-a-Service”. In 2020, the trend will be more midmarket driven than small businesses. 20% of midmarket firms will move towards OPEX-based agreements where these firms will look for flexibility and will prefer to acquire technology based on usage – namely IT consumption model – driven primarily because of current IT asset under-utilization.

3. Customer intimacy will take a whole new meaning.

Every SMBs’ survival is dependent upon customers and 2020 will see a ground-breaking year when customer intimacy (acquisition, retention, experience & satisfaction) will drive IT adoption and business process evolution. By the end of 2020, for 45% of SMBs, need for customer intimacy will drive IT adoption and 76% of new SaaS adoption will be customer focused. As a result, 15% of small businesses and 24% of midmarket firms will have “Top Notch” customer facing digital presence.

4. Need for Embedded Collaboration will be clear and present.

Anywhere, anytime also means any type of collaboration. Collaboration solutions cannot be deployed on stand-alone platforms – they need to be viewed as a framework for integrating multiple capabilities, native to multiple applications. By the end of 2020, 80% of SMBs will benefit from embedded collaboration and for high-growth, innovative businesses, effective, e¬fficient collaboration will be in their organizational DNA to deliver decision agility, business agility and innovation agility.

5. Regardless of the question, analytics will provide an answer.

In 2020, SMBs will see a new attitude and culture that will value and use data as a meaningful way to gauge overall performance and specific areas of interest at a glance will become prevalent. SMBs will demand Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) as a standard part of application architectures as well as a meta-directory of KPIs that all applications can access. It may finally become possible for SMBs and Midmarket firms measure and optimize for elusive objectives like Return on Marketing Investment, Optimal Pricing, Cost of Acquisition and Lifetime Customer Value. By the end of 2020, 15% of SMBs will be highly data driven and 30% will be using cloud-based prescriptive analytics and 50% of midmarket firms will demand AI-driven analytical platforms to proactively prescribe actions that will mitigate risk / increase opportunity within the predicted future.

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Dell announces On Demand, PowerOne, expands PCaaS, focuses on customer advocacy, invests in SMB

Dell was always been relevant for small business and education markets but is now in an exalted position to stake its claim within the enterprise segment and the new battleground – the midmarket firms. In this Techaisle Take analysis I cover Dell Technologies’ On Demand offering, Progress Made Real initiative, expanded PCaaS for SMBs, focus on customer advocacy, continued SMB investment, new converged infrastructure PowerOne, Unified workspace solution and channel partner strategy.

Dell Technologies Summit in Austin was a showcase of bold announcements and understated commitments to corporate social good and customer advocacy. Dell has certainly transformed in the last five years. It has moved along a path from a PC company to end-to-end solutions provider to a digital transformation partner to a place where it is driving its own transformation through the power of analytics with a goal of delivering customer success. Dell has catapulted itself into relevancy for the next decade.

In 1984, when Michael Dell founded his namesake company in his college dorm, I was a freshly minted engineering college graduate working through my first job at a tractor manufacturing plant in India. My first interaction with Dell was in early nineties when an India-based firm was awarded a contract manufacturing deal. I was then running the secretariat of a computer manufacturer’s association in India. Since then not only technology has progressed but both the consumers and commercial buyers have evolved. Dell has not only moved with the times but sometimes has been ahead of the curve. One such “ahead of the curve” initiative is “Progress Made Real for 2030” announced at the summit.

Progress Made Real for 2030 stands on four pillars:

  1. Advancing sustainability: for example, one-for-one recycling, that is, every product that Dell sells it will recycle an equivalent product
  2. Cultivating inclusion: committing to 50 percent of Dell workforce to comprise of women by 2030, 40 percent of managers of people will be women, 25 percent of US workforce will be Hispanic or African American
  3. Transforming lives: for example, Dell’s work with Tata Trusts, with a goal to reach 40m under-privileged people from the current 11m
  4. Upholding ethics and privacy

Enabled by a combination of pervasive use of technology and vastly-expanded solution options, the technology user and buyer community has become more diverse in both composition and focus. Business decision makers (BDMs) are not content to await IT’s blessing to pursue technology options that align with business needs: an increasingly tech-savvy business user/management community plays an ever-expanding role in assessing technology options, and even in specifying solutions and managing their rollout. At the same time, the solution options themselves have expanded to become more accessible to non-IT staff. Some technologies, such as analytics and IoT, directly address business management questions. Others, notably cloud, provide support and delivery options that give business units the option of avoiding IT oversight. Even core IT functions, such as storage management (especially with respect to Big Data) and security (particularly with regard to cloud and mobility) are reshaped by system requirements imposed by BDM needs. It is not out of place, as an analyst, to say that Dell has been a little late in recognizing and pursuing the shifting patterns. Regardless, Dell has been a believer of technology democratization and has begun a concerted effort to manage technology chaos with a differentiated customer strategy and drive the ability to scale human capacity. These are very lofty and moonshot initiatives. But then Dell is a founder-led company whose founder is skilled at assembling the proverbial ship piece-by-piece and navigating it through uncharted and occasionally choppy waters.

