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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.

Strong Need for SMB Cloud Channel Partners to offer Vertical Solutions

Techaisle’s SMB Channel Partner Trend study shows that there has been a big leap in percentage of SMB channel partners offering cloud computing services to SMBs in the last year across several countries. For example, in the US the percentage offering cloud services has jumped from 38 percent in 2012 to 64 percent in 2013 and another 22 percent are planning to offer cloud solutions. Similarly, in Australia the percentage has gone up substantially from 34 percent in 2012 and in Germany from less than 30 percent to over 60 percent. The biggest change is seen among the VARs. In 2012 only 34 percent were offering cloud solutions and in 2013 74 percent of them are offering cloud solutions to SMB customers. In Germany, the biggest jump has been within the SPs (Service Providers). However, not all channel partners (VARs, SPs, MSPs, SIs) have become successful in selling cloud to SMBs. Techaisle’s Winning Strategies of Successful SMB Cloud Channel Partners study finds that there are quantitative, meaningful and actionable differences between channel partners who are successful in the business of selling cloud and those that have not developed successful cloud practices.

Industry expertise and the ability to offer vertical solution is one such key area that is creating a distance between the successful and unsuccessful SMB cloud channel partners. Techaisle’s SMB studies have shown that SMBs are increasingly looking for vertical industry solutions but channels have been relatively slow in offering such solutions. Year 2014 will be important as this is the first year when SMB business issues have flip-flopped from reducing operational costs to increasing business growth and cloud-based line of business vertical solutions is an important area of investment.

Combining the data from Techaisle's SMB and Channel Partner studies we find that a significant gap exists between percent of SMBs adopting vertical cloud solutions and percent of SMB channel partners offering such solutions though it must be said that the gap has narrowed in the last 2 years as shown in the chart below.

techaisle-smb-cloud-vertical-solutions-blog-3

The Winning Strategies of Successful SMB Cloud Channel Partners study data shows (chart below) that 21 times as many successful cloud partners are offer vertical solutions to SMBs as those that are not successful.

techaisle-smb-cloud-vertical-solutions-blog-2

Most of the successful SMB cloud channel partners have product/service portfolios that are mapped to the full set of SMB technology needs: compute and storage infrastructure, applications, communications, support for test/development, and solutions addressing specific vertical requirements. The majority of unsuccessful SMB channel partners have limited their offerings to storage, backup, and basic SaaS offerings like Office 365 or Google Apps.

Some may argue that there is a ‘chicken and egg’ effect: that successful partners have broader portfolios because they have more engaged SMB customers. As with the chickens and eggs themselves, though, it may not matter where the cycle begins, if SMB channel partners that are not currently successful in the cloud wish to compete with those that are, they will need to develop portfolios that extend beyond IaaS to vertical-specific applications.

techaisle-smb-cloud-vertical-solutions-blog

Above chart from the Winning Strategies study shows that 50 percent more successful cloud channel partners than unsuccessful partners report that vertical industry knowledge is a key component of the value that they bring to their SMB customers. These successful channel partners are able to demonstrate knowledge of the SMBs’ industry, and are therefore able to create confidence within their SMB clients. These channel partners are also the most likely to build and maintain long-term relationships with their SMB customers. Unsuccessful channel partners claim that they are able to demonstrate understanding of their SMB customers’ business needs – but at a technical level – and are constrained by a lack of vertical understanding. 70 percent of unsuccessful channel partners emphasize their technical expertise during interactions with SMBs as they lack the understanding of their SMB customers’ industry vertical to be able to offer sophisticated cloud solutions. They emphasize service quality without necessarily understanding what this means in a cloud context. In addition, many of the unsuccessful partners tend to stress price when positioning cloud computing solutions.

Therefore it is imperative for SMB channel partners to go beyond technical knowledge and really understand the dynamics of industries in which their SMB customers operate and become industry subject matter experts.

Techaisle’s Winning Strategies of Successful SMB Cloud Channel Partners study covers critical differences between the activities and approaches of successful and unsuccessful cloud partners in three key areas: Business Priorities and Resource Allocations, Current and Planned Cloud offerings, Sales and Marketing Strategies and Tactics

Techaisle’s SMB Channel Partner Trend report covers: Mobility, Cloud, Managed Services, Virtualization, Backup, Data Integration, Sales & Marketing including Social Media & Lead Generation

 

 
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Brand Equity - A New Prescription for Cisco’s SMB Channel Partner Success

Cisco and the SMB market

Cisco has established an undisputed leadership position in the enterprise market. The company combines a widely-adopted and well-integrated portfolio of networking products with a highly-skilled (and paid) direct sales force to manage/expand its presence within major accounts.

The SMB market is a separate challenge. Here, buyers are less likely to require integration across multiple network components and more likely to emphasize price. They are also more likely to receive advice/management from channel partners, further reducing Cisco’s control over the acquisition process.

