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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.

SMB and Midmarket: Cloud Software acquisition and the importance of “deep carpet selling”

Linoleum vs. Deep Carpet Selling

There is an old story about a consultant who was advising a client about changes in his market, and what they would mean to sales strategy. The consultant went through a series of tables demonstrating that, due to increased interconnectivity with other corporate systems, products in the client’s segment were increasingly purchased by senior managers rather than shop floor managers. The consultant stressed the importance of developing new marketing material and directing the sales force to call on the senior managers instead of the shop floor, to which the client replied, “You are talking about deep carpet selling. We don’t do deep carpet selling. We do linoleum selling here.”

Most IT vendors engage in a variation of “linoleum selling”, focused on engaging IT professionals in discussions that focus on the technical attributes of their products. However, BDMs (Business Decision Makers) – who tend to inhabit the “carpeted” realms of their businesses – are more likely to be engaged by discussions about business benefits and objectives than by “feeds and speeds”. In categories where the BDM is central to the needs identification and budget process, sales reps will need to develop “deep carpet” language and skills.

The data from Techaisle’s SMB and Midmarket IT Decision Making Authority survey demonstrates that we have already reached that point in cloud applications and software in both the small and midmarket segments.

Need vs. Enhancements

Survey data shows that in both micro/very small businesses (1-19 employees) and the smaller midmarket businesses (100-499 employees), BDMs are the primary drivers for determining the need for new cloud business applications.

These findings are broadly consistent with the results from the survey question on determining the need for enhancements to existing cloud solutions. While in most cases, IT has more influence in determining the need for enhancements than it does in determining the need for new solutions, BDMs are still generally the most important voice in the discussion. ITDM’s (IT Decision Maker) influence is directly attributable to the extent that enhancements are driven by technological rather than functional requirements.

Conclusively, survey data shows that business requirements are the prime mover for identifying the need for both new solutions and significant enhancements/upgrades in micro and very small businesses, and that technology concerns play a meaningful role in instigating discussions about enhancements to existing solutions in businesses with 20-499 employees.

Interestingly, within the 500-999 segments, there is more BDM influence over identifying the need for meaningful enhancements than for new applications. Following the logic applied to the other segments, this suggests that enhancements within these near-enterprise accounts result primarily from process optimization requirements, rather than from a need to upgrade the underlying technology.

Cloud Software budget authority

“Determining the need for” a new business application or a “meaningful enhancement” to an existing application is not, of course, identical to signing off on the purchase of a new solution. When Techaisle extended its questioning to include “budgetary control and authority,” it resulted in two interesting findings:

    • The proportion of SMBs where budgetary control and purchasing authority for new applications rests entirely with BDMs increases in all employee size segments, relative to the statistics for determining need in these segments. This means that BDM control over the final purchase decision is even higher than the “determining the need for” statistics suggest.

 

    • The proportion of respondents reporting that responsibility resides entirely with either IT or business – but is not shared between them – increases in five out of seven employee size segments (missing only the 10-19 and 20-49 employees groups). This suggests that needs identification may be more collaborative than final purchase decisions.



Both findings point to the same conclusion: that BDMs are extremely important to suppliers of cloud software. Chart below provides a graphical representation of the determining need vs. final purchase decision authority balance by employee size.

techaisle-blog-smb-midmarket-decision-making

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34 percent SMBs want out-of-box Collaboration within SaaS/Cloud applications

Techaisle’s SMB & Midmarket Collaboration adoption research found that apart from traditional collaboration solutions of file sharing and communication, SMBs need SaaS business applications to have collaborative properties. 34 percent of SMBs and 44 percent of midmarket businesses say that SaaS applications should have built-in collaboration properties out-of-the-box. They say that the success of a cloud business application is its ability to provide /support collaboration, including email and/or hosted telephony.

Techaisle survey data shows that there is a strong connection between SaaS applications and collaboration. In some ways, these connections are intuitive: SaaS is a resource that can be accessed simultaneously by multiple individuals located anyplace where there is a network connection and cloud is inherently supportive of collaboration, and many applications are either explicitly focused on collaborative activities (ranging from SharePoint to CRM) or embed these capabilities (as with productivity applications like Office 365 or Google Apps).

