• FEATURED INFOGRAPHIC

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    2022 Top 10 SMB Business Issues, IT Priorities, IT Challenges
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    2022 SMB & MIDMARKET PREDICTIONS

    Top SMB & Midmarket Predictions for 2022
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  • 2022 CHANNEL PREDICTIONS

    2022 CHANNEL PREDICTIONS

    Top SMB & Midmarket Predictions for 2022
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  • SECURITY RESEARCH

    SECURITY RESEARCH

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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.

Top 10 Channel Predictions for 2022

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The predictions rely on an extensive research initiative conducted throughout 2021 – the year in which the impact of the pandemic on economic activity and IT consumption was becoming more apparent. Leveraging a panel of over 250K partners, Techaisle surveys more than 5000 partners and has qualitative conversations with hundreds of partners. Techaisle's 2022 in Focus research series illuminates issues and requirements in the vast and complex partner ecosystem.

1. Cloud economics and cost optimization consulting will challenge channel
Cloud cost optimization and economics will be the top cloud consulting service demanded by customers, challenging partners (and their vendors) to provide transparency into cloud costs and ensure that customers receive the best available Ts& Cs. To deliver value to the customer, both partners and suppliers will need to define the current state of workloads and a forecast for the future state, adding value through the development and deployment of processes to support cost optimization and compliance/risk management.

2. MSPs will expand their portfolio to include cloud managed services
Cloud technology velocity will open new services opportunities. For example, as businesses will increase their reliance on cloud-managed services to align IT with business strategies, deep-pocketed, progressive MSPs will increase investment in staff training to grow their professional services revenue. As a result, the MSPs will focus on containers (Kubernetes), microservices, open-source, agile development, API management, hybrid cloud workload management, and security and compliance management.

3. The gap between the cloud "haves" and "have nots" will increase
Cloud vendors will invest in cloud channel leaders rather than in the channel as a whole which will accelerate the gap between leaders and laggards and stress the viability of channel firms left behind. As a result, the year will see a separation between channel partners that have the expertise to combine transformative and traditional business models and those that do not.

4. Vendor and partner equilibrium will be unstable
Vendors have been mitigating channel conflicts through "double bubble" compensation models, creating clear guidelines around where the vendor will sell direct and reducing competition between dissimilar channels. However, the complexity associated with cloud consulting and digital transformation adoption acceleration will have vendors questioning the role of partners. Channel partners will be present in several accounts coveted by direct sales teams – increasing vendor/channel conflict. Vendors will manage conflicts and will not eliminate them.

5. The cloud marketplace will be lots of smoke, but the fire is nearer
ISVs and channel partners will have a tough time finding each other and ultimately finding the end customer. Despite low barriers to entry, few will find immediate profitability. Both partners and marketplace operators will need to build and manage relationships, plug into sales and marketing programs, drive investment in the implementation and support for end-users, and fund all of this on a fraction of the monthly fee associated with each service sold. A high percent of end-users will be marketplace curious and not committed customers. It is not how enterprise customers purchase, as yet. Marketplaces will not kill the channel; instead, channel partners will be a vital link in the buyer's journey.

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Top SMB and Midmarket Predictions for 2022

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In all sectors, the last two years were tough – and as a result, 2022 is challenging from a market planning perspective. As we enter 2022, IT product and service suppliers are looking to create a context for understanding the range of outcomes that the new year may bring. Techaisle is launching its "2022 in Focus" research series to support that effort, which illuminates issues and requirements in the vast SMB and midmarket segments. To begin with, here are our top 10 (and additional 3) predictions for 2022. After surveying thousands of SMBs and midmarket firms, having hundreds of depth calls, we identified over thirty trends. After that, we systematically prioritized ten predictions for your consumption.

We look forward to working with you in the year(s) to develop fact-based perspectives on the issues that shape the success of the IT industry.

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Techaisle data shows 41 percent of global SMBs unsure about the next decade

It was once thought that the cloud would reduce the technology deficit SMBs face relative to larger firms – but it is difficult to say that this has proved to be the case. Indeed, the cloud has lowered the barriers to adopting new systems, giving SMBs access to applications and infrastructure resources that would have been well beyond their means five years ago. However, Techaisle’s SMB and Midmarket Cloud adoption trends research data show that cloud, and hybrid IT, has posed other challenges: difficulties in integrating systems with each other and with business processes, and in integrating data across applications (ensuring that data created by one application is input automatically into others); difficulty in securing systems that are based in multiple locations and managed by various organizations, each with their own set of operational rules; difficulty in applying appropriate levels of security and governance to an ever-expanding pool of data that moves at accelerating pace through an ever-more-complex constellation of systems, users and locations. Large organizations have IT teams dedicated to addressing specific issues within this shifting and complex set of requirements. SMBs rely on limited internal resources (often, small groups of generalists), supplemented by fractional headcount support from third-party channel members, to keep pace with the change that results from the constant advance of cloud and hybrid.

Despite these challenges, though, evidence suggests enormous scope for cloud growth in the global SMB segment. Data indicates an apparent leader/laggard dichotomy between midmarket and small businesses concerning IT-enabled innovation. Over 20% of midmarket firms have internal teams dedicated to “finding ‘what’s next?’ technology-driven innovations,” and 40% “have IT budgets specifically for technology-driven innovation;” 11% report that they have embedded IT professionals charged with finding innovations into business units. Small businesses are, on average, about half as likely to have taken these steps; instead, nearly half of firms with 1-99 employees state that their organizations do not expect IT to drive innovation actively.” Making the assumptions that a) midmarket firms will benefit from the express linkage of IT and innovation, and b) that the gap between large enterprises and midmarket firms is likely as significant as the delta between midmarket and small business. Additionally, large enterprises will, over time, capture IT-enabled business innovation benefits even more rapidly than midmarket competitors. Data illustrates the foundations of a cascade, where IT-enabled innovation drives business success and further cloud investments in larger firms, defining success patterns that small organizations then adopt.

