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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.

Brand Equity - A New Prescription for Cisco’s SMB Channel Partner Success

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 the channel community, Cisco enjoys a sound reputation and a high degree of trust. Techaisle’s latest 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. These customers typically require the latest advanced technologies that our enterprise customers demand, but with less complexity. Small businesses, or companies with fewer than 100 employees, require information technologies and communication products that are easy to configure, install, and maintain. These smaller companies 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 do not leave it especially differentiated from competitors.

Technology Shift has Created SMB Messaging Challenges

In recent years SMB technology demands have shifted to cloud, mobility, analytics, social media, collaboration, managed services and virtualization. Cisco is seeking to capitalize on this market transition through the development of cloud-based product and service offerings that enable its customers develop and deploy their own cloud-based IT solutions.

In communications channel partners in the U.S. including those specializing in the SMB segment – Cisco has been steadily driving them to offer products and services that deploy cloud, mobility, virtualization, managed services and data center solutions. 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 advanced technologies have an average of 3.46 vendor partnerships which 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 all 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 others. Within the VAR/SI community, Cisco’s share of preference is 48 percent and drops to 39 percent amongst the MSPs/SPs that are viewed as critical to the success of future cloud initiatives.

Cisco’s SMB Channel Partner Brand Equity

Techaisle believes that it is time for a new metric to represent presence (and opportunities for growth) within the SMB market. Techaisle refers to this second-generation measurement approach as Brand Equity Management. It is measured by a robust proprietary index, the Techaisle Brand Equity Score (BES-360).

Techaisle believes that it is important for IT vendors 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. BES-360 is a KPI (Key Performance Indicator) that measures the strength of brand within a segment.

Cisco’s Brand Equity Score within its SMB channel partners is higher than most competitors – 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.

SMB Channel Partner Brand Equity Measurement– the New Prescription

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+. 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 has become 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 which when fixed can lead to better wallet share among MSPs.

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 service-centric partners then a lot more work is required to identify partners with higher services revenues and move them into the High Brand Equity segment.

Practicing the Prescription

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. Hence, Brand Equity Score findings help indicate potential 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.

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Citrix cloud drives a new solutions category: Mobile Delivery Infrastructure (MDI)

Steve Daheb, Chief Marketing Officer, Citrix, says, “Citrix is a cloud solutions company that enables mobile workstyles”. This philosophy’s execution is anchored to its three product pillars:

  1. XenDesktop
  2. Netscaler, and
  3. XenMobile

Citrix has committed itself to an ambitious definition of enterprise mobility, with a framework spanning nine components; customers can use Citrix technologies to create an integrated, single vendor solution covering all nine areas, or can opt to plug competing products into any of the nine areas – an approach that Citrix has labeled “any-ness.”


Mobile Delivery Infrastructure (MDI)

We believe that there is current demand in the market for a reasoned approach to defining enterprise mobility. The suppliers of the endpoint products aren’t in a position to define the architecture and services needed to connect their products to corporate networks, applications and data, and the suppliers of data center infrastructure lack visibility into the endpoint side of the equation. Citrix is unique in spanning both environments, and its approach to enabling customers is, in our opinion, well-aligned with the need for architectural clarity that we have observed in the market. Accordingly, using the Citrix framework as a starting point, we have created a definition of enterprise mobility that we have dubbed “Mobile Delivery Infrastructure,” or MDI. MDI is comprised of three distinct, critical solution pillars: endpoint tracking and security, collaboration and sharing, and app delivery and management.


Mobility Delivery Infrastructure (MDI)


Endpoint Tracking & Security


Collaboration & Sharing


App Delivery & Management


  • MDM
  • Mobile network control
  • Single Sign-on & Identity Management

  • Sandboxed mail
  • Secure mobile data sharing Collaboration

  • App dev tools
  • Mobile app security Windows-as-a-Service


Unsurprisingly, given our starting point, Citrix can be seen as a standard-setter for MDI. Its approach to MDI will likely attract many firms in search of a consistent approach: Citrix’s fundamental belief that work is not a place, simpler is better and any-ness wins will resonate with many customers looking for a starting point for a mobility framework.

The breadth of the Citrix portfolio will also help prospective customers to understand the requirement for the full breadth of MDI technologies. While many other cloud companies are developing either one solution or several for mobile workforce enablement, Citrix’s strategy seems akin to Microsoft’s during its formative years: it owned the platform (the operating system) for the PC, attracting an ecosystem of hardware, software and networking companies which built products and solutions extending the utility of the core product. To that extent, Citrix seems to have created a corporate mobility delivery infrastructure that can either be utilized stand alone or combined with other solutions.

SMB Market Potential

Citrix‘s main target has been the enterprise segment, which has served it well. It has yet to develop a coherent strategy for marketing and selling to the SMB segment, relying on partners to address the market. However, Techaisle research demonstrates that the SMB focused channel partners themselves want tremendous help from their vendors. For example US channel partner data clearly shows the help required on multiple fronts.

