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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.
Anurag Agrawal

21 percent of SMBs have IT Specialists reporting to Business Management

Emerging Trend - SMB IT Specialists empowering business units, blurring the IT-Business divide

Techaisle’s study on “360 on SMB & Mid-Market IT Decision Making Authority - BDM vs. ITDM” reveals an emerging trend of IT specialists with purchase authority being resident within business units and reporting to business rather than IT management. The data is significant enough for marketers to pay close attention as the survey shows that already in 21 percent of small (1-99 employees) and 36 percent of midsized (100-999 employees) businesses IT Specialists are embedded within business units and even more are planning to hire specialists within their business units. Further, the study also shows that these IT specialists are an important influence point for new IT solutions purchase and that in 29 percent of small businesses and 49 percent of mid-sized firms that have “business unit resident IT specialists” these staff members are the primary decision makers for new IT solution purchases. This trend will naturally tilt the balance of decision making authority towards business management by empowering them with knowledge and decision-making agility.

The need for IT and business to work together to ensure that all stages of IT adoption process meet both technical and business process requirements is an important factor in IT solution success. Survey data clearly demonstrates that SMBs have taken this a step further to address the need for what is sometimes referred to as “double deep” employees (with respect to IT and business experience) by positioning IT specialists within business units reporting to business (rather than IT) management. In a way these IT Specialists reporting to Business Management in SMBs are blurring the IT and Business divide.

Small businesses - informal

The trend is widespread and informal in small businesses in the 10-99 employee size categories with 45 percent of firms reporting the presence of IT specialists within business units. In most cases this is an informal connection with IT-savvy employees responsible for IT-dependent processes.

Mid-market businesses - pronounced

However, within mid-sized businesses the trend is more pronounced and is becoming a more conscious strategy with IT support embedded within the line of business departments. As the balance of IT decision making authority continues to shift towards business decision makers the presence of IT specialists who can identify appropriate IT solutions within a mid-market business unit is gaining tremendous relevance. This also means that rogue implementations of solutions may well accelerate. More importantly, in the next 3-5 years it is highly likely that a business unit will begin to think and operate like an IT department as they learn from their missteps.

IT or BDM-led Solutions

To understand an SMB buyer’s journey Techaisle research considered nine IT solution categories and the influence of various stakeholders from needs identification to selection and adoption process. At a high-level the nine IT solutions were found to belong to one of three categories – IT-led solutions, areas where IT is generally seen as leading corporate IT initiatives; BDM-led solutions, solutions in which BDMs provide most corporate leadership, and IT is cast very much in a supporting role; and IT/BDM collaborative solutions that respond to BDM needs, but where IT is important to supporting delivery capacity. The positioning of these solutions is important to shaping the focus of IT vendor sales and marketing initiatives.

It is important for IT suppliers to understand whether their current and prospective accounts have IT specialists assigned within business units, and where they do, to establish strong relationships that will enable the supplier to understand and respond to IT/business solution demand.

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

To understand the current state and implications of distributed IT influence and authority Techaisle conducted a unique survey of SMB organizations where we surveyed roughly equal numbers of business decision makers (BDMs) and IT decision makers (ITDMs) across seven employee size categories, and then analyzed results to create a unified view of the new IT decision authority realities.

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


Anurag Agrawal

Seven Lessons for Successful deployment from Current SMB VDI and DaaS Users

Where is the market for client devices going – and what does it mean to corporate strategy? These are questions that Techaisle and its clients – and the industry as a whole – has been wrestling with ever since the decline of the traditional PC opened the door for alternative client technologies.

In many cases, users now combine mobile and fixed devices, and with this multi-device approach, consistency and security become even more important than they were in the laptop era. Many organizations are responding to a need to securely manage and distribute user data and applications by investigating virtual desktop (VDI) technologies enabling delivering of “desktop as a service,” or DaaS. With VDI/DaaS, businesses deploy client virtualization technologies from suppliers like Citrix and VMware to ensure that users have anywhere/any time/any device access to current information, their applications and their desktops. These technologies allow for better data security and auditability, and often offer the additional benefits of reduced CAPEX and OPEX.

