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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.

Business outcomes-based customer success-driven pricing is imminent – ready or not

In 2017, 11% of small businesses and 14% of midmarket firms preferred business outcome-based, customer success-driven pricing from their channel partners and cloud solution providers. In 2021 the percentages have doubled to 22% and 28%, respectively. On the managed services side of the equation, SMBs have a very definitive view of managed services pricing. From a current payment method on a per-device/per-seat basis, they want to transition to a company-wide, fixed recurring fee. This type of payment takes the uncertainty out of the picture. However, similar to outcome-based cloud solution deployment pricing, 29% of SMBs prefer incentive pricing tied to performance levels guaranteed by the MSPs. Data also shows that 78% of SMBs want to work with suppliers who can connect business challenges with technology and design, architect, deploy and manage technology solutions that deliver business outcomes. The data speaks for itself. Contracts will need to specify the anticipated benefits resulting from technology implementations. Supplier rewards, at least above some nominal run-rate level, will need to be tied to achievement (or extended via over-achievement) of these objectives.

Writing is on the wall. Business outcomes-based, customer success-driven pricing is imminent.

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Dell Technologies Partner Program – Evolution not Revolution – Consistency to Drive Continuous Improvement

Rola Dagher is the new global channel chief at Dell Technologies. Proverbially speaking, changing of the guard brings in its wake anticipation of partner program changes. Because of the success achieved, Dell Technologies does not feel compelled to make significant modifications to its partner program. On the contrary, continuous fine-tuning of the program has helped Dell drive channel partner growth. While the core tenets of Simple, Profitable, Predictable remain, Dell plans to target consistency and constant validation with some refinements. For example, Dell is simplifying the partner preferred program (now to be named Power Up), launching a new platform to track earnings, MDFs, MyRewards with lower latency and cloud-like functionality of partner portal increasing investment earn-outs with potential to cross-sell and upsell. Dell had launched MyRewards in 2017 to capture the mindshare of the channel sales reps. The system awarded $1 value in points for cash to redeem for products and travel. 2017 also saw Dell launch its digital marketing platform (which has grown enormously), introduce Activation Packs for smaller partners with pre-approved MDF dollars, and develop compensation to channel partners on contract value for the cloud (consumption models).

Dell and its partners have been pleased with the channel strategy, and, as a result, Dell does not plan to change course. While every other IT supplier is planning for channel transformation, Dell's channel leadership believes in "evolution, not revolution." The enterprise partner preferred and commercial preferred programs (for targeted account lists) have been successful, yet they were complex to follow and execute. Learning from the experience, Dell has simplified the program to make it even more impactful for Partner of Record (PoR) partners. An identified list of accounts where partners are already working with Dell competitors; Dell sellers commit themselves to joint account planning to shift the customer to Dell. Partner competitiveness, better sales engagement with clarity of seller-partner offering, and robust programs on competitive takeout and customer acquisition have helped Dell and its partners. All part of the evolution strategy.

Until last year, Dell had struggled to simplify deal registration, both due to the task and technology transition's inherent complexity. Dell is therefore launching a better partner experience portal. Regardless of the complexity, due to relentless execution and commitment, Dell's partners made giant strides. There is no question that Dell has a complete product portfolio in the IT industry. This position has significant potential benefits but can lose impact due to the need for partners to navigate an immensely complex set of offerings. Dell deserves plaudits to recognize this challenge and respond with partner programs that mute the various solutions' roar and enable partners to focus on working effectively – and profitably – with their customers.

Channel partners are the custodians of customer needs. Armed with knowledge, training, and experience, partners are and can be in a great position to guide, design, architect, deploy and manage technology solutions for end-customers to work through the crisis and the future. Despite the headwinds, channel partners are quickly adopting both tactical and strategic approaches to solving customer problems to deliver customer success. Partners are the beacons that customers are looking for – partners who listen, share pain points, advise, and are responsive. It may be the best of times to develop a transformative strategy that is customer-in rather than product-out.

To help frame understanding of go-to-market investments, Techaisle asked its panel of channel partners to identify which of a handful of statements they believed to be accurate for their business. Data shows that the channel is in a longer-term transition. There is a need for sales staff to react to increasing customer's technical knowledge by being more innovative is essential and vital for their businesses. There is also broad and growing agreement that line-of-business selling is rising as a proportion of all sales and that "the as-a-Service model has significantly changed what a partner looks for in sales and business development professionals." These findings indicate that channel sales staff can't rely primarily on fulfillment-centric deals. Instead, they need to demonstrate a real understanding of customer business issues and how technology can deliver meaningful business benefits.

Dell is working on its partner training and sellers to transition from product to solution selling, from pricing-led to outcome-driven strategy. It seems to be yielding results. For example, in Q3, over 60% of Dell's new customer activation was through the channel. An increase in incentives to 20% for flex-on-demand offerings (for both referral and resell) lead to US$1.3B in offers in as-a-service. Dell is working to enable partner participation with Project APEX and access to Dell's as-a-service portfolio. The first offering in its portfolio will be Dell Technologies Storage as a Service (STaaS), delivering a pay-per-use model and elastic capacity and deployed on-prem. It will launch in the US for Dell's direct business in the first half of the fiscal year. Dell will share an update later this fiscal on partner availability with Project APEX, including STaaS. The key enabler of Project APEX is the Dell Technologies Cloud Console. This single web interface enables both customers and partners to manage cloud workloads and services. The Cloud Console's initial rollout will allow customers to browse a marketplace of IaaS products, services, and solutions. For partners, Dell is working on a roadmap and timeline for the console to be API eligible, allowing partners to integrate with their marketplaces.