Nevertheless, the SMB market has huge potential with nearly 300 million mobile workers by 2016.The SMBs investing in mobile enablement will need MDI solutions to supporting these 300 million mobile workers – which will create demand for one or more solutions within Citrix’s MDI platform.


Techaisle outlook: We believe that mobility is transitioning from being defined by devices to being defined by management strategies – and that this will create demand for MDI. With products covering each aspect of MDI – and with an approach that supports both single-vendor and best-of-breed deployments – Citrix is extremely well positioned to benefit from this transition.


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SMBs Mixing and Matching Vendors to Find Best Virtualization Solutions

Techaisle’s SMB technology adoption study shows that 72 percent of SMBs find Virtualization to be one of the most relevant technologies for their business, 2nd only to backup and disaster recovery. The actual adoption gets hindered because 56 percent of SMBs find Virtualization to also be one the most complex technologies to understand and adopt. (See infographic)

SMBs cite several reasons for adopting server virtualization; key among them are reducing operating cost, backup and disaster recovery and reducing cost of IT support. Improving existing server and hardware systems utilization is mentioned by 32 percent of SMBs.

In our survey of SMBs either currently using or planning to use Virtualization technologies we found that SMBs currently using Virtualization tended to have a mixed brand Virtualization environment, not relying on a single vendor for the solution, but mixing and matching as they saw appropriate based on their specific requirements.

techaisle-smb-diverse-virtualization-installations


For example, the above chart shows that within VMware Server Virtualization environments, 66 percent of SMBs also use VMware client Virtualization technology, with both Microsoft and Citrix making up the difference for the client side. Similarly, 78 percent of SMBs that use Microsoft server Virtualization also use Microsoft client Virtualization. Several other findings become apparent from the above chart:

  • VMware and Citrix have the most relatively mixed virtualization environment as compared to Microsoft

  • Citrix and Microsoft may have a slightly deeper partnership that enables SMBs using Citrix server Virtualization to be combined with Microsoft client Virtualization more easily and cost effectively


However, we cannot look at the above chart in isolation. SMBs have been using Virtualization technologies as the market developed.

In the words of one VP of IT for a mid-market business, “We use Citrix, VMware, Microsoft Hyper-V, and emulation from Ericom. There are ‘n’ numbers of products that are being used in the whole gamut of things”.

The Venn diagram below not only exposes the vulnerabilities faced by Virtualization vendors but also demonstrates that the market is big enough for solutions from all vendors to work in a heterogeneous IT environment.

techaisle-smb-virtualization-mixed-brand-adoption


For example, the above Venn diagram shows that only 12 percent of SMBs use only VMware Virtualization solution which is twice that of Citrix and almost one-fourth of Microsoft. And 9 percent of SMBs use Virtualization solutions from VMware, Citrix and Microsoft. Once we start to include solutions from Parallels, NComputing, Oracle and others the overlaps become very complicated to map.


Our research found that SMBs usually go through a round of server consolidation before moving to Virtualization.

“The very first step was actually to go for server consolidation. Once the servers were consolidated, then the desktop virtualization was performed. So, typically for VDI architecture or any other technology, the first thing is the server consolidation and after that the procurement of solution and licenses were done from VMware and Citrix for the VDI and after which the user terminals were changed”, this according to one IT Director, Mid-market business.

Not all Virtualization projects finish smoothly. SMBs have also had different experiences with each of the three major brands for server Virtualization projects as shown in the chart below:

techaisle-smb-virtualization-project-implementation-issues


The factors affecting each of the projects could be dependent upon:

  • SMBs’ readiness

  • Channel partners’ capabilities


However, the top 3 most common areas that need addressing are Compatibility Issues, Cost Overruns and Lack of Experience, which are perennial issues as all SMB users adopt new technologies.

“The major challenge was the cost, because the initial hardware investment was huge. Getting rid of the system and moving to the cloud and installing virtual servers required purchasing of physical storage and upgrading the system. Another challenge that we faced was the initial configuration which was addressed timely and efficiently by our partners”, Vice President, IT (500 employee size company).

But SMBs have gained tremendous advantages from using Virtualization. “It certainly has helped us to avail richer network services without increasing our capital investment and has increased our operational efficiency. Moreover computing and networking are much simplified now”.

For additional information on this and other topics from the blog, please feel free to contact us for a discussion and gratis consultation.

To purchase Techaisle’s SMB Virtualization Trends and Adoption study or engage Techaisle in a deep-dive custom research please send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 
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Oracle takes the plunge with Eloqua – Techaisle Take

We have covered Marketing Automation as a major topic, especially through the Techaisle SMB Marketing Automation Study conducted in US, UK, Germany and several blog posts, commenting on the rapid growth and consolidation in the market. In one fell swoop Oracle is now addressing a US$3.5 billion opportunity in the US by 2015 and US$6.0 billion opportunity globally.