The allure of VDI and DaaS is clear – but the technology itself and the path to realizing its benefits can still seem somewhat mysterious to many small and mid-sized businesses. To understand implementation challenges and lessons learned, Techaisle conducted depth interviews with small and mid-market businesses (from 50 employees to 999 employees) that are currently using VDI and/or DaaS solutions. Based on a random sampling these businesses belonged to financial services, professional services, manufacturing, construction, utilities, retail and private education segments. These early adopter SMBs have rolled out VDI and/or DaaS solutions within their organizations. The number of users using VDI and/or DaaS within the businesses interviewed ranged from a low of 30 employees for a small business to a high of 600 employees within a mid-market business.

Techaisle’s quantitative VDI/DaaS research shows that the key user objectives in adopting either on-premise or hosted VDI/DaaS solutions revolved around mobility, application availability from anywhere and on any device, disaster recovery, centralized management and administration of end-point devices at the same time reducing costs. Based on users’ real-world experiences and feedback, Techaisle has compiled a list of seven key lessons for success for small and mid-market businesses planning to adopt VDI/DaaS solutions.

1.       Prepare a roadmap of the solution and a blueprint of implementation process

Before starting the implementation process and before even considering a pilot, current VDI/DaaS users advise potential users to create a roadmap of the solution and a blueprint of implementation process. The roadmap and blueprints should include solution and brand selection criteria, a list of solution components and their objectives, changes required (if any) to the core infrastructure to support the solution, costs involved and budgets for cost overruns, security vulnerabilities, phase-in of users and their training process and timeframe for enhancements post implementation.

2.       Hire external consultants - people who have experience

It is almost impossible to develop a roadmap and blueprint without the guidance and close involvement of experts.  All SMBs that we interviewed had contracted with external consultants varying in size from a group of 4-5 to a maximum of 40-50 people. In each case, consultants were preferred over resellers and service providers due to their focused deep expertise and track record. However, each of the current users of VDI/DaaS had decided on either Citrix or VMware solution prior to engaging with consultants with corresponding expertise.

“We approached our known consultant which is a small company formed by 6 to 7 people and have expertise in VMware solution. They are highly technical professionals providing free infrastructure and free connectivity support and covering infrastructure maintenance and end user connectivity”.

“We preferred going with Consultants as they had solution specific expertise. They gave optimal options taking into consideration both cost and technology sound solution. They even offered technical assistance even after post implementation and maintenance for one year. They are a small company with VMware expertise formed by a core group of people”.

“We approached consultants, a small group of people, with deep Citrix expertise, because they had relevant qualifications and certification”.

3.       Ensure that the solution supports legacy software

Not all SMBs are using all modern applications; many mid-market businesses have core legacy applications and/or applications that are essential to a specific department and workgroup. Current SMB users of VDI/DaaS advise that the blueprint prepared should include a list of applications currently being used within the organization and to systematically test to ensure that they will continue to be supported in the new DaaS environment.

The VDI/DaaS SMB users also advise that businesses should also revisit the current licensing arrangement they have for some of their applications and ensure that in a virtualized environment those licenses are valid and applicable.

“We learned during the implementation phase that not every application is supported by VDI or DaaS solution. It is difficult to understand and analyze the amount of storage used by different departments”.

“The main concern was with software licensing concerns. Few of our application’ licenses restricted the use of software on systems accessed by terminal servers. There were issues coming up initially that affected our end users as these applications were not accessible on multiple virtual desktops”.

“The main concerns were the length of the project, the cost of the project and back end integration. Backend integration was a major concern as we have legacy application running on the system”.

4.       Get the business users ready

Business users do not like changes that affect their interfaces – it takes time to build new usage habits, and this can (and generally does) have a short-term impact on productivity. Although a VDI/DaaS roll-out is often used to deliver better mobile systems to business users – generally, a well-received benefit – it is essential to prepare the business users with new interfaces, log-ins, support mechanism, and training on the use of thin clients. This will require IT to manage a number of VDI/DaaS-specific issues, including application downloads to user devices, management of persistent or non-persistent desktop experiences, and tactics to address latency if/where it impacts performance.

“A challenge we faced post implementation was to manage new rounds of user trainings. The new solution meant introduction of a different system to the users and one where users had to undergo a series of trainings to become comfortable with it”.

“The main challenge that we faced was user training and that was a really big concern for us”. 

