2023 Top 10 SMB Business Issues, IT Priorities, IT Challenges


    2023 Top 10 Channel Partner Business Challenges, Marketing Priorities


    2023 SMB & Midmarket Security Adoption Trends


    2023 SMB & Midmarket Cloud Adoption


    2023 Channel Partner Trends


    Networked, Engaged, Extended, Hybrid




    Influence map & care-abouts


    Connected Business


    SMB & Midmarket Managed Services Adoption


    SMB & Midmarket Analytics & Artificial Intelligence Adoption


    SMB Path to Digitalization


    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.

New Emphasis Behind Cisco SMB Strategy

On 2nd of March, Cisco made three new product and service announcements for the small and mid-market business segments. With these announcements, Cisco is continuing to show its commitment and focus for empowering the SMB segment and enabling its partner community to efficiently and effectively serve such market.

These three new announcements are a new platform for SMB collaboration (UC300 & BE 3000); a program to empower partners with the resale of WebEX solutions; and improved sales support to the SMB partner community with the Partner Advisor. These offerings are immediately available in the US and UK, and will gradually roll out in other European countries as Cisco completes the localization activities.

SMB-tailored products

The Cisco UC300 series is a very important step towards empowering small businesses to have a voice of their own, literally. Priced at US$165 per user, UC300 series can support up to 24 users and provides one single platform for voicemail, wireless, auto attendant, remote access, and mobile links. We feel this is an important and affordable platform for many of the small businesses who are still sitting on the fence as far as having a well connected communication and collaboration system among its employees. It is also extremely suitable for those small businesses which have grown organically and have multiple communication devices and have either fully or partially deployed VoIP systems.

For higher end small business users and the lower end of the mid-market businesses, Cisco announced its Business Edition 3000 which can support up to 300 users and is priced at US$100 per user. The platform not only provides capabilities for a single number, soft phones, auto attendant, click to call, mobility link, but also is able to connect up to 10 different sites.

Technologies such as collaboration and web conferencing are increasingly becoming important to SMBs to satisfy their priority to make employees more productive. As SMBs tighten budgets for items such as travel, such collaboration and conferencing solutions take center stage. While some solutions have been around for a long time, we believe that broad adoption among SMBs is upon us as evidenced by the priority assigned to such technologies vs. the current level of penetration. And with the announcements of UC300 and BE 3000, Cisco is playing right within the sweet spot of empowering the SMBs.

Similarly, mobile devices and enabling technologies are perhaps the most exciting space today remaining somewhat resilient even in a severe downturn. SMBs have always had a strong desire for mobile products and things became more interesting since Apple released its iPhone. As smart phones expand their empowering abilities, SMBs have strongly taken to accessing email, conferencing, collaborating and using social networking when mobile. A unified, affordable and simple to deploy platform suddenly helps the small businesses.

Small businesses have actively begun to use social media to create awareness about their business. According to Techaisle’s most recent survey, 70% plan to use social media in the next 12 months which is a positive sign, however 45% are not sure how it could help their business. Nevertheless, it is comforting to know that platforms from Cisco can provide that consolidated enablement across all different devices and solutions that are being used by SMBs. Another recent survey on Cloud Computing shows that besides industry specific applications, communications/collaboration and general business productivity applications including CRM are fastest growing. The inflection point for cloud based services is evident when business hit 20 or more employees. This again points to the fact that Cisco seems to have done its homework and instead of following a technology paradigm, has introduced a real business solution paradigm.

More focus on supporting Partners with dedicated personnel

Cisco announced also the introduction of Partner Advisor. With this enabling element of its partner programs, Cisco is catching up with the more traditional instrument of back-office support that is customary for the small/mid-sized reseller. Cisco Partner Advisor, which is to be deployed globally during this year, includes a one stop source for sales support and information such as product selection, promotion, pricing, financing and ordering.

The Cisco Partner Advisor is to be delivered both through the use of a dedicated myCisco online portal and, more importantly, with dedicated live agents’ organization – recognizing that distribution is a people business and resellers requires personal touch. The physical locations of the agents’ organization and their ability to solve issues for resellers will be the test ground for success of this investment Cisco is making. Dedicated to support the smaller resellers, not all Cisco’s partners will be allowed access to the Partner Advisor services.

Andrew Sage, Vice-President of Worldwide Small Business Sales, Cisco said at the announcement, “Our partners are the center of our business at Cisco, and we will do whatever we can to help them succeed. Our new Cisco Partner Advisor initiative uses both people and technology to help our small and mid-market business partners to begin or continue working with Cisco to get the immediate sales and programs help they need.”

Partner-Led WebEx: Cisco shows how the channel can drive Cloud Services

Cisco is bullish here, and rightly so. A chance to talk to customers, different ways to sell collaboration features, application sharing and complementing the new product launch, Cisco announced that Partners will be able to bundle or resell in their offerings Cisco WebEx Online Services.

