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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.

SMBs Using Cloud Applications Experiencing Terrific Improvements

Techaisle’s SMB Cloud Adoption survey shows that SMBs that are using Cloud applications are experiencing tremendous improvement in customer acquisition, retention and work satisfaction. In fact, 1 in 4 SMBs say that customer retention has improved, and nearly 1 in 3 says that customer acquisition has improved.


In general SMBs have experienced improved customer acquisition and retention after using cloud applications, however, SBs (1-99 employees) and MBs (100-999 employees) differ. Typically, SBs are more hard-pressed to acquire customers, a top business issue for them. With the adoption of cloud, 32 percent SBs say that they have seen improvement. MBs on the other hand, have better direct sales force for customer acquisition, but after equipping the sales force and marketing with cloud applications they have seen marked improvement in customer retention. Additionally, an important point to note is that 29 percent of SBs have reported improved group productivity and 34 percent improved employee satisfaction.

The survey also showed that B2C and B2B SMBs have had different experiences in customer acquisition and retention.  Specifically, B2B SMBs have reported nearly twice as high improved experiences as B2C SMBs. Many B2C SMBs are using social media platforms such as Facebook and twitter and marketing automation solutions to build a set of followers to improve their customer retention and acquisition. On the other hand, comparatively higher percentage of B2B SMBs are using LinkedIn, Twitter and specialized platforms such as Chatter, Yammer and GageIn to track news and conversations with their customersaction.


CRM has become the central application and the core around which other features and functionality are deployed as required by an SMB organization, department within an SMB or an individual user within the SMB. CRM is that core cloud business application. After the SMB CRM base has been built (or simultaneously), the order of implementation depends on the SMB’s focus but is likely to be business intelligence, marketing automation, Financials, HR/Payroll, customer service for service companies, ERP, fulfillment (SCM) and industry vertical applications.


There are four key areas of SMB cloud usage and deployment. Each has got many sub-sets of applications. These four areas are:

  1. Infrastructure and Platforms (US$13.0 Billion SMB Opportunity by 2016)

  2. Communications and Collaboration (US$7.9 Billion SMB Opportunity by 2016)

  3. Business productivity & Applications (US$15.5 Billion SMB Opportunity by 2016)

  4. Industry specific applications ((US$2.7 Billion SMB Opportunity by 2016)


While there are many niche vendors addressing each niche area, the complexity grows manifold as businesses move from one application to another, from one device to multiple devices. As Cloud computing adoption among SMBs grows, the real issue of data integration continues to come into play and it will become imperative for each of the four areas to communicate with the other. And once that “integration enlightenment” happens SMBs will witness even higher improvements in productivity, satisfaction, acquisition and retention.

Anurag Agrawal
Techaisle
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Cisco’s Master Move in Combining Cloud & Managed Services Channel Programs

Announcement

Cisco has announced a new Cloud and Managed Services Program (CMSP) that integrates its currently existing Cloud Provider, Cloud Services and Managed Services Channel Programs (MSCP) into one. Besides streamlining incentives, discounts and payments for its partners, the program also aims to simplify pricing for Cisco-based cloud and managed services offerings. The program will also enable collaboration and sharing of complementary opportunities between partners through a microsite via Cisco’s partner portal. All partners are expected to transition to the CMSP by August 2013.

Techaisle Take

We believe that with one master move Cisco is strategically addressing the US$94 billion global SMB opportunity by 2016.

Techaisle’s global channel surveys have shown that Cloud, Mobility, and Managed Services Solutions together are changing the SMB channel landscape as these solutions are revolutionizing IT utilization by SMBs. The new paradigm would be the "3-in-1" Channels offering Mobility, Cloud, and Managed Services as a single offering. We first wrote about the 3-in-1 channel here. And now Virtualization is quickly becoming a potent arsenal in the SMB channel partners offerings.

Techaisle’s corresponding SMB research has consistently shown that SMBs want mostly integrated solutions to limit complexity and therefore seek partners that are capable of such deliverables but very few partners currently do so as they are all camped in either one or two solution corners and few seem to embrace a holistic solution view - and this is making SMBs unsure of overall benefits and desire to spend.