“We had to give training to users in about two weeks which was taken out of their operational hours and once the service was put in place the learning was steep, the users were not very productive during that time”.

“Most of the issues were to do with the users who were unable to come to terms with the changes and the content that could access easily”.

5.       Conduct a pilot

Conducting a pilot helps in fine tuning the roadmap and blueprint for implementation.

“During the pilot test, we observed a need to modify our terminal server as they were not responding to the end users request. Then we decided and made changes in terminal server by making a cluster of terminal servers so that similar end users request would be sent to desired terminal server, to cut down network traffic congestion”.

“At the initial stage we started facing issues which were basically related with bandwidth or poor network response. We decided to increase our bandwidth for offering end-users customizable experience similar to that of a physical desktop”.

“In the pilot stage some issues popped out. First of all, the expected cost for the pilot stage rose considerably. Also we got a mixed reaction from the team using it as some said they were able to fully utilize the resources, whereas when we tested it over other networks like WLAN, the data was not accessible”.

6.       Create a detailed budget, be prepared for cost overruns

The current users of VDI/DaaS suggest that potential adopters should budget 25 percent for software, 20 percent for services, 20 percent for networking and one-third for hardware. The percentages vary for small businesses where the budget allocation for hardware varies between 10-15 percent and the proportional cost of software rises to 30-35 percent. Current users advise businesses that have legacy applications to allocate higher budgets for hardware and services, as high as 45 percent and 35 percent respectively.

As many as 40 percent of SMBs indicate that cost overruns of 10-20 percent is a given.

“There was additional expenditure required. The testing phase was difficult as we had to change our server and switches”.

“In testing phase we found out that the users had to get software assurance which delayed the project, delayed purchase of licenses and forced additional expenditure”.

7.       Upgrade server and network infrastructure

The most common and almost universal changes to the IT infrastructure to prepare for VDI/DaaS usage are installation or upgrades of blade servers, upgrading cabling to fiber optics cable thus enabling substantially higher data bandwidth, replacement of switches for routing higher throughputs, installation of thin clients and in some cases increasing storage.

Current users generally opted for specific server and thin client brands based on either recommendation from their consultants or because of existing relationships. Brands most often used were IBM, HP and Dell. Most SMBs preferred to use Blade Servers.

“We upgraded cabling by using fiber optics cable which boosted our bandwidth and smooth flow of data from the data center to the end users. We used fiber optics as it was a cost effective solution for us rather than going on with existing metal cabling which had an impact on bandwidth”.

“Networking and replacement of cabling was one issue as it did not work with the solution initially, the cabling between the server switches and office switches and for this we looked for fiber cabling”.

Concluding observations

The need for VDI/DaaS as a mobility enabling technology is clear, and its corresponding benefits for user experience and data management are compelling. However, the path to VDI/DaaS can be tricky to navigate. By capitalizing on the advice provided by current users, SMBs interested in adopting VDI/DaaS can set realistic objectives and expectations, and can manage confidently towards effective deployment.

Anurag Agrawal

SMB Cloud Computing – Looking from Back to the Future

In the early days, the key question wasn’t “when?” but “what?” Looking back at 2011.

Four years ago, Techaisle’s 2011 SMB Cloud Adoption report began with a discussion of cloud awareness within the SMB community. Results showed that while SMBs were reasonably familiar with the terms “private cloud” and “public cloud” (recognized by 84% and 74%, respectively, of SMB respondents), “XaaS” had not yet entered the SMBs’ lexicon: less than 25%  were familiar with the term “hybrid cloud”, and IaaS and PaaS were also not commonly understood.

Discussions of reasons for adoption and barriers to cloud adoption also illustrate how much the cloud market has evolved over the past four years. In 2011, SMBs cited “simplified access through a browser from any location” as the second-most important reason to adopt cloud; in today’s multi-screen, mobile world, requirements have progressed much further, with an application interface layer capable of responding to different displays, a practical necessity for many business systems. Similarly, features like “eliminating the need to upgrade individual users” and “getting new features automatically” have become expected attributes of cloud, as attention progresses to issues like building agility and obtaining new capabilities. The data did highlight one issue that has remained constant from 2011 to 2014 though: as was the case with Techaisle’s most recent 2014 SMB cloud survey, the 2011 results emphasized a desire to increase IT staff’s efficiency as a key reason to embrace cloud.

