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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.

Mobility becoming a niche within SMB Channel Partners

Where is the SMB mobility channel today, as we enter 2016? Results from three Techaisle SMB channel surveys and compiled in report The Channel and Mobility: SMB Supply Options show that there has been substantial retreat from mobility as a core offering in the SMB and midmarket channel. In two years, the proportion of partners stating that they are unsuccessful at selling mobility has increased from 5% to 17%. There are likely two main reasons for this, a “push” and a “pull,” both related to the increased need for specialization in 1-2 of four main market areas (mobility, cloud, managed services, converged infrastructure/virtualization).

On the “push” side, Techaisle believes that many channel partners are struggling to find a profitable entry point to mobility. Supply of the devices themselves is not sufficient: buyers are deploying a wide range of client technology (PCs, smartphones, tablets) which has the effect of diffusing investments in PCs, diverting investment from the channel (since some technologies, especially smartphones, are generally acquired from telcos or other non-traditional-channel sources), and slowing PC refresh cycles (since client technology investment is now spread across 2-3 different devices). Additionally, the rise of BYOD is a double-edged sword: on the one hand, it increases the need for mobility management solutions (since these devices have greater need for security and related capabilities, such as audit/compliance monitoring), but on the other, authority for these devices doesn’t reside entirely within IT. And SMB channel partners are continuing to struggle on how best to offer mobility management solutions, mobility security solutions and bet on which vendor suppliers.

smb channel mobility success trend techaisle

On the “pull” side, channel members who are being forced to abandon the ‘one stop solution shop’ positioning in favor of specialization in 1-2 of the core four areas need to decide if the uncertain journey into mobility has a greater overall benefit than focus on cloud, managed services and/or converged infrastructure/virtualization.

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SMB Channel and the Cloud - success increasing and coalescing around few factors

In the report “The SMB Channel and the Cloud”, Techaisle uses findings from in-depth surveys with US-based channel firms deriving at least 50% of revenue from sales to SMBs to illuminate conditions within the US SMB cloud channel, and to develop perspectives that suppliers (and the channel itself) can use to construct successful cloud channel strategies.

From 2013 to 2015, the percentage of SMB-focused channel partners that have become very successful in selling to SMBs has increased from 40% in 2013 to 63% in 2015. On the flip side, the percent of partners who are unsuccessful has increased by 60%. MSPs are the most successful partner type in cloud, while consultants are struggling to gain traction in the cloud market.

smb channel cloud success trend techaisle

Highlights from the research include:

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Managed services in the SMB channel

What is the current state of managed services in the channel?

Techaisle’s SMB global channel partner research shows that in the US 71% are currently offering one or more managed services solutions and another 18% are planning to offer managed services within one year. Techaisle believes that the channel is at the beginning of a migration from generalist to specialist firms that will play out over the next few years. With that in mind, it is fair to ask, how widespread is managed services delivery today?

Figure below, taken from Techaisle’s US SMB Managed Services Channel Study illustrates the proportion of channel partners that currently offer managed services to SMBs. Unsurprisingly, 100% of MSPs report that they do so. What might be more surprising is the extent to which channel members with other core business models provide managed services to their SMB clients. Roughly two-thirds of VARs and SPs, and 80% of SIs, offer managed services to SMB customers. IT consultants are less likely to do so, but here, too, one-third of firms are already using managed services delivery to support SMB clients.

techaisle-us-smb-channel-managed-services-current-planned-resized

Above data demonstrates that there has been and continues to be substantial take-up in managed services as a business delivery model outside of MSPs. This will help to build SMB customer awareness of the benefits of the approach and comfort with managed services as a delivery model. It will also have a positive impact on the channel generally, as experience with managed services helps build channel familiarity with recurring revenue models which will be important in other important channel business areas, such as cloud.

Comfort level with – and profitability of – managed services

Clearly, SMB channel members of many types are investing in developing managed services capabilities. This trend begs the question, to what extent are these firms benefitting from these investments?

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New wave of SMB channel conflict in building a cloud practice

This is a two-part blog article. The first part dealt with “SMB IT channel reaching an inflection point”. Second part, below is on “New wave of SMB channel conflict in building a cloud practice”.

Turning a supertanker

Building an effective cloud practice within a channel business is a complex undertaking. Using an old metaphor, it has been compared to “turning a supertanker.” This is an inapt comparison, and not just because the vast majority of channel businesses are far smaller than a large ocean vessel. The real problem with the comparison is that turning a supertanker refers to an exercise whose success rests on an anticipation of future change. Certainly, this is part of the problem for the channel – what is the best time to invest in ramping up cloud practice resources? – but the issue has a much greater scope.

A successful cloud business practice requires new management metrics, new financial models, new sales processes (and generally, compensation models), new vendor relationships, new marketing activities, new consulting capabilities and new technical support capabilities. To use a nautical analogy, creating a cloud practice within an existing channel business is like building a second boat within your ship, sailing it off in a different direction, and maintaining alignment between the two courses in order to maximize synergies and benefits and reduce expensive discontinuities.

Abundantly Complex

If this sounds difficult and complex, well…it is. However, there is abundant reason to believe that the exercise is necessary for future viability and success. Roughly 80% of channel firms either offer some type of cloud solution today or are planning to offer cloud solutions; of these, more than 60% expect cloud revenue increases in in next one year (Techaisle’s SMB Channel Partner Trends study). This is not a single-year issue, though: the business impact of cloud within the channel is expected to continue to increase over time. Techaisle expects that over the next several years, the position of the generalist channel firm – the “one stop shop for solutions” – will become untenable, squeezed by market forces requiring higher degrees of specialization. Some channel firms will specialize in cloud, while others will link cloud with one or two other specialties, such as mobility, virtualization and converged infrastructure, and/or managed services. But very few channel businesses will remain viable without having a credible cloud business practice.

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