Whilst this will be offered to users at published prices, this enabling & recurring revenue stream has all the writings of a strong lock leverage which competitors will find difficult to neutralize in the quest for new partners. Additionally, this appears to be a great integration example for Cloud based services offered by the reselling channel for others to follow.

Ian Pennell, Senior Vice-President, Small Business Technology Group and Co-Chair, Small Business Council, Cisco also showed his commitment for small businesses and the partner community that serves that segment by saying, “Cisco continues to be 100 percent committed to giving our partners and the customers they serve the easy-to-use technology innovation they need to succeed. Our partners and customers have told us they want simple unified communications solutions to help them stay ahead of their competition. Cisco is ready to meet that need.”

Paolo Puppoli
Tavishi Agrawal

Buyers Speak: Prices, Not Programs Drive Convergence

With the ever growing uptake of smart and mobile computing devices, many IT and Telecom vendors have been quick to forecast major channel restructurings to take place. For example, for many vendors, Netbook PCs have opened entirely new avenues to consumers, increased the number of resellers in their rosters and even called for an entire reorganization of their affiliation programs.

Techaisle’s recently published survey of 2900 Small Businesses across four countries [US, UK, Brazil and Germany], however, shows that on average, less than 1 in 5 Small Business buyers are sourcing their telecom and IT equipment from the same supplier. The data has not changed significantly over the last few years, particularly if we consider the advent of IP-PBX switching and integration in data networks.

Price seems the determining factor – whilst about 1/3 of multi-sourcing SBs are not looking to consolidate purchasing practices, the research shows that the bulk majority is regularly looking at ways to unify sourcing.

The market is there but reaching it is proving to be difficult.

The same research shows that channel suppliers’ inability to price competitively individual products from both IT & Telecom worlds is the largest barrier for limiting convergence possibilities – and making SBs source each set of products from their most relevant price specialized channels. If we continue as is, we have a near perfect parallel world.

Sourcing Considerations

Business Buy Solutions… But also products! Get it right and a third of the market may be yours. That is the size of the buyers business which is being sought after at multi-degrees and multi-levels between shareholders, vendors and the very channel players supposed to converge.

It is not an issue about wanting to converge but the ever present need to grow that makes vendors seek to drive the IT-Telecom markets convergence and to do that, they must address this particular channel weakness – and this is not an easy task.  Invest, and others will benefit. Do nothing and nothing will happen.

Besides retail, each channel player [in their remit] is arguably looking at efficiencies, focus, expertise, and… price on a daily basis but one reseller focused on IP Telephony [and with many years of expertise in the solution] will undoubtedly struggle to reach sufficiently relevant economies of scale to price compete with a specialist counterpart in the IT world. And any investment to balance this equation will likely increase their cost structure to threaten the overall business. They will not be the first to change.

Retailers, on the other spectrum of the market, have been selling Smartphones, SIM handsets, PCs and Netbooks for many years now, but that is hardly convergence.

So it is up to the vendors to make it happen. I once read that the answer may lie in the development of program alliances - a scenario where vendor A and vendor B  define how their products fit into a solution for SBs and enable selected partners with the right approach, solutions and products [a program] to serve the market niche by niche and in a probable unified manner. Competitive dynamics may make it more like fantasy than a real proposition, but it is a nice vision of the future.

More probable drivers for channel convergence, however, are to be found in new integrated technologies or solutions [like cloud offerings billed to create a new breed of channel players] but for now there is just talk.

Paolo Puppoli

Europe Distributors set to Further Consolidate with ALSO/Actebis Merger

It’s happened! The long coming merger of Europe’s current 3rd and 4th largest distributors was announced. The new entity looks well capable of rivaling in size, if not in market presence, to that of US distributor Ingram Micro’s European interests. And arguably, by simple effect of exchange rate fluctuation [USD /Euro/CHF], the American Company’s ranking position is already in doubt.  This is only data though.

Actebis GmbH, a subsidiary of the Droege International Group AG, and the publicly listed ALSO Holding AG, a subsidiary of Schindler Holding AG, intend to merge their activities. Such a merger would create the third-largest ICT and CE distribution company in Europe, with a sales revenue of around USD $9.6 billion. The merger is subject, inter alia, to the approval of the responsible competition authorities.

Whilst the merger is announced as a 1+1 = 2 (or 133 as they called it), the new to be created organization is very much absent from most of the Mediterranean basin, the British Isles and a number of other EMEA countries which together form up to 40 percent of market – just looking at PCs.  Flanking opportunities may well turn out to be limited.
Additionally, there are some overlapping territories where the new enterprise will have to be much focused so as not to lose resellers to its competitors. Most resellers source from a few distributors simply to obtain credit and if these are reduced, then the likely outcome is that others will benefit.