Techaisle’s SMB research found quantitative support for these perceptions. When SMB respondents were asked, “what are the key attributes of a successful cloud solution?” As would be expected, security, scalability, and data management (including disaster recovery) were prominent in these responses. However, the most common answer was “the ability to support mobility,” which speaks to the requirement to enable mobile collaboration. And the fifth-most common response was “the ability to provide or support collaboration.” As the figure below shows, this is an important issue across size categories: it was cited as an important cloud success attribute by nearly half of near-enterprise (500-999 employees) firms, and also by companies with just 10-19 employees.

techaisle-saas-collaboration-connection-blog-smb-attributes


Further analysis of current and planned SaaS workloads underscores the importance of collaborative capabilities within SaaS applications. Techaisle asked small business and midmarket respondents who are currently using or planning to use cloud to identify the top SaaS workloads in use today, and those that are in current adoption plans. The results, that collaboration plays a role in most SaaS applications:

Workloads explicitly focused on collaboration

    • Hosted VoIP (used today by 52 percent of midmarket businesses, with 35 percent planning adoption)

 

    • Content publishing (used today by 53 percent of midmarket businesses; 56 percent of SaaS using small businesses are planning deployment)

 

    • CRM (in use or planned by 93 percent of midmarket businesses and 71 percent of SaaS using small businesses)



Workloads where collaboration is a key differentiator, attribute or outcome

    • Office suites (both Google Apps and Office 365 emphasize intrinsic collaboration capabilities. Office suites are the most commonly used SaaS application type within small business, and the third most commonly used application type within midmarket business)

 

    • Project management (most commonly used SaaS application type within midmarket business, and the third most commonly used SaaS application type within small business)

 

    • Business Intelligence (53 percent of midmarket businesses and 44 percent of small business are planning adoption)



Workloads where better collaboration or reporting within/across departments/functions and/or with external stakeholders is a key outcome

    • Accounting/financial management and ERP (accounting/financial management is the second most widely used SaaS application type within small businesses)

 

    • HR management (deployed by more than half of midmarket business SaaS users)

 

    • Marketing automation (highest rate of planned adoption within midmarket business SaaS users)



These findings underscore trends that are apparent in the SMB SaaS and collaboration markets: that increasingly collaboration is important to SMBs (as a means of boosting productivity), and that cloud-based systems – including file sharing systems, and extending to SaaS applications as well – are expected to provide support for many forms of collaborative activities.

Deployment scope further impacts SMB buyer requirements

As Techaisle observes the evolution of collaborative solution capabilities within SaaS, it is important to also consider the scope across which these applications and solutions are expected to operate. Solutions that connect workers within a group or department benefit from a common understanding of context and source applications; those that connect users across groups/departments exist within a single company, and can focus on supporting IT-approved devices with reference to IT-defined security policies. Solutions that extend beyond the organization’s own staff may well offer more business impact than internal-only systems by speeding communications to customers, prospects and/or suppliers – but they come with increased issues in terms of support for seamless connectivity across multiple platforms, and potentially, may raise security concerts as well.

techaisle-saas-collaboration-connection-blog-smb-scope


In the research, Techaisle asked respondents to specify the scope of their collaboration solutions. The results help clarify the strong demand for collaboration within microbusinesses, and provide insight into why businesses view collaboration as an essential solution investment area. More than 40 percent of microbusinesses, and 39 percent of all SMBs, extend their collaboration infrastructure to support for customers. Midmarket businesses are more likely to focus on internal collaboration, but they join smaller peers in having a roughly 20 percent incidence of supporting supply chain relationships (suppliers/vendors) through their collaboration systems.

Looking at the above chart, one sees that there is the potential for missed connections within the emerging panoply of collaboration-enabling systems. Social media, mobility, BI and cloud all have important collaboration extensions. But how can businesses ensure that these technologies will connect internally once they are in place? Techaisle believes that collaboration is evolving in response to this market condition. IT vendors have traditionally tried to position collaboration solutions as a platform on which businesses can create new capabilities and integrated processes. However, data shows that businesses are instead acquiring collaborative capacities as part of other applications: social media, mobility, cloud and BI all provide discrete and important – but potentially disconnected – collaboration capabilities. Moving forward, Techaisle expects that collaborative technology solutions will increasingly be positioned as a framework that integrates and extends the value of these discrete system capabilities, rather than as a “first step” platform.

