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.

Why some SMBs still are not Using Cloud?

The arguments for cloud are clear, and well-aligned with the specific interests of small and mid-market businesses, and ITDMs and BDMs. However, despite what appears to be a 24x7 stream of cloud information available to everyone with an internet connection, cloud is not ubiquitous – meaning that there are objections that prevent cloud from being introduced in some SMB environments.

To better understand cloud objections, Techaisle’s SMB Cloud Computing Adoption survey asked respondents “What are the key inhibitors to embracing cloud – what factors might prevent you from adopting new cloud solutions, and/or accelerating the use of current cloud solutions?”

Responses show that the traditional cloud bugbears of security and control continue to furnish obstacles to increased cloud penetration/acceleration. As the figure illustrates, SMBs are most worried about security of applications and corporate data, and about control over data, users and applications. 


Mid-market businesses also register a high rate of concern regarding the difficulty of integrating operational systems across hybrid traditional/cloud-based systems – and objection which, in Techaisle’s opinion, has real merit and will require attention (and solutions) from the cloud supplier community. This issue is of particular concern to firms with 100-249 employees – large enough to have diverse systems requiring integration, but not large enough to have deep IT resources capable of addressing the problem. We expect that this concern will spread both to larger firms as they move more workloads from on-premise to cloud or hybrid platforms, and to smaller firms as they adopt more SaaS systems (requiring cloud-to-cloud integration).

A drill down into inhibitors by employee size segment shows that the smallest organizations in both the small and mid-markets – the 1-9 employee micro-businesses, and the 100-249 medium businesses – have some unique issues. Micro-businesses worry about vendor lock-in – a reasonable concern, as these firms have neither the technical expertise nor the purchasing power to extricate themselves from supplier relationships if they experience difficulties. The 100-249 employee size groups, as detailed above, are worried about integration. Consistently, though, SMBs are concerned with questions of security and data/user/application control. Suppliers able to address these issues will benefit from expanded market opportunity.

Looking at this issue through the ITDM/BDM lens, we see that the principal objections – with one important exception – are defined by the roles that each group plays within their organizations. BDMs, as might be expected, are very concerned with control over business data (can we access and manage data in the cloud as well as we can on premise?), with connectivity (can we get to information and applications when we are on the road?), and with vendor lock-in (which can be seen as an extension of the data control issue). ITDMs, on the other hand, are more concerned with technical issues than their BDM peers: they are more likely to cite limitations in service access and integration issues as cloud impediments.

The one area where the pattern does not correspond to expectations is in security, where BDMs express higher levels of concern than ITDMs. Given that ITDMs are responsible for most aspects of cloud security, we would have anticipated more security-related concern from ITDMs, if not necessarily lower rates of security-related worry on the part of the BDM respondents.


The growing confluence of CRM & ERP within SMBs and the role of NetSuite

Techaisle’s latest Cloud Computing Adoption study, a survey of 2,675 SMBs shows that CRM and ERP are approaching somewhat similar levels of adoption but are facing very different growth trajectories. Further analysis of the data from the survey shows an intriguing connection between the two applications.

Techaisle analyzed the extent to which use/intended use of each of these applications is connected with other applications captured in the survey. We found that SMBs using/planning to use both CRM and ERP have some common characteristics: in each case, buyers are looking to deploy vertical applications, Business Intelligence, project management – and the other solution (i.e., those using/planning use of CRM are also likely to be adopting ERP, and those using/planning use of ERP are also likely adopters of CRM).


This helps illustrate the importance of the types of suites that leading vendors like SAP, Oracle, Microsoft and NetSuite have assembled: buyers are consistently looking for a combination of capabilities, and will likely look as well for integration across these applications. The CRM side of this equation shows that marketing automation is an important attached application for CRM, which highlights the importance of recent investments in this area from Salesforce.com, Oracle, Microsoft and IBM, and the probable need for competitors to invest to match this offering.

