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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.

80 Percent of SMBs say Cloud Computing helps Grow Their Business

Techaisle’s recently completed US SMB Cloud Computing Adoption Trend research shows that Cloud computing – which IT suppliers often position as a means of reducing cost – is viewed by 80 percent of US SMBs as a solution that contributes to business growth. This is a huge departure from previous years when reducing cost used to be the overarching objective. It implies that cloud vendors and resellers should expand their marketing dialogue beyond the cost and CAPEX vs. OPEX motivations for cloud adoption and focus on ways in which cloud-based solutions enable SMBs to expand their reach to new markets and customers. In fact, over 40 percent of SMBs state that business agility and new capabilities are driving SMB cloud adoption.

This new trend of SMBs adopting cloud for business growth creates a “perfect storm” of opportunity for cloud computing. It satisfies the demand for new technology-enabled business capabilities such as mobility, social media, business intelligence/analytics and collaboration by providing a platform for supporting these initiatives. At the same time, as IT continues to struggle with cost control, cloud provides a clear means of reigning in CAPEX and reducing management costs.

Techaisle’s survey data shows that while there is broad recognition of the importance of business agility as a cloud benefit, a “mid-SMB” niche exists – stretching from 50-250 employees – in which IT productivity is the overarching cloud objective.

The key reasons for using cloud and benefits realized vary by size of business as well as issues that are of critical concern to SMB organizations. For example, small businesses (1-99 employees) focus tightly on business benefits: increased business agility is the most compelling cloud benefit, followed by obtaining capabilities that would have been cost/time prohibitive, reducing business process-related costs, and improving business staff productivity. Mid-market businesses (100-999 employees) also appreciate these outcomes – but the highest-ranked benefit of cloud is IT related, with “make our IT staff more productive” cited as a compelling cloud benefit by nearly 60 percent of mid-market businesses.

Drilling down into the different sizes of businesses the 1-9 micro-business group also places a high value on using cloud to reduce process costs, which makes a great deal of sense, since these tasks are likely not automated in any fashion today. Respondents in the 250-499 employee size segments prioritize use of cloud to increase business user productivity, while the 500-999 employee segments is focused on cloud delivery benefits such as capabilities/agility and IT productivity. Analyzing the data by BDMs and ITDMs, the study finds that these groups have different perspectives on how cloud delivers value to their companies.

Marketers can use this data to establish broad themes for the US SMB market, and then tailor their appeals to specific sub-segments based on demonstrated needs and expectations. For more details or to learn about Techaisle’s SMB Cloud Computing Adoption Trends report please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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SMB Cloud Resellers: Recurring revenue is not the sole indicator of cloud business success

Techaisle’s SMB Channel Partner study shows that while cloud drives recurring revenue, profitable cloud channel members report that they drive more than 40 percent of revenue from non-recurring sources (such as services and attached product sales). Channel partners that are overly-reliant on recurring revenue are not achieving success in their cloud businesses; the companies in the Unsuccessful group report that more than 80 percent of revenue is derived from recurring sources.

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 It is important to drive revenue from multiple business lines. While more than 50 percent of revenue for successful SMB Cloud channel partners is derived from recurring sources, unsuccessful channel partners obtain over 80 percent of revenue from recurring sources. Recurring revenue is important because one can predict earnings thereby reducing risk; however, selling licenses alone does not create a high value or high margin business. Cloud profitability requires that SMB cloud resellers combine sales of cloud services with sales of one-off consulting and products.

The market currently is comprised of two revenue sources: a large but declining on-premise business, and a small but rapidly-growing cloud business. Successful channel partners will be those that participate in both revenue pools thereby finding real advantages over single-market competitors. For example, think about a situation in which an SMB is looking for a new email system. Those that propose only physical hardware and on-premise software will be very expensive. Those that propose only cloud-based services will be much less expensive, but will not enjoy a substantial amount of revenue (a Microsoft partner would get 18 percent for the core Office 365 email connection in year one, and roughly 6 percent in second/subsequent years). A partner blending both on-premise and cloud might get both the recurring Exchange revenue plus additional product/service revenue – laptops, MDM, security software, migration and deployment services, etc. They would also achieve better margins for the on-premise products than the on-premise-only provider, since it would be more difficult to do apples-to-apples price comparisons for solutions that blend cloud and on-premise equipment.
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Seven Key Trends and their Meaning: SMB Endpoint Device Market in 2014

IT markets tend to be complex and fast-moving – but even by IT industry standards, the endpoint device market in 2014 is extremely complex, and subject to significant and abrupt changes. Consider the following trends – some of which have played out over several years, and some of which are scant months old – and how they might affect buyers and suppliers of client technology this year:

#1: Migration to multiple screens: It is clear that today’s SMB endpoint device user is looking to perform specific tasks with the best possible device

    • Impact/implications: The ‘Swiss Army Knife’ appeal of the notebook – which doubled as both a mobility device and as a content creation platform – is waning. Tablets, not notebooks, are seen as the key productivity tool; and there is evidence to suggest that the desktop may have resurgence as a content creation option.



