• COVID-19 IMPACT

    COVID-19 IMPACT

    on SMB IT Spend Growth Rates
    FULL ANALYSIS
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    2020 Top 10 SMB Business Issues, IT Priorities, IT Challenges
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    SMB Path to Digitalization - Prologue and Epilogue
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    Technology adoption trends by IT sophistication
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    US SMB & Midmarket SaaS Adoption
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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.

COVID-19 Impact on Global SMB and Midmarket IT Spend

The Covid-19 threat to the global economy and to the IT industry is potentially as bad as, or worse than, the health impact. A global workforce that cannot collaborate effectively cannot deliver products that rely on timely supply of components from far-flung suppliers, and cannot create and implement complex solutions. The necessary isolation used to contain Covid-19 has a devastating effect on economic activity. Manufacturing does not work when people don’t. Chinese exports fell by 17.2% in January/February of this year. The impact on solutions is harder to quantify, but may well be even greater. However, with the slowing number of new cases in China, 80% of manufacturing plants have restarted with about 60% capacity which may restore supply-chain balance by addressing supply-side constraints. The freight (including trucking) and air-cargo routes between China and Asia is returning to normal but China-Europe and China-US routes may be impacted until the middle-to-end of Q2. 

Globally SMBs IT spend in 2019 was $662B with a projected spend of US$700B in 2020, a growth rate of 5.6%. It is natural, in the current economic situation to pare down these spends and slice expectations (perhaps deeply) based on beginning-of-the-year projections. As compared to the original SMB IT spend growth rate, the projected growth rates may drop from a low of 29% to a high of 84% depending upon Techaisle’s optimistic to gloomy scenarios, resulting in revised growth rate ranges from 4.0% to 0.9%. 

SMBs are a good indicator to measure the pulse of economy in any country as they constitute over 90 percent of global businesses. They are intricately linked to large businesses, government departments and educational institutions as both suppliers and customers. A large percentage of consumers rely on SMBs for products and services that they consume within their households. Technology plays an important part in daily operations of SMBs across all departmental functions including sales, marketing, operations, finance and customer support. SMBs form the essential thread of the economic fabric of any country and to a great extent their fortunes and investment capabilities are dependent on the economic situations and policies of the countries where they operate. In a downturn and uncertainty the investment capacity of SMBs is deeply affected. Techaisle conducted a global survey of SMBs to assess their investment intent which combined with Techaisle global SMB IT spend data presents four scenarios - Ideal, Optimistic, Pessimistic, Gloomy. 

Download to read full analysis and projected small business and midmarkt IT spend growth rate scenarios.

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HPE ProLiant MicroServer Gen 10 Plus focuses on SMB Digital Transformation

On 11th March 2020, HPE announced its latest Small Business Solutions, leading with its next-generation HPE ProLiant MicroServer Gen10 Plus featuring remote management and security capabilities, with a choice of Intel® Pentium or Intel Xeon E processors. Solutions tailored for small businesses includes Office in a Box, Scalable File and Backup as well as Edge to Cloud for simplified access to cloud services.

Tough economic times bring investment decisions into sharp focus. The result is typically lower investment levels. It also sharpens medium- and longer-term priorities. That leads to smart investments. But also, investments made at this time become longer term drivers of investment for adjacent areas. Techaisle believes that the recent economic implosion acts as a catalyst for such action and change among SMBs. In a digital economy, SMBs are able to expand reach and engagement with customers and prospects, while also locating and integrating with suppliers to improve scale-out options. 79% of SMBs are on the road to digital transformation. The roadmap to successful digital transformation begins with the creation of a sound physical infrastructure - the ‘building blocks’ or ‘foundations’ of business infrastructure. Core infrastructure devices need to be kept in sync with the requirements of digital transformation initiatives; servers, storage, networking and security need to advance with the needs of the organization. The most advanced and transformative SMB firms are looking to improve IT sustainability – their ability to effectively manage IT delivery into the future – customer intimacy, operational excellence and IT’s speed and agility. And they are seeing better business outcomes than those which are not fully committed to the core physical infrastructure modernization.

HPE solutions lay the foundation for effective, agile and secure modernization.