In 2011, when asked, “What vendor actions would compel you to use cloud services?” 46% of small businesses and 38% of medium businesses replied that they would “never consider using hosted applications.” Today, of course, refusal to consider SaaS is still an option; but increasingly, it is an expensive, non-mainstream option – helping to remind us that “never” is not a good planning horizon for new technology.

Overcoming Cloud Adoption barriers of 2011

In many ways, a review of the list of barriers to cloud adoption cited by our 2011 respondents is even more helpful in illuminating increased SMB focus on cloud. In the 2011 research, respondents not using cloud were asked to specify the conditions that would prompt them to consider use of cloud services. The list of top responses is intriguing. The most frequent answer cited by 2011 respondents was “if the cost of owning the applications is significantly higher than renting them”. It can be argued that this condition has been met – that for many applications, ranging from office suites (where pricing for Office 365 is more compelling than for boxed versions of the software), to niche-specific applications where on-demand fees provide far superior economics than a combination of new hardware and licensed software, to the “fail fast” mantra used to apply cloud to emerging business opportunities (one which relies on the freedom to spin up and spin down applications quickly, without reference to the depreciation cycle associated with the underlying hardware), the economics of cloud are compelling for at least some applications.

Similarly, the second most frequently-cited condition that would prompt 2011 non-users of cloud to consider adoption – “if the application we need meets our needs completely” – is also often frequently met today, thanks to the explosion of niche-specific applications available from an ever-expanding universe of cloud application sources. Viewed in hindsight, we can see that cloud provides an ideal delivery platform (and associated business model) for addressing these conditions, which has in turn helped fuel cloud’s advance in the SMB market.

Where are we heading from here? Tracing the trajectory of SMB cloud usage

Through its relatively brief history, cloud projections have been hampered by the “hockey stick” phenomenon. Cloud is growing in multiple ways simultaneously: the number of firms using cloud is increasing, the number of individuals using cloud within these firms is increasing (e.g., as business users in different areas and IT workers find discrete uses for cloud-based systems), and the number of platforms and applications in use within each organization is increasing. These compounding growth curves drive extreme growth expectations that are difficult to digest.

Based on our most recent 2014 SMB cloud study we have constructed a “current and projected” perspective. The data serves to reinforce the belief that hybrid is emerging as the dominant cloud delivery model. Some of the hybrid growth numbers are extraordinary: use of “hybrid-only” is increasing by 87%, while the proportion of SMBs using a combination of private and hybrid is expected to grow by 122%, and use of all three of public/private/hybrid cloud is expected to increase by 130%.

However, even the figures that are less exceptional still relay an impressive underlying story. Take, for example, the “public only” group. Data shows that businesses using only public cloud will shrink by 20% within US-based SMBs. However, public cloud itself will be a growing part of SMB cloud delivery strategies and is actually poised to increase by 75% through the forecast period.

Using the same survey data based projection methodology we have created workload scenarios across sixteen different applications areas. The “full market adoption” scenario assumes that all SMBs reporting plans to adopt cloud do so whereas the “gradual adoption scenario” takes a different approach: it assumes that current cloud users will adopt each technology according to current plans, while new cloud users will adopt each technology only at current usage rates.

Data clearly shows the coming dominance of hybrid as a delivery model – which drives increased demand for both public and private cloud as well – and provides high-growth forecasts for cloud storage, data backup and cloud security at a workload level, and for vertical applications, content publishing, CRM and BI/analytics in SaaS. It can be difficult to parse through the many, extraordinary growth projections for cloud. By connecting user intentions for growth in overall cloud adoption with adoption patterns for delivery, workloads and applications, Techaisle provides its clients with the data needed to calibrate the growth needed to keep pace with or exceed the overall SMB cloud opportunity.

Related research report: SMB & Mid-Market Cloud Computing Adoption Trends

Michael O

Increasing role of BDMs in SMB Cloud and Mobility Security Management

Techaisle’s recently completed study on SMB IT Decision Making Authority: ITDM vs. BDM, examining the balance in SMB IT decision making authority between IT decision makers (ITDMs) and business decision makers (BDMs)  shows that BDMs are becoming increasingly involved in SMB cloud and security management processes. In 76 percent of SMBs BDMs have active roles in cloud security and in a whopping 87 percent of SMBs they are active in mobility security management.

