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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 SD-WAN adoption unlocks business potential for MSPs

SMBs are wrestling with many challenges, including unreliable network connections, cybersecurity and privacy concerns, productivity issues, and support. In addition, SMBs are mindful of the need for help composing, deploying, and managing digital business infrastructure. The recent surge in remote work has also significantly increased the requirement for effective networks and network management and the complexity of deploying a holistic digital business infrastructure.

SMB networks and network management resources are not as sophisticated as those in enterprise environments. As a result, SMBs will encounter high incidences of network issues such as delivering robust support for videoconferencing and jittering and extending security across distributed applications, devices, and networks.

Networking, a necessary foundation for digital business infrastructure, is a particularly onerous IT management category. Techaisle survey data shows that managing network hardware or network support consumes 47% of SMB IT staff time.

In response to explosive increases in demand for deployment and support of digital business platforms, resource-constrained SMBs are looking for new solutions. They are looking for MSPs as external service providers – and they are looking at SD-WAN. Techaisle data shows that SD-WAN adoption among SMBs will likely grow by 160% within one year. The adoption growth rate is second only to 5G. There is a firm belief within the SMB community that SD-WAN is a critical technology for enabling digital transformation within the SMB segment.

This data indicates a significant and growing opportunity for MSPs to help SMBs deploy digital business infrastructure and manage the associated networking challenges. So what do MSPs need to do to capture this new business?

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SD-WAN adoption likely to increase by 145 percent within US SMB and Midmarket firms

SMBs are increasingly becoming aware of SD-WAN and its advantages. SD-WAN adoption is likely to grow by 145% within the US SMB market within a year. Techaisle survey data shows that today, only 10% of SMBs are currently using SD-WAN solutions, but 25% are planning adoption. Networks are a clear pain point for SMBs as they embark on digital transformation to align with the emerging requirements of the post-pandemic world. Networks consume scarce IT resources, and they are the critical link providing the connectivity that unlocks all other digital opportunities and potential. Techaisle’s survey data shows that 47% of SMB IT time is allocated to networking-related issues. Nearly 90% of SMBs believe that proactive, consistent network management to deliver ideal performance is important.

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Causation or correlation - The link between approaches to digital transformation and business success

Techaisle’s 2021 US SMB and Midmarket Digital transformation adoption trends research covering businesses from 1 to 4999 employees (collectively named mainstream businesses by Techaisle) shows a correlation between digital transformation and business growth. Unlike many IT market terms, which tie to specific technologies, digital transformation is most often used to indicate an amorphous state. A state in which firms can seamlessly deploy new digital capabilities that streamline current or next-step processes, eliminating the friction inherent in basing these capabilities on manual tasks and physical documents/inputs. SMBs and midmarket firms view digital transformation as a proxy for business process efficiency. For many years, it has been a management goal, embedded, usually without a consistent set of steps and defined outcomes, in the IT plans of a substantial majority of small businesses (1-99 employees) and more than 90% of midmarket (100-4999 employees) firms. The pandemic brought urgency to these plans. The speed reflected the management’s understanding that highly automated processes are essential in a business environment where physical interactions are awkward or forbidden, adding necessity to efficiency as compelling reasons to invest in digital transformation.

Digital transformation segments

To refine the current and planned digital transformation adoption status perspective, Techaisle segmented the market to one of four phrases to characterize organizations’ attitude or approach towards digitalization of existing processes –

  • Holistic: Digitalization is an essential aspect of overall business strategy
  • Inclusive: Digitalization is a meaningful but non-essential aspect of overall business strategy
  • Siloed: Digitalization strategies are underway in some departments, but there is no overall digitalization strategy for the business
  • In the shadows: Digitalization may be occurring in areas of the company, but it is neither a departmental nor overall business strategy
  • Nonexistent: Business has no digitalization activity or plan; firms have yet to begin digital transformation adoption.

Small business adoption of digital transformation is still at a primary stage. In 27% of small businesses (1-99), digital transformation is either “nonexistent, “in the shadows,” or “siloed.” However, this is vastly lower from 51% in 2020, indicating that small businesses drastically improved their approach to transformation within the last year. Midmarket firms, which have higher overall digital transformation adoption rates, are also much more advanced in their approaches. 90% of midmarket firms take either an “inclusive” or “holistic” approach to digital transformation today. Data shows that there has been an increase of 34% within midmarket firms (100-999) and a corresponding increase of 26% within upper midmarket firms (1000-4999) in their approach to holistic digital transformation from siloed or inclusive approaches.

Digital transformation and business growth

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Quickening pace of SMB and Midmarket digital transformation driving technology spend

Techaisle's latest SMB and Midmarket Digital transformation adoption trends research shows that 37% of small businesses (1-99 employees) and 46% of midmarket firms (100-4999 employees) expedited their digital transformation efforts due to pandemic. On the flip side, 27% of SMBs (1-999 employees) slowed down their digital transformation to prioritize their business's essential aspects, such as revenue generation. 27% of upper midmarket firms (1000-4999 employees) either changed their approach to transformation or kept the same pace as before the pandemic.

Investment in digital transformation has been underway for several years and was poised to be an essential factor in the IT and business market in the early 2020s. The pandemic lent urgency to digital transformation – but having arrived in a hurry, the changes wrought in response to the pandemic do not appear to be leaving as abruptly.

The accelerated pace of transformation will result in US$1,163B worldwide spend on IT (excluding telecom services) by SMB and upper-midmarket firms in 2021.

Unlike many IT market terms, which tie to specific technologies or technology capabilities, digital transformation is most often used to indicate an amorphous state in which an organization can seamlessly deploy new digital capabilities that streamline current or next-step processes, eliminating the business friction.

Organizational restructuring to hasten pace of transformation

Generally, firms consider digital transformation as a proxy for process efficiency. For many years, it has been a management goal, embedded without a consistent set of steps and defined outcomes in the IT plans of a substantial majority of SMBs. The pandemic brought urgency to these plans: there are numerous anecdotal reports of IT leaders being told, "you know that three-year digital transformation plan? Can you deliver it in three months instead?" For the most part, these requests tended to have a minimal additional budget attached to them, generally came without requisitions for new IT staff. These requests reflected management's understanding that highly-automated processes are essential in a business environment where physical interactions are awkward or forbidden, adding necessity to efficiency as compelling reasons to invest in digital transformation.

To change the transformation pace, 17% of SMBs are restructuring their entire organizations, and 24% are creating new functions dedicated to digital transformation. The changes will be more pronounced in the midmarket and upper-midmarket firms, which are quickly putting together dedicated groups and departments to digitize, digitalize and transform their organizations. Nearly one-fifth of SMBs are relying on their employees to guide transformation initiatives.

Changing digital transformation drivers

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