#2: Migration away from the traditional Wintel platform: For decades, “endpoint device” has been synonymous with “PC,” and “PC” has implied a device based on Microsoft Windows and Intel microprocessors. Through the course of this decade, that definition has been eroding. With the iPhone and iPad, Apple established iOS as a key smartphone and tablet technology. Google’s Android, with the support of powerful OEMs, has built a leadership position in the smartphone market, and has a great deal of market strength in the tablet market; Techaisle SMB End-Point survey results indicate that it is gaining momentum in the PC market as well. Meanwhile, low-power ARM chips have spread beyond portable devices into the PC, and even the data center.

    • Impact/implications: The proliferation of operating systems and underlying architectures creates opportunity for a wide range of suppliers – and confusion for a large number of SMB and mid-market IT managers who need to integrate, support and secure these devices. Suppliers should both exploit niche opportunities and look for strategies and tools that help IT managers to wrap niche products into existing, evolving client device portfolios.



#3: Incursion of new form factors:The acceptance of multiple screens, coupled with the availability of new platform technologies, has created a market where “endpoint devices” span a wide range of device categories: desktop PCs, notebook PCs, tablets and smartphones, as well as thin clients, All-in-Ones, and other device types.

    • Impact/implications: These form factors are differentiated by more than size and input technology; they move through different SMB channels at different price points; they appeal to different kinds of SMB buyers, who use different means to learn about and source them. The complexity associated with the proliferation of form factors will challenge marketing organizations that are accustomed to using a limited number of marketing vehicles and channel options to reach a relatively-predictable buying audience.



#4: Opportunities to redefine product categories: Buyer openness to new screen types has emboldened suppliers to redefine categories, or to create entirely new device classes. Some of these attempts (like the Ultrabook) have had limited success, but others, such as the 2-in-1 tablet/PC, show promise.

    • Impact/implications: There is arguably more opportunity to define net-new endpoint offerings today than there has been for decades. There is an additional requirement on suppliers to segment accurately, to be in tune with the needs and preferences of target segments, and to move quickly to address new demand drives – but there is also new opportunity to translate this acumen and agility into substantial marketing-driven success.



#5: Solution opportunities: As endpoints become more capable, buyers – especially the emerging class of SMB business decision makers (BDMs) who wield increasing power in IT decisions – will move past the device itself, to a need for solutions (such as mobility) that capitalize on the capabilities of the new units.

    • Impact/implications: To date, endpoint device suppliers have focused on building and selling screens, not the solutions that connect the screens. Marketers who understand how to connect their products to business-relevant solutions have an opportunity to differentiate those products, attracting new SMB customers and partners.



#6: Changes in buying points: The impact of SMB BDMs was mentioned above, but this point really should be considered as a trend unto itself. The IT industry has been told for years that BDMs (and especially, CMOs) would displace CIOs as the key IT decision makers. This certainly has not come to pass, and it is not clear that this shift will ever result in CIOs being displaced from their technology strategy roles. However, it is very clear that BDMs possess a great deal of power in many environments, and that their preferences and requirements are an important factor in shaping overall IT priorities.

    • Impact/implications: If BDMs gain power by joining rather than supplanting the IT decision maker (ITDM) “at the table”, the net effect is that the decision making unit within SMB customer accounts is getting bigger and more diverse. This may offer new opportunities for one-off point technology sales, but is likely to increase decision time and complexity in many organizations – particularly, within larger businesses.



#7: Product and information distribution logic: In a market dominated by the ITDM, vendors could rely on IT-focused information sources to reach prospective buyers, and IT channels to manage relationships with these buyers. Like the ITDMs themselves, these requirements persist in the current market – but are joined by a new set of inputs. SMB Business buyers do not look for the same types of information that ITDMs require, and they are looking for different kinds of information to help shape requirements and preferences. Meanwhile, the traditional channel plays an essential role in distributing traditional endpoint device types (desktop and notebook PCs), but other channels (carrier, retail) are key conduits for other product types. Effectively managing the mix of information and buyers, and products and channels, is becoming a key factor in vendor success.

    • Impact/implications: Increased complexity in information sources poses a challenge for marketers, who must find multiple ways of reaching customers. The imperative for success in this activity is increased by the common belief that buyers are using online resources to get much deeper into the purchase cycle before they contact a vendor; this increases the importance of effective content marketing, as direct sales alone will have difficulty in shaping needs and associated preferences. At the same time, the channel’s support needs are changing, and the vendor’s need to expand its channel by engaging with new kinds of partner businesses is becoming clear. Vendors need to both help traditional partners to succeed in their business transformations, and to establish relationships that reach new buyers within customer organizations.



Any one of these trends would be noteworthy against the backdrop of the SMB endpoint device opportunity, which accounts for a clear majority of all IT hardware spending, and affects literally every user of technology. Taken as a whole, these seven factors indicate potential for substantial market upheaval, creating risk and opportunity for current market leaders and new market entrants alike.

Any one of these trends would be noteworthy against the backdrop of the SMB endpoint device opportunity, which accounts for a clear majority of all IT hardware spending, and affects literally every user of technology. Taken as a whole, these seven factors indicate potential for substantial market upheaval, creating risk and opportunity for current market leaders and new market entrants alike.

