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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 Make Cloud Calling and Collaboration a Priority – Webex Gets it

Historically, remote work solutions have been the domain of large enterprises equipped with processes and technology resources needed to support workers in the field. However, driven by short- and longer-term factors, flexible work options are now available to employees in businesses of all sizes. Moreover, as social distance health requirements forced the temporary closure of public office spaces, remote work became a matter of survival for many organizations. The pandemic has also crystalized recognition of the productivity benefits of technology-enabled remote work – measured in output rather than hours – which is sure to have a profound and durable impact on workplace behaviors. Today, working from anywhere is the new normal, enabled by powerful communication and collaboration tools, which draw together workers regardless of physical location and are becoming the catalyst for change in large and smaller businesses. What are the primary enablers of this flexible work trend? Data shows a growing commitment to leveraging the power of the cloud and adjacent technologies of mobility, cloud calling, and collaboration - technologies that allow workers and teams to connect, reflect, and share insights and output. Techaisle SMB and Midmarket Hybrid work and collaboration adoption survey, N=1810, shows that:

  • 93% of SMBs have prioritized remote and hybrid workplace technology solution adoption
  • 58% of employees in the SMB segment are likely to work remotely
  • 79% of SMBs are prioritizing cloud-based communication and collaboration solutions which show evolving recognition of the value of cloud calling and collaboration

The simultaneous commitment to cloud calling and collaboration solutions and future planning around a return to the office suggest that something deeper is at play in the SMB communications solution marketplace. Cloud calling and Collaboration are central components of virtually all SMB business activities. The need to communicate anywhere, anytime also means any type of communication and collaboration – synchronous/asynchronous, serendipitous/scheduled, on-the-go/fixed location, within a virtual workspace/within a specific app, with employees/partners/customers. As the lines of demarcation between tasks have been eroded by the increased pace and changing nature of business activities, SMBs have moved past linking discrete actions through linear, sequential processes. Instead, in today's business environment, SMBs interact at all points in the business cycle: in cross-functional planning and management, within a single co-created document, in the stages and connection points defined by their business processes, in delivering better customer experiences, and enabling improved employee productivity.

There is value in adopting unified cloud calling and collaboration. The use of traditional collaboration tools by SMBs is well-established. However, cloud calling solutions are rapidly gaining attention from SMBs. With nearly a hundred percent cloud priority, shifting from on-prem solutions (acquired through CAPEX budget) to cloud-based as-a-service offerings creates a sort of inflection point. As the name implies, cloud calling is cloud-based and available as a subscription. It supports remote work and mobility, provides cash flow predictability, easily integrates within the employees' workspace, and improves IT manageability and efficiency.

A significant collaboration technology shift is SMB's use of a cloud-based communications platform with integrated telephony (audio/video/web conferencing), IM/chat/presence, unified messaging, and mobility. Techaisle data shows that today, just under a third (27%) of SMBs are using integrated solutions, while over a third (35%) plan to adopt the platform in the coming year, a likely adoption growth of over 100%.

The Webex integrated collaboration platform

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SMB SD-WAN adoption unlocks business potential for MSPs

SMBs are wrestling with many challenges, including unreliable network connections, cybersecurity and privacy concerns, productivity issues, and support. In addition, SMBs are mindful of the need for help composing, deploying, and managing digital business infrastructure. The recent surge in remote work has also significantly increased the requirement for effective networks and network management and the complexity of deploying a holistic digital business infrastructure.

SMB networks and network management resources are not as sophisticated as those in enterprise environments. As a result, SMBs will encounter high incidences of network issues such as delivering robust support for videoconferencing and jittering and extending security across distributed applications, devices, and networks.

Networking, a necessary foundation for digital business infrastructure, is a particularly onerous IT management category. Techaisle survey data shows that managing network hardware or network support consumes 47% of SMB IT staff time.

In response to explosive increases in demand for deployment and support of digital business platforms, resource-constrained SMBs are looking for new solutions. They are looking for MSPs as external service providers – and they are looking at SD-WAN. Techaisle data shows that SD-WAN adoption among SMBs will likely grow by 160% within one year. The adoption growth rate is second only to 5G. There is a firm belief within the SMB community that SD-WAN is a critical technology for enabling digital transformation within the SMB segment.

This data indicates a significant and growing opportunity for MSPs to help SMBs deploy digital business infrastructure and manage the associated networking challenges. So what do MSPs need to do to capture this new business?

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SD-WAN adoption likely to increase by 145 percent within US SMB and Midmarket firms

SMBs are increasingly becoming aware of SD-WAN and its advantages. SD-WAN adoption is likely to grow by 145% within the US SMB market within a year. Techaisle survey data shows that today, only 10% of SMBs are currently using SD-WAN solutions, but 25% are planning adoption. Networks are a clear pain point for SMBs as they embark on digital transformation to align with the emerging requirements of the post-pandemic world. Networks consume scarce IT resources, and they are the critical link providing the connectivity that unlocks all other digital opportunities and potential. Techaisle’s survey data shows that 47% of SMB IT time is allocated to networking-related issues. Nearly 90% of SMBs believe that proactive, consistent network management to deliver ideal performance is important.

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Hybrid work is challenging the SMBs

Techaisle’s SMB and Midmarket Hybrid Work Adoption Trends survey indicates that 41% of SMBs plan a phased approach to return to the office, up from 22% in 2021. 20% of employees will likely work from home, in sharp contrast to 58% in 2021, similar to pre-pandemic levels in 2019 when 29% of small business (1-99) employees, 9% of employees within midmarket firms (100-999), and 7% within upper-midmarket firms (1000-4999), who worked from home. Techaisle survey also shows that 42% of employees want to work 3-4 days per week from home.

Security, remote IT support, and unreliable networks continue to be significant technology challenges in managing remote workers. Remote IT support is an especially acute inhibitor for 46% of small businesses. On the people-side of the hybrid work equation, work-life conflict, maintaining team cohesiveness, and lack of training/career implications are dominant challenges. As a result, only 11% have a hybrid first mindset, but 37% believe they have mature remote work practices.

Team collaboration solutions, office collaboration tools (conference room devices), and remote worker collaboration devices (headsets, video cameras, etc.) are the top three priorities for 45% to 58% of SMBs. PC upgrades and refreshes to enable a hybrid workforce are the fourth top priority for 39% of SMBs.

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