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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.

Midmarket Hyperconverged Infrastructure adoption driven by Cloud and Hybrid IT

Techaisle’s global Midmarket Converged Infrastructure (CI) and Hyperconverged Infrastructure (HCI) adoption trends survey report(s) show that 28% of US midmarket firms are currently using HCI solutions and another 46% are planning to adopt in the next 1-2 years, more than doubling of penetration. US data is based on a survey of N=609 midmarket firms. Highest potential adoption rates are within midmarket firms that have a holistic digital transformation strategy, are born-in-the-cloud and are rapidly moving from Advanced IT segment to Enterprise IT segment. Input to HCI market positioning and marketing communications begins with a perspective on the drivers that lead midmarket firms to embrace HCI solutions. Survey data illustrates that three drivers – improved operational efficiency, cost reduction and improved scalability – are the most frequently-cited reasons for embracing HCI. Issues connected to core infrastructure renewal, “hardware upgrade” (34%), “data center consolidation” (29%), and “improved backup/DR” (27%) round out the list of top-rated drivers.

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The twin ladder approach to delivering digital transformation for SMB and Midmarket firms

Techaisle's most recent survey of 1600 SMBs & Midmarket firms (defined as 1 employee to 1000 employees), found that only 18% do not have any form of digital transformation initiative. Which means that 82% of SMBs are already on their digital transformation journey. And interestingly, 42% are taking a holistic view of digital transformation. What it means is that these 42% believe the Internet and digital technologies impact every aspect of the business and must become a core part of organizational strategy. What is more encouraging is that SMBs believe that in the next 2 years, 32% of their business activities would be digitized and increase of 30% from 2 years ago. Globally SMBs are expected to spend US$250 billion on digital transformation in 2018.

Techaisle’s extensive research also identified that successful implementation requires a journey through digitization and digitalization, from substitution to augmentation to modification and redefinition, spanning all of the functions in an organization and all of the technology used to support its activities. Based on both quantitative survey and depth-discussions with SMB and midmarket businesses on the transformation journey Techaisle has developed the twin ladder view of digital transformation. Figure below presents a single-image depiction of the ‘twin ladders’ of digital transformation. The bottom set of steps is labelled “the technology ladder,” and stretches from the deployment of modern, flexible infrastructure to advanced IT-enabled capabilities. The technology ladder begins with the building blocks needed to establish infrastructure that is capable of supporting digital transformation. It includes mobility, virtualization, hyperconverged infrastructure & converged infrastructure and other technologies essential to provisioning advanced IT services. Businesses need to deploy and make use of the building blocks and platform technologies before they can launch initiatives that are truly transformative for their businesses and customers.

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Techaisle research shows SMB and midmarket technology purchase process becoming more complex

We are in the midst of a transition from an IT industry shaped by small decision making units (DMUs) comprised of IT professionals to an industry that must respond to the varied needs of BDMs and ITDMs. This makes for a very complex selling environment; many IT suppliers would no doubt like to have ‘the genie hop back into the bottle,’ as many members of their sales and marketing teams lack the skills and understanding needed to sell to BDMs.

Techaisle research on SMB and Midmarket buyers journey and decision-making shows that ITDMs and BDMs have differences in ‘care-abouts, are focused on applying IT to different business objectives, have different perceptions of success measures, and use different information sources. The data is not only helpful in building relevant marketing messages, but also serves to underscore the complexity of working with a diverse DMU. This DMU becomes further complicated with the presence of IT conversant business specialists (embedded IT staff), increasingly residing within line of business units, reporting to business, and away from IT.

