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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.

Pick of the Week - Exxova

"As a general rule, the most successful man in life is the man who has the best information."
- Benjamin Disraeli (1804 - 1881), British Prime Minister

We are in a transformational time for Mobility and Mobile Business Intelligence, with lots of innovation happening in both hardware and software. Factors such as declining data plan prices, improved broadband availability, software investment, and widespread access to Smart Phone applications will continue to drive market acceptance as barriers to adoption fall away.

Mobility Requests to SMB ChannelsTaking a channel partner  view of the market, this chart shows what SMB Channel Partners (50%+ Revenue from SMBs) are hearing from their customers: overall 60% report that customers are asking for Mobile Solutions, including ~80% of ISVs, 54% of VAR/Sis and 47% of Service Providers.

One of the trends in BI overall is a large  increase in embedded BI functionality into software applications. This arose through the enterprise-level dashboards and  reporting capabilities that SMBs saw with Salesforce.com functionality and quickly become must-have features for serious software applications, especially those delivered as a Service (SaaS). On premise and SaaS versions have been updated through development of new internal code or OEM arrangements and open source code from players like Pentaho and Jaspersoft.

Enabling BI mobility is accomplished by moving  existing functionality to a mobile environment, using the new technologies on top of the old, which is more complicated than starting from scratch in many cases.  The larger companies such as Oracle, IBM and SAP are approaching  this through acquisition of smaller companies and integrating them into existing products. But in a classic build vs. buy fashion, smaller companies offering SaaS BI services have been building new offers from the ground up, directly employing the newest technologies like HTML5, iOS and Android for delivery to Apple devices, smartphones and the burgeoning number of tablets in the market. Smaller providers in many cases have gained a timing advantage; using native technology brings existing mobile functionality to bear on the problem; instead of simple links to server data, the presentation of the information can immediately be rich and interactive using screen manipulation, i.e., pinch and squeeze or geo-location awareness, as part of the data exploration and visualization experience.

Other features of “true” mobility integrated with “true” BI include the ability to interact with data objects on the screen, such as search, filters, check-boxes, drill-down and drill-through to the record level and other interactive functionality. Of course, then being able to use the built-in device communications capabilities is also important once the information has been isolated – SMS, email and  forms should be available for manipulation and dissemination of the information.

Many use case scenarios present themselves from the low end retail – such as immediate revenue and profit reporting from the new generation of card swipers into QuickBooks or MS Dynamics and received on a smartphone, to a mid-market electronic component manufacturer checking inventory turns in the Singapore distribution center using SAP Business Objects or IBM Cognos 10 through a Samsung Galaxy Note Tablet.

Among the pure-play SaaS Mobile BI firms to have emerged in the last few years is Exxova, based out of Atlanta, which we chose as our Cloud Vendor Pick of the Week. We chose Exxova because they have a unique value proposition: although they use some of the most powerful  back end analytics technology – SAP, Business Objects, Oracle, etc., they have managed to simplify this technology and allow administration of database structure and reporting by literally dragging and dropping fields in a web-based interface, creating new groups and calculations, and having the results delivered immediately through mobile devices running iOS and Android as described earlier. Having separated the reporting layer from the analytical engine allows them to provide deep BI capabilities to end users without the additional cost of licenses for all the back end tools, while at the same time allowing Flash and Flex to be delivered in original format to the Apple environment.

We interviewed their President Mark Hillam, a BI industry veteran and former Business Objects executive for this post. In response to how Exxova reduces complexity for the users and administrators of Mobile BI, Mr. Hillam replied:

“Every report, dashboard, and analytic is rendered with perfect fidelity to the original source.  All of this is accomplished without any modification or changes to the Enterprise BI platform or the existing content.  Even full report editing is capable from the mobile platforms.”

Exxova offers a strong example of true Mobile BI functionality which is relatively easy to administer and use at a good price point. There are others in the market such as SAP, Microstrategy, Oracle and IBM, who also have strong mobile solutions. For the SMB marketplace there will always be a balance between cost, complexity and functionality to be taken into account before long term commitments are made, Exxova seems to fit this space well. For more information, see it in action below.



 

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VideoPost - SMB Marketing Automation Purchase Intentions

Please click through for a quick snapshot of Current Adoption and Purchase Intentions for Marketing Automation within the US Small and Medium Business (SMB) Market:

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Distribution Channels - SMBs Search for the New Trusted Advisor

Optimization Nation...