With its current announcement Cisco is removing some of the barriers by bringing channel partners serving managed services and cloud needs of SMBs under a common cluster. Since many SMBs want to obtain all services from a single provider, it is important for broad product/solution vendors to evaluate all their partners, seek and cluster partners based on where they are with regards to capabilities of delivering complete solutions and introduce programs to support development. As the dividing line between cloud and managed services is becoming thin, Cisco has just done it, that is, created a single program that should:

  • Enable channels to build more dynamic and serious partner-to-partner collaboration to collectively address complementary opportunities

  • Enable Cisco partners to add capabilities, such as, managed services to an existing cloud services

  • Attract newer partners to join Cisco program

  • Help current channel partners qualify and move up Cisco’s channel partner pyramid


The data on the right from Techaisle’s channel study (N=2851) shows that channels that serve the SMB segment are keen to offer multiple services that straddle cloud and managed services. Cisco’s new program should open up opportunity for its channel partners to offer both cloud and managed services using Cisco platforms.

If we look at the survey data at micro-level, we find that is a higher percentage of Channel Partners that are offering some type of Managed Services Solutions than they are offering Mobility Solutions or even Cloud Computing. The channels falling in the green columns will benefit immediately, those in the blue columns will find the program attractive but those within the red columns in the chart would be of immense importance.
Managed Services has been is of more critical importance for SMBs than Cloud or Mobility which is a key reason why there are more Managed Services partners than Cloud Computing providers. Additionally, Managed Services took root a few years back while Cloud Computing is a more recent phenomenon. Mobility has been in existence for a long time, however, it should be considered absolutely new in its current form with the availability & use of several mobile devices & other enabling technologies, namely Cloud & Remote Managed Services.

It is clear that Managed Services has been the most important offering for Channel Partners, as they evolved from a typical value added channel to offering break-fix services and remote managed services.



The path being chosen by Channels to move from one offering to the next is strongly dependent upon their current offering. Those that are in the mobility space are moving to cloud, while those in the cloud are moving to managed services.

Understanding the channel dynamics and current offerings gives clues in the direction they will move. For those that are offering only one of the services there is a clear path to adding services. In fact Techaisle survey shows that the channels have chosen their path of selection.

Channels are also interested in offering mobility solutions, however, it is also clear that mobility has become possible due to cloud and managed services allowing employees to work from anywhere, anytime and from any device.

 

The responsibility now lies with both the channel partners and Cisco to make the program a success. However, there some other steps that Cisco needs to take as well.

  • Extend the reach of its Smart Care to cover cloud based services

  • Develop capabilities that not only work with Cisco's networking devices but also with client devices. Although it must be said that Cisco is addressing some of those needs through its partnerships with other vendors

  • Further the agenda on not only BYOD but also just BYO

  • Market the program aggressively. Channel partners are being courted and trained by many other vendors

  • Use the program to establish a strong presence in the datacenter space


With the latest move, Cisco may have begun to shift the tide in its favor more decisively.

Anurag Agrawal
Techaisle
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India SMB Cloud Adoption: Ready to Take-off?

In India, SMBs’ awareness of cloud computing trails only slightly behind mature markets. Predictably, awareness is significantly higher among mid-market businesses than small businesses. However, awareness of the term increases significantly among companies with 20 or more employees suggesting interest in cloud computing jumps once businesses grow beyond a certain size. In addition, mid-market businesses with 250-999 employees have the highest awareness about cloud computing as these firms have are still building their in-house IT infrastructure and are evaluating all options to meet their IT needs. SMBs also agree largely on what the term means – about half of all SMBs surveyed agreed that the term included all of the following aspects.

    • Subscribe to IT services that are hosted by third-party

 

    • Subscribe to Servers hosted by a third-party

 

    • Subscribe to applications hosted by third-party

 

    • Access applications using a web based interface

 

    • Subscribe to storage and security hosted and provided by third parties



Over the last few years, as the market has evolved and more vendors have entered the fray, a number of new terms have become commonplace each meant to either truly represent a component of the market or a marketing gimmick by some vendors to try and create and legitimize a niche for themselves. The rising sophistication of SMBs is evident in that they are at least familiar with the various terms being bandied about. This is not to say that SMBs do not differ in their views of what each term actually means.

Familiarity with the term cloud computing is rising among SMBs suggesting vendors’ evangelism activities are having some effect in terms of recognition and awareness. However, a good understanding of the benefits of cloud computing varies significantly among the SMBs. More importantly, awareness among channels that serve the SMB segment is limited with pockets of misinformation. Even if the SMBs and channels know about the benefits of cloud computing they still worry about security and data privacy.

Cloud computing has been touted as the next big thing but as far as the Indian market is concerned while there is a lot of hype and interest generated around this technology the ground realities reflect a more sobering truth: that SMBs in India are still some way off from shifting to the cloud in a big way and that the initial vendor push is more oriented to the upper mid-market businesses and large enterprises.

