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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.

Artificial Intelligence – visibly absent in small businesses but notably present in midmarket firms

The IT industry is abuzz with discussion of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and blockchain. Both AI and blockchain are currently aspirational within SMBs and Midmarket firms. It is not because these firms are not open to the technologies but they have limited understanding of deployment processes.

Regardless of the aspirational nature, both the technologies are showing a very promising adoption trends within midmarket firms. Techaisle’s survey research of 1100 US firms shows that 26% of midmarket firms are currently using AI and another 28% plan to deploy within the next one year. If they stick to the plan, by mid-2020, over 50% of firms will have at least either begun trials or accomplished full deployment of AI within their organizations.

Similarly, blockchain adoption shows an important trend. Although, less than 1/5th of midmarket firms are currently using the technology, a full 40% do plan to adopt blockchain within the year. In fact, when the two datasets are combined, data shows that 42% are currently experimenting and another 42% are developing protypes. Drilling down into the data we find that 26% of midmarket firms are seriously investigating the possibility of implementing blockchain.

In contrast to midmarket’s current and planned adoption of artificial intelligence, only 5% of small businesses are currently using artificial intelligence and 10% of small businesses which are planning to deploy AI are conducting trials.

Not only is the adoption trend different between small and midmarket businesses, the expected benefits and application usages also differ. For example, 38% of small businesses believe that use of AI in marketing / advertising and 32% in improving customer experiences will be integral to their business success whereas 43% of midmarket firms believe that use of AI in process automation and 42% in improving analytics will be integral to their business success. Nevertheless, one-third of both small and midmarket firms believe that use of AI in cybersecurity will be essential for improved security.

Identical percentage, 54% of US small and midmarket businesses agree that artificial intelligence refers to a system consisting of a series of algorithms that can learn from constant inputs. 45% of small businesses and 46% of midmarket firms aspire to use AI for automating IT and a similar percentage plan to initially use AI for non-core processes and applications.

Artificial intelligence adoption within SMBs is at a stage where cloud was a decade ago. Visibly absent within small businesses but notably present within midmarket firms. However, it is not a question of when AI adoption will take firm root but how. The responsibility lies with the vendors and other suppliers for guidance, deployment alacrity and outcomes.

 

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Buyer journey marketing framework – SMB and Midmarket

Today, there are several different frameworks that are being used. One of the most common is a six-step process from awareness to purchase. Techaisle’s view is that a buyer-centric marketing framework should consist of four stages which can be easily understood and actionable. Techaisle’s four-stage framework begins from the stage when a business need is generated within a firm and search begins for a technology solution. These four stages are:

  1. Identification of business requirements / needs,
  2. Determination of technology requirements to meet business needs,
  3. Identification of potential solutions and suppliers,
  4. Selection of solution and supplier

In each of the above stages it is important for the marketer to understand the decision-making unit, the decision makers and their care-abouts.

Consider these facts from Techaisle’s SMB and midmarket buyer’s journey research:

  • 275% increase in number of decision makers in the last decade
  • 87% of firms search for partners to help simplify technology
  • 74% of IT purchases are triggered by an acute business pain point
  • 70% of the buyer’s journey is complete before first meaningful contact with a potential supplier
  • 56% of buyers are millennials and Gen-Zs are not far behind
  • 24% of firms use six or more information sources
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Midmarket digital transformation – Aspiration versus Implementation

In 2018, 41 percent of US midmarket firms had set their ambitions on a “Holistic” digital transformation strategy, meaning that these firms believed that Internet and digital technologies impacted every aspect of their business and should be a core part of their organizational strategy. In 2019, midmarket firms have tempered their ambitions and only 27 percent believe in holistic strategy. Nevertheless, the percent of midmarket firms with “Inclusive” digital transformation has remained unchanged at 43 percent. These firms believe that digital transformation while important is still a subset of strategic planning but not seen as critical business-wide. Both the 2018 and 2019 surveys were conducted with 876 midmarket firms.

Good news is that 17 percent of midmarket firms have either completed or have substantially completed their digital transformation journey. Another 46 percent are focusing on digitally transforming their businesses in the next 1-2 years. Highest planned adoption at 41 percent is coming from high-growth midmarket firms.

So what changed in the last 1-2 years?

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2019 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 2019. In its detailed SMB survey Techaisle investigated 21 different technology areas and several technology sub-categories, 23 different IT challenges and 21 different business issues. This is the 9th 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 1.2M B2B IT professionals spread across 30+ countries.

There are some interesting differences in IT priorities as compared to 2018. IoT and VR/AR fell below top 10 (but still within top 15) and replaced by Voice/Digital assistants as well as Open source solutions. Across all regions (US, Europe, Asia/Pacific, Latin America) digital unified workspace and software-defined are becoming a priority for both SMBs and midmarket firms. Security many places within the top 10 IT challenges in different forms – cloud security, mobile device security, data protection/recovery/business continuity – with Cloud security as the top IT challenge.

Global SMB & Midmarket IT spend (excluding telecom services) in 2019 is projected to be US$665B and corresponding cloud spend is expected to be US$115B. Research also found that IT budget growths in 2019 will be the highest in Asia/Pacific (6.2%) and lowest in Latin America (1.8%). While IT budget constraint is not the top challenge within SMBs in the US and Asia/Pacific, it is the top concern in Latin America.

Managing data growth is continuing to pose challenge for SMBs and when probed further Techaisle research found that only 11% of SMBs and 29% of midmarket firms have evidence-driven culture with data-driven decision-making business processes in which data defines requirements or opportunities and management then determines the best option for moving forward. In the US, 17% of small business and 34% of midmarket firms consider themselves to be innovative.

2019 Top 10 SMB business issues, IT priorities, IT challenges

2019 top10 smb it priorities business issues techaisle infographics low res

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