Related Blogs:

SMB and Midmarket File Sharing & Collaboration Adoption to Grow by 52 percent

SMB Content Management & Collaboration Solutions Adoption: Seven Key Trends

Report details:

360 on SMB & Midmarket File Sharing & Collaboration Solutions Adoption Trends

 

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SMB IT Solution Leadership Divide

Techaisle’s unique SMB research to understand the current state and implications of distributed IT influence and authority shows that today, the DMU (Decision Making Unit) is much bigger, much more diverse, much more difficult to inform, and can be much slower to take action. Business decision makers (BDMs) are an intrinsic force within DMUs in most SMB organizations, and are the primary decision makers in some high-growth areas. These BDMs have different objectives for technology, different perspectives on adoption drivers and impediments, and tend to be influenced by different information sources. The resulting diffusion in responsibility/authority and information channels has created an environment where buyers and sellers struggle to develop the cohesion needed to promote or embrace new IT/business capabilities within existing IT and business process structures.

The study shows that both ITDMs and BDMs play important roles in the (formal and shadow) acquisition of IT products and services. However, Techaisle’s research has found that the distinctions between these roles are not evenly applicable across all types of IT-enabled solutions: in some areas, the business will look to IT for leadership, and in others, it will take direction from BDMs.

Figure below illustrates the extent to which ITDMs and BDMs are seen as solution leaders within small and medium businesses, and across nine major solution areas. The solutions have been assigned to three groups: those on the left (virtualization, managed services and IaaS) are labeled “IT led,” and represent areas where IT is generally seen as leading corporate initiatives; they are focused on the core infrastructure used by IT to deliver corporate services to users. The ones at the right (collaboration, social media and analytics) are labelled “BDM led,” and are solutions in which BDMs provide most corporate leadership, and IT is cast very much in a supporting role. The solutions in the middle – Big Data, SaaS and mobility – have been labelled “IT/BDM collaborative.” These are solutions that respond to BDM needs, but where IT is important to supporting delivery capacity.

smb-solution-leadership-blog-techaisle


The positioning of these solutions is important to IT vendor sales and marketing strategies. Solutions in the “IT led” category need to have strong IT-focused positioning, with detailed information on product attributes; this material should be supported with a second layer of collateral containing information on the business case for the solutions, and aimed at BDMs.

Solutions in the “BDM led” category require very different positioning: here, vendors need to make a strong case for the business benefits and relevance of the solution and orient these messages towards BDMs, supporting this campaign with accompanying technical information designed to provide clear deployment and integration guidance to ITDMs.

The “IT/BDM collaborative” category is the trickiest to address. It requires deep information on business benefits and the process steps required to capture those benefits targeted at BDMs, and deep information on how to assemble, deploy, integrate and support/optimize these solutions targeted at ITDMs – and an understanding of how to position and convey the messages to each audience.

During the survey, Techaisle explored one other solution issue that is important to understanding the different perspectives of ITDMs and BDMs. Each respondent was asked to categorize the nine solution areas as having one of two primary impacts: driving growth or containing costs/”increasing the bottom line.”

The comparison of small and mid-sized ITDM and BDM perspectives provides an instructive view of the differences between the two communities. Looking first at the small business results the survey finds that in six of eight areas (IaaS and SaaS combined into a single “cloud” category), BDMs are more likely to view a solution as contributing to growth, and ITDMs are more likely to view a solution as helping to control costs; this may reflect a fundamental difference in how each group approaches its business objectives. In the mid-market findings study reveals that the perceptions of value of ITDMs and BDMs are very closely aligned in mobility, virtualization, Big Data and managed services. ITDMs are more likely to believe that cloud will drive growth than their BDM peers, while BDMs are much stronger believers in the growth contributions of the three IT-led solution areas (collaboration, social media and business intelligence/analytics).

