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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.

Next big thing for SMBs: Need for Enterprise Performance Management

CRM has become a core application for businesses and we have already seen that Sales Force Automation and Marketing Automation functions have been quickly incorporated along with Business Intelligence.  All of these can use the same or linked tables to provide a 360 degree view of the sales and marketing process. However, today, we have finally come to a place where it should be easy enough for SMBs to plan and execute business strategy using a structured performance management system, like the Balanced Scorecard. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) should be a standard part of the application architecture as should a meta-directory of KPIs that all applications can access.  To measure the effectiveness of Sales, Marketing, Operations, and industry-specific activities, each area should have standard metrics and access to benchmark data that lets the SMB know how they are doing compared to peers, but rather than only using historical data it should be based on forward-looking objectives (leading indicators) that are tied directly or indirectly to activities designed to ultimately improve financial results. SMBs are seriously interested in measuring elusive objectives like Return on Marketing Investment, Optimal Pricing, Cost of Acquisition, Lifetime Customer Value. They want integrated applications that can not only measure these objectives but also be able to optimize effectively.  This is what we call the Enterprise Performance Management (EPM).

For EPM applications to be really effective, they should be able to collect data from all applications and break into several areas; for people, productivity should be monitored through activity and results (as it already is in the new generation of SaaS applications), and effectiveness of software and equipment should be measured through algorithms that follow click paths, analyze application usage, optimize the process flow and usability of the systems. In some cases, like network optimization, filtering potential employees and ecommerce, systems should optimize themselves and human intervention should only be required when something is way outside the parameters defined by the administrator – who may increasingly be the LOB management.

With the EPM (Enterprise Performance Management) system SMBs will have a new attitude and culture that values and uses data visualization as the quickest way to gauge overall performance and specific areas of interest at a glance.

Most SMBs that have used CRM 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. We believe that Dashboards will 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. Similarly, within the EPM, the actual KPIs should be dynamic and have the ability to build KPIs “on-the-fly” by calculating variables on the screen and saving the result in a meta-repository for all to use. It will have to become the norm.

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 the performance across front office, production, fulfillment and customer service. NetSuite does it to some extent almost out of the box. The market has to catch up. While this level of functionality is an excellent target, small businesses can probably get by with a good understanding of leads, opportunities, customers, invoicing, billing and customer service (or the appropriate subset) by integrating together several applications from different IT vendors. But the need for EPM is genuine and the industry has to quickly design solutions to empower SMBs with enterprise-level EPM technology at an affordable price.

 

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15 Keys: Winning Strategies of Successful SMB Cloud Channel Partners

Techaisle’s extensive primary research based study finds that there are quantitative, meaningful and actionable differences between channel partners who are successful in the business of selling Cloud and those that have not developed successful SMB Cloud practices.

The study to understand the winning strategies for selling Cloud to SMBs and to enable channel partners and their vendor suppliers build viable, high-growth SMB cloud businesses uncovered 15 best practices and critical differences between the activities and approaches of successful and unsuccessful SMB Cloud computing channel partners. These 15 keys are grouped into three areas.

Corporate priorities and allocations:

1.   There is no organizational recipe for cloud success
2.   Familiarity breeds success
3.   The “why” behind the cloud initiative often helps explain success
4.   Recurring revenue is not the sole indicator of cloud business success

Technology and offering definition:

5.   Cloud rewards suppliers that focus on providing best-of-breed
6.   Branded solutions are a key element of channel cloud success
7.   Industry expertise is a more important differentiator than technical prowess
8.   Cloud portfolios need to extend beyond basic IaaS, SaaS to also encompass verticals
9.   Data integration linking on-premise and cloud environments is non-optional
10. The future is hybrid, not private

Sales and marketing strategies and tactic:

11. The nature of sales relationship is a critical determinant of cloud success
12. Profit is driven by product/service balance
13. Partner-to-partner relationships are important to cloud business success
14. A distinctive approach to budget and resource allocation creates differentiation
15. Creating a cost-effective, scalable approach to lead generation is imperative

Detailed analysis included in the report highlights key differences between:

  • Channel partners that are very successful and are making money selling cloud to SMBs

  • Channel partners that have just achieved success and have started making money selling cloud to SMBs