  • Business management has seized a much greater role in technology acquisition, deployment & management than IT management – varying from 3.4X in “needs identification” to 2.0X in “solution evaluation & selection”
  • Within small businesses, business management plays a more influential role than IT in five out of nine stages of technology solution adoption
  • Within mid-market businesses, role of business management is predominant in the first three stages of decision making (needs identification to solution options), equal to IT in the next two (solution evaluation & selection) and substantially higher than IT in the last two stages (determining solution effectiveness and optimization)
  • In nearly 1/4th of small businesses and slightly over 1/3rd of medium businesses, technology specialists (embedded IT staff) are employed within Business Units not reporting to IT management. In nearly 50 percent of midmarket firms that have IT specialists, they are the primary decision makers
  • Determining the need for new cloud business applications is the prerogative of business management. The balance of authority within SMBs is nearly 7:1 in favor of business management except in the case of mid-market businesses where it is nearly 2:1
  • Ad-hoc purchase and deployment of new cloud business applications is prevalent within 22 percent of mid-market businesses
  • In 15 percent of SMBs budget for new business application is usually created at the time of ad hoc decisions for purchase to meet business needs
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Digital Transformation Challenging the Channel - Five key issues

20% of channel partners are offering “digital transformation”, but most common is “digitalization” at 46% and balance 34% are still at the basic “digitization”. MSPs/SPs are the laggards and VARs/SIs the leaders. Among vendors, Dell & Cisco partners are leading the charge. The channel industry examined by Techaisle’s 2018 SMB/Midmarket focused channel research survey is very different from the community that existed a decade ago. Once a staid domain in which technologists provided IT infrastructure support to (mainly) local customers, the channel is being reshaped by five key issues in the face of digital transformation:

  1. Cloud, and its wrenching effect on all aspects of the channel business structure – only 69% of are partners selling cloud, out of which less than 2/3rd are successful
  2. Managed services efficiencies, especially vs. the pending opportunity associated with digital transformation – 77% are selling managed services but 50% are increasing on-site break-fix support
  3. Increasingly-complex data center technologies - there is a skills shortage in the SMB channel
  4. Orchestration & integration demands that are expanding in multiple directions – cloud orchestration expected to be a high-revenue growth area for only 23% of partners
  5. The need to sell on and deliver to business outcomes rather than technical outcomes

The data in the report illustrates the extent to which these factors are affecting channel management decisions today and influencing the future directions. The report covers:

  • What is the state of channel?
  • What does the channel offer?
  • Where does the channel land on digital transformation, orchestration & integration?
  • What does the channel want from vendors & distributors?
  • How does the channel sell?
  • What is channel doing in the cloud?
  • What is channel doing in managed services?
  • What data center solutions is the channel selling?

With digital transformation as the backdrop, let us look at a summary of the five issues highlighted above:


techaisle channel five key issues resized

Cloud

Partners continue to be challenged by the wrenching, organization-wide change that cloud demands at all levels of the organization. Cloud is forcing new metrics and disciplines on management, which has historically worked to maintain sustainable per-deal margins on individual current transactions. It is requiring sales staff to sell differently – stressing recurring-revenue, OPEX-heavy ‘pay as you go’ contracts over larger one-time product transactions – and it is requiring sales management to compensate staff differently. Finance is dealing with a far more complex set of cash management requirements and is also needing to understand the valuation impact of different revenue recognition approaches. In the cloud, marketing’s role is becoming larger, and its tools much more sophisticated; it is almost literally a different (and much higher value) activity in cloud than in conventional channel businesses. Even technical skills requirements are changing, as channel delivery staff is evolving from ‘just in case’ knowledge (often, recognized through certifications) to ‘just in time’ skills acquisition that responds to the rapidly-changing environment.

Clearly, cloud is imposing a daunting challenge on the channel. Techaisle data sees that some partners are working through this transition, but many, especially in markets where cloud has not caused large year-over-year decreases in product sales, are navigating a path that doesn’t include top-to-bottom change. These firms will be under intense pressure as the market increasingly demands that partners support migration to and efficient use of hybrid infrastructure.

Managed Services

Managed services, with its efficient delivery and promise of higher margins and better enterprise values (due to MRR rather than transactional revenue) has become a major factor in channel business strategy. MSPs can increase shareholder returns without needing to meaningfully expand their customer rosters; they can invest in internal efficiencies to boost margins while simultaneously keeping pace with customer expectations, even in areas like managed security, where threat sources advance continuously, driving need for increased response capabilities.

