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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.

WW SMB customer-facing cloud applications adoption driving digitalization

Customer intimacy matters to SMBs. It is also a challenge. As per Techaisle's study of N=5505 SMBs in the US, Europe, Asia/Pacific, and Latin America, 77% of SMBs say that their business success depends upon a strong relationship with their customers, providing goods and services highly customized to their needs, and being responsive to their needs. Three facts stand out – customer relationship, customized delivery, and responsiveness. And neither of the three can be achieved without the use of relevant technology.

Every SMBs' survival is dependent upon customers. At the start of the year, Techaisle had predicted that 2020 would see a ground-breaking year when customer intimacy (acquisition, retention, experience & satisfaction) will drive IT adoption and business process evolution. We had said that by the end of 2020, for 45% of SMBs, the need for customer intimacy will drive digital transformation, and 76% of new SaaS adoption will be customer-focused. As a result of the investments, 15% of small businesses and 24% of midmarket firms will have a top-notch customer-facing digital presence. Pandemic has surpassed the predictions.

Recent global SMB research from Techaisle shows that within US small businesses, customer-focused SaaS business application adoption is likely to increase by 49% in 2020, rising by another 33% in 2021. Similarly, within the US midmarket firms, the adoption is expected to reach 82% in 2020, with another 74% planning to add adjacent customer-focused applications in 2021. Europe SMB research shows similar trends. 58% of European small businesses are adopting customer-focused SaaS applications in 2020, which will increase to 77% in 2021.

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Delivering digital transformation benefits to SMB and mid-market customers

79% of US SMBs are either in the planning stage for digital transformation or have a formal strategy but only 19% are actively following through. Small businesses are behind midmarket firms. 29% of small businesses have no ongoing digital transformation strategy as compared to 9% of midmarket firms. As a result, there is a growing digital divide in the SMB segment and most SMBs need guidance in building a vision that involves separating digital transformation components into two nested and complementary ladders, one focused on technology, and second, focused on business outcomes.

The figure below presents a single-image depiction of these twin ladders of digital transformation. The bottom set of steps is labeled “the technology ladder,” and stretches from the deployment of modern, flexible infrastructure to advanced IT-enabled capabilities. The building blocks that are needed to establish an infrastructure that is capable of supporting digital transformation include mobility, virtualization, hyper-converged infrastructure, and other technologies essential to provisioning advanced IT services. These building block technologies are an essential foundation for digital transformation but deliver modest discrete value. The point automation solutions positioned at the base of the business outcomes ladder provide rapid but limited benefit through substitution and augmentation.

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Unified Workspace is important for SMB remote workforce productivity

Techaisle global survey found that for 42% of SMBs’ improving employee productivity is a priority and 43% are using digitalization initiatives for employee empowerment and over one-third are digitally transforming to support employees. There are many factors involved in driving productivity, including management approaches, processes and practices, and collaboration/synergy across activities and functions. But technology is a key contributor to productivity – directly, and through its ability to positively affect processes and internal coordination. Techaisle research shows that these benefits don’t accrue to all SMBs equally: SMBs that are advanced in their approach to IT (“Enterprise IT”) are about twice as likely to achieve the productivity-enabled benefits than lowest-performing firms, and 30% more likely to realize productivity benefits than the average SMB.

The statistics quoted above show that technology is seen as a source of productivity-enhancing capabilities – meaning, in some way, that technology has “permission” from the business to help drive higher levels of remote workforce performance. However, improved performance requires a strategy, and in technology matters, this strategy is being driven by SMB IT staff. It is therefore important that the SMB IT function be responsive to business requirements, deploying requested technology and delivering user training. There is another role, though, that SMB IT staff management can and should play: focusing on technologies that are proven to contribute to workforce enablement, deploying these technologies within the organization and working with business staff to ensure that the benefits inherent in the technologies are recognized and captured. This advances the IT function from simply responding to requests to providing leadership in enabling the SMB workforce.

Techaisle’s research has identified a number of solutions that are seen as driving productivity within SMBs and midmarket firms – approaches that IT managers can and should explore as they seek ways to connect the potential of IT to demonstrable increases in productivity. Three of these solutions - unified workspace, collaboration, and mobility, are especially important in a technology-dependent economy, and each contributes meaningfully to enabling the workforce.

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Remote work is escalating need for connected digital workplace platform within SMB and Midmarket

Distributed, remote, mobile – these are the realities of today’s workforce. The workspace isn’t defined by windows and walls and common area couches. For millions of SMB employees, the workspace isn’t a physical location – it’s a virtual space defined by access from multiple screens which are used from multiple locations. Consider these data points from Techaisle’s SMB survey research. Pre-pandemic, 24% of SMB global workforce was mobile. Today, the number has jumped to 51% within small businesses and 47% in midmarket firms. These numbers are down from a high of 78% during country lockdowns. The category, “mobile workers”, is increasingly indistinguishable from “workers.” This means new ways of working, taking advantage of new technologies and capabilities to build an agile, mobile, secure work-style enabled by cloud, remote work, security and collaboration. When working remotely, 47% of SMB mobile workforce are using notebook to access corporate data, 9% tablets and 44% smartphones. If the office of an SMB is defined by devices, workplace is defined by the ability to work from wherever those devices and their users are located. As a result, 64% of SMBs are increasing investments in remote work solutions, and survey data shows there will likely be a whopping 380% increase in digital workplace adoption in the next one year within small businesses and 48% increase within midmarket firms.

The key focus is about the ‘future of work’: workflow, workspaces, workforce and the ways that an increasingly-connected world can support pursuit of previously-unattainable objectives for the SMBs and midmarket firms. Their most important technology-related effort is on connectedness – connected cloud, edge, applications, security, collaboration, workspaces and insights. Cloud and mobility are navigation routes but the always-on, everywhere-connected unified platform is the destination. These SMBs are looking for benefits arising from the interconnection of all types of resources: platforms/environments, information, devices and applications. Depth discussions and quantitative survey research with SMBs and midmarket firms points to a trend that is playing out across seven key areas as shown in the chart below:

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