  • Channel partners that are not yet successful and are not making money from their SMB cloud business


Working with SMBs, the channel and the vendor community, Techaisle has created research materials that help reduce time-to-success and increase the overall benefit of offering SMB solutions. Channel members looking to build a successful cloud business practice, or a vendor looking to accelerate channel success, can find details of the report here, or send us an email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 
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Dell Channels Power On

As uncertainty swirls around both the IT infrastructure needs of the SMB market and the channel that supplies these solutions, Dell’s channel team, led by Greg Davis and Bob Skelley, could not be more upbeat. And as Techaisle research shows, channel members of Dell’s PartnerDirect program continue to power on.

In a recent Techaisle study of channel partners selling Cloud, Mobility, Managed Services, Virtualization and Datacenter solutions to SMBs, 58 percent said that Dell is a trusted brand with 48 percent mentioning that Dell is a reputable brand. With today’s announcement on software competencies, Dell is looking to build on that presence with an expanded portfolio addressing essential (and high-growth) infrastructure software products.

Partner Voice

It is clear that Dell considers sales enablement and execution to be the keys to its channel success. The company exhibits very tight focus on issues like deal registrations and training. In qualitative interviews, Dell’s partners say that Dell is easy to work with. They report that Dell’s partner program is straightforward, with a low threshold to enter, reasonable certifications’ requirements and all training materials available online. Dell partner executive Marcus Lindqvist, Country Manager for Sweden’s Dustin AB highlighted the benefit of this approach when he shared with us his reasons for being upbeat on Dell: “deal registration, robust process that protects the partner investment in our engagement with Dell on a deal by deal basis. We register the deal at an early stage in the sales process, most deal registrations are approved, and from that point we are in the lead without any future discussions about other partners or Dell direct sales undercutting our work. Deal registration is done online with quick turnaround times.”

Echoing the sentiments, Daniel Serpico, President of FusionStorm, [partner of Dell] noted, “[there is] very real clarity around deal registration and partnering; there is significant value creation around integration and configuration and Dell has infused software and tools to win with Dell.”

Software Competencies

It was only a matter of time before Dell extended the PartnerDirect program beyond its roots, from enabling and incentivizing hardware sales to rolling out software competencies. Over the past year, with numerous acquisitions and the hiring of John Swainson to helm Dell’s software operation, Dell has launched an aggressive strategy to build scalable enterprise software offerings into its solution portfolio, with emphasis in the areas of datacenter and cloud management, information management, mobile workforce management, and security and data protection.

On September 3, Dell announced four new PartnerDirect software competencies, including:

  • Security: Includes identity and access management, as well as network, endpoint and email security

  • Systems Management: Includes client management, performance monitoring, Windows Server management, virtualization and cloud

  • Data Protection: Includes enterprise backup/recovery, virtual protection, application protection and disaster recovery]

  • Information Management: Includes database management, business intelligence/analytics,  applications and data integration, and big data analytics


Dell partners now have the flexibility to decide between reselling hardware only, software only (via resale or a referral fee program) or both hardware and software. As per Techaisle’s Marketview, worldwide SMB (1-999 employees) spend in 2016 for the above four competences will be US$11.1 billion. Combine it with traditional datacenter solutions that includes servers, storage, networking the market spend jumps to over US$40 billion by 2016. This is a huge opportunity indeed for Dell and its channel partners.

Best-of-breed Solutions

The latest Techaisle channel partner study found that 54 percent of channel partners prefer to offer best-of-breed solutions to their SMB customers, with 28 percent preferring single vendor solutions. The key to successfully addressing both preferences is to combine best of breed offerings under a single brand, allowing partners to also take advantage of integration and volume benefits. HP and IBM have been active in staking out this territory; with the September 3 announcement, Dell has signaled its intention to compete aggressively for leadership within the small and mid-market business market segment.

techaisle-solutions-preferred-by-smb-channel-partners

In the cloud infrastructure area, Dell’s partner program rests on three pillars - Cloud Builder, Cloud Provider and Cloud Enabler. For all three pillars, best-of-breed solutions take on an entirely different meaning as shown in another study recently conducted by Techaisle. The study was done to understand the Winning Strategies of Successful and Profitable SMB Channel partners selling cloud.

techaisle-smb-cloud-winning-strategies


The study revealed that channel partners that are comfortable and profitable with cloud solutions combine best-of-breed solutions and wrap them tightly under their own offerings & services. These channels have also begun to utilize reference architectures from their vendor partners.

