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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.

COVID-19 Impact on SMB Tech Investments

Precision is impossible but agility and resilience are realizable. In every crisis, there is opportunity. If history is any indication then the SMBs are well-placed to narrow the banks of uncertainty. With integrative thinking SMBs will be adept at maneuvering around the edges of flames that have been fanned by COVID-19. 

Over 12 years of Techaisle tracking data paints a fascinating picture in which SMB business goals established by unexpected challenges drove new IT priorities. Klaus Schwab, Founder, World Economic Forum observed that, "In the new world, it is not the big fish which eat the small fish, it's the fast fish which eat the slow fish." SMBs are the fast fish as compared to enterprise segment.

After every downturn, SMB IT spend has rebounded higher and faster than overall (consumer + SMB + enterprise + government + education) IT spends. Techaisle had published its forecast scenarios here.

But the questions remain. Is today the same as the past? Will the future be different? We know that to be uncertain is to be uncomfortable, but to be certain is to be ridiculous. There are already many discussions and surveys conducted by various firms on today’s devastating impact on SMBs. At Techaisle we agree that SMBs are currently desperately operating between the raindrops but our objective is to square the circle, to simplify the path forward for IT vendors and channel partners and see past the blind corner.

To understand the impact of COVID-19 on future of IT we conducted a survey of N=2427 SMBs in several countries. Regardless of the uncertainty, over 50% of SMB business leaders in Asia/Pacific and some countries in Europe are optimistic and are confident about a V-shaped recovery as compared to US and UK SMBs who believe in more of a U-shaped recovery.

Download free Techaisle Take document to understand:

  • Why agility and adaptability will accelerate recovery for SMBs Worldwide? Global SMB IT spend vs Overall IT spend vs GDP growth rates
  • Why SMB technology and business alignment will result in resiliency, agility and adaptability?
  • What will be post COVID-19 impact on business and IT operations? Uncertainty and status quo.
  • What will be the impact on tech investments? Increase, decrease, delay, no change
  • Will digital transformation be the agility enabler for SMBs?
  • What is the current non-technology related work-from-home challenge for SMBs?

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COVID-19 Impact - Time to revisit pure-play MSP recurring revenue model

Consider these statistics from Techaisle’s recent worldwide channel sizing and channel trends studies. 62% of MSPs have less than 25 employees, 92% of MSPs have less than US$5 million in annual revenue. A large majority of these MSPs sell to smaller SMBs who are currently experiencing gut-wrenching disruptions to their businesses. MSPs are not immune to the COVID-19 crisis. 15% of MSPs either want to sell their business or wind down and 52% of MSPs need external capital to grow and remain viable or are seeking M&A opportunities. While MSP business model success is predicated on recurring revenue, profitable MSPs drive more than 40% of revenue from non-recurring sources. Pursuit of recurring revenue is not a bad idea as it provides a foundation for future revenue and it is important to business valuations. But data shows that recurring revenue is not the sole indicator of business success.

Recurring revenue can predict earnings thereby reducing risk, however, selling licenses or seats alone does not create a high margin business. MSPs who have moved to predominantly recurring revenue model are more likely to run out of operating capital than they are to reap the benefit of enhanced business valuations or the ability to manage cash flows during an episodic global crisis. Techaisle’s survey data clearly shows that channels with high percent of recurring revenues have been consistently unsuccessful in managing uncertainties in business climate. MSPs that lack margin also lack the ability to invest in improving their capacity to innovate and compete in the long-term and for weathering business interruptions. MSPs that do have meaningful margins, on the other hand, have the ability to invest in capabilities that enable them to expand into new market areas or overcome periods of economic crisis.

A typical pure-play MSP’s 84% to 90% of recurring revenue is spent on human capital, RMM/PSA solutions and other overheads, leaving between 10% to 16% for margins.

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COVID-19 Impact on Channel Partners

COVID-19 is a pandemic. No market segment is immune to the economic shock. The channel comprising of MSPs, systems integrators (SIs), dealers, resellers, VARs and retailers form the essential cogs of technology’s eco-system that puts products and solutions in the hands of customers. COVID-19 is challenging the channel. As per Techaisle’s global channel partner census count, there is one channel partner (excluding consultants) for every 160 commercial businesses and 1780 households. It is natural, in current circumstances, when both consumer and commercial IT spending is being reined in, for channel partners to lower their 2020 revenue growth expectations and re-prioritize business objectives. Techaisle leveraged its panel of 225K channel partners to understand the impact of COVID-19 on channel business. Data from COVID-19 impact survey of channel partners (excluding small retailers) shows that the percent of channel partners expecting revenue increases in 2020 may drop by 20%. Good news is that 63% of partners are still expecting increases but not in the high-teen percent that they had planned for at the beginning of the year.

Download to read full analysis that covers - expected revenue changes, business concerns, top priorities, new comfort zones, digital transformation and need to deliver customer success in crisis. Free download, no sign-up required.

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COVID-19 Impact on Global SMB and Midmarket IT Spend

The Covid-19 threat to the global economy and to the IT industry is potentially as bad as, or worse than, the health impact. A global workforce that cannot collaborate effectively cannot deliver products that rely on timely supply of components from far-flung suppliers, and cannot create and implement complex solutions. The necessary isolation used to contain Covid-19 has a devastating effect on economic activity. Manufacturing does not work when people don’t. Chinese exports fell by 17.2% in January/February of this year. The impact on solutions is harder to quantify, but may well be even greater. However, with the slowing number of new cases in China, 80% of manufacturing plants have restarted with about 60% capacity which may restore supply-chain balance by addressing supply-side constraints. The freight (including trucking) and air-cargo routes between China and Asia is returning to normal but China-Europe and China-US routes may be impacted until the middle-to-end of Q2. 

Globally SMBs IT spend in 2019 was $662B with a projected spend of US$700B in 2020, a growth rate of 5.6%. It is natural, in the current economic situation to pare down these spends and slice expectations (perhaps deeply) based on beginning-of-the-year projections. As compared to the original SMB IT spend growth rate, the projected growth rates may drop from a low of 29% to a high of 84% depending upon Techaisle’s optimistic to gloomy scenarios, resulting in revised growth rate ranges from 4.0% to 0.9%. 

SMBs are a good indicator to measure the pulse of economy in any country as they constitute over 90 percent of global businesses. They are intricately linked to large businesses, government departments and educational institutions as both suppliers and customers. A large percentage of consumers rely on SMBs for products and services that they consume within their households. Technology plays an important part in daily operations of SMBs across all departmental functions including sales, marketing, operations, finance and customer support. SMBs form the essential thread of the economic fabric of any country and to a great extent their fortunes and investment capabilities are dependent on the economic situations and policies of the countries where they operate. In a downturn and uncertainty the investment capacity of SMBs is deeply affected. Techaisle conducted a global survey of SMBs to assess their investment intent which combined with Techaisle global SMB IT spend data presents four scenarios - Ideal, Optimistic, Pessimistic, Gloomy. 

Download to read full analysis and projected small business and midmarket IT spend growth rate scenarios.

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