First Impression

HPE ProLiant MicroServer Gen 10 Plus and companion offerings should be no-brainer for small businesses and channel partners. Techaisle data shows that 83% of SMBs consider technology contributing to business success but they also find technology to be kinetic, complex and risky. Regardless, 31% of small businesses want to modernize IT infrastructure and HPE offerings help in overcoming cost of implementation (34%) and security concern (32%) inhibitors of embarking on IT modernization initiative. Techaisle data also shows that a growing percent pf SMBs are using both on-prem and cloud servers, but hybrid is where they are headed. Workloads from public clouds are transitioning to hybrid clouds with 70% of small businesses are either implementing or planning to use basic hybrid cloud with workloads assigned to different cloud/on-prem environments. Techaisle segmentation data reveals that there is a higher demand for on-prem solutions within SMBs that are intermediate and mature cloud adopters as well as those who are in the basic and advanced IT maturity segments. HPE ProLiant MicroServer Gen10 Plus and Office in a box can also be easily adopted and deployed by the Pre-IT maturity segments and passive cloud followers.

HPE ProLiant MicroServer Gen10 Plus

About the size of a typical hardcover book (4.6-inch x 9.65-inch x 9.65-inch) and as quiet as a library (36db) the server packs enough power and storage for a small business prompting HPE to call it “small and Mighty”. The form factor size is volumetrically 3X less than that of Dell PowerEdge R240. As-a-service server pricing starts from at less than US$20 per month. The list price varies from US$$709 to US$899, for Entry to Performance level configurations.

Three key features of HPE ProLiant MicroServer Gen 10 Plus worth calling out are:

  1. HPE-exclusive silicon root of trust that provides 360-degree protection, detection and recovery from malicious cyberattacks. Techaisle SMB security adoption survey data shows that for 53% of SMBs cyberattack security is either the most critical or among the top three critical issues facing their organizations but 78% are not confident that they can recover from a cybersecurity incident. With HPE silicon root of trust they may have one less issue to worry about.
  2. HPE ILO 5 that delivers server health and operations insights with secure remote monitoring and management. With an average of 3.8 IT staff within upper-small businesses, SMBs need help in remote monitoring of IT infrastructure. Manageability is an important solution selection criterion for SMBs which typically have relatively small IT workforce but expansive IT/digital transformation goals. In this environment, it is essential that solutions work seamlessly and without a great deal of hands-on management.
  3. HPE InfoSight for Server that predicts and prevents IT disruptions before business operations are impacted. In the context of growth, cloud is seen as a means of facilitating expanded reach. And SMB cloud adopters are looking for capabilities that contribute to growth: 79% report that cloud enables them to be more agile in their business operations. Cloud built on a strong core technology is not only an essential IT infrastructure but it is also an imperative business infrastructure.

Pre-configured small business solutions on HPE ProLiant MicroServer Gen10 Plus

Office in a box: is a pre-configured solution that includes HPE ProLiant MicroSever Gen10 Plus with built-in security, Aruba Instant On (wireless access point), and HPE RDX removable disk system which can be scaled when required. It is ideal for very small businesses, small offices, small workgroups for up to 10 users. Office in a box also comes with Windows ROK (Reseller Option Kit) and storage controller. Pricing starts at US$125 per month. As per Techaisle’s SMB buyers’ journey and technology research data, nearly 2/3rd of small businesses use existing IT budgets and about 1/5th use CAPEX dollars for IT purchases. For these small businesses, HPE has a list prices for Office in a box. For example, a configuration consisting of MicroServer Gen10+, 4 1TB drives, iLO enablement, Next Business Day support, one Aruba WAP (wireless access point), the list price is approximately US$3,500 before discounts. Only 3% of small businesses have full-time IT staff (Source: Techaisle SMB and Midmarket research) and very small businesses manage workloads with a much smaller staff, typically comprised of IT generalists, and have limited infrastructure resources available for exploration. There is a very short line between acquisition and deployment of new technology and they have fewer chips to place on the table, and need to quickly reap return from their investments. Office in a Box is suitable for both segments of small business – with internally-managed-IT and un-managed-IT.

