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    2019 Top 10 SMB Business Issues, IT Priorities, IT Challenges
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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.

Workforce enablement - driving IT benefit throughout the organization

IT provides the tools to support greater efficiency and market engagement. What are the best ways to help the workforce to capture these benefits, and be more productive? The workspace isn’t defined by windows and walls and common area couches. For millions of SMB and midmarket employees, the “workspace” isn’t a physical location – it’s a virtual space defined by access from multiple screens which are used from multiple locations. This is especially true of mobile workers, a category which is increasingly indistinguishable from “workers.” Techaisle data shows that 72% of SMB employees are mobile, 87% of SMB employees use mobile devices to access corporate information.

Workforce enablement

Techaisle global survey found that improving workforce productivity is the second most important midmarket business objective for 2019 and among the top five objectives of small businesses. Data shows that for 42% of SMBs’ improving employee productivity is a priority and 43% of SMBs are using digitalization initiatives for employee empowerment.

There are many factors involved in driving productivity, including management approaches, processes and practices, and collaboration/synergy across activities and functions. But technology is a key contributor to productivity – directly, and through its ability to positively affect processes and internal coordination.

Techaisle research shows that these benefits don’t accrue to all SMBs equally: SMBs that are advanced in their approach to IT (“Enterprise IT”) are about twice as likely to achieve the productivity-enabled benefits than lowest-performing firms, and 30% more likely to realize productivity benefits than the average SMB.

The statistics quoted above show that IT is seen as a source of productivity-enhancing capabilities – meaning, in some way, that IT has ‘permission’ from the business to help drive higher levels of workforce performance. However, improved performance requires a strategy, and in technology matters, this strategy should be driven by IT management. It is important that the IT function be responsive to business requirements, deploying requested technology and delivering user training. There is another role, though, that IT management can and should play: focusing on technologies that are proven to contribute to workforce enablement, deploying these technologies within the organization and working with business staff to ensure that the benefits inherent in the technologies are recognized and captured. This advances the IT function from simply responding to requests to providing leadership in enabling the SMB and midmarket workforce.

Techaisle’s research has identified a number of solutions that are seen as driving productivity within SMBs and midmarket firms – approaches that IT managers can and should explore as they seek ways to connect the potential of IT to demonstrable increases in productivity. Three of these solutions - unified workspace, collaboration, and mobility, are especially important in a technology-dependent economy, and each contributes meaningfully to enabling the workforce.

Unified workspace

‘Distributed,’ ‘remote,’ ‘mobile’ – these are the realities of today’s workforce. In many economies, roughly half of workers are remote for at least some part of the work week.

Increasingly, SMBs and midmarket firms are using technology to provide cohesion within the workforce. Unified workspace solutions, which (in Techaisle’s definition) “provides secure anytime, anywhere, any device access from any web browser with single sign-on and password management for all public and private applications, services and file sources used to run the business” help SMBs to organize workers into connected groups. Techaisle research has found that over 75% of firms deploy unified workspace to support the needs of multilocation and full-time remote or travelling workers. These systems also help IT to deliver on key goals of data protection and mobility enablement. Businesses that have adopted unified workspace technology believe strongly that it contributes to productivity by providing a single workspace from which employees can accomplish majority of their daily work, delivering better access to applications and resources.

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Video collaboration is necessary for SMB business agility – decision agility, innovation agility

It is common knowledge that cloud is being adopted by SMBs and midmarket businesses for business agility. Techaisle’s SMB & midmarket cloud adoption study data shows that 80 percent of SMBs consider cloud to be contributing to business growth and video-enabled collaboration is playing an ever-increasing role in contributing to business agility for high-growth and innovative businesses. But why?

Because Innovation happens best in collaboration and not in isolation.

High-growth, highly innovative SMBs and midmarket businesses differ greatly from low-growth firms in their use of advanced collaboration technologies. High-growth firms pursue a wide range of collaboration-related benefits – more rapid decision-making capacity, improved employee productivity, richer engagement with customers, and better internal collaboration – and make extensive use of face-to-face (F2F) video systems.

Techaisle survey data shows that initial centricity of file sharing is giving way to rich in-person interactive communications in collaboration strategies.

What are the key elements of a collaboration framework that can help IT decision makers (ITDMs) and business decision makers (BDMs) come to a mutual understanding of how, where and why to use video-enabled collaboration solutions, in particular, F2F video? To answer this question, Techaisle conducted a survey of 1,269 ITDMs and BDMs with SMBs and midmarket businesses, across the US, Latin America, Europe, and Asia Pacific.

Techaisle’s research identified key characteristics that distinguish these low-growth, moderate growth and high-growth/innovative businesses. As figure below demonstrates, use of face-to-face video (F2F video) is correlated with important outcomes within their businesses. Collectively, these attributes align strongly with market success. Techaisle’s research found that the high adopters of video grew nearly 2X faster than other low or non-adopters and they reported even more benefits from using video than slower growing businesses. By using video-enabled collaboration there are only upsides for businesses.

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Interwork - the next step in connected businesses

Internet and the web are the navigation routes that we have been developing since the 1970s; the always-on, everywhere-connected Interwork platform is the destination that we will be creating in 2018 and for years to come.