Techaisle believes that the figure above (from the survey) helps illustrate the go-to-market challenge faced by SaaS suppliers. Buyers will certainly shop for individual applications, but will also look to cluster these applications into broader systems that integrate multiple requirements. We expect to see suppliers address these issues in one of three ways:

    1. Through acquisitions, enabling core solution providers to bolt on needed extensions


    1. Through alliances linking providers of complementary applications


    1. Through adherence to standards allowing for integration between individual applications.

At present, Salesforce.com’s Force.com is a clear leader in the third category (and we are seeing acquisitions within the Force.com community – such as FinancialForce.com’s purchase of Vana Workforce – indicating expansion across functions within the standards-led community). It will be interesting to see if other development platforms emerge to challenge Force.com in this area.

NetSuite Changing the Conversation to management of Customer Relationship

We all know that NetSuite is a clear leader in Cloud ERP solutions category. However, not many (beyond some of the users and customers of NetSuite) know that it also has an integrated CRM solution. Zach Nelson, CEO, NetSuite took the opportunity in his keynote address at SuiteWorld 2014 to emphasize that NetSuite’s solution enables any business to manage the entire customer-lifetime-value-cycle from lead generation to order fulfilment. His keynote certainly succeeded in shifting the conversation in two different but converging directions.

First shift in conversation: introducing NetSuite’s Suite Commerce Advanced for the omni-channel world, Zach Nelson emphasized that NetSuite (with its integrated ERP/CRM) helps a business manage complete customer relationship irrespective of the customer’s point-of-entry: online, in-store and/or catalog/call center. NetSuite is therefore putting equal importance to both being a Cloud ERP and CRM supplier. This is definitely the most vocal shift in conversation yet from yester-years. Granted that there are several important pieces missing such as marketing automation but current popular solutions such as Marketo, SilverPop (now IBM) and Act-On have already built integrations with NetSuite. And in all fairness, marketing automation in its present form will most likely go through a transformation as evidenced in Techaisle’s SMB Marketing Automation Adoption Trends study.

Second shift in conversation: NetSuite raised the question on the traditional definition and usage of CRM as we all know it, making the definition narrower rather than more-encompassing. CRM in NetSuite’s view is akin to SFA (Sales Force Automation). There is nothing wrong with this view except that this is not how most SMBs view their customer facing applications. CRM is the core application for SMBs and we have already seen that Sales Force Automation and Marketing Automation functions have been quickly incorporated along with Business Intelligence. All of these provide a 360 degree view of the sales and marketing process. After the SMB CRM base has been built (or simultaneously), the order of implementation depends on the SMB’s focus but survey data shows that it is usually Financials, HR/Payroll, customer service, ERP, fulfillment (SCM), industry vertical applications such as retail, communication, manufacturing, etc. The SMB buyer for applications is also moving increasingly toward the department that is responsible for delivering business results and Cloud CRM usually gets placed in middle of the SMB cloud application stack as sales revenue becomes the focus rather than tight cost control enabling rapid growth and agility.

NetSuite may have the Last Laugh

Irrespective from where the cycle starts, from CRM to ERP or vice-versa if there is a single unified database (with little requirement for data integration) that powers different application blocks: front-office driven by a single view of the customer (leads, sales, and service), tying these to accounts, billing and fulfillment, along with resource planning, materials and supply-chain management will make for a compelling value proposition for NetSuite. But NetSuite has a long way to go to convince a new customer base to be the Cloud CRM vendor of choice.

Most SMBs that have used CRM, SFA and ERP systems within the past few years are familiar with the dashboards that are available with many of these applications, either embedded or purchased separately. Dashboards continue to evolve and be dynamic in several ways; the way they use data from subsystems like ecommerce and other real time feed sources, the way users can personalize the layout of their dashboards and the ability to build KPIs “on-the-fly”. While several SaaS vendors allow this kind of metric building and start the user at a dashboard, we have yet to see anything targeted to the mid-market or SMBs that connects front office, production, fulfillment and customer service the way that NetSuite does almost out of the box. NetSuite is on the right but a long winding path.