For vendors, this is most likely good news.  Simplicity in market access/coverage will have to be weighed against the increased purchasing power of the new company but we expect few will complain.

The company also indicated as merger benefit the possibility to become number one player.  Whilst this is still somewhat far away, any southern European distributor is probably preparing the books.  

Techaisle channel database shows over 185,000 resellers in Europe. We believe that this is a clear example of broadline distributors rethinking their strategy to take control of this vast customer base and moving from the traditional bulk braking/warehousing to a more sophisticated logistics management offering.

Paolo Puppoli

IT Channel Complexities in India

Mature markets are just around the corner in India.

  • A lot has changed in the last 10-15 years and channels feel that in next 4-6 years by 2013-2014, about 20% of Indian market is predicted as a MATURE MARKET. Ten years ago the awareness for IT was created, PC was becoming a necessity. In last 6 yrs market has really picked up.

  • The India IT market is growing and are looking for big changes. Most of the partners for various MNC brands have recognized the changes and are moving from being mere VARs or System Integrators to solution providers, getting into more of services than selling boxes.

  • A dealer who has been selling software for a long time is now thinking of giving the whole solution. In the hardware market the margins are thinning, so the question is - how to make money?

  • Money comes from services so channels are moving towards better markets like the Managed Services, Infrastructure software implementation, maintaining the hardware as well as the software. This has already happened in the mature markets outside India.

  • One may also witness partnerships here - two big partners merging or two small partners merging forming the equation of 1+1=11 and not 2. Consolidations of various services are happening and some channels are emerging as leaders in the market.

  • Business models are also heading towards a big change. The today’s scenario allows any partner to be ‘single vendor dedicated’. As an example if one is HP partner he is still selling & setting up solutions for Cisco/ IBM/ Mac. Channels opine they have to position themselves as multi brand and multi solution provider. Whatever the demand they should be able to supply it.

  • The customer is negotiating or dealing with one single partner rather than trying multi service providers. This is one big change that has happened among channels keeping in view the changing perspective of the customers. These changes will help India emerge as a mature market.

Challenges in SMB (1-250 employees) segment for IT Vendors:

  • It is a very disorganized segment.

  • The IT maturity level is very low.

  • A lot of patience is required while dealing with this segment.

  • The volume business has always been a key concern.

  • The principles / vendors only interested in managing bigger accounts as more money/ revenue and less effort involved.

Advice in Partner selection criteria:

  • Instead of choosing many partners, vendors should focus on the selection of partners.

  • The partners who are capable should only qualify the selection.

  • They should then be trained and most importantly be supported by the vendor to grow and become a bigger partner of that small town or city.

  •  The corporate clients of a smaller city always lack confidence in the local partners and their capabilities and deliverables. Therefore, a partner from a nearby big city may not be working efficiently but is always looked upon with confidence because of it partnerships & technological capabilities.

  • If the vendors succeed in doing the same with the channels of smaller cities, this will surely be an advantage to ALL.

  • The small city partners have the best of contacts to explore more business. The only challenge they face is the Bandwidth and proper guidance. The Channel partners feel that the vendor should fully support them.

New Technologies:

  • There is and is not awareness about the new technologies among the channels. For example many partners may have only heard about Cloud Computing.

  • Channels feel that the vendors themselves should come forward to promote the new / emerging technologies among their partners as well the users.

  • There is always a demand for the new technologies and the channels are gearing up themselves for this.

  • Channels also feel that today’s customer is obviously more knowledgeable. To cope up with the knowledgeable customers channels have to upgrade their skills and knowledge base. And that is the key to a partner’s growth.

  •  All the big organizations the ITES/ IT companies and large corporate have their own in-house resources. They have a fully fledged IT department which takes care of all their IT needs.

  •  Here, the channels only work as suppliers for the hardware and software.


The government departments are also in the process of implementing various IT related program primarily for the SMB segment(1-250 employees) especially. This is being considered as the most potential segment in terms of IT growth and expansion.

The grey areas are the SMB and the government. Here the implementation has just begun and it will take another 4-5 years. Today SMB is the very large and the most potential segment and challenge lies in how to deal with them and their needs. The knowledge level of these companies/ this segment is very low as compared to the International markets and standards. The IT deployment in terms of products and human resource is very low and they are dependent on the IT vendors. A lot of knowledge has to go in educating these segments.

Channel partners are investing heavily in Data Centers but it will take time to develop as all the technologies are new.

The channel partners who are at the local level at Tier III & IV cities overall do not have much knowledge base as the bigger partners in the Tier I & II cities, so  they ultimately end up in Box selling. Even the customers of Tier II, III & IV are not well-educated and their understanding level for IT is low. A lot of education has to happen in these cities.


Gitika Bajaj

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