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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.

SMB and Midmarket - ITDMs and BDMs: the balance of purchase authority

Techaisle's SMB & midmarket research not only confirms that BDMs are increasingly present in the IT solution adoption process but the research deep-dived to understand the extent to which BDMs actually lead their organizations in adopting solutions. To develop a deeper perspective on this issue, Techaisle asked both ITDM and BDM respondents to address questions that explored the acquisition process around software (both new applications and meaningful upgrades to existing applications), infrastructure hardware and IT services. The results provide direction for sales strategies aimed at these product segments within the US SMB market.

Software budget authority

“Determining the need for” a new business application or a meaningful enhancement to an existing application is not, of course, identical to signing off on the purchase of a new system. When we extended our coverage to ask about having “budgetary control and authority,” we discovered two interesting findings:

  • The proportion of organizations where budgetary control and purchasing authority for new applications rests entirely with BDMs increases in all e-size segments, relative to the statistics for determining need in these segments. This means that BDM control over the final purchase decision is even higher than the “determining the need for” statistics suggest.
  • The proportion of respondents reporting that responsibility resides entirely with either IT or business – but is not shared between them – increases in five out of seven e-size segments (missing only the 10-19 and 20-49 employees groups). This suggests that needs identification may be more collaborative than final purchase decisions.
  • Both findings point to the same conclusion: that BDMs are extremely important to suppliers of software.
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Digital transformation challenging the SMB buyers journey

The first step in influencing the potential of a technology to impact business outcome is identifying the extent to which technology aligns with or supports executive ‘care-abouts’ of the SMB buyers. Technologies that connect directly to C-level objectives are most likely to obtain support. Techaisle survey data shows that digital transformation is very prominent in executive-oriented IT discussions but influencing the SMB & midmarket IT and non-IT buyer is no cakewalk. Consider these statistics from Techaisle surveys:

  • 72% of SMB IT purchases are triggered by an acute business pain point & number of pain points are increasing
  • 52% of SMBs are facing 5+ business challenges
  • SMB IT Purchase Decision Making Unit (DMU) has grown by 250% over the last decade
  • Average of 5.2 decision makers are involved in technology purchase decisions in midmarket firms & 2.1 in small businesses
  • 43% of IT buyers are millennials
  • SMBs have 7 distinct business processes
  • Channel partner is involved at only 50% decision making stage
  • 70% of the buyer’s journey is complete before first meaningful contact with a potential supplier
  • 17% of SMBs use six or more information sources
  • Average channel partner sales cycle is 7.7 weeks

Where, when and who to influence is a key challenge, especially when digital transformation impacts more than one buyer segment and business process.

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Techaisle survey shows SMB BDM involvement in IT security operations is minimal

A trend that is frequently discussed in industry journals revolves around the growing involvement of business decision makers (BDMs) in the IT acquisition process. There is a further issue that is not generally the subject of trade publication articles, though: the extent to which BDMs are going beyond system selection and acquisition, and involving themselves in IT operations.

To obtain some visibility into this issue, Techaisle asked SMB & Midmarket survey respondents (reported in three of Techaisle reports: 1/ SMB & Midmarket Buyers Journey 2/ SMB & Midmarket, ITDM vs BDM Decision Process) to identify the party (ITDM or BDM) most responsible for various aspects of cloud and mobility security. The results both provide insight into the IT operations activity levels of BDMs, and into potential issues that might arise as a result of ad hoc, unplanned and business driven IT purchases (or shadow IT).

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Influencing the SMB non-IT C-level buyers requires careful marketing mix

Over the past decade, there has been an explosion in the number and types of information sources available to SMB IT and business decision makers. It is no longer the case that these ITDMs and BDMs can be moved predictably through a process that starts with an initial inquiry and progresses through education to qualification and to a sale. Instead, technology buyers are increasingly self-educated and make contact with a supplier, not with an initial inquiry, but with a fully-formed request.

Techaisle’s survey of 1120 US SMBs, 360 on Balance of Authority: decision cycle, shows that SMBs engage with IT supplier at 50% decision stage. In fact, worst still, the IT supplier’s and channel partner’s role begins in when price, deployment & support are the only points left to discuss.

Techaisle’s corresponding survey of 1246 US SMBs, Influencing the SMB buyers’ journey, shows that “Campaign marketing” has become a relic of an earlier age, replaced by a content marketing brew combining “thought leadership” (to engage new prospects) and ‘digital discovery’ (to ensure visibility for the thought leadership).

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