As we enter 2018, it seems that online capabilities and activities are entering a new era. There are still advances to be made in the ‘net’ realm: there is constant pressure to expand the speed of the Internet, enabling it to handle the voracious demands of unstructured content like video, and the rise of IoT portends a coming tsunami of data from billions of connected devices. However, the key focus of web-based business investment is now less about the ‘net’ and more about the ‘work’: the ways that an increasingly-connected world supports pursuit of previously-unattainable objectives. The most important IT-related development in 2018 will be this focus on connectedness – connected cloud, connected edge, connected applications, connected security, conected collaboration, connected workspaces and connected insights. (Download your free white paper here)

Techaisle calls it the “Interwork platform” (as described in Techaisle's latest white paper). This refers to Techaisle’s belief that 2018 will mark a transition point at which corporate focus on developing and deploying systems that offer the capacity to connect diverse resources (the Internet platform) will be surpassed by a focus on capitalizing on the benefits of connected information, assets and users and teams – the ‘Interwork platform’ - to deliver on the four pillars of digital transformation: operational efficiency, customer intimacy, employee empowerment and innovation.


In the early 1970s, computer science pioneers Vint Cerf and Robert E. Kahn developed the networking protocol TCP/IP – Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol – which enabled interconnections between networks to form a ‘network of networks’. Fifteen years later, in 1989, Tim Berners-Lee developed the World Wide Web, allowing browsers to follow hypertext links to far-flung resources. The Web was released to the general public in August 1991 – and businesses and individuals around the world have spent more than 25 years developing a vast array of content, process and interactive capabilities that are set within and rely on the network of networks.

Techaisle’s position is that from the perspective of the technology world, 2018 – and quite possibly, several years following 2018 – will be defined by the benefits arising from the interconnection of all types of resources: platforms/environments, information, devices and applications. With the connective fabric now (or rapidly becoming) ubiquitous, businesses of all types and sizes will move beyond a focus on network access, and concentrate instead on using Interwork technologies to drive progress across the four pillars of digital transformation: operational efficiency, customer intimacy, employee empowerment and product innovation.

Techaisle’s recent point-of-view on the Interwork platform highlights seven key areas and trends playing out across seven key technology areas:

  1. Connected cloud, which provides the foundation for Interwork, the bedrock on which Interwork platforms are built
  2. Connected edge, which completes that foundation and will work with connected cloud to deliver the ‘yin and yang’ of the Interwork platform’s infrastructure
  3. Connected applications, that represent the best path forward for corporate workloads and processes – and represent a critical component of the Interwork platform
  4. Connected security, is an essential property of the Interwork platform as security strategies no longer resemble a ‘wrapper’ around assets
  5. Connected collaboration, as it becomes part of the fabric of business activity, rather than as a means of enabling connections between discrete tasks
  6. Connected workspaces, which draw together assets and users, delivering increased benefit within each category while simultaneously extending and strengthening the core of the Interwork platform; and
  7. Connected insights, the information gained/accessed through the platform, which enables businesses to address constantly-advancing expectations for speed (of operational decisions) and completeness (of strategic decisions).

techaisle interwork platform description resized

Business and IT executives who are able to grasp the benefits associated with these seven key areas – and who are able to profit from the points at which multiple connected business resources combine to build the broader Interwork platforms – will emerge as leaders in and beyond 2018. Their organizations will participate in shaping rapidly-evolving business and consumer expectations for responsiveness and agility. Businesses that capitalize on Interwork capabilities will capture preferred positions within their markets, and within the millennial labor pool that defines a key area of near-term competition.

There are many powerful rationales for investing in each of the seven components of an Interwork platform, and as Techaisle's white paper demonstrates, each component in turn delivers greater value when it is connected with the other links in the Interwork chain.

Download your free white paper here

 

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2015 Predictions Review: did IT live up to the hype in 2015

December has traditionally served as the occasion for the publication of New Year forecasts. It’s understandable that we want to look ahead to the sources of opportunity that lie ahead. But in the business world, December also marks the beginning of the review season. And while detailed forecasts focus on the next twelve months, the planning horizon needs to look a little further, so that tactics provide support for business strategies, rather than simply delivering a series of course adjustments.

This is a two part blog article. The first part, below, reviews the predictions we made for 2015. Second part will focus on outlook for 2016 and for the longer term.

A look back – what was it we said was right around the corner, again?

Here are the issues we highlighted, “Ten predictions for 2015 – and five issues to keep an eye on for 2016 and beyond” and how we think we did in our prognostication.

The Top 10 for 2015

1. Hybrid arrives – not as a strategy but as the result of many discrete decisions

With the benefit of today’s perspective, we might fairly say that in 2015 and for several more years to come, a more apt description of hybrid is journey rather than destination. Digging into the detail, though, we believe our prediction that “an ability to manage hybrid infrastructure will become a key corporate IT requirement in 2015” has been borne out by the focus on tools and strategies (ranging from Docker to Agile) that we saw throughout the year. In Techaisle’ SMB Cloud adoption studies, there was a sense of growing ubiquity in the usage and plans for private, hybrid and public cloud. Use of hybrid cloud continued to increase as both a conscious strategy and as a reaction to use of both public and private resources within a single infrastructure; by the end of 2015, two-thirds of companies with 100-999 employees were using hybrid models.

2. Collaboration becomes a much bigger concept

In 2015, collaboration began to expand beyond file-sharing to become a necessary tool for driving decision-based agility, fostering innovation and extending customer intimacy. Collaboration is a process rather than a discrete outcome. Our key notion that collaboration “extends beyond the corporate staff (and as a result, beyond large enterprises) to include customers” clearly did reflect strategies and investments in 2015. Within the SMB segment collaboration is increasingly becoming a central component to virtually all business activities rather than a means to enable connections between discrete tasks. Other changes in this area will further reshape collaboration, but you’ll need to refer to the “forecast” part of the blog for that discussion.

3. Collabmobilicloud becomes a management reality

The core concept explained that despite vendor tendency towards defining collaboration, mobility and cloud as separate domains, both enterprise and SMB users have started viewing them as integrated components of business solutions. The user belief that collaboration, mobility and cloud should all be attributes of modern applications has become clearer, and even suppliers are starting to recognize the importance of an integrated collabmobilcloud approach.

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