Dell Technologies differentiated customer strategy is built on four key points:

  1. Driving social impact with purpose-driven relationships
  2. Creating customer advocates for life by honoring customer loyalty and delivering success
  3. Making it easy to do business with Dell by executing on basics
  4. Unlocking customer value by leading with insights

Dell’s customer advocacy team is constantly analyzing 9.5K social conversations per day, looks at 33K customer verbatims in addition to its 16K sales team members sharing feedback. Dell’s plan to delivering a seamless and simplified customer experience is not very different from recently announced customer lifecycle experience, aka race track, by Cisco. End goals are the same, approaches are slightly different. But the fact that all suppliers are landing at the same end-state is significant on how the technology industry has evolved.

Perhaps the most important announcement at Dell Tech Summit was its On Demand offering. Dell went to great lengths to explain its genesis and development but it is clear that it a direct response to the growing popularity of HPE GreenLake. Regardless of HPE commanding the media-waves Dell has jumped headlong into the as-a-service, post-transactional market with Dell Technologies On Demand Autonomous Infrastructure available via DT Cloud. Dell is prepared to deliver solutions today and at scale. And it is also within reach of midmarket businesses. Key takeaways of Dell’s On Demand solutions are:

  1. On-demand, consumption-based and as-a-service solutions for on-prem infrastructure / services is customizable, integrated across the full-stack for Dell's end-to-end portfolio from edge to core to cloud
  2. Dell widened the product of their Flex On Demand offerings for PowerEdge servers and their new PowerOne autonomous converged infrastructure solution (announced at Dell Technologies Summit). With this announcement, Dell’s consumption-based on-demand solutions now cover PCs, servers, storage, CI/HCI, IoT, datacenters, networking and data protection. Ideally applicable for firms with a minimum $250K 3-year contract-value but end-points including PCaaS is available for SMBs (at lower committed contract values).
  3. Dell knows how to create simplicity within complexity. Businesses can customize and select their on-demand path from:
    1. Payment: Pay As You Grow, Flex On Demand, Data Center Utility
    2. Services: ProSupport, ProDeploy, Managed services
    3. Portfolio: Edge, Endpoint, Core, Cloud
  4. On Demand offering provides two options for channel partners to participate:
    1. Referral fee – 7%-10% on committed contract value including tier credit program benefit. Dell owns and manages the customer. The partner still plays an active role in managing the customer relationship. The referral fee model positions the partner to address the customer’s solution needs, and enhance their customer relationship without having to take on the usage and credit risk associated with offering a pay for use solution.
    2. Resell – Partner owns and manages the customer. Allows partner to uplift base usage charge and earn program benefits including rebates, marketing development funds, and tier credit

Pay As You Grow is for committed workloads. The metering coverage in Flex On Demand includes processor, memory, and GB consumed. Data Center Utility adds metering based on VM and per port. The solution is still in its early stages and Dell views this as a journey rather than a destination. But the offering, in early stages, is finding acceptance at many of Dell’s customers. Scalar (a CDW company) has been configuring on-demand solutions with unlimited scalability for major Hollywood studios.

Relative to the cost of conventional hardware and software, on-demand cloud solutions are generally more cost effective than equivalent CAPEX-based on-premise alternatives, and its OPEX-based billing model works well for cash-constrained SMBs and midmarket firms. Cloud’s ‘as-a-Service’ delivery model reduces the need for individual SMBs and midmarket firms to attract and retain specialized IT staff; scale up as the organization grows, and cloud provides SMBs and midmarket firms that are often unable to maintain refresh cycles with ‘always-on’ access to current technology.

SMBs are not being left out from Dell’s strategy. In fact, small and midmarket businesses are two of the fastest growing segments for Dell. Its small business advisory has witnessed tremendous success but the team is not resting on its laurels. It aims to add 100 more small business advisors in the next one year. Each advisor goes through 160 hours of in-person classroom training. Dell has built a progressive hierarchical advisory structure, based on “needs complexity” to help SMBs learn, identify, buy and deploy technology. Small businesses with specific and simple requirements can also use Eva – a chatbot – to help guide through product selection and purchase.

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