Training as the Lead-in

Channel partners prefer to partner with IT vendors that have quality products and innovative technology solutions that solve SMB pain points. This presents a complex challenge to vendors like Dell: partners need suppliers to both address customer requirements (with innovative, reasonably-priced and easily-deployed technology that addresses SMB pain points) and partner business requirements, such as training, pre-and-post sales support, and lead generation. As the results of Techaisle’s research demonstrate, product training is particularly important in this context. Dell is clearly cognizant of this demand: Marvin Blough, executive director of Worldwide Channels and Alliances for Dell Software is on record as observing that “Trained partners sell four times more than their untrained counterparts,” and Dell is said to be on plan to deliver over 250,000 training sessions this year.

Techaisle has observed, however, that most vendor training focuses on product attributes, and does not address development of the skills (building and advising on infrastructure strategy and workload roadmaps, establishing effective sales tactics and compensation models, developing the services competencies needed by customers) required for VARs to migrate successfully to advising on and deploying hybrid infrastructure. These advanced management-level training offerings will be essential for vendor differentiation, especially for the complex hardware/software solutions that are at the core of Dell’s evolving strategy.

techaisle-smb-channels-support


Concluding Remarks

Clearly, building leadership in the SMB infrastructure market is an ongoing challenge: requirements continue to evolve, entrenched vendors have strengths and relationships that have developed over many years, and Techaisle’s research has found that trusted brand figures for Dell are lower than for some of its competitors. Its brand equity score (BES) among channel partners is also lower than its competitors. It seems clear, though, that Dell is aware of market requirements and willing to invest in its SMB market and channel success, rolling out training modules, integrating partners acquired through acquisitions and combining both hardware and software for end-to-end solution delivery.

Michael O’Neil, Consulting Analyst with Techaisle, notes that “Infrastructure delivery has become a very challenging issue for business partners. Hardware-only sellers are at a significant disadvantage in a market where buyers are looking for hybrid solutions involving both on-premise and cloud-based platforms that combine server, storage and networking hardware with system management and security software to build solutions that will seamlessly support application delivery, data protection and backup, and many other key operational objectives. By offering a wide range of product types, and focusing on making the selling motion as clean as possible, Dell is enabling partners to focus on customer requirements rather than product silos.”

Looking at Dell’s approach from a partner’s perspective, Daniel Serpico provided an apt summary: “Dell sales teams cover all markets, which allows us as a partner to be able to have discussions with the Dell account manager on a specific account or deal, giving us a counterpart that understand the end-customers actual requirements and needs. Both teams have a laser sharp focus on the customer and to jointly win the deal [supported by] shorter turnaround and quick responses from Dell.”

 
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Path to Big Data Adoption Success: Mid-market and SMBs

Techaisle's Big Data study of 3,360 businesses shows that mid-market businesses typically started their big data journey in one of four ways. However, the highest success rate (determined by reaching a successful implementation of a big data project within six months of initiation) was achieved when an external consultant or organization was brought in to develop proof of concept, advice on database architecture and ultimately develop the big data analytics solution.

techaisle-smb-big-data-adoption-path


Once a decision was made to embark on a big data deployment project, the mid-market organization tended to quickly align behind the initiative. They did realize that big data was not a typical cloud application deployment where independent department purchases could be made, nor was it infrastructure deployment where only IT could be involved. Big data required a new type of alignment between business heads, namely, Marketing, Finance, IT and a completely new set of players known as data scientists or data analysts.

Study shows that businesses are moving from “whack-a-mole” analytics to “business perspectives” to get newer insights into their operations and better knowledge about their customers as they rethink their marketing strategies because mobility, social media, and other transactional services have increased the number avenues for connections with their customers. There are many different tactical objectives for deploying big data projects but the top among them are sentiment monitoring, generating new revenue streams & improving predictive analytics. And businesses are expecting some clear cut benefits from big data analytics such as increased sales, more efficient operations, improved Customer service.

 
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