About the Study: 360 on SMB & Mid-Market IT Decision Making Authority - BDM vs. ITDM

The study covers:

    • Stakeholders and their roles in end-to-end IT solution adoption

 

    • ITDM vs. BDM : Balance of Authority (Needs, Budget, Purchasing)

 

    • ITDM & BDM: Locus of Leadership in driving different types of IT Solution Adoption

 

    • ITDM & BDM: Leadership roles in securing Cloud, Mobility

 

    • ITDM vs. BDM: Success Attributes and Benefits of Cloud & Mobility Solutions

 

    • SMB & Mid-Market Businesses: Shadow IT Spending

 

    • Business Impact of BDM vs. ITDM perspectives and expectations with respect to IT Solutions

 

    • ITDM vs. BDM: Differences in Business Issues, IT Challenges, IT Priorities

 

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SMB Hybrid Cloud usage will jump by 56 percent in 2015: Public vs. Private vs. Hybrid

Techaisle’s recent SMB Cloud computing adoption survey of 1455 US SMBs shows that hybrid cloud is gaining momentum in small businesses and is becoming entrenched in the mid-market businesses. According to the survey, hybrid cloud is currently being used by 18 percent of cloud-using SMBs and will be the approach of choice for 28 percent in 2015, an increase of 56 percent. Similarly, Hybrid Cloud accounts for 32 percent of cloud using mid-market businesses today, and is expected to capture a similar proportion of new spending in 2015.

The survey data also reveals that use of “hybrid-only” cloud is expected to increase by 87 percent, the proportion of SMBs using a combination of private and hybrid is expected to grow by over 100 percent and use of all three of public/private/hybrid cloud is expected to increase by an even higher percent.

Even SMBs that are pursuing Public or Private Clouds are ripe for Hybrid cloud in the future. In small businesses, survey shows that 50 percent of those planning new cloud initiatives in 2015 are looking to implement private cloud – in effect, using internal infrastructure to deliver on-demand services. However, these small businesses will most likely hit the limit of their internal resources and bridge to external cloud when they do so.

Techaisle survey data further shows that trust in public cloud is leaping within mid-market businesses with 44 percent anticipating use of public cloud in 2015 - up from 27 percent currently – typically for workloads including customer service, hosted VoIP, collaboration, marketing automation and business intelligence. These mid-market businesses are also looking to improve integration and manageability by connecting Public cloud workloads with internal systems creating an inevitable move to Hybrid cloud.

Small businesses (1-99 employees)

42 percent of small businesses are currently using only private cloud, less than 20 percent are using only public cloud and a small percent of small businesses are using only a hybrid approach connecting public and private clouds. This means that their cloud usage journey to date has consisted of using internal resources to deliver on-demand services.

Survey data also reveals that many small businesses are using more than one cloud approach. 15 percent are using both public and private cloud for discrete purposes and not configured as part of a single delivery infrastructure. Relatively small proportions of small businesses are using private and hybrid or public and hybrid. Segmentation of survey data reveals that small businesses using all three of public, private and hybrid clouds have an average of 43 employees and four locations making them noticeably larger than other small businesses.

Mid-market businesses (100-999 employees)

Techaisle SMB cloud survey also shows that less than 40 percent of cloud-using mid-market businesses rely on a single delivery approach for cloud. 25 percent use only private cloud and one-third use two different delivery approaches, with the most common being a combination of private and hybrid cloud or private/public cloud. 30 percent of cloud-using mid-market firms surveyed report that they have currently deployed all three of public, private and hybrid cloud. Unlike small businesses, these mid-market businesses are smaller is size than those using a single delivery method but they tend to have a higher number of locations.

Final Techaisle Take

Survey data suggests that selection of a Public vs. Private vs. Hybrid Cloud strategy is not a “religious issue” and that SMBs are selecting the best approach for their requirements and they change approaches in response to changing business needs. The decision to use one two or three cloud delivery models is also a result of IT finding that the best way to use cloud across a wider range of business requirements is to deploy a wider range of clouds. Although Hybrid Cloud is gaining momentum within SMBs, cloud suppliers should carefully consider the use cases for whichever of public, private and/or hybrid they are promoting, and to stress the ways in which the approach is optimal for the business requirement. SMBs are committing to workloads first before Public or Private or Hybrid.

Detailed data and analysis is available in report: 360 on SMB & Mid-Market Cloud Computing Adoption Trends

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