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    2022 Top 10 SMB Business Issues, IT Priorities, IT Challenges
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    Top SMB & Midmarket Predictions for 2022
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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.

2017 Top 10 SMB and Midmarket Business Issues, IT Challenges, IT Priorities

They are here. Techaisle's annual SMB and Midmarket Top 10 IT Priorities, IT Challenges and Business Issues. This is the 5th year of Techaisle tracking at a WW level and is much sought after by IT vendors, channels and media. For 2017, Techaisle investigated 15 different technology areas, each with several sub-technology categories, 20 different IT challenges and 20 different business issues.

Click on the infographic images below to view and download your copy

When compared with 2016 the list for 2017 SMB and Midmarket Top 10 IT Priorities, IT Challenges and Business Issues reveals major changes – digitalization has become an IT priority and supporting digital marketing/workplace an IT challenge, improving workforce productivity as a business issue has catapulted to the top, enabling mobile workforce is among the top 3 IT challenges and Collaboration, Cloud, Mobility and Security are the IT priorities. Cloud orchestration has also appeared for the first time in the list of IT challenges as IT is finding it necessary to orchestrate across the entire enterprise to deliver business infrastructure via the cloud.

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New Belgium Brewing – a midmarket firm managing growth with technology & analytics

Founded by an engineer in 1991, New Belgium Brewing, a midmarket firm with 700 employees, uses technology across its entire business. Automation in engineering is in its DNA and data is at the core of its business success. Technology is pervasive within the organization and is used for manufacturing, quality, sales, operations and even sustainability needs and initiatives. In an interview with Techaisle, Jake Jakel, Technology Solutions manager at New Belgium Brewing said, “Technology is a huge part of what the company does to bring to market its Fat Tire Amber Ale beer. Our entire sales staff relies on data to be at their fingertips when they are out in the field selling our products and brands, and our non-field staff uses data from an analytics standpoint to understand what they are doing right and which areas need attention”.

A key challenge for New Belgium Brewing is managing growth, not only business growth but also corresponding growth of IT staff to support the business. It finds itself frequently caught in the medium sized business conundrum, the in-between phase where it is neither a small business nor a large enterprise. It has many IT personnel who are generalists supporting the business, and is trying to add specialists but is faced with issues such as at what pace should it add the specialists and in what areas should it add first. It is an area which is no different than other growth-oriented mid-market firms. In a Techaisle’s survey, we found that 36% of midmarket businesses have taken steps to address the need for what is sometimes referred to as “double deep” (with respect to IT and business experience) employees by employing IT specialists for the growth and rapid adoption of emerging technologies.

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IT security framework for SMBs

SMBs are not only increasingly dependent on IT – they are dependent on increasingly-interconnected systems, which are in turn open to an ever-expanding population of devices and access points. The volumes and value of data contained in these systems continues to grow, which both increases the potential damage associated with a breach, and attracts heightened attention from hackers. Techaisle’s SMB survey data finds a disconnect between security policy and security practice that creates the potential for poorly-coordinated approaches to security – an uncertainty that is magnified by shadow IT.

In Techaisle’s latest survey of SMBs, only 13% said that they were fully prepared and confident to handle security challenges, especially mobility security. The remaining 87% were partially prepared, unprepared or unsure. These are very sobering statistics.

Techaisle’s SMB Shadow IT survey data shows that over 70 percent of applications and nearly 60 percent of IT infrastructure related spend and decision authority lies outside of IT. These expenditures are made without the IT department’s approval, guidance, or in some cases, even without IT’s knowledge. 

Security is becoming a more critical component of business rather than IT strategy.

SMB IT security managers should petition for senior executive support which will help to build an approach that safeguards the organizations, users and data, in a framework that is flexible enough to respond to emerging opportunities and threats.

SMB Mobility increases threat perimeter

The problem with mobility (like cloud) is that it changes the concept of “perimeter.” Intruders don’t need to batter through closely-guarded walls to gain access to the interior of the network; they can ride through a permeable configuration on the backs of mobile devices that have been granted access to the precious applications and data that live in the interior of the organization. It is as if the castle walls and drawbridge were replaced by windows and breezeways offering access to visitors arriving from all directions.

With mobility, the SMB user community becomes a ubiquitous and shifting source of portals through the perimeter. As a result, IT doesn’t need to only defend against recognized foes: it needs to protect the corporation from breaches that can result from the actions of its own workers, and needs to protect the same data that it delivers as an essential component of support for the mobile workforce – the workforce that is viewed by senior management as making compelling contributions to the top and bottom-line success of the business.

SMBs should consider a four-layer security framework model for deployment:

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IBM – motivating midmarket firms to think strategically about cloud security

A blog “Big Data in the Cloud - an ideal solution for SMB banks” that we wrote touched a nerve, in a good way. Post blog, in our several discussions with both large and community banks we find that cloud objection is largely based on the size of the bank. In addition, regulatory compliance concerns are huge as most midmarket businesses and banks in particular spend a lot of money being compliant. With the move to cloud they want to make sure that the investment extends to the cloud without being exposed to security breaches and from a regulatory point of view.

What is clear is that migration to cloud is forcing businesses to think differently about security, in very standardized ways because the delivery of cloud service is standardized. It is also pushing them to automate security because utilization of cloud is dynamic, elastic, automated and fluid thus making manual or even semi-automated security processes unmanageable. However, this approach creates multiple vulnerabilities. The bad guys themselves are taking advantage of all the cloud technologies and are becoming a lot faster and more automated than the businesses. Security therefore becomes a moving target and cloud security is a perfect opportunity for businesses to improve defenses and reduce risks.

While most midmarket businesses are reactive, hunting after point solutions when something goes wrong, others are taking a proactive approach to risk and threat so that they have more fluidity in the way they respond when a threat occurs.

IBM security is on a path to help businesses think differently about cloud security. It is moving the businesses along a maturity curve from reactive to proactive to optimized. Optimization refers to the difference between being able to weather an attack and continue with business and how much time could one can shave off and how much cost could be optimized for being able to respond to that event in reducing risk.

As Sharon Hagi, Global Strategist and Senior Offering Manager, IBM Security, said in an interview “the state that IBM is advocating goes beyond reactive or proactive. We call it the optimized state where organizations use automation coupled with predictive security analytics to drive towards a higher level of efficiency. By mixing the elements of proactive approach, automation and security intelligence businesses can actually get to the point where they are a lot more efficient and they actually reduce time and cost to respond to risk.”

IBM is differentiating and trying to distance itself from others in a number of different ways. IBM has a managed security services practice with ten plus security operation centers around the world servicing 133 different countries with 6,000 security professionals and its research lab X-Force provides actionable threat intelligence and insights for business and IT leaders. IBM monitors 10,000 security customers globally, 70 million end-points with 20 billion events per day, has made enormous investments in security intelligence analytics platform that allows it to distill information, identify threats and respond quickly.

But for banks and businesses that come under deep regulatory scrutiny, security goes beyond managed services and is a major psychological barrier to cloud adoption triggering a high level of fear-factor. Recently, we posed a fundamental question of “Why do you want security” to banks and midmarket businesses in general. The responses received could easily be bucketed into five categories:

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