Against this backdrop, Techaisle’s SMB Channel Trends research illustrates the strengths and challenges Cisco must manage, as it looks to expand its share in the SMB segment.

Cisco Commands High Trust and Reputation

Within the channel community, Cisco enjoys a sound reputation and a high degree of trust. Techaisle’s latest SMB channel partner survey shows that 78 percent of Cisco’s SMB channel partners trust Cisco, a higher percentage than is registered by competitors such as HP and IBM. Nearly 70 percent of the partners believe that Cisco has quality products – again, the highest ranking recorded within the ‘hardware leader’ group including Cisco, HP, IBM and others. However, only 52 percent mention that Cisco has cutting edge technology, a percentage lower than that for both IBM and Microsoft. Moreover, 60 percent of Cisco’s SMB channel partners say that they Like Cisco, lower than corresponding rates for HP and Microsoft, only slightly higher than is found for IBM.

In its 2013 Annual report Cisco has written, “A substantial portion of our products and services is sold through our channel partners, and the remainder is sold through direct sales.” With specific reference to SMBs, Cisco wrote, “Generally, we define commercial businesses as companies with fewer than 1,000 employees. The larger, or midmarket, customers within the commercial market are served by a combination of our direct salesforce and our channel partners. These customers typically require the latest advanced technologies that our enterprise customers demand, but with less complexity. Small businesses, or companies with fewer than 100 employees, require information technologies and communication products that are easy to configure, install, and maintain. These smaller companies within the commercial market are primarily served by our channel partners.” Techaisle’s data shows that Cisco has attracted positive attention within this channel partner community, but that its technology and relationships do not leave it especially differentiated from competitors.

Technology Shift has Created SMB Messaging Challenges

In recent years SMB technology demands have shifted to cloud, mobility, analytics, social media, collaboration, managed services and virtualization. Cisco is seeking to capitalize on this market transition through the development of cloud-based product and service offerings that enable its customers develop and deploy their own cloud-based IT solutions.

In communications channel partners in the U.S. including those specializing in the SMB segment – Cisco has been steadily driving them to offer products and services that deploy cloud, mobility, virtualization, managed services and data center solutions. This is by no means an easy task as most SMB channel partners are being actively courted by competitive vendors that also want to grow their emerging technologies’ business. SMB channel partners selling advanced technologies have an average of 3.46 vendor partnerships which average jumps to 4.21 for Cisco SMB partners, a difference of 21 percent. With this increased contention for mind/market/wallet share, it can be difficult for Cisco to manage brand identity and its related messaging.

This difficulty is illustrated by study findings showing that of all the Cisco SMB channel partners, 44 percent consider Cisco to be their top partner. The other 56 percent mention Microsoft, Oracle, HP, IBM and several others. Within the VAR/SI community, Cisco’s share of preference is 48 percent and drops to 39 percent amongst the MSPs/SPs that are viewed as critical to the success of future cloud initiatives.

Cisco’s SMB Channel Partner Brand Equity

Techaisle believes that it is time for a new metric to represent presence (and opportunities for growth) within the SMB market. Techaisle refers to this second-generation measurement approach as Brand Equity Management. It is measured by a robust proprietary index, the Techaisle Brand Equity Score (BES-360).

Techaisle believes that it is important for IT vendors to measure their Brand Equity within SMB channel partners as well as SMBs. Techaisle’s Brand Equity Score, BES-360, helps to identify areas where IT vendors can improve to increase share of wallet. BES-360 is a KPI (Key Performance Indicator) that measures the strength of brand within a segment.

Cisco’s Brand Equity Score within its SMB channel partners is higher than most competitors – but lower than scores for both IBM and Microsoft. The implication of these findings is that even through Cisco has high brand equity amongst its channel partners; it is not necessarily true that its entire SMB-focused channel base is firmly wedded to Cisco’s game plan.

SMB Channel Partner Brand Equity Measurement– the New Prescription

Breaking down the data for Cisco, Techaisle’s study finds that almost 25 percent of Cisco’s channel partners have a Brand Equity rating of 80+. This group forms Cisco’s core partners. The data also shows that almost 35 percent of Cisco’s SMB channel partners have equity of less than 40. These are the partners that Cisco needs to work on.

Interestingly, small business focused channel partners give a higher Brand Equity Score to Cisco than mid-market focused channel partners. This is a segment that Cisco should address as the mid-market has become a battleground for most IT vendors and there is yet no clear dominant player.

Among all SMB channel partners of Cisco, VARs are actually driving up the Brand Equity Score. In fact 41 percent of VARs constitute the HBE (High Brand Equity) group. On the other hand, MSPs constitute only 20 percent. In order for Cisco to continue to grow its CMSP program and build on its initial successes, Cisco has to turn its attention to the MSPs that serve the SMBs to understand the key reasons for lower brand equity which when fixed can lead to better wallet share among MSPs.

