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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.

Techaisle data shows 41 percent of global SMBs unsure about the next decade

It was once thought that the cloud would reduce the technology deficit SMBs face relative to larger firms – but it is difficult to say that this has proved to be the case. Indeed, the cloud has lowered the barriers to adopting new systems, giving SMBs access to applications and infrastructure resources that would have been well beyond their means five years ago. However, Techaisle’s SMB and Midmarket Cloud adoption trends research data show that cloud, and hybrid IT, has posed other challenges: difficulties in integrating systems with each other and with business processes, and in integrating data across applications (ensuring that data created by one application is input automatically into others); difficulty in securing systems that are based in multiple locations and managed by various organizations, each with their own set of operational rules; difficulty in applying appropriate levels of security and governance to an ever-expanding pool of data that moves at accelerating pace through an ever-more-complex constellation of systems, users and locations. Large organizations have IT teams dedicated to addressing specific issues within this shifting and complex set of requirements. SMBs rely on limited internal resources (often, small groups of generalists), supplemented by fractional headcount support from third-party channel members, to keep pace with the change that results from the constant advance of cloud and hybrid.

Despite these challenges, though, evidence suggests enormous scope for cloud growth in the global SMB segment. Data indicates an apparent leader/laggard dichotomy between midmarket and small businesses concerning IT-enabled innovation. Over 20% of midmarket firms have internal teams dedicated to “finding ‘what’s next?’ technology-driven innovations,” and 40% “have IT budgets specifically for technology-driven innovation;” 11% report that they have embedded IT professionals charged with finding innovations into business units. Small businesses are, on average, about half as likely to have taken these steps; instead, nearly half of firms with 1-99 employees state that their organizations do not expect IT to drive innovation actively.” Making the assumptions that a) midmarket firms will benefit from the express linkage of IT and innovation, and b) that the gap between large enterprises and midmarket firms is likely as significant as the delta between midmarket and small business. Additionally, large enterprises will, over time, capture IT-enabled business innovation benefits even more rapidly than midmarket competitors. Data illustrates the foundations of a cascade, where IT-enabled innovation drives business success and further cloud investments in larger firms, defining success patterns that small organizations then adopt.

The findings also expose the uncertainty that SMBs face as they structure their IT/business strategies. The most significant proportion of SMBs – 42% of small businesses and 32% of midmarket firms – state that they are unsure of what the next 10-15 years will look like for their industry. Other SMBs worry about their ability to cope with the pace of change: an average of about 25% of SMBs report that they “are struggling to keep up with the pace of change,” and nearly 20% state that they “do not know if they will be able to complete over the next decade.” Against this backdrop, a cadre of forward-looking organizations – 15% of small businesses, roughly a quarter of midmarket firms – “are battling barriers to become a digital business by 2030.” The successes that these firms realize over the next several years will increase their appetite for further cloud investments and encourage their peers to commit additional resources to cloud-based business initiatives. Techaisle expects that if and as these digital leaders realize tangible benefits from cloud and hybrid, the cloud will become an essential element of SMB business operations. As a result, SMBs will become a significant force in the cloud market. Moreover, suppliers to the SMB market and the SMBs themselves can align to bring about this positive change. Techaisle believes that mutual benefit will drive commitment and innovation on both the supply and demand side of the cloud equation.

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Delivering digital transformation benefits to SMB and mid-market customers

79% of US SMBs are either in the planning stage for digital transformation or have a formal strategy but only 19% are actively following through. Small businesses are behind midmarket firms. 29% of small businesses have no ongoing digital transformation strategy as compared to 9% of midmarket firms. As a result, there is a growing digital divide in the SMB segment and most SMBs need guidance in building a vision that involves separating digital transformation components into two nested and complementary ladders, one focused on technology, and second, focused on business outcomes.

The figure below presents a single-image depiction of these twin ladders of digital transformation. The bottom set of steps is labeled “the technology ladder,” and stretches from the deployment of modern, flexible infrastructure to advanced IT-enabled capabilities. The building blocks that are needed to establish an infrastructure that is capable of supporting digital transformation include mobility, virtualization, hyper-converged infrastructure, and other technologies essential to provisioning advanced IT services. These building block technologies are an essential foundation for digital transformation but deliver modest discrete value. The point automation solutions positioned at the base of the business outcomes ladder provide rapid but limited benefit through substitution and augmentation.

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Connected Security is essential for empowering Future of Work

Security is a feature that needs to be present within each layer of the stack. Security, needs to permeate all layers of an IT solution stack. IT security isn’t a discrete category – it is a ubiquitous factor in all aspects of IT/business infrastructure. 

The most important IT-related development in 2018 and beyond will be a focus on connectedness – connected cloud, edge, applications, security, collaboration, workspaces and insights. Internet and the web are the navigation routes that we have been developing since the 1970s; the always-on, everywhere-connected Interwork© platform is the destination that we will be creating in 2018 and for years to come. Please read Future of Work - Interwork: the next step in connected businesses

If there is an evident downside to ubiquitous and constant connectivity, it’s security. In conventional IT environments, security followed a ‘castle keep’-type approach: IT security staff gathered all critical information assets at the core of the environment, and focused their resources on hardening the perimeter, in much the same way that ancient castles used a moat and wall to safeguard people and assets within a central tower.

Today, of course, nations do not use castles as fortifications – and in truth, the traditional approach to security is scarcely better attuned to contemporary IT security needs. With the rise of mobility, cloud and connected supply chains reaching from component suppliers to OEMs to distribution and consumers, there is no perimeter to harden; any sizeable enterprise will have literally thousands of shifting entry points capable of accessing one or more corporate systems. And the rise in the value of information has spawned a sophisticated cyber theft industry: ‘bad actors’ use many different types of tactics and advanced technology to infiltrate corporate IT environments, with an eye towards stealing customer credit card data or internal financial or engineering information, hijacking corporate IT resources or obtaining some other form of benefit.

Security is the most amorphous of IT market categories. Virtually all other technologies occupy a defined position within the solution stack. Today’s security strategies no longer resemble a ‘wrapper’ around assets – they are built into each element of the corporate IT stack and rely on connectedness to (as the NIST framework recommends ) identify threats, protect against attacks, detect intruders if/when they breach perimeter defenses, respond to security events, and recover information lost to theft, loss and/or malware. 

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