To help illustrate potential opportunities and pitfalls in the 2014 endpoint device market, Techaisle has produced the The SMB Endpoint Device Adoption Trends report. This report is based on survey of SMBs, and includes both BDMs and ITDMs across each SMB size category.

About the Report

Coverage:

    • Current and Planned purchase Intentions of client devices

 

    • Tablet OS & Application software adoption – Behind the Screen

 

    • BYOD: Employers vs. Employees, or Micros vs. Larger SMBs?

 

    • Across the OS generations: XP, Windows 8 refresh intentions

 

    • The Android Opportunity: Google in the PC Market

 

    • Converged Mobility PCs: 2-in-1 PCs

 

    • PC Purchase Channel and Sources of Information



More details about the report can be found here.

Related Research Articles

Techaisle survey data shows BYOD is a major force in the US SMB Market

SMB Purchase Intentions for Android PCs

Key Attributes of Successful SMB Mobility Solutions

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Strong Need for SMB Cloud Channel Partners to offer Vertical Solutions

Techaisle’s SMB Channel Partner Trend study shows that there has been a big leap in percentage of SMB channel partners offering cloud computing services to SMBs in the last year across several countries. For example, in the US the percentage offering cloud services has jumped from 38 percent in 2012 to 64 percent in 2013 and another 22 percent are planning to offer cloud solutions. Similarly, in Australia the percentage has gone up substantially from 34 percent in 2012 and in Germany from less than 30 percent to over 60 percent. The biggest change is seen among the VARs. In 2012 only 34 percent were offering cloud solutions and in 2013 74 percent of them are offering cloud solutions to SMB customers. In Germany, the biggest jump has been within the SPs (Service Providers). However, not all channel partners (VARs, SPs, MSPs, SIs) have become successful in selling cloud to SMBs. Techaisle’s Winning Strategies of Successful SMB Cloud Channel Partners study finds that there are quantitative, meaningful and actionable differences between channel partners who are successful in the business of selling cloud and those that have not developed successful cloud practices.

Industry expertise and the ability to offer vertical solution is one such key area that is creating a distance between the successful and unsuccessful SMB cloud channel partners. Techaisle’s SMB studies have shown that SMBs are increasingly looking for vertical industry solutions but channels have been relatively slow in offering such solutions. Year 2014 will be important as this is the first year when SMB business issues have flip-flopped from reducing operational costs to increasing business growth and cloud-based line of business vertical solutions is an important area of investment.

Combining the data from Techaisle's SMB and Channel Partner studies we find that a significant gap exists between percent of SMBs adopting vertical cloud solutions and percent of SMB channel partners offering such solutions though it must be said that the gap has narrowed in the last 2 years as shown in the chart below.

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The Winning Strategies of Successful SMB Cloud Channel Partners study data shows (chart below) that 21 times as many successful cloud partners are offer vertical solutions to SMBs as those that are not successful.

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Most of the successful SMB cloud channel partners have product/service portfolios that are mapped to the full set of SMB technology needs: compute and storage infrastructure, applications, communications, support for test/development, and solutions addressing specific vertical requirements. The majority of unsuccessful SMB channel partners have limited their offerings to storage, backup, and basic SaaS offerings like Office 365 or Google Apps.

Some may argue that there is a ‘chicken and egg’ effect: that successful partners have broader portfolios because they have more engaged SMB customers. As with the chickens and eggs themselves, though, it may not matter where the cycle begins, if SMB channel partners that are not currently successful in the cloud wish to compete with those that are, they will need to develop portfolios that extend beyond IaaS to vertical-specific applications.

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Above chart from the Winning Strategies study shows that 50 percent more successful cloud channel partners than unsuccessful partners report that vertical industry knowledge is a key component of the value that they bring to their SMB customers. These successful channel partners are able to demonstrate knowledge of the SMBs’ industry, and are therefore able to create confidence within their SMB clients. These channel partners are also the most likely to build and maintain long-term relationships with their SMB customers. Unsuccessful channel partners claim that they are able to demonstrate understanding of their SMB customers’ business needs – but at a technical level – and are constrained by a lack of vertical understanding. 70 percent of unsuccessful channel partners emphasize their technical expertise during interactions with SMBs as they lack the understanding of their SMB customers’ industry vertical to be able to offer sophisticated cloud solutions. They emphasize service quality without necessarily understanding what this means in a cloud context. In addition, many of the unsuccessful partners tend to stress price when positioning cloud computing solutions.

Therefore it is imperative for SMB channel partners to go beyond technical knowledge and really understand the dynamics of industries in which their SMB customers operate and become industry subject matter experts.

Techaisle’s Winning Strategies of Successful SMB Cloud Channel Partners study covers critical differences between the activities and approaches of successful and unsuccessful cloud partners in three key areas: Business Priorities and Resource Allocations, Current and Planned Cloud offerings, Sales and Marketing Strategies and Tactics

Techaisle’s SMB Channel Partner Trend report covers: Mobility, Cloud, Managed Services, Virtualization, Backup, Data Integration, Sales & Marketing including Social Media & Lead Generation

 

 
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