The Fear

With NetSuite’s growing market share its applications have also become complex to support the requirements of multi-country global businesses. NetSuite started from a base of SMB customers but over the years has moved upstream making inroads into enterprises. The implementation timelines, although not in years, is still counted in several months not exactly suitable and palatable to a large majority of SMBs that are planning to adopt cloud ERP and CRM. Even the channel partners that are currently offering and planning to offer ERP/CRM solutions do not have the necessary skill-sets and the manpower to provide support. The SMB ERP market is still open and available. Question is how NetSuite will address this market segment. Fear is if this is even a priority for NetSuite.


Perspective: Cisco’s SMB Channel Partner Success Management

Cisco and the SMB market

Cisco has established an undisputed leadership position in the enterprise market. The company combines a widely-adopted and well-integrated portfolio of networking products with a highly-skilled (and paid) direct sales force to manage/expand its presence within major accounts.

The SMB market is a separate challenge. Here, buyers are less likely to require integration across multiple network components and more likely to emphasize price. They are also more likely to receive advice/management from channel partners, further reducing Cisco’s control over the acquisition process.

Against this backdrop, Techaisle’s SMB Channel Trends research illustrates the strengths and challenges Cisco must manage, as it looks to expand its share in the SMB segment.

Cisco Commands High Trust and Reputation within its Channel Partners

Within the channel community, Cisco enjoys a sound reputation and a high degree of trust. Techaisle’s SMB channel partner survey shows that 78 percent of Cisco’s SMB channel partners trust Cisco, a higher percentage than is registered by competitors such as HP and IBM. Nearly 70 percent of the partners believe that Cisco has quality products – again, the highest ranking recorded within the ‘hardware leader’ group including Cisco, HP, IBM and others. However, only 52 percent mention that Cisco has cutting edge technology, a percentage lower than that for both IBM and Microsoft. Moreover, 60 percent of Cisco’s SMB channel partners say that they Like Cisco, lower than corresponding rates for HP and Microsoft, only slightly higher than is found for IBM.

In its 2013 Annual report Cisco has written, “A substantial portion of our products and services is sold through our channel partners, and the remainder is sold through direct sales.” With specific reference to SMBs, Cisco wrote, “Generally, we define commercial businesses as companies with fewer than 1,000 employees. The larger, or midmarket, customers within the commercial market are served by a combination of our direct salesforce and our channel partners. Small businesses or companies with fewer than 100 employees, within the commercial market are primarily served by our channel partners.” Techaisle’s data shows that Cisco has attracted positive attention within this channel partner community, but that its technology and relationships may not leave it especially differentiated from competitors.

Data shows Cisco's SMB Channel Partner Challenges

Cisco is seeking to capitalize on market transitions and is steadily driving its channel partners to offer products and services that deploy cloud, mobility, virtualization, managed services, data center solutions and now Internet of Things. This is by no means an easy task as most SMB channel partners are being actively courted by competitive vendors that also want to grow their emerging technologies’ business. SMB channel partners selling emerging technologies have an average of 3.46 vendor partnerships; this average jumps to 4.21 for Cisco SMB partners, a difference of 21 percent. With this increased contention for mind/market/wallet share, it can be difficult for Cisco to manage brand identity and its related messaging.

This difficulty is illustrated by study findings showing that of the Cisco SMB channel partners, 44 percent consider Cisco to be their top partner. The other 56 percent mention Microsoft, Oracle, HP, IBM and several other firms. Within the VAR/SI community, Cisco’s share of preference is 48 percent; this drops to 39 percent amongst the MSPs/SPs that are viewed as critical to the success of future cloud initiatives.