“The production of too many useful things results in too many useless people.”
― Karl Marx

Rarely will I quote Karl Marx, but in this case it works too well to ignore. Reviewing the latest research and surveys of technology adoption in the SMB space in an attempt to see a bigger picture, it struck us that the “decades-long Black Swan event” represented by accumulated IT investment impacting all at once, as mentioned by Nicholas Taleb in his great book: ”The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable”, has come to pass. This, in combination with moving manufacturing industries offshore en masse and concentration of distribution away from small business retail into super warehouse outlets - whose singular objective is lower price - contributed to the economic upheaval. After ten more years of disproportionate IT investment in the Financial sector that enabled profits out of thin air by moving markets with super-high-speed trading and creation of financial instruments with no underlying value, we were almost there. Then optimization of every penny that could be squeezed from government programs – stated-income negative amortization ARMs, home equity extraction, wheelchairs, diabetes sensors, catheters, Social Security benefits, etc. - “at no cost to you whatsoever, we will even take care of all the paperwork”. These are all examples of how the economy has been changed forever using Information Technology as the key enabler.  But this post is not about the economy, it is about the influence of network technology and the resulting Virtual Solution Stack for Small and Medium Businesses (SMBs) that allows them to leverage the new IT adoption model that has emerged with Cloud Computing.

Things were getting a little expensive…

The Cloud Computing model has firmly emerged out of the ashes of the dotcom implosion and financial crisis of 2008 with the unrelenting objective of increasing production and reducing costs - more for less. Information Technology had become a critically important part of being competitive in a global marketplace, even for SMBs, but unfortunately it had also become increasingly expensive and complicated to implement. By the time we started to realize the benefits of distributed network computing in the mid 2000s, we had created an insatiable appetite for this new technology that could eliminate space and time to truly optimize business. Ironically, by doing so we also created a huge business pain point: How to feed the Beast?

A New Financial Structure Please…

The reality is that no company, large or small, could drink from the fire hose of new technologies flooding the market and bringing the ever-increasing IT investment beyond reach. It begged the question of how to access these benefits through leverage rather than outright purchase.  What has emerged - directly or indirectly - is a Cloud Services model where infrastructure such as computing power, disk space, system software and databases can be centralized and distributed much like electrical power was at the beginning of the 20th century, allowing companies to stop buying their own generators; a new model where physical location of data is less important than the security protecting it, and where robust business functionality can be delivered remotely over the network using only a browser and an internet connection, with highly qualified experts at the other end whose costs can be distributed among many clients rather than a single company, and last but not least -  the ability to access all of this capability at very low risk, with low cost start-up and pay on a subscription basis rather than from capital budgets. Beginning with web hosting and co-location on the infrastructure side and CRM in the applications arena, SMBs began committing to the model and  we have arrived  at a stage where the majority of SMBs have adopted the new architecture using IaaS, SaaS, PaaS, and other services based on their needs; many in surveys already use multiple services, averaging over 3.5 per for small business and doubling every year. And there is an extremely high level of satisfaction - much higher than when customers owned and operated all of the solution components.

Being the Trusted Advisor for the Virtual Solution Stack

We have found that in the rush to implement Cloud Services, users especially among Small Businesses, are beginning to rely much more on independent IT Consultants as their new source of advice, threatening to dis-intermediate the traditional channel. SaaS and horizontal application service providers, such as Salesforce.com, Citrix and Central Desktop are putting pressure on at the other end with vendor-direct, centralized inbound marketing that also threatens opportunity for third-party value add in many cases. Although, it must be said that Salesforce.com has built a massive following of channel partners from independent consultants to corporate VARs. And it contributes to the success of Salesforce.com. We have also found that once decisions are made for Cloud Services, the incumbent channel has a big advantage for future business as both advisor and implementer. The critical issue, now more than ever, is to be the trusted advisor early in the SMB’s lifecycle. The following are some suggestions on how to accomplish this as a Cloud Services Vendor or partner.


1)  The old Asset-Intensive model of IT Adoption is over; to be successful vendors and their partners will need to deliver and explain cost-effective Infrastructure and Applications, either together or as separate components, depending on offer and customer needs.

2)  IT as Cost Center is rapidly evolving into IT as Profit Center; applying Cloud Services to drive competitive advantages based on new marketing and business intelligence technology will usually be far more productive than having IT staff updating PC software, swapping out PCs, adding disks to storage, configuring a new server, etc. Offloading these tasks from SMB IT Teams and becoming the trusted advisor while the company is young will pay long term dividends for both vendors and channels.

3)  Staffing is usually the most expensive variable among business expenses. Demonstrate ROI and TCO models that emphasize the ability to reduce staffing, travel and distance from the equation and allow IT to be more productive with fewer staff.

