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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.

2015 Top 10 SMB & MidMarket Business Issues, IT Challenges, IT Priorities

Techaisle's recently completed survey of SMBs and Mid-market companies reveals the following Top 10 IT Priorities, IT Challenges and Business Issues that the IT and Business Decision makers are facing in 2015. For the first time in many years the top SMB business issue is Increasing Profitability. This is followed by Increasing Business Growth and Reducing Operating Costs.

For the midmarket businesses Reducing Operating Costs is the top business issue for 2015 followed by Increasing Profitability and Increasing Business Growth. Also appearing for the for the first time in 2015, Managing Uncertainty is among the top ten business issues for both small and midmarket businesses.

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SMB Key Success Metrics for Collaboration solutions

Key success metrics for collaboration systems center on speed of response to customers/prospects and business decision timeliness and accuracy.

Techaisle’s global SMB survey results show that 42 percent of SMBs assess the success of collaboration solution initiatives in terms of improved speed of response to customers and prospects. In the SMB survey Techaisle asked respondents “which metrics does your organization use to measure the business benefits of collaboration technologies?”  Small and midmarket business responses to the question show that the success of collaboration systems is primarily gauged by improvements in response time to customers or prospects. However, this is where the similarity between small and midmarket businesses’ measurement of key success metrics for collaboration solutions stops.

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Small business View

Apart of speed of response, 36 percent of small businesses report that conversation views, comments and topics are used to evaluate collaboration solution success; Techaisle believes that while this makes sense from a couple of perspectives (it provides an indication of system use/adoption, and metrics can be easily collected and compared), it does not make sense from an important standpoint of “does this metric measure an important business outcome?”

Techaisle believes that counting conversation views, comments and topics is a relatively weak success metric for collaboration systems, one that will gradually give way to measurements, like decision timeliness, that are tightly coupled with key business outcomes. Somewhat surprisingly, internal response times, that is, speed of response to employees, is also an important measurement criterion for small businesses with 20-99 employees.

Midmarket View

Decision accuracy, a key evaluation criterion, is rated as the second most important collaboration solution success metric by 43 percent of midmarket businesses and the third-most important by small business respondents. Midmarket businesses are also focused on decision timeliness, which strikes Techaisle as a reasonable measure of collaboration success.  

Further analysis of the midmarket data shows that speed of customer/prospect response is more firmly positioned than small businesses as the key determinant of solution success. Survey data also shows that midmarket businesses with 100-249 employees also view a reduction in the cost of collaboration as a key success metrics. This is interesting because it is the only employee size segment to include cost among the top three measures of collaboration solution success.

Techaisle Take

It is always difficult to measure the impact of technology, especially when that technology has a broad purpose, rather than a narrowly-defined technical objective. One can measure the impact of a faster processor, network or database in response time, even if one is uncertain of how to assess the business relevance of better response time. But what is the best way to evaluate the success of collaboration solutions that are deployed to create corporate information repositories, to connect geographically-dispersed staff, to improve innovation or teamwork, to overcome constraints on decision speed, and/or to address corporate mandates?

Techaisle believes that the survey findings, reported in 360 on SMB Collaboration Solutions Adoption Trends contain important messages for collaboration solution providers. Marketing material aimed at SMB business management should emphasize, in clear and measurable terms, how investment in a solution will improve the timeliness of responses to customers and prospects. The messaging should also include information (again, in clear and preferably measurable terms) on how a solution can enable better decision timeliness. And while cost is always important, survey data indicates that reduction in the cost of collaboration should not be a central facet of solution positioning. Instead, suppliers are urged to look for ways (via case studies, perhaps) to illustrate how better collaboration solutions leads to more accurate business decisions.

Related blogs:

34 percent SMBs want out-of-box Collaboration within SaaS/Cloud applications

SMB and Midmarket File Sharing & Collaboration Adoption to Grow by 52 percent

SMB Content Management & Collaboration Solutions Adoption: Seven Key Trends

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34 percent SMBs want out-of-box Collaboration within SaaS/Cloud applications

Techaisle’s SMB & Midmarket Collaboration adoption research found that apart from traditional collaboration solutions of file sharing and communication, SMBs need SaaS business applications to have collaborative properties. 34 percent of SMBs and 44 percent of midmarket businesses say that SaaS applications should have built-in collaboration properties out-of-the-box. They say that the success of a cloud business application is its ability to provide /support collaboration, including email and/or hosted telephony.