In India, Infrastructure, also known as IaaS, has the potential to change the way IT hardware is purchased, designed and used. With its promise of infinite scalability and a pay-as-you-go pricing model, the primary benefit that cloud IaaS services extends to the SMBs is efficiency at lower IT costs. It lowers the barriers to market growth by lowering technology costs and upfront investments. This is true both for small and mid-market businesses for many applications. The picture is substantially different for mid-market businesses and small businesses taken separately. Mid-market businesses display a greater willingness to adopt hosted infrastructure and platform solutions than small businesses which is understandable.  Small businesses prefer business appliacations and industry vertical solutions. Cloud platform vendors should therefore actively seek partnerships with such vertical ISVs in order to drive utilization of their own services and data center resources.

Gitika Bajaj
Techaisle

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What the SMB channel needs from Cloud-based Service vendors

New Competencies in SMB Cloud ChannelTaken from a 2009 White Paper, this image shows the new competencies required from partners to make the transition from traditional reseller to Cloud Aggregator or Cloud Reseller. What Techaisle described was the opportunity to become either an aggregator, by becoming the equivalent of a “first tier” distributor (positioned between the vendor and resellers who then sell to end-users), or as a Cloud Reseller, selling directly to end users.

Competencies required for the aggregator include the ability to aggregate services and integrate them across services, either data across applications or building solutions between infrastructure, communications and application services. In addition, core competencies were/are needed in the areas of service provisioning and datacenter management. Then an Aggregator needs to be able manage reseller relationships with structured sales and marketing programs, implementation and post-implementation support for the channel, and tier 2 customer support for end users. Given these demanding requirements and the price pressure, it is not surprising that larger organizations like Dell have been the companies to aggressively pursue this strategy and taking advantage of an existing hardware and storage business to offer a full solution stack to resellers and Enterprise customers. As we have written on several occasions, the SMB channel is being squeezed by several trends including the rise of the Digital Channel, Self-Service Applications, Remote Management Dashboards, Plug-and-Play Horizontal Applications, and others. These make the aggregator approach difficult and susceptible to commoditization, more so given the additional challenges of recruiting, managing and supporting an additional tier of resellers. As a result, there has been a lot of confusion around how to make money as an aggregator, and the assumption that a solution has to include all layers in the stack: Computing, System Software, Storage, Network and Application. Even considering wholesale remote infrastructure availability, channels are confused about  which layer to start with, how to choose the vendors, where to recruit staff, how much investment, how to migrate existing customers and many other questions have prevented many channel partners from making the move.

SMB Cloud Channel Needs
The other option for SMB channels is to move existing and new customers to cloud-based services, which still requires embracing new technologies, and figuring out how to add value through specialization, integration, customization and/or all-in-one provisioning, maintenance and support. With that as background, we can move into the topic in the headline: What the SMB channel needs from Cloud-based Service vendors. The partners here represent VARs/SIs, ISVs and SPs, and are more typical of the Reseller category rather than the Aggregator.

In a recent survey of SMB Channel Partners who offer Cloud-based Services, the most important need from Cloud Vendors was for an SLA that guarantees availability. SLAs were cited as most important by Service Providers and VARs/Sis with 61% and 59% respectively, which brought overall average to the top of the list at 53% of all partners surveyed.  This is consistent with what we have heard directly from SMBs, who are using the SLAs as a proxy for the brand of underlying infrastructure and system software of the applications. The effect of this is strongest on hardware vendors, whose equipment is becoming increasingly commoditized by plug-and-play infrastructure and exacerbated by a digital channel that uses self-service interfaces and management dashboards instead of on site visits. In a similar vein, the next requirement also comes directly from SMB customers, who want access to 24x7 support services. As SMBs move to SaaS and Remote Services, outsourcing infrastructure and applications exposes them to more risk and loss of control, increasing the need for the security of a 24 hour Support Desk to reduce the perceived risk of “offsite everything”. These first two needs line up with SMB purchasing criteria, ironically two of the other most important factors are Price and Data Security. That they are not passed on as needs to the vendors probably suggests that these are largely under control – users also typically rated high levels of satisfaction in these areas.

Most of the remaining issues relate to two categories: Product Related and Partner Program Related.

Product Needs included better methods of integration, a broader catalog of applications and single sign on across applications.

Partner Program Issues included better notification of upgrades, changes and downtime – providing onsite training, having a policy concerning data migration to competitive products, and ability to offer discounts for paying annual fees upfront.

Vendors and Cloud-Services Aggregators should keep these needs in mind to develop the best Cloud Partner Programs, and SMB Resellers should use these vendor capabilities to select the right Vendor/Aggregator to work with as they migrate customers from a traditional offers to Cloud-based solutions.

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