4)  As they expand, SMBs typically have to grow their operational and IT footprint by hiring specialists in different domestic and international locations; helping customers reduce the growing pains by centralizing many IT operations and managing infrastructure, communications and applications from a headquarters location is a good approach to helping them expand more cost effectively.

5)  Purchasing, managing, configuring, updating, and patching software licenses is a major expense and headache for small companies and can be a full time position in many medium-sized organizations, not to mention internal user satisfaction, and ongoing maintenance fees. Cloud Services, particularly SaaS solutions, do an excellent job eliminating the majority of these issues, one reason why they continually rank extremely high on the satisfaction scale in our surveys. These are easily built into the ROI/TCO model.

6)  As new Cloud Services are rolled out across Infrastructure, Communications, Productivity and Vertical Market categories in ever changing variations of public and private clouds, it is not possible for most companies to maintain the internal expertise to make the most appropriate choices. Helping customers emerge without being overwhelmed and providing relevant knowledge of how to effectively apply the new technology will strengthen the relationship.

7)  SMB customers have made the leap to cloud-based infrastructure and will rapidly move to multiple services that leverage their investments. Much like the early days of client/server systems where HP had the hot box and Oracle provided the fastest affordable database engine, offers will consist of integration of infrastructure and software layers of the solution. Also as with client/server, users want the ease of dealing with a single supplier where possible, for simplicity and “one throat to choke”. The new solution stack is virtual and relatively standalone at this point; the next stage will require vendors of more complex applications (Integrated CRM, ERP, SCM) to make it as easy as possible for customers to buy their services, even if it means giving up some control and profit in exchange for more volume.

8)  The independent IT consultant as trusted advisor is a phenomenon that has arisen as a slew of relatively easy-to-deploy SaaS applications have matured to where individuals can configure them quickly. The current economy has also spurred a lot of activity among individuals to support their SMB friends with web presence, hosting, social media, part time IT support, etc. Although the influence wanes as companies grow in size, and with the complexity of their deployments, the independent IT consultant has emerged as a force to be reckoned with at the low end of the market and vendors should develop these evangelists while channels bring them into marketing to combine strengths for the benefit of the customer.

Davis Blair
Techaisle

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Power to Do More meets Simplicity at Work

Dell (Power to Do More) is buying Quest Software (Simplicity at Work) for US$2.4B, its second largest acquisition after Perot Systems. Combining power and simplicity is not easy to achieve but is a potent combination if done successfully. And throwing Wyse and SonicWALL in the mix can lead to a catalytic reaction in the right direction that may become hard to contain and beat. It is all in the execution, messaging and channel commitment.

A lot has already been written about how the Quest acquisition is a brilliant move by Dell to augment its software portfolio and complete its end-to-end solutions offerings from PC hardware, servers to security, storage, software, datacenters and integrated datacenters. It is not important to know, understand, praise or fault Dell for how vWorkspace will fit into its partnership with Citrix or VMware, or how Quest’s Identity management will be combined with SonicWALL or how Dell will address Windows migration with Quest tools and on, and on. What is important to understand is that Dell is demonstrating its steady and unflinching commitment to be an end-to-end solutions company for enterprises, SMBs, government and education segments.  Dell gets it.

Following the announcements we had the opportunity to speak with senior executives at two of Quest’s partners, dinCloud and En Pointe Technologies; Ali Din, Senior Vice President and CMO, dinCloud and Naveed Khan, Director, Vendor Management at En Pointe. dinCloud provides hosted desktop and server services and En Pointe is a Quest software VAR. On one hand, dinCloud is eager to start a relationship with Dell, whereas on the other, En Pointe, already a Premier partner of Dell has had some preliminary discussions with Dell. They are at two spectrums of the same light and both are excited about the opportunities that can be explored, exploited and consolidated with Dell as a vendor.

There was a common refrain of hope and aspiration from both dinCloud and En Pointe. Quest has lots of business units; most of the times these units and their products are not integrated with each other. The hope is that Dell will be able to assimilate and integrate the business units and products quickly. And both were unflinching in their commitment to Dell and for that matter even other vendor partnerships they have. Committed partners have the capacity to make the ‘power to do more’ and ‘simplicity at work’ even more noticeable. Combined Dell and Quest can solve big problems for IT with products and solutions that are simple to use.

Techaisle’s recent survey shows that 72 percent of SMBs agree that IT vendors should work towards simplifying technology. 54 percent also mention that their technology pain points have increased in the last 3 years and 44 percent agree that technology has become more complex to understand now as compared to 3 years ago. To these SMBs Dell may want so say, “we give you the power to do more combined with simplicity for your business”.

Anurag Agrawal
Techaisle
@anuragtechaisle
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