Oracle’s announcement that it would acquire Eloqua for $871M, a leading Marketing Automation vendor, seems a little odd at first, mainly because majority of Eloqua’s customers are said to be using Salesforce.com as their CRM platform, and because Oracle competes with Siebel-on-Demand and recently released its’ own Fusion CRM product.

In the typical Oracle fashion of acquiring existing market leaders, i.e. Siebel Systems, PeopleSoft and JDE, Oracle snatched up another jewel for the Ellison crown, apparently valuing B2B and Enterprise-level functionality over SMB and Social Media Marketing automation that have been the focus of arch-rival Salesforce.com. It also sends a message to Redmond, whose recent acquisition of MarketingPilot seems to offer a substantial list of features and functions, but does not carry the weight of Eloqua’s brand. In the short term, it kind of looks like a mixed bag; the repercussions of the purchase seem to revolve along these areas:

SMB Customers:

1)     Oracle says they will continue to support third party applications, but they have a huge vested interest in on-premise CRM in Siebel and other solutions that will compete for resources,

2)     Enterprise customers who still have a staff to manage applications may be open to another level of integration with a combined Fusion/Eloqua/Siebel offer, but for those SMBs already on SFDC, it is very unlikely that there would be a compelling reason to move from SaaS to an on-premise model; getting away from capital purchases, IT headcount, maintenance fees and software upgrades was the main reason for going with Salesforce.com from the beginning. Same for those who are already managing their marketing campaigns and customer communication programs using Eloqua; it is hard to take that away without some revenue risk and employee dissatisfaction.

3)      In a recent Techaisle survey, 77% of SMBs interviewed stated they were looking for vendors to reduce complexity. The type and level of integration of Eloqua into the larger Siebel suite will either make things more or less complicated depending on the approach taken by product managers to create a seamless experience.

Competitors:

4)     Oracle denies access to Eloqua’s technology to Salesforce.com, which would have been a very good fit both in terms of customer acquisition/migration and start up culture. This may well be the most important (short-term) advantage gained by Oracle. This moves Marketo, SliverPop and others up the ladder as the large independents in the space, with Hubspot and Marketo obvious next-in-line M&A targets, in a market that has seen scores of start-ups, mergers and acquisitions over the past few years.

5)     Despite a 30% premium paid by Oracle for Eloqua ($23/share over the market $17), there is already a class action suit alleging that the board should have shopped a buyer more aggressively, suggesting a $27 price as more reasonable. No comment.

6)     Over the longer term the implications are larger in a market that is moving fast, which will be influenced increasingly by Big Data, Automation and Optimization -  Enterprise capabilities to compete with the big players like IBM,  Salesforce.com and  SAP, who will be bringing competition and automation to a new level in the next few years. A recent Wikibon Post is a good example of how hardware and software are evolving to meet these emerging real time challenges. The post describes how fast the bar is rising in optimization in general and online advertising in particular:

“Many commercial Web publishers make space available on their Web pages for banner and display advertisements. Typically, when a user opens such a Web page, the browser reaches out to an online ad exchange network and requests an ad unit to serve to that user. The ad exchange broadcasts this information, often enriched with behavior data specific to the user in question, to multiple advertisers. Each advertiser compares the information against its internal ad inventory and existing ad campaigns to determine what that ad impression is "worth" to them. It then decides whether to place a bid and at what amount. Bids are returned to the ad exchange, which determines who the highest bidder is and delivers the winning advertisement.”
- Wikibon


Online Advertising Forecast, Kleiner PerkinsAll without noticeable lag to the user. These are the kind of industrial strength capabilities that are on the way as the market compounds at almost 130%, dominated by Mobile spending as devices grow by the hundreds of millions, as shown in this Kleiner-Perkins forecast.

Who’s Next?

So in our opinion this is a significant acquisition for Oracle, mainly because Eloqua has a strong base of satisfied users and a strong brand, and strong technology that can be applied to Oracle’s stack in the long run. The $871M price tag was not enough to prevent a lawsuit for some shareholders, but represents a sizable investment for Oracle as they strive to define the ultimate Customer-Centric, Multi-Channel Relationship Management platform in their race against the large horizontal vendors in the space (IBM, SAP, SAS, Google, Teradata).  To this end Oracle has acquired eight companies in the last two years (ATG, FatWire. Endeca, RightNow, Inquira, Vitrue, Collective Intellect, and finally with this announcement, Eloqua). The scope of what used to be called the “360ᴼ customer perspective” has evolved to include pre-sales, sales, post-sales, customer service and lifetime customer value application components, with a relentless push to automate and integrate each piece of the puzzle.

In the wake of this acquisition, an obvious question is who's next? As mentioned earlier, Marketo is an obvious choice, as are Silverpop Hubspot, Responsys, and others.  Will SFDC respond in kind or continue to focus on the lower end of the market and Social Media acquisitions? Regardless, we think 2013 will continue to see a rich market for Marketing Automation M&A activity, following two years that have seen scores of transactions in the space.

 

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