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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.

SMBs innovating at the Edge to address business challenges

From the perspective of the technology world, 2021 and several years following will witness the benefits of the interconnection of all types of resources: platforms/environments, information, devices, and applications. With the connective fabric rapidly becoming ubiquitous, SMBs of all types and sizes will move beyond a focus on network access and concentrate instead on using edge technologies to drive progress across business processes and enable innovation.

Connectedness is an intrinsic component of the edge. It applies in two directions: client devices ranging from PCs to smartphones to sensors connect to more gateways and other powerful edge systems, which process time-critical responses and then communicate data safely back to clouds at the core of the infrastructure fabric.

Consider these data points from Techaisle's latest SMB technology adoption research study covering 2410 SMBs:

  • 30% of SMBs have a "very innovative" mindset and are investing in edge technologies that drive innovation; 51% are in the "somewhat innovative" segment with a focus on transitioning to being very innovative and are evaluating edge solutions
  • 38% of SMBs are investing in digital transformation to initiate innovation in products, services, and business processes
  • 9.9 is the number of technology categories that very innovative SMBs use, which is 1.8X non-innovative SMBs. Cloud, security, virtualization, mobility, AI, analytics, IoT, SD-WAN, AR/VR, HCI are the leading technology areas where very innovative SMBs are increasing investment and deploying edge solutions

Innovation at the Edge

Cloud is not only the IT business infrastructure; it is also the essential business infrastructure for SMBs. While the cloud replaces conventional data centers at the core of the network, an entirely new technology tier – "edge" – is emerging as a complementary IT infrastructure source. Edge supports many innovative technologies that promise to extend technology's use and impact into entirely new domains.

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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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IoT delivering unexpected business outcomes to SMBs and Midmarket firms

Techaisle research, US SMB and Midmarket IoT adoption trends, analysis of 1,135 unique SMB survey responses, leveraging its network of over 1.5 million b2b respondents globally, shows that for US SMBs and midmarket firms that have production-level deployments IoT has helped improve controls within their businesses through better operations monitoring, increased business agility by improving processes, enabled them to develop new products and delivered reduced costs by increasing productivity and automation. 34% of SMBs began their IoT deployment with the hope of improving customer experience, 32% were expecting better cost efficiencies and 29% were targeting increased revenues. However, these SMBs experienced unexpected business outcomes with 43% reporting improved controls within business through better operations monitoring, 42% achieved increased business agility by improving processes and 41% were able to develop new products and services. These business outcomes’ percentages are almost identical demonstrating the fact that two out of five SMBs using IoT are deriving multiple positive business outcomes from their IoT deployments.

IoT is still an early stage technology. Survey data shows that IoT solutions are deployed in just 8% of small businesses and 28% of midmarket businesses. But these figures overstate the number of IoT production systems deployed by SMBs; many of the reported projects are exploratory. However, planned adoption trends show that the IoT usage and penetration may exceed 60% in midmarket and reach 35% within small businesses in the next 2 years. Generally, early IoT adopters are focused on one or more of security/surveillance, proactive alerts, reducing inventory levels and asset tracking.

Comparing 2018 survey with 2019, data shows that small businesses seem to have either tempered their ambitions to deploy IoT solutions or they tried and abandoned their efforts. Except for the 100-249 employee size firms, most mid-market firms, on the other hand, have increased their IoT adoption efforts. As a result, IoT adoption within the SMB market is still at an early stage, hindered by limited budget, costs and lack of skills. In fact, more than 50% of current IoT systems are at early stages of maturity: 19% incorporate minimal sensor deployment feeding isolated systems or feature devices that support remote monitoring / service / control. Only 10% of firms that have deployed IoT can be categorized as advanced users, having real-time information feeding enterprise-wide data intelligence solutions or connected devices creating competitive advantage.

It is important to note that while 23% of small businesses were conducting ad hoc pilots in 2018, only 13% are conducting such pilots in 2019. This however does not mean that all small businesses have migrated their ad hoc pilots to production – some have abandoned the project and some others have set loftier objectives. The biggest changes from 2018 to 2019 are in their objectives for creating new revenue opportunities, new levels of collaboration between suppliers, partners and customers as well as supporting predictive maintenance.

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Case for Always Connected PCs in edge computing

While cloud is replacing conventional data centers at the core of the network, an entirely new technology tier – “edge” – is emerging as a complementary source of IT infrastructure, supporting many innovative technologies that promise to extend the use and impact of technology into entirely new domains.

Connectedness is an intrinsic component of the edge. It applies in two directions: client devices ranging from PCs to smartphones to sensors connect to more gateways and other powerful edge systems, which process time-critical responses and then communicate data safely back to clouds at the core of the infrastructure fabric.

The edge is broad in scope and deployment. It moves with the user of a device or an appliance or a transport, it morphs when a sensor or a beacon is triggered and it can expand or change when real and/or augmented environments interact. The edge includes the devices and networks that deliver mobility to users – and it also describes the infrastructure needed to support leading-edge solutions like IoT, autonomous and connected vehicles and field-ready AR/VR systems – solutions in which devices are connected and configured to support remote monitoring/service/control, or harvesting data from one or more connected systems and applying contextual analytics to support smarter decision making, or delivering inputs needed to provide better insight into current and future business opportunity.

To be fair, many of these edge-dependent systems are still in their infancy, and will gain widespread adoption after 2018 (or potentially, at some point in the next decade). But there are signposts that we can see today, which indicate how edge resources and expectations will evolve.

One such example is found in “connected PC.” In the context of a Interwork platform in 2018, connected PC may look like an odd inclusion – shouldn’t we focus instead on growth areas like sensors or smartphones, rather than an aging device type that is being eclipsed by these newer form factors?

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