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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-Midmarket Digital Transformation fast-forwarding adoption of several technologies

Pandemic has changed how businesses operate, employees work, customers purchase and goods/services get delivered. This has also changed how small and midmarket firms are evaluating their core, cloud and edge technology needs to address their accelerated digital transformation objectives of cost efficiencies, operational excellence, innovation, business growth, organizational empowerment and customer intimacy. Clearly, core infrastructure has evolved to meet future digital transformation demands, but the question is how are small businesses and midmarket firms planning to adopt forward-facing solutions, like Artificial Intelligence, 5G, AR/VR, IoT, analytics and several others. There is a general sense within the SMBs that these advanced solutions will increase insight into and control over key aspects of their business operations and deliver benefits in different ways and to different ends.

Remaining true to the core belief of tracking the future of SMBs and channel partners, Techaisle studied global SMBs to determine future, planned and likely adoption patterns of several technology areas. The study of SMB and Midmarket digital transformation trends identified top 15 technology categories where the adoption growth rates will likely be highest in the next six months to a year. There are some surprises, for example, chatbots (for customer responsiveness), 5G (for enhanced mobility), open source (for cloud management, modernization and lower TCO), AI (for customer experience, security, operations) and several expected, for example, SD-WAN, HCI, WVD/VDI/DaaS and UCaaS.

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Digital transformation on the radar of SMBs

Techaisle worldwide survey research data from over 3600 SMBs and interactions with hundreds of businesses shows that 51% of SMBs have stepped up their digital transformation investments and is prominent in the plans of 22% of SMBs who report that current crisis has amplified their “belief in organization-wide digital transformation”. SMB firms that were already committed to organization-wide digital transformation are experiencing 2.1x cost reduction, have 1.9x better levels of customer intimacy and 1.4x higher productivity levels than firms that have been ‘selective adopters’ of digital transformation. Data also reveals that nearly one-fourth of SMBs are not expecting to change (accelerate or decelerate) their plans and will continue with their pre-pandemic planned digital transformation journey and expect significant benefits and upsides in the near future. On the downside, 27% of SMBs are delaying their planned technology spend on digital transformation to reallocate funds to other essential immediate capital and operational expenditures.

Techaisle’s SMB research has found that the need to be more cost efficient is the single-most compelling reason for SMBs to embrace digital transformation. Other key drivers include initiating product innovation, enabling operational excellence, driving business growth and empowering organization productivity.

There are differences across geos (US, Europe, Asia/Pacific, Latin America) as well as variations between small and midsized businesses.

For 46% of SMBs achieving cost efficiencies is a natural ‘first step’ in exerting control over their businesses and ensuring viability in an uncertain market which is besieged with cash flow constraints, limited access to capital, competitive landscape, erratic revenue, and many more. While productivity is always top of mind, cost-efficiency is a more compelling need. In fact, 1.6X as many SMBs are investing in digital transformation to reduce costs as those investing to improve productivity. Most SMBs have already adopted one or more technologies that contribute to employee productivity improvements; however, these SMBs are moving past individual to organizational-level productivity goals.

techaisle smb digital transformation pillars final
Looking at five pillars of SMB digital transformation, it is clear that digital transformation is cast primarily as a means of addressing business objectives. This observation holds an important message for vendor suppliers: when defining a digital transformation path, look first at the business outcomes, and work backwards to the need for core technology and Interwork© solutions that support these outcomes.

Data reveals that there is a difference in approach to investing in core infrastructure solutions between SMB firms adopting organization-wide digital transformation strategy vs. those with a siloed and sporadic approach. The roadmap to successful digital transformation begins with the creation of a sound infrastructure - the ‘building blocks’ or ‘foundations’ of business infrastructure. Core infrastructure devices need to be kept in sync with the requirements of digital transformation initiatives; servers and storage and networking and security need to advance with the needs of the organization.

Clearly, core infrastructure has evolved to meet future digital transformation demands. But SMBs are also increasingly making moves to adopt forward-facing solutions (2nd order technologies after foundational technologies). There is a general sense that these solutions will increase insight into and control over key aspects of the operation, and deliver benefits in different ways, and to different ends. Once a scalable, secure and cost-effective infrastructure platform is in place, it is expected to support a range of digital transformation objectives through deployment of different, complex solutions.

Today's economy demands that technology support business activities. The future will be defined by business capitalizing on IT-enabled business options. But the question in front of most SMBs is, “what is the path forward, from today's foundation to tomorrow's opportunity?”

A lack of well-articulated answer has resulted in a growing ‘digital divide’ in the SMB business ranks which has become starkly visible throughout the crisis created by pandemic. SMB firms that are embracing an agile IT/business infrastructure and capitalizing on the advantages of digital transformation are developing sustainable competitive advantages that will define a path towards success in both the near and longer term.

Detailed survey research reports are available for individual purchase or are delivered as part of annua; retainership contract.

US SMB and Midmarket Digital Adoption trends research
Europe SMB and Midmarket Digital Adoption trends research
Asia/Pacific SMB and Midmarket Digital Adoption trends research
Latin America SMB and Midmarket Digital Adoption trends research

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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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