It is not enough to only measure customer satisfaction or brand awareness to identify overall channel and market presence. Techaisle believes that it is important for IT vendors like Cisco to measure their Brand Equity within SMB channel partners as well as SMBs. Techaisle’s Brand Equity Score, BES-360, helps to identify areas where IT vendors can improve to increase share of wallet.

Cisco’s SMB Channel Partner Brand Equity

Our research finds that Cisco has done extremely well in building trust and reputation within its own SMB channel partner base. Cisco’s Brand Equity Score within its SMB channel partners is higher than most – but lower than scores for both IBM and Microsoft. The implication of these findings is that even through Cisco has high brand equity amongst its channel partners; it is not necessarily true that its entire SMB-focused channel base is firmly wedded to Cisco’s game plan.

Breaking down the data for Cisco, Techaisle’s study finds that almost 25 percent of Cisco’s channel partners have a Brand Equity rating of 80+ (on a scale of 1 to 100). This group forms Cisco’s core partners. The data also shows that almost 35 percent of Cisco’s SMB channel partners have equity of less than 40. These are the partners that Cisco needs to work on.

Interestingly, small business focused channel partners give a higher Brand Equity Score to Cisco than mid-market focused channel partners. This is a segment that Cisco should address as the mid-market is a battleground for most IT vendors and there is yet no clear dominant player.

Among all SMB channel partners of Cisco, VARs are actually driving up the Brand Equity Score. In fact 41 percent of VARs constitute the HBE (High Brand Equity) group. On the other hand, MSPs constitute only 20 percent. In order for Cisco to continue to grow its CMSP program and build on its initial successes, Cisco has to turn its attention to the MSPs that serve the SMBs to understand the key reasons for lower brand equity.

Drilling down further into the data, Techaisle finds that Cisco is not doing better within the overall managed services community than it is within MSPs focused on cloud. A higher percentage of Cisco’s HBE partners are offering managed services to SMBs whereas a higher percentage of ABE (Average Brand Equity) partners are offering Cloud to SMBs. Cisco’s SMB cloud ambitions would benefit from moving some of these ABE cloud partners to HBE segment. The HBE segment offering cloud services need extensive training on cloud solutions to become more successful in offering cloud to their SMB customers. More than 40 percent of these channel partners are working with SMB customers that have private cloud. This may be good for Cisco in the short-term but it does not represent best practice in this segment, and it is misaligned with the ongoing acceptance of public cloud as a preferred IT delivery platform.

Product resale revenue is 43 percent for HBE partners as compared to 38 percent for ABE. Similarly, recurring revenue is 57 percent for HBE as compared to 61 percent for ABE. Naturally, this bodes well for Cisco’s current revenue as the High Brand Equity partners are driving higher revenues from products. However, if Cisco plans to increasingly promote services then a lot more work is required to identify partners with higher services revenues and move them into the High Brand Equity segment.

Final Perspective

Brand Equity Score findings help indicate areas of expansion or exposure as vendors, like Cisco, assess their potential for expanding the footprint of their brands within the SMB channel partner community. The composition of Cisco’s BES across its channel indicates the core strength of its brand. Techaisle’s analysis indicates that Cisco has both strengths to build on and areas requiring focus as it moves to position its next-generation solutions (especially, cloud solutions) through its channel to the SMB market.

Techaisle’s brand management work is anchored in the belief that if a vendor’s brand equity is good, then it can compete successfully with vendors with lower brand equity for sales of comparable products or services. Vendors with sound products/services but low brand equity will struggle to maintain parity with competitors that have higher brand equity, even if that vendor’s products/services are (somewhat) inferior.


SMB Cloud Computing - Seven Key Trends

It is stunning to see how much corporate IT realities have changed in the last five years. Today, an increasing proportion of infrastructure is rented rather than purchased, sourced with OPEX funds from remote suppliers. Agility has become the watchword for new automation projects, and acceptable timeframes are no longer calibrated in months. End-users can source applications, infrastructure and other needed services from a wide variety of online resources. And workers are tethered to the corporate infrastructure by their smartphones and tablets, not by the cables attached to their desks.

