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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.

The Great Recession, Consumerization, and the birth of BYOD trend, more so in SMBs

The ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) trend has its roots in two significant events that challenged corporate IT behavior. The first was the “Great Recession” of 2008-2009. The recession affected the entire economy, and IT was not spared its shadow. One key result of the recession was the interruption of regular refresh cycles. Prior to the recession, many businesses replaced endpoint devices (then, almost exclusively PCs) on a regular cycle – e.g., one third of devices would be refreshed every year, and the devices themselves would be used for three years, dividing the capital cost of keeping endpoint technology up-to-date across multiple annual budgets. The cash crunch that hit most businesses in the recession prompted many to forego refresh cycles, replacing individual units only when they failed. This approach did conserve scarce resources during the downturn, but when stability returned to the economy, CIOs realized that a large proportion of corporate endpoints were due for replacement – and CFOs realized that they lacked the CAPEX funds needed to refresh the entire endpoint fleet.

At the same time, another trend – Consumerization – was sweeping through the IT industry.

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Look back on US SMB PC purchase intentions

Look back

As is the case in each year’s SMB research, Techaisle SMB survey respondents are asked to detail their plans for acquisition of different types of client devices. Two of the major categories investigated by the surveys are desktop PCs and notebook PCs. To establish a baseline understanding of PC use and demand, Techaisle asks SMB respondents to specify the number of endpoint devices that are currently in use within their companies, and then asks them to specify the quantity that they are planning to buy over the next twelve months. To provide actionable insight to our clients, the question asks separately about desktop PCs, notebook PCs and tablets. While 2016 survey is in the field it is worth looking at the trends of last two years. In 2014, both the US small and midmarket businesses were bullish about new desktop and notebook purchases. But in 2015, the percent of US SMBs planning to buy PCs had dropped by 40% from 2014 for both desktops and notebooks. However, although the average number units of desktops planned to purchase dropped from 2014 to 2015 the average number of notebooks planned to purchase increased substantially from 2014 to 2015.

2014-us-smb-pc-purchase-intentions-techaisle

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Many desktop buyers were motivated to replace existing units because they were reaching end-of-life and take advantage of Windows XP upgrade path. Desktops are also more of a planned/budgeted item than other client form factors (notebooks, tablets), meaning that desktop acquisitions are more likely to appear in formal purchase plans than the mobile units, and less likely to be acquired on an ad hoc basis. Notebooks are usually ad hoc purchase items – meaning that they would be underrepresented in research of this sort relative to desktops. Additionally many users upgrade their notebooks over time (to replace damaged units, to get features like touchscreen, to obtain lighter or smaller products, etc.).

However, corporate purchase intentions do not provide a complete perspective on mobile device acquisitions.

Potential Impact of BYOD on US SMB PC Purchases

Figure below presents a perspective on corporate purchase plans and the impact of employee purchases of notebooks. The top two sections of the table, shaded in green, illustrate the proportion of businesses by employee size reporting desktop and/or notebook purchase intentions, and the number of units that they plan to acquire. These figures are used to prepare a “net increase” figure – the average number of new units expected to be deployed by businesses in each employee size category. These two grey sections are followed by a line of percentages, shaded in purple, which shows the ratio of corporate desktop purchases to corporate notebook acquisitions. It shows that microbusinesses with 1-9 employees are much more likely to be buying desktops than notebooks, and that other SMBs are planning to buy 25% to 99% more desktops than notebooks.

potential-impact-of-byod-on-smb-pc-purchase-intention-techaisle

The next section of the table, shaded in blue, begins with the BYOD penetration statistics that appear at the bottom of the figure. It then calculates the impact on notebook purchase intentions if this ratio is fully reflected in notebook purchases (the “at 100%” line) and if employees were to buy notebooks at half of the BYOD penetration rate (“at 50%), showing both corporate and employee purchases of these devices. These revised figures are used to calculate the desktop to notebook PC purchase proportions shown in the second set of purple-shaded cells. Here, we see that if employee purchases of notebooks are equivalent to current BYOD penetration levels, new notebook units would be about equal to new desktop purchases in most employee size segments, while a 50% scenario would result in ratios ranging from about 1:1 to 1:6 in all but the smallest employee size category.