Scalable file and backup: is a pre-configured solution for centralized access to files for easy and secure collaboration. Scalable up to 16TB the solution enables secure onsite backup and recovery. Businesses are heavily invested in IT, with IT-dependent processes throughout their operations. This ubiquitous dependence on technology means that any systems failure will reverberate throughout all of a company’s daily operations. There is no way to disaster-proof against IT failure with insurance. Appropriate investment in IT backup/DRS, security processes, technologies and management strategies are the only ways to capitalize on the productivity benefits of IT without creating exposure to organizational paralysis in the event of a malware invasion, a hacker attack or an employee’s negligence or malfeasance. Techaisle’s SMB and midmarket security adoption trends research shows that 53% of small business and 48% of midmarket firms prefer less than 1 hour of backup recovery time. Not all SMBs have a backup/DRS strategy because they find it either too expensive or worry about security in the cloud or even find a solution too complex. HPE’s pre-configured solution addresses the needs and objections.

Edge to Cloud: is a pre-configured solution for remote office, branch office (ROBO) deployments. The solution includes optional cloud services for connectivity to the core data center.

Techaisle Take

Techaisle believes that the 34% of SMBs that are prioritizing growth are much more likely to thrive in today’s unpredictable economy than those that focus primarily on cost reduction or other ‘business as usual’ objectives. In the digital world, growth is more than simply increasing the top line. Today, growth is important to both expansion and to maintaining viability. Techaisle’s SMB research has found that the need to be more efficient in operations is the single most compelling reason for SMBs to embrace digital transformation. But there have to be points in the system where the capabilities of core infrastructure connect to the promised benefits of digital transformation solutions. The days of using lengthy, detailed cost analyses to justify new IT systems are disappearing in favor of a more agile approach in which businesses are encouraged to try new approaches and to rapidly wind down these initiatives if they do not deliver anticipated benefits. This may sound like a recipe for an out-of-control spending, but there are options that can protect the cost line. HPE ProLiant MicroServer Gen 10 Plus is one such options which is mind-blowing and should be a no-brainer.

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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.

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Accelerating Artificial Intelligence adoption within SMBs and midmarket despite budget constraints

Techaisle’s survey research of 1256 US SMBs shows that 9% of small businesses and 29% of midmarket firms are either currently using artificial intelligence (AI) or are conducting pilots. Comparing data from last year indicates an increase of 80% within small businesses and only 12% increase in midmarket firms. Answer to slower rate of adoption within midmarket firms is present in several follow-up questions. 53% of midmarket firms are finding that AI technology and expertise is too expensive and does not fit within their current budgets. In addition, 42% of midmarket CIOs say that the importance of AI, its benefits and immediate returns are not clear to the executive management thus hindering adoption. As a result, in only 10% of midmarket firms, AI has been designated as a technology priority for internal IT staff. However, of the 36% of midmarket firms that are planning to deploy AI, 31% are conducting trials. This number has nearly doubled from 17% a year ago.

For all of SMBs, data shows that use of AI is among the top 20 on the list of IT priorities for 2020. Cloud, mobility, security, managed services, HCI, unified workspace, SD-WAN, analytics, collaboration and virtualization have higher priorities. This opens up opportunities for channel partners, consultants and AI-technology suppliers to not only evangelize use cases but also build a blueprint for easy understanding, deployment alacrity of AI solutions that can deliver previously unimaginable business outcomes.

The entry point for most SMBs is when AI is embedded in cloud business applications. 25% of small businesses are contemplating using AI for HR and recruiting, a challenge that small business owners constantly face.

Not only is the adoption trend different between small and midmarket businesses, the expected benefits and application usages also differ. 41% of small businesses believe that use of AI in improving customer experience will be integral to their business success whereas 30% of midmarket firms believe that use of AI in fraud analytics and 27% in web/social media analytics will help drive better operational excellence and customer intimacy. For example, a midmarket firm that provides hostel and budget accommodations wanted to deliver analysis and personalized communication to over 500 micro consumer segments. After adopting AI tools from Persado (a marketing language cloud that uses AI-generated language for digital marketing) enabled the company to deliver more precise marketing content resulting in double-digit engagement uplifts and improved customer loyalty.

In fact, survey shows that customer experience improvements and strategic operational excellence are becoming the SMB themes for 2020 and beyond which will likely drive adoption of analytics and AI. 38% of small businesses believe that the use of AI will provide benefits to their customer support, sales/marketing teams as well as assist the entire organization in driving better business strategy. Similarly, 43% of midmarket firms believe that pervasive use of AI could provide benefits to make more informed strategic decisions.

All data and analysis in Techaisle’s upcoming research report SMB and Midmarket Analytics / Artificial Adoption trends.

techaisle us smallbusiness ai adoption trends 450

techaisle us midmarket ai adoption trends 450

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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