But there are clouds on the managed services horizon. One is digital transformation, “the next big wave” which aligns poorly with managed services. Digital transformation requires a mix of on-site and remotely-managed capabilities, packaged discretely for individual customers – and this isn’t what managed service providers aspire to. At the same time, the push towards everything-as-a-Service is morphing into SMB customer expectation of increasing service levels over time (or decreasing costs), rather than the fixed value for static service level approach used by today’s MSPs (and IaaS suppliers as well). Can traditional MSPs move past the core business notion of one service, one price, delivered with high efficiency from a remote location, to address digital transformation and progressive service delivery expectations? In fact, most are going back to on-site installation & support.

Data center technologies

Data center technologies are another source of challenge for partners. Data center products – especially converged and hyperconverged systems that combine server, storage, networking and virtualization technologies – are much more complex than the client and server technologies that many channel members have focused on in the past.

Typical “one stop shop” VARs are lacking the technical depth needed to work with contemporary data center products. Specializations in current solutions take time, cost money and require skilled staff who is usually not affordable for – or even available to – channel members. But data also shows that VARs have the maximum depth in digital transformation and are involved in orchestration.

Orchestration & Integration

The nature of integration is changing. In an environment where core resources are located in many different physical environments, “systems” integration is becoming less a matter of physical connections and more an issue of automation and orchestration, which call for a distinctly different skill set. Meanwhile, customer interest in a multi-platform world is centering on data rather than systems integration: how can dispersed systems exchange data, securely and with the low latency needed to support workloads that span different environments?

The issue of integration is becoming more complex as businesses embrace IoT to provide a far more detailed view of their markets, and AI to make sense of the vastly-increased base or evidence that is used to support ever-more-rapid decisions. And demands on technology suppliers have already deepened with the need to secure these multiple platforms and sources. Integration offers an enormous opportunity for the channel – but this opportunity is accompanied by a demanding set of requirements.

Business Outcomes

Beyond all of the technology-driven change that the channel is adapting to, there is a shift in how customers are acquiring IT solutions. SaaS has shown buyers that they can acquire IT capabilities that map directly to business needs – they no longer need to take on the risk and uncertain time-to-benefit inherent in the purchase, integration and deployment of building-block technologies. At the same time, IT budget authority continues to migrate from IT gatekeeps to business managers who view technology as a means to achievement of process objectives, rather than as an end in itself. Both trends affect for channel sales and marketing professionals: within client organizations, the key customers are often non-IT professionals who are looking for suppliers to respond to business pain points with approaches that directly address the business requirements, rather than with traditional product-centric ‘some assembly required’ solutions targeted at IT buyers.

The ability to talk credibly to business outcomes vs. technology issues has become the key to selling solutions in today’s market. Most vendors lack business-savvy sales staff – the issue is even more acute in channel firms. Cloud startups often speak to business rather than IT issues (and clients). Can the traditional channel keep pace – at least, enough to prevent services leakage to born-in-the-cloud alternatives?

In the report, Techaisle research demonstrates how channel partners are positioning their firms to navigate this turbulent environment. There may never have been a more stressful time to manage a channel business than 2018 – but channel managers have proven through time that they are adept at finding profitable paths through even the choppiest waters.

The report covers:

  • What is the state of channel? Channel Partner Business Issues, Firmographics
  • What is the global channel landscape? (Only in WW SMB/Midmarket Channel Report)
  • What does the channel offer? Channel & planned offerings including digital workplace
  • Where does the channel land on digital transformation, orchestration & integration?
  • What does the channel want? Channel Expectations from Vendors & Distributors
  • How does the channel sell? Channel sales Strategy
  • What is channel doing in the cloud? Channel Partner Cloud Trends
  • What is channel doing in managed services? Channel Partner Managed Services Trends
  • What data center solutions is the channel selling?

techaisle us channel partner trends report cover resized

techaisle ww channel partner trends report cover resized

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