Techaisle survey data shows that there is a strong connection between SaaS applications and collaboration. In some ways, these connections are intuitive: SaaS is a resource that can be accessed simultaneously by multiple individuals located anyplace where there is a network connection and cloud is inherently supportive of collaboration, and many applications are either explicitly focused on collaborative activities (ranging from SharePoint to CRM) or embed these capabilities (as with productivity applications like Office 365 or Google Apps).

Techaisle’s SMB research found quantitative support for these perceptions. When SMB respondents were asked, “what are the key attributes of a successful cloud solution?” As would be expected, security, scalability, and data management (including disaster recovery) were prominent in these responses. However, the most common answer was “the ability to support mobility,” which speaks to the requirement to enable mobile collaboration. And the fifth-most common response was “the ability to provide or support collaboration.” As the figure below shows, this is an important issue across size categories: it was cited as an important cloud success attribute by nearly half of near-enterprise (500-999 employees) firms, and also by companies with just 10-19 employees.

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Further analysis of current and planned SaaS workloads underscores the importance of collaborative capabilities within SaaS applications. Techaisle asked small business and midmarket respondents who are currently using or planning to use cloud to identify the top SaaS workloads in use today, and those that are in current adoption plans. The results, that collaboration plays a role in most SaaS applications:

Workloads explicitly focused on collaboration

    • Hosted VoIP (used today by 52 percent of midmarket businesses, with 35 percent planning adoption)

 

    • Content publishing (used today by 53 percent of midmarket businesses; 56 percent of SaaS using small businesses are planning deployment)

 

    • CRM (in use or planned by 93 percent of midmarket businesses and 71 percent of SaaS using small businesses)



Workloads where collaboration is a key differentiator, attribute or outcome

    • Office suites (both Google Apps and Office 365 emphasize intrinsic collaboration capabilities. Office suites are the most commonly used SaaS application type within small business, and the third most commonly used application type within midmarket business)

 

    • Project management (most commonly used SaaS application type within midmarket business, and the third most commonly used SaaS application type within small business)

 

    • Business Intelligence (53 percent of midmarket businesses and 44 percent of small business are planning adoption)



Workloads where better collaboration or reporting within/across departments/functions and/or with external stakeholders is a key outcome

    • Accounting/financial management and ERP (accounting/financial management is the second most widely used SaaS application type within small businesses)

 

    • HR management (deployed by more than half of midmarket business SaaS users)

 

    • Marketing automation (highest rate of planned adoption within midmarket business SaaS users)



These findings underscore trends that are apparent in the SMB SaaS and collaboration markets: that increasingly collaboration is important to SMBs (as a means of boosting productivity), and that cloud-based systems – including file sharing systems, and extending to SaaS applications as well – are expected to provide support for many forms of collaborative activities.

Deployment scope further impacts SMB buyer requirements

As Techaisle observes the evolution of collaborative solution capabilities within SaaS, it is important to also consider the scope across which these applications and solutions are expected to operate. Solutions that connect workers within a group or department benefit from a common understanding of context and source applications; those that connect users across groups/departments exist within a single company, and can focus on supporting IT-approved devices with reference to IT-defined security policies. Solutions that extend beyond the organization’s own staff may well offer more business impact than internal-only systems by speeding communications to customers, prospects and/or suppliers – but they come with increased issues in terms of support for seamless connectivity across multiple platforms, and potentially, may raise security concerts as well.

techaisle-saas-collaboration-connection-blog-smb-scope


In the research, Techaisle asked respondents to specify the scope of their collaboration solutions. The results help clarify the strong demand for collaboration within microbusinesses, and provide insight into why businesses view collaboration as an essential solution investment area. More than 40 percent of microbusinesses, and 39 percent of all SMBs, extend their collaboration infrastructure to support for customers. Midmarket businesses are more likely to focus on internal collaboration, but they join smaller peers in having a roughly 20 percent incidence of supporting supply chain relationships (suppliers/vendors) through their collaboration systems.