 

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BYOD in the SMB and its impact on mobile device purchase

Techaisle SMB and Midmarket Mobility Adoption Trends data shows that BYOD is not a factor in every SMB’s mobility strategy: more than half of small business (1-99 employees) respondents to the Techaisle SMB survey report that all or essentially all of the mobile devices in use are owned by the business, and nearly 25% of midmarket enterprises own 90%+ of their mobile device portfolios. However, BYOD is widespread within this group: 36% of the devices used by small businesses and 43% of those in use within midmarket firms are owned by employees.

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The term BYOD has only been around since 2009, when it is said to have originated at Intel – but it has since become ubiquitous. A web search on the term will return nearly 10 million hits, and IT managers at organizations of all sizes and from nearly all industry sectors are very familiar with demands for connecting employee-owned mobile devices to corporate IT networks, applications and data resources.

Techaisle survey data shows that BYOD within SMBs comes in several ‘flavors.’ One of them is where employee both selects and pays for a new device, delighting the SMB finance, but causing problems for IT. Another flavor is CYOD, where employee pays for the device but selects it based on guidelines or an approved list. It appeals to both the SMB and IT but is not completely satisfactory for the employee. Third flavor is where it is a mix of two with some level of reimbursement for the purchase from the company and/or technical support for the devices. This has an upside because the employee selects technology that he/she is comfortable with but the downside is that the cost burden rests, at least to some extent, with the company rather than the employee.

Techaisle SMB and Midmarket mobility adoption survey data also shows that BYOD has implications on desktop and notebook purchases.

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SMB & Midmarket IT challenges in supporting mobile workforce

If the “office” is defined by devices then “workplace” is defined by the ability to work from wherever those devices (and their users) are located. In this vein, “work” typically includes a requirement to access corporate data with mobile devices.

Data from the Techaisle 2015 SMB Mobility Adoption and Trends survey finds that more than 80% of small business employees and 55% of workers in midmarket firms require mobile access to company data. Providing this access and the applications, devices and solutions represents an enormous investment for SMBs that are typically very conservative in their IT budget allocations.

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By more than a 2:1 ratio, SMB respondents believe that mobility is a means of driving growth in the business. But mobility does not deliver business benefits painlessly. The introduction of mobility solutions has created new issues for IT management, and suppliers who can help to address these issues will gain favor in this community.

Addressing the needs of the “dual mode” user is a non-trivial issue. In the Techaisle survey, both small and midmarket firms report that users access a combination of business and personal resources via their business-connected (both corporate-owned and BYOD) mobile devices. This reinforces the importance of some of the solutions being currently used or planning to be used by SMBs. These are solutions that help manage mobile devices that deliver access to corporate information without downloading data and applications themselves (such as thin clients and Windows-as-a-Service) and methods of securing data when it is exchanged between mobile devices and external users and where users themselves move seamlessly between corporate and personal usage modes on devices that are connected to corporate networks.

Mobile devices are an essential component of mobility but mobility itself extends beyond hardware to applications, solutions and work habits. Techaisle’s 2015 SMB Mobility Adoption Trends research shows that the “dual mode” SMB user represents a specific problem for SMB IT staff and the challenges of supporting a mobile workforce go well beyond the device.

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Small and midsized businesses have different challenges in supporting the mobile workforce

Looking first at the small businesses, we see that managing TCO – which includes, in addition to typical IT expenses, service charges that are unique to mobile devices – is rated as the most significant challenge by small business respondents. These firms also struggle with the “on ramps” to mobility: finding appropriate suppliers and solutions and integrating multiple screens are also ranked in the top five challenges encountered by 1-99 employee firms in support of the mobile workforce.

techaisle-top-5-midmarket-challenges-supporting-mobile-workforce-resized

Midmarket firms also count TCO as their most significant challenge. Rather than struggling with mobility on ramps, though, midmarket firms are more concerned with security/data protection and mobile management. Network security, protecting corporate data on mobile devices and managing these devices are all top-five mobility challenges for midmarket IT – and further evidence of why mobility solutions addressing these issues are essential to this community.

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