Techaisle data shows that transformation partners are targeting revenue growth over quarterly, short-term incentives. But incentives seem to work wonders for Dell. Channel partner interest in fees and activity-based incentives are driven primarily by firms with traditional channel business models. SIs and VARs, who form most Dell partners, consider this type of stimulus most important to their businesses. But firms developing IP prefer solution development funds (which has been introduced by VMware). Channel partners focused on commodity products may not capitalize on deal registration, and only large partners would have access to staff/embedded headcounts. Rebates may be popular, but they do not increase margin much and often depress street price instead. Fees and activity-based incentives support solutions that require very long sales cycles, which would not be as beneficial in a rapid-turnaround niche. Solution development funds can be instrumental in building an ecosystem around a platform product but may take a long time to generate tangible results. SPIFs are generally helpful to shaping sales behavior but can be expensive, require effective targeting and management, and only work where there is buy-in from the partner business's owner. Within the overall channel partner ecosystem, 50% prefer fees and activity-based incentives, and 43% want solution development fund. Staffing and embedded headcount are preferred by 37% of partners.

It is evolution and not revolution. Those expecting Dell to make market-shattering transformative changes will likely be disappointed. Dell is working towards simplifying operations, educating partners, and enabling better digital marketing. Yes, there is a lot more Dell needs to do. Recent work by Techaisle shows that the need for updated understandings of channel management imperatives has expanded beyond the tactical questions of sales or management metrics or marketing activities. The pandemic has been an accelerator. Digital transformation provides enormous opportunities for the channel. It offers a means of establishing a customer relationship that secures ongoing/escalating account revenue and influence, improving the business outlook of channel firms who can capitalize on customer need for digital transformation support. For now, Dell's channel partner program has both its feet firmly planted on solid ground. Dell does not want and does need to take flight. Instead, it plans to and should continue its fight to remain valuable and loyal to the channel partner community.

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Wildix – an SMB-focused UCC firm you have never heard of – but you should

Founded by brothers Steve and Dimitri Osler in 2005 in Italy, Wildix created the industry's first browser-based Unified Communications and Collaboration (UCC) solution for small and medium enterprises with between 50 and 1000 employees. Deriving 100% revenue from its 1000+ certified channel partners, Wildix grew by 32% YoY with MRR at +274%. Its UCC solution is accessible with a simple click from a browser or via a smartphone App. The solution with webRTC technology has multiple integrations, native encryption, and proprietary hardware to deliver high-quality sound and video.

Techaisle's SMB and the midmarket survey show that Unified communications and collaboration are an IT priority for 68% of SMBs in the 50-1000 employee size segment. Unified communications adoption is likely to increase by 129% in 2021. Although there has been a high percentage of adoption and usage of individual components of communications and messaging, the adoption has been low when combined in one service. It has been a domain of midmarket businesses. Unified communications within small businesses has many inhibitors. At the top of the list are overall cost, lack of IT staff to manage, and lack of interoperability with other on-premise and cloud systems. Besides, similar to most other daily-use technologies, unified communications adoption suffers from internal staff resistance to learn and use. Adopting UCC solutions, like the adoption of most technology solutions, starts with a point of business pain: how can suppliers address an issue that impedes SMB business success.

Wildix is in the right market segment, with the right solution, at the right time. However, WebRTC is not a rarity anymore. Wildix may have been the pioneer, but almost all communication solution providers use WebRTC, including Wildix's main US competitors, Vonage and RingCentral. Wildix focuses on its positioning, not based on products, pricing, and features, oriented towards SMB business issues. It is a conscious shift from being features-oriented to value-oriented, which means understanding business problems, designing profitable solutions, and delivering the value that matches the SMB customer's business issues.

As a result, Wildix is becoming a sales-oriented unified communications solution and has created "boosters" for each step of an SMB's buying journey with a mission to sell growth, revenue, and productivity. All three are the top SMB business issues as per Techaisle's latest global survey. Wildix has over fifty integrations, including sales solutions such as Salesforce, Zoho, SugarCRM, Microsoft Dynamics, Teams, Poly, Freshdesk, HubSpot, InfusionSoft, SAP, and Zendesk.

Over the last year, Wildix has "invested 125,000 person-hours of over 80 developers, QA engineers, and UX specialists in launching new and enhanced products to improve its positioning in the market. WebRTC KITE, Wizyconf, Wizywebinar, x-bees, and x-caracal form the centerpiece of Wildix's sales-oriented UCC solution. The objective is to help SMBs convert strangers into customers turning any website into the core of an SMB's sales efforts.

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Techaisle Channel Partner Research – Six Key Observations for 2021

Techaisle's Channel partner ecosystem research contains a wealth of information, a great value to partner management teams looking to validate their partner program investments' alignment with real-world conditions, preferences, and requirements. The research contains reliable insight drawn from over 2000 channel partners survey (leveraging network of 225K channel members) with channel decision-makers from firms representing five significant channel types businesses to reflect an outlook shaped by the pandemic and its impact on both the channel and its customers. There are six observations, though, that we believe will help readers to better grasp the implications of many of research findings and where changes are afoot in 2021.

  1. Focus on efficiency and control

  2. Hybrid everywhere

  3. Data and systems of insight

  4. Cloud and the transformation of business

  5. Digital transformation as a key to growth/viability

  6. Relationships defined by ecosystems, not discrete connections

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