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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.

Zoho addressing the Rule of 5 for SMBs and Midmarket firms

The first entry point to cloud for 51% of SMBs has been SaaS (cloud business applications). However, most businesses often obtain only fragments of cloud’s potential benefits because applications deployed usually lack the integration needed to enable a seamless enterprise-wide business process that supports agility, efficiency and growth. Discrete cloud solutions offer immediate relief from problems in many areas but disconnected cloud applications introduce friction. SMBs and midmarket firms are increasingly taking an integrated approach for a zero-friction future. The “rule of 5” refers to sources of complexity in an SMB and midmarket firm’s business related to:

1. Information timeliness/accuracy problems
2. The problem of incomplete information
3. Business process problems
4. Customer service and experience problems
5. Cost and consistency problems

This is where Zoho steps in. Zoho One - Zoho’s flagship cloud-solution, marketed as the operating system for the business, runs on a unified database with a unified data model with data pillars that enable seamless integration to deliver single truth for the business empowering users with a unified experience. A collection of 45+ apps running on a single database architecture and purpose-built on Zoho technology stack - services, software, hardware and network infrastructure - deployed on Zoho’s own global datacenters ensures performance, availability, security and privacy. Clearly, a visionary design architecture, which is being replicated by other CRM and ERP-focused vendors. But Zoho is ahead.

Why Zoho has the right solution to address the “Rule of 5”

Zoho’s secret sauce lies in its interconnected set of data pillars that feed all relevant apps. Each data pillar contains very specific metadata of employees, communications, customer information and opportunities, finance, assets, and inventory. Consistency has a lot to do with vertically integrated systems, a design paradigm that Zoho follows religiously. Although Zoho One is the holy grail for digitalizing business processes, most Zoho customers use a set of nine apps: CRM, Analytics, Books, SalesIQ, Expense, Invoice, People, Social, Inventory.

Zoho has the right solution to address the “rule of 5”.

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Accelerating Artificial Intelligence adoption within SMBs and midmarket despite budget constraints

Techaisle’s survey research of 1256 US SMBs shows that 9% of small businesses and 29% of midmarket firms are either currently using artificial intelligence (AI) or are conducting pilots. Comparing data from last year indicates an increase of 80% within small businesses and only 12% increase in midmarket firms. Answer to slower rate of adoption within midmarket firms is present in several follow-up questions. 53% of midmarket firms are finding that AI technology and expertise is too expensive and does not fit within their current budgets. In addition, 42% of midmarket CIOs say that the importance of AI, its benefits and immediate returns are not clear to the executive management thus hindering adoption. As a result, in only 10% of midmarket firms, AI has been designated as a technology priority for internal IT staff. However, of the 36% of midmarket firms that are planning to deploy AI, 31% are conducting trials. This number has nearly doubled from 17% a year ago.

For all of SMBs, data shows that use of AI is among the top 20 on the list of IT priorities for 2020. Cloud, mobility, security, managed services, HCI, unified workspace, SD-WAN, analytics, collaboration and virtualization have higher priorities. This opens up opportunities for channel partners, consultants and AI-technology suppliers to not only evangelize use cases but also build a blueprint for easy understanding, deployment alacrity of AI solutions that can deliver previously unimaginable business outcomes.

The entry point for most SMBs is when AI is embedded in cloud business applications. 25% of small businesses are contemplating using AI for HR and recruiting, a challenge that small business owners constantly face.

Not only is the adoption trend different between small and midmarket businesses, the expected benefits and application usages also differ. 41% of small businesses believe that use of AI in improving customer experience will be integral to their business success whereas 30% of midmarket firms believe that use of AI in fraud analytics and 27% in web/social media analytics will help drive better operational excellence and customer intimacy. For example, a midmarket firm that provides hostel and budget accommodations wanted to deliver analysis and personalized communication to over 500 micro consumer segments. After adopting AI tools from Persado (a marketing language cloud that uses AI-generated language for digital marketing) enabled the company to deliver more precise marketing content resulting in double-digit engagement uplifts and improved customer loyalty.