Techaisle’s SMB IT Decision Making Authority: ITDM vs. BDM report provides data to substantiate a common theme: business management is taking a more active role in IT acquisition, deployment and management. This is especially true in cloud and mobility as BDMs are able to directly procure systems that support their business needs (such as CRM systems used by sales management) – avoiding IT’s processes and timeframe for deployment, and in some cases, avoiding input from IT altogether.

When we speak to ITDMs or IT suppliers who work with IT managers we are often exposed to the counter-argument against this newfound BDM freedom: that without effective IT oversight, cloud systems can become disconnected from the corporate IT infrastructure, creating silos of data, and potentially, security, audit, compliance and privacy risks.

To obtain insight into this issue, Techaisle asked survey respondents to identify who (by area of responsibility) has primary responsibility in each of 10 cloud security areas and 12 mobility security areas. Looking across both groups, we see at a glance that in both the small and mid-sized businesses business management is viewed as a source of access policy but the management of the security process is largely the preserve of IT.

Comparing Cloud and Mobility Security Management

The study shows that there are three key players in managing cloud and mobility security within SMB organizations – Business Management, IT Management and Service Providers. Business management involvement is higher than IT management in mobility security, 87 percent vs. 68 percent. Drilling down into the data we find that SMB BDMs take an active role in five out of twelve mobility security areas and have primary responsibility in seven security areas.

On the other hand, SMB BDM involvement in cloud security management is 76 percent which is almost same as ITDM at 78 percent. But unlike mobility security management, BDMs are actively involved in three cloud security areas and have primary responsibility in only one security area.

Within the mid-market businesses, IT management has a higher percent of involvement than business management for both mobility and cloud security administration. ITDMs actively participate in five of twelve mobility security areas and five of ten cloud security areas.

The above data does not imply that BDMs and ITDMs are not involved in all security management areas; in fact, they are but the roles and responsibilities shuttle between the two principle SMB custodians.

Comparing Small and Mid-market Businesses for Cloud security management

Drilling down into the cloud security management process only, the data reveals that BDMs are responsible for setting access policy in over 60 percent of cases – but all other steps in the process are primarily the responsibility of IT but with involvement from BDMs, from user authentication to ensuring consistency with audit, regulatory and compliance requirements and to ensuring that backup is regular, effective and testing.

When we turn our attention to the mid-market businesses, the first finding that leaps out at us is the more prominent role played by business management. In nine of the ten cloud security activities covered in the survey, medium business respondents report more non-IT management involvement than their small business peers – and in one step in the cloud security process (ensuring consistency with audit, regulatory and compliance requirements) medium business BDMs have similar level of responsibility as ITDMs.

Role of Service Provider in Securing SMB Cloud and Mobility solution deployments

Survey data presents a very interesting dichotomy about the role of service providers in securing SMB cloud and mobility solution deployments. Service providers are involved in 47 percent of SMBs for cloud security which is 35 percent higher than their involvement in mobility security. But for mid-market businesses they are 50 percent more involved in mobility security than cloud security. Out of the twelve areas, key roles played by service providers for mobility security are “Authenticating user identities” and “Deploying and updating malware and other security technologies on corporate-owned endpoint devices”. Within the ten different cloud security areas, service providers are most involved in “Safeguarding against unauthorized access” and “Authenticating user identities”.

It is interesting to note that both small and mid-sized businesses rely on cloud suppliers through the security process – interesting primarily because (as the saying goes) “you can’t outsource responsibility”. SMBs are free to rely on cloud suppliers for assistance through the cloud security process, but if/where there are breaches or other issues, the responsibility still rests with the business, not with the supplier. Techaisle believes that the proportion of SMBs –both small and medium businesses – who report that their cloud suppliers have responsibility for one or more cloud security activities should take a closer look at whether and how they might separate responsibility (which is a management requirement) from delivery (which may well be best outsourced to a cloud vendor). Here again, SMBs require guidance from security specialists to align practices with requirements.

Details about the report can be found here

Related research:

2014 SMB & Mid-Market Cloud Computing Adoption Trends

2014 SMB & Mid-Market Mobility Solutions Adoption & Trends

Research You Can Rely On | Analysis You Can Act Upon

Techaisle - TA