Most of these changes are attributable in part or in whole to cloud computing. Cloud infrastructure provides the basis for OPEX-based, flexible-timeframe infrastructure rentals. SaaS providers are able to deploy new automation in hours rather than months. Mobility is not really a discrete initiative so much as it is a key attribute of ubiquitous infrastructure. And IT now competes for corporate IT influence and budgets – it is no longer the “final word” on IT/business solution strategies.

Spurred by these changes, Techaisle conducted a unique survey of SMBs. To better reflect the reality of distributed IT influence and authority, we surveyed roughly equal numbers of business decision makers (BDMs) and IT decision makers (ITDMs), asking both groups to provide a “360° perspective” on the critical IT/business trends within their organizations. Key findings from the cloud adoption research included:

  1. Why is cloud being used by SMBs: In many organizations, cloud may have first been introduced as a means of reducing CAPEX and/or overall IT costs, but today, it is viewed by SMBs as a means of increasing business agility and of introducing capabilities that would have been cost or time-prohibitive to deploy on traditional technology. Companies in the “middle” of the SMB market – those with 50-250 employees – emphasize the ability of cloud to make IT staff more productive, while smaller and larger organizations are primarily interested in enabling business staff.
  2. Who is driving cloud adoption: Techaisle’s research shows that ITDMs are primarily responsible for cloud’s platform technologies – IaaS, and virtualization and mobile device management – and that they share authority for SaaS with BDMs. However, the capabilities based on these foundational technologies – mobility, Big Data, BI/analytics, collaboration and social media – are largely directed by BDMs. BDMs also have taken a leadership role in the solution process steps  (need identification, strategic and operational planning, even evaluation) that lead to a sale. ITDMs retain responsibility for deployment and training, but optimization is now also primarily the responsibility of BDMs.
  3. What kinds of cloud are in use: Our research shows that SMBs use a mix of public, private and hybrid clouds – and that organizations often use two or three of these approaches simultaneously. The data suggests that the cloud deployment process starts with the business requirement, and moves back to the deployment model – rather than starting with a platform, and expanding across incremental workloads. If cloud selection is not a “religious issue”, then accounts are not won or lost at a single platform decision – they are won or lost on a workload-by-workload basis.
  4. When will cloud usage patterns change and how: Our analysis demonstrates the coming dominance of hybrid as a delivery model – which drives increased demand for both public and private cloud as well – and projects 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.
  5. Roles and responsibilities through the cloud security process: A troublingly-substantial proportion of small businesses either does not know who is responsible for specific security activities or believe that the requirements do not apply to their businesses, and both small and medium businesses demonstrate an over-reliance on cloud suppliers.
  6. Attributes of successful cloud solutions: Techaisle's survey results clearly demonstrate that small and medium businesses view support for mobility (and information access generally) as a key attribute of cloud success. Small businesses are also focused on the inherent cloud capability to deliver backup, continuity and disaster recovery, while mid-market firms view access to scalable compute and storage resources as a key cloud success attribute.  BDMs view continuity/backup/DR (and security) as key cloud deliverables – likely, as a result of a need to bridge the gap between setting policy and managing security processes while ITDMs demonstrate relatively acute interest in whether their cloud providers can deliver integration with physical systems and support for managed IT environments.
  7. Key inhibitor in using cloud: Security and control over data are two key inhibitors for accelerating the use of cloud, but the data indicates that BDMs can be persuaded that cloud contributes to better security.


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Guest — SMB Cloud Computing Seven Key Trends
[&] . Techaisles report titled SMB and Mid-Market Cloud Computing Adoption Trend is offered for purchase for specific countries. ... Read More
Thursday, 01 May 2014 07:41
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