In fact, survey shows that customer experience improvements and strategic operational excellence are becoming the SMB themes for 2020 and beyond which will likely drive adoption of analytics and AI. 38% of small businesses believe that the use of AI will provide benefits to their customer support, sales/marketing teams as well as assist the entire organization in driving better business strategy. Similarly, 43% of midmarket firms believe that pervasive use of AI could provide benefits to make more informed strategic decisions.

All data and analysis in Techaisle’s upcoming research report SMB and Midmarket Analytics / Artificial Adoption trends.

techaisle us smallbusiness ai adoption trends 450

techaisle us midmarket ai adoption trends 450

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Top 10 SMB and Midmarket Predictions for 2020

1. Connected business will be everyone’s problem.

The key focus of business investment will be more about the “work”: the ways that an increasingly-connected business can support pursuit of previously-unattainable objectives. The most important SMB & Midmarket technology-related adoption in 2020 will be this focus on connectedness – cloud, platforms, edge, devices, applications, security, collaboration, workspaces and insights. With the connective fabric rapidly becoming ubiquitous, businesses of all types and sizes will move beyond just the network access, and concentrate instead on using technologies to drive progress across the four pillars of digital transformation: operational effi-ciency, customer intimacy, employee empowerment and product innovation.

2. Momentum building for consumption-based IT acquisition.

Increasingly within SMBs and midmarket firms discrete sales of individual products or integrated systems will be replaced by agreements to provide IT capacity and business functionality “as-a-Service”. In 2020, the trend will be more midmarket driven than small businesses. 20% of midmarket firms will move towards OPEX-based agreements where these firms will look for flexibility and will prefer to acquire technology based on usage – namely IT consumption model – driven primarily because of current IT asset under-utilization.

3. Customer intimacy will take a whole new meaning.

Every SMBs’ survival is dependent upon customers and 2020 will see a ground-breaking year when customer intimacy (acquisition, retention, experience & satisfaction) will drive IT adoption and business process evolution. By the end of 2020, for 45% of SMBs, need for customer intimacy will drive IT adoption and 76% of new SaaS adoption will be customer focused. As a result, 15% of small businesses and 24% of midmarket firms will have “Top Notch” customer facing digital presence.

4. Need for Embedded Collaboration will be clear and present.

Anywhere, anytime also means any type of collaboration. Collaboration solutions cannot be deployed on stand-alone platforms – they need to be viewed as a framework for integrating multiple capabilities, native to multiple applications. By the end of 2020, 80% of SMBs will benefit from embedded collaboration and for high-growth, innovative businesses, effective, e¬fficient collaboration will be in their organizational DNA to deliver decision agility, business agility and innovation agility.

5. Regardless of the question, analytics will provide an answer.

In 2020, SMBs will see a new attitude and culture that will value and use data as a meaningful way to gauge overall performance and specific areas of interest at a glance will become prevalent. SMBs will demand Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) as a standard part of application architectures as well as a meta-directory of KPIs that all applications can access. It may finally become possible for SMBs and Midmarket firms measure and optimize for elusive objectives like Return on Marketing Investment, Optimal Pricing, Cost of Acquisition and Lifetime Customer Value. By the end of 2020, 15% of SMBs will be highly data driven and 30% will be using cloud-based prescriptive analytics and 50% of midmarket firms will demand AI-driven analytical platforms to proactively prescribe actions that will mitigate risk / increase opportunity within the predicted future.

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Salesforce – a step closer to enabling connected business with connected insights

On Monday, 10th June, Salesforce announced a definitive agreement to acquire Tableau bringing Salesforce one step closer to empowering analytics-driven digital transformation for its customers, enabling enterprise performance management, driving connected businesses and hurtling itself on a collision course with Microsoft and SAP. Microsoft’s Power BI is rapidly dethroning many analytics platforms including Tableau and SAP is taking giant leaps towards customer experience management with Qualtrics.

Besides adding to topline revenue of Salesforce, the acquisition will likely not have any significant material effect on revenue growth rate as Tableau’s revenue is less than 10% of Salesforce’s revenue with Q/Q growth rate only slightly more than half of Salesforce.