Drilling down further into the data, Techaisle finds that Cisco is not doing better within the overall managed services community than it is within MSPs focused on cloud. A higher percentage of Cisco’s HBE partners are offering managed services to SMBs whereas a higher percentage of ABE (Average Brand Equity) partners are offering Cloud to SMBs. Cisco’s SMB cloud ambitions would benefit from moving some of these ABE cloud partners to HBE segment. The HBE segment offering cloud services need extensive training on cloud solutions to become more successful in offering cloud to their SMB customers. More than 40 percent of these channel partners are working with SMB customers that have private cloud. This may be good for Cisco in the short-term but it does not represent best practice in this segment, and it is misaligned with the ongoing acceptance of public cloud as a preferred IT delivery platform.

Product resale revenue is 43 percent for HBE partners as compared to 38 percent for ABE. Similarly, recurring revenue is 57 percent for HBE as compared to 61 percent for ABE. Naturally, this bodes well for Cisco’s current revenue as the High Brand Equity partners are driving higher revenues from products. However, if Cisco plans to increasingly promote service-centric partners then a lot more work is required to identify partners with higher services revenues and move them into the High Brand Equity segment.

Practicing the Prescription

Techaisle’s brand management work is anchored in the belief that if a vendor’s brand equity is good, then it can compete successfully with vendors with lower brand equity for sales of comparable products or services. Vendors with sound products/services but low brand equity will struggle to maintain parity with competitors that have higher brand equity, even if that vendor’s products/services are (somewhat) inferior. Hence, Brand Equity Score findings help indicate potential areas of expansion or exposure as vendors, like Cisco, assess their potential for expanding the footprint of their brands within the SMB channel partner community. The composition of Cisco’s BES across its channel indicates the core strength of its brand. Techaisle’s analysis indicates that Cisco has both strengths to build on and areas requiring focus as it moves to position its next-generation solutions (especially, cloud solutions) through its channel to the SMB market.

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15 Keys: Winning Strategies of Successful SMB Cloud Channel Partners

Techaisle’s extensive primary research based study finds that there are quantitative, meaningful and actionable differences between channel partners who are successful in the business of selling Cloud and those that have not developed successful SMB Cloud practices.

The study to understand the winning strategies for selling Cloud to SMBs and to enable channel partners and their vendor suppliers build viable, high-growth SMB cloud businesses uncovered 15 best practices and critical differences between the activities and approaches of successful and unsuccessful SMB Cloud computing channel partners. These 15 keys are grouped into three areas.

Corporate priorities and allocations:

1.   There is no organizational recipe for cloud success
2.   Familiarity breeds success
3.   The “why” behind the cloud initiative often helps explain success
4.   Recurring revenue is not the sole indicator of cloud business success

Technology and offering definition:

5.   Cloud rewards suppliers that focus on providing best-of-breed
6.   Branded solutions are a key element of channel cloud success
7.   Industry expertise is a more important differentiator than technical prowess
8.   Cloud portfolios need to extend beyond basic IaaS, SaaS to also encompass verticals
9.   Data integration linking on-premise and cloud environments is non-optional
10. The future is hybrid, not private

Sales and marketing strategies and tactic:

11. The nature of sales relationship is a critical determinant of cloud success
12. Profit is driven by product/service balance
13. Partner-to-partner relationships are important to cloud business success
14. A distinctive approach to budget and resource allocation creates differentiation
15. Creating a cost-effective, scalable approach to lead generation is imperative

Detailed analysis included in the report highlights key differences between:

  • Channel partners that are very successful and are making money selling cloud to SMBs

  • Channel partners that have just achieved success and have started making money selling cloud to SMBs

  • Channel partners that are not yet successful and are not making money from their SMB cloud business


Working with SMBs, the channel and the vendor community, Techaisle has created research materials that help reduce time-to-success and increase the overall benefit of offering SMB solutions. Channel members looking to build a successful cloud business practice, or a vendor looking to accelerate channel success, can find details of the report here, or send us an email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 
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VMware Mobility Solution: Innovation to Execution

Techaisle Take

VMware won – handily – the battle for leadership in server virtualization. The company attained broad acceptance within companies looking to bridge the gap between growth in compute demand and contraction in CAPEX budgets, and then drove penetration within these accounts, to the point where virtualization is the default approach to servers, and VMware is the de facto standard for virtualization within the data center.

The issue for VMware now is – what next? There is still some opportunity for growth in server virtualization, but customers are starting to hedge their virtualization bets by moving to multi-hypervisor strategies, including Hyper-V, Xen, and/or KVM within their environments. While successfully competing in its core market is essential, the “next big thing” for VMware isn’t found in beating back smaller server competitors – it’s expanding into the two big adjacent markets, client virtualization and cloud infrastructure management.