Looking at the above chart, one sees that there is the potential for missed connections within the emerging panoply of collaboration-enabling systems. Social media, mobility, BI and cloud all have important collaboration extensions. But how can businesses ensure that these technologies will connect internally once they are in place? Techaisle believes that collaboration is evolving in response to this market condition. IT vendors have traditionally tried to position collaboration solutions as a platform on which businesses can create new capabilities and integrated processes. However, data shows that businesses are instead acquiring collaborative capacities as part of other applications: social media, mobility, cloud and BI all provide discrete and important – but potentially disconnected – collaboration capabilities. Moving forward, Techaisle expects that collaborative technology solutions will increasingly be positioned as a framework that integrates and extends the value of these discrete system capabilities, rather than as a “first step” platform.

Related Blogs:

SMB and Midmarket File Sharing & Collaboration Adoption to Grow by 52 percent

SMB Content Management & Collaboration Solutions Adoption: Seven Key Trends

Report details:

360 on SMB & Midmarket File Sharing & Collaboration Solutions Adoption Trends

 

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SMB and Midmarket File Sharing & Collaboration Adoption to Grow by 52 percent

Techaisle’s study on SMB Collaboration Solutions Adoption Trends shows that for 59 percent of US small businesses and 93 percent of US midmarket businesses, collaboration is among the Top 5 IT priorities for investments. In Asia/Pacific, 63 percent of SMBs are turning towards it as a business growth driver and in Western Europe, 68 percent of SMBs are finding that collaboration drives better teamwork and customer responsiveness.

Overall 38 percent of US SMBs are currently using one or more collaboration solutions and another 20 percent are planning to use one within the next year, a growth of 52 percent. Overwhelmingly, SMB customers view online file sharing as the most important aspect of a collaboration solution as 64 percent of SMBs using collaboration are currently using online file sharing (24 percent of all US SMBs) and another 32 percent are planning to use it within the next one year.

The survey data also shows that the next stage in the SMB collaboration adoption is their need for online interaction, that is, simultaneously share and edits files from PCs and mobile devices, mobile video collaboration, integration with social networks, and richer media escalations, such as using chat, text, voice, video at the same time.

As per the study, key business drivers for SMB collaboration adoption are also changing. While currently there is a strong desire to build robust content repositories, the next wave of SMB collaboration adopters are emphasizing speed of innovation, demands for improved productivity, and imperatives for faster time to market.

In terms of brand solution adoption, the SMB market is quite fragmented with Google, Microsoft, and Cisco leading, but there are many other smaller collaboration solution brands that are being used extensively by SMBs. Further analysis of data also underscores the importance and use of collaborative capabilities within SaaS applications such as CRM, ERP, accounting, project management, HR management, business intelligence and content publishing.

With respect to file sharing, Dropbox has had a very strong impact on the SMB collaboration solutions market. By enabling mobile users to share files freely, they at once underscored the central importance of mobility, enabled individual users to be drivers of corporate collaboration activity, and proved the centricity of file-first rather than person-first collaboration models.

Box (another important vendor in the space), on the other hand has gone on record saying that SMBs are not its target market segment. There is a market opportunity for traditional backup and file-sharing IT companies such as Hightail, Carbonite, Egnyte as well as those delivering mobile workspaces such as Citrix and managed services platform providers such as Continuum and security IT vendors such as Trend Micro. However, the reach for each of these will be limited to the reach of their respective SMB focused channel partners.

Techaisle believes that there are additional file-centric developments that will further shape the nature of SMB file sharing solutions in the years to come. Today, most files are intrinsically connected to the applications that created them. If cloud and mobility are the key determinants of IT delivery, then there would be a need for the decoupling of data from applications. Application-independent data wrapped in rich metadata would allow new cloud-based applications (potentially based on BI platforms) to combine existing data to meet new business requirements. In addition, freed of originating applications, it is also likely that data could be optimally formatted for a wide range of displays: large screen PCs, smaller screen smartphones and tablets, and new display types ranging from signage to digital paper to wearable heads-up displays.

For more details on the report, click SMB and Midmarket Collaboration Adoption Trends

 

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