Salesforce began as a SaaS company in 2000 with its famous “No Software” logo and attention-grabbing advertising of a fighter jet striking a biplane. In the last seven years it has transformed into a leading cloud SaaS company with creatively created and strategically segmented solution offerings – Sales Cloud, Marketing Cloud, Services Cloud, Commerce Cloud and Analytics Cloud. But collectively these are only customer-focused applications that operate within the Salesforce platform. But the scope of SaaS impact mirrors the scope of activity in the enterprise itself. SaaS is being meaningfully applied to IT operations, to core business functions (finance, HR, business operations, ERP) in addition to customer-facing tasks (customer service, marketing and sales). There are dozens of discrete SaaS application categories and thousands of applications that address part or all of the requirements in a specific area, or which bridge across process requirements.

The true benefits arise when cloud applications are connected to each other. Connected applications provide businesses the benefits of agility, efficiency, collaboration, alignment, customer intimacy and innovation. This cross-functional visibility is important to diagnosing issues within the business and formulating enterprise strategy. Almost all businesses, from small to enterprise are on their digital transformation journeys. Frequently, a key step in the digital transformation process is to automate related tasks within and across business process. In the absence of adjacent SaaS applications such as ERP, HR, financial management - Salesforce was forced to acquire MuleSoft, the integration solution to help businesses of all sizes create connected applications.

But a key missing piece from Salesforce’s portfolio has been analytics. Regardless of the business issue, analytics provides an answer. Businesses are prioritizing a wide range of improved outcomes: improvement within existing operations and processes, expansion of customer base, profitability, creation and accelerated delivery of new offerings, reduced cost, and enhanced ability to manage the unknown. Remarkably, each of the issues can be addressed with analytics solutions – and indeed, businesses are using analytics to address each today. This provides analytics vendors with a powerful ability to link product/service capabilities with critical ‘care-abouts’. And exactly this capability was missing from Salesforce’s portfolio. Its AI-led analytics platform Einstein was not proving to be a true analytics solution but rather a collection of dashboards. And for that matter, neither is Tableau (which leans more towards data visualization than analytics). However, with some of its recent announcements such as Ask Data and updates of VizQL, when combined with Salesforce platform may prove to be very useful for new and common customers.

If connected cloud applications is a logical starting point for connect businesses then connected insights is the logical destination. A fact that I feel is being pursued by Salesforce. Most businesses are developing an understanding of the power of advanced analytics, and many are well along the path of installing a “data culture” in which facts are used to identify options, not simply to justify decisions based on instinct or anecdotal feedback. Many cherished but complex metrics, such as return on marketing investment or lifetime customer value, can be established by providing analysts and data scientists with rich data and sophisticated tools. Both MuleSoft and Tableau bring Salesforce closer to delivering an Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) system which will allow businesses to have a new attitude and culture that values and uses data analytics as the quickest way to gauge overall performance and specific areas of interest at a glance. And a key reason why SAP purchased Business Objects many years ago, Oracle acquired Hyperion and IBM absorbed Cognos and SPSS, but some fell by the wayside.

Most businesses including SMBs and midmarket firms that have used CRM and ERP systems within the past few years are familiar with the dashboards that are available with many of these applications, either embedded or purchased/developed separately. Dashboards will continue to evolve and be dynamic in several ways; the way they use data from subsystems like ecommerce and other real time feed sources, the way users can personalize the layout of their dashboards, and the ability to build KPIs “on-the-fly” by calculating variables on the screen and saving the result in a meta-repository for all to use. While several SaaS vendors allow this kind of metric building and start the user at a dashboard, we have yet to see anything targeted to the mid-market or SMBs that connects the performance across front office, production, fulfillment and customer service almost out of the box – so the future has been here for a while and we are waiting for the market to catch up. Microsoft fired the most recent salvo with Power BI and now Salesforce is responding. If only Salesforce bought an ERP firm or HR or collaboration or virtual workspace or customer experience/survey. It would certainly be a game-changer.

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