The findings also expose the uncertainty that SMBs face as they structure their IT/business strategies. The most significant proportion of SMBs – 42% of small businesses and 32% of midmarket firms – state that they are unsure of what the next 10-15 years will look like for their industry. Other SMBs worry about their ability to cope with the pace of change: an average of about 25% of SMBs report that they “are struggling to keep up with the pace of change,” and nearly 20% state that they “do not know if they will be able to complete over the next decade.” Against this backdrop, a cadre of forward-looking organizations – 15% of small businesses, roughly a quarter of midmarket firms – “are battling barriers to become a digital business by 2030.” The successes that these firms realize over the next several years will increase their appetite for further cloud investments and encourage their peers to commit additional resources to cloud-based business initiatives. Techaisle expects that if and as these digital leaders realize tangible benefits from cloud and hybrid, the cloud will become an essential element of SMB business operations. As a result, SMBs will become a significant force in the cloud market. Moreover, suppliers to the SMB market and the SMBs themselves can align to bring about this positive change. Techaisle believes that mutual benefit will drive commitment and innovation on both the supply and demand side of the cloud equation.

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Continuously improving IT security is both an SMB challenge and a USD68B opportunity for suppliers

Small and midsized businesses find it challenging to defend their users, applications, and data against external threats. Data from Techaisle’s SMB and Midmarket security research reveals 63% of US SMBs report that they experienced one or more cyberattacks in the last year, contributing to an average of 3.6% of revenue loss attributable to security incidents. For 46% of SMBs, preventing cyber-attacks is one the most pressing and critical IT issues. Yet, 59% of SMBs are very confident that their firms could recover from a cybersecurity incident. Nevertheless, security issues cast a long shadow over SMB IT priorities, especially as firms embrace the benefits of hybrid work, hybrid IT, only to find that their environments become more complex and more challenging to manage and protect. SMBs respond by expanding security budgets – but they lack the staff and expertise to construct effective shields around their organizations. The channel, working with leading-edge products like those from Fortinet, Cisco, Dell Technologies, Palo Alto Networks, has an essential role to play in defending their clients’ SMB businesses against security threats.

The origins of the saying “it’s about the journey, not the destination” may be unclear. Ralph Waldo Emerson, theologian Lynn H. Hough, Canadian rapper Drake, or others may have said the phrase, but its applicability in an IT security context is clear. There is no endpoint at which security is ‘done’; security requires constant updating to stay current with expanding threat vectors.

This requirement for continuously improved IT security is both a challenge and an opportunity for security suppliers.

What is the opportunity?

Techaisle has pegged global SMB security spending in 2023 at $68 billion. However, high IT security spending levels and growth rates mask an underlying sense of confusion concerning safeguarding emerging cloud and hybrid IT environments – and a lack of resources to address this problem. Compounding – or perhaps, causing – the lack of clarity into cloud security issues and the relatively tepid adoption rates for cloud security solutions is that SMB IT operations are under-resourced. Without specialized staff, SMBs cannot keep pace with the constantly changing threat vectors and security options.

The lack of insight by small businesses becomes clear: only 5% have IT security staff. 44% of midmarket firms have an average of three full-time internal security staff, but the demands of a business of this size would exceed a single individual’s bandwidth. The percentages more than double for upper-midmarket firms. Simply put, SMBs lack the bench depth needed to dedicate IT resources to security. Everywhere within the SMB segment, there is a mismatch between available resources and the depth of the skills required to keep pace with security needs.

The lack of understanding of a threat associated with a widely-used platform on the one hand, and the lack of IT staff resources available to address security concerns on the other, produces a clear conclusion: SMBs need suppliers to step up to the delivery of secure IT environments.

In many cases, these suppliers will be the mainstream channel partners who supply the SMB’s technology and act as the IT management presence within the SMB’s business. In other cases, including in many midmarket environments, the source of security products and services will be specialized managed security providers who focus tightly on operating SOCs and protecting client environments. In some scenarios, firms will ‘land’ by entering a client account from one of these positions and then ‘expand’ to serve a broader range of IT supply needs – crowding out competitors who can’t address the risk and compliance issues that are central to the CEO’s mandate.

What is the security supplier call to action?

As security suppliers move towards managing SMB security needs, they need to address the pace at which their clients absorb new offerings. Small businesses will not embrace eight new technologies, nor are midmarket firms going to integrate fourteen new solutions into their environments. Even if this were possible from a budget perspective, it would cause chaos in the business.

Instead, suppliers of security services need to co-create a security roadmap with their SMB, which starts with assessing the customers’ executive teams’ tolerance for risk. What absolutely must be secured, and in what order? The security supplier can then identify the solutions that best fit the customer’s immediate and longer-term needs and then deploy, integrate and manage the solutions over time. After all, data shows that 45% of SMBs feel it will be beneficial for them if an external services firm can help define and implementing security policies.

One key point of exposure in this process is the ability to ensure that different solutions work together. In the cloud world, and increasingly in the on-premise world as well, channel partners and MSPs focus on integrations: the breadth of a single vendor’s product line, plus – and importantly – the extent to which third parties develop and support links to a firm’s products.

There will be no slowdown in the digital transformation of SMBs; their business infrastructure will increasingly rely on technology. Likewise, there will be no slowdown in the threats to that infrastructure; as reliance on technology increases, so does the potential bounty for attackers. And as a result, there will be a continuous and growing need for IT security services – which will sustain firms adept at delivering and managing security solutions that combine expertise and industry-leading technology.

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