The client virtualization space poses some interesting challenges and opportunities, especially in the SMB market. Mobility has become a “must have” capability in today’s IT portfolio, but there’s no single, well-established path to deploying it: the visible hardware vendors (Apple, Samsung) don’t provide enterprise-grade solutions, and there is no existing standard for the various software components required to seamlessly support corporate and BYOD devices in an enterprise network. At the virtualization layer, Citrix is the current and clear leader, but anticipated growth provides enough opportunity for multiple competitors and strategies.

With its Horizon portfolio, VMware is attempting to position itself as an enterprise-grade answer to mobility requirements. The approach is interesting – but will it resonate with the channel serving the millions of SMB customers that fueled VMware’s success in server virtualization?

End-user Computing

Last week’s VMworld was a showcase for messaging about execution. Bite-sized announcements centered around three key areas – end-user computing, hybrid cloud services and software-defined data centers.  End-user computing is perhaps the most exciting for small and mid-market businesses as it directly feeds into their voracious appetite for mobility.

Techaisle study shows that the worldwide SMB Mobile Workforce will grow to 298 million by 2016 at 6.3 percent CAGR from 2013. Nearly 150 million SMB employees will be telecommuting and 120 million will be traveling on business. We are in a mobility cycle now that is characterized by intense competition for hardware, system software and applications leadership. The wave is young enough to offer margins on hardware, software and services, but as de facto standards become more entrenched this market will consolidate, and reseller focus will move to recurring service revenue as the margins erode in the hardware space.

With rapid increase in number of mobile workers, there are five main concerns that are percolating to the top of SMB's concerns: Cost of solutions that support mobile workers, security from theft and data privacy, mobile data pricing, transaction security and mobile device pricing. Recognizing some of these issues, Sanjay Poonen, VMware EVP & General Manager, End-User Computing said, “Mobility is a management and security problem”.

To cover its bases, VMware is currently betting on its Horizon Suite consisting of three products:

  1. Horizon View: VMware’s Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) offering powered by View
  2. Horizon Mirage: VMware’s physical desktop management tool based on its Wanova acquisition
  3. Horizon Workspace: VMware’s mobility management solution enabling mobile users to access corporate data, applications and virtual desktops from different endpoint devices

As Ben Goodman, Lead Evangelist, End-User Computing told Techaisle, “Workspace is a single space for getting your stuff”. It will include MDM (Mobile Device Management), MAM (Mobile Application Management) and plans are afoot to develop MIM (Mobile Information Management) and MCM (Mobile Content Management).


VMware is slightly late into the SMB mobility space as most SMB-focused channel partners are offering Citrix solutions and a plethora of niche MDM solutions for SMBs. But Sanjay Poonen’s aggressiveness was palpable. He plans to invest heavily to drive growth in VDI. VMware is bullish on the potential for its installed base of 500,000 customers, many of them SMBs, to become customers for its mobility solutions. It plans to focus on IT (not just end-users) who are open to centralized policy management and who agree with VMware’s vision that mobility is part of a larger platform. This strategy has its advantages and disadvantages. By VMware’s own admission, Horizon Suite lies in the chasm between Innovators and Early Adopters along the adoption curve. For VMware, Early Majority to Laggards is a big white space. But this highly fragmented, disjoined white space within the SMBs is getting filled with its competitors. To achieve success, VMware must:

  1. Target its customers that have yet to adopt mobility management solutions
  2. Target its customers who are willing to rip and replace
  3. Target SMBs that are still investigating viable mobility management solutions


MDM and MAM are by far the most prominent top-of-mind issues for SMBs across different geographies. Surveys conducted by Techaisle reveal that SMBs worry about these issues a lot, but fail to protect themselves adequately. A Techaisle survey of 9,500 SMBs across different geographies found that accidental loss of device followed by imminent danger of mobile viruses are the top concerns of SMBs while using mobile applications. This clearly demonstrates the need for remote mobile device management, authentication, and remote erasure of data.

For a vendor like VMware, the route to these SMBs is through channel partners, who are themselves increasingly turning towards their vendor suppliers as their trusted advisors. Techaisle’s channel partner study shows that on the technology side of the business, 50 percent of channel partners want training on mobility solutions including VDI, DaaS and BYOD. Partners are also looking for help in marketing: to help position these solutions to customers, 42 percent of channel partners are looking for case studies that are relevant to their own client base. In addition, channels want to acquire capabilities to be able to customize mobility solutions for their SMB client base. Affordable maintenance and support, ease of use and features and functionalities suitable for SMB needs are top sales messaging that are being used by channel partners to sell end-user computing solutions.

Clearly, VMware has to use every trick it has in its arsenal to address these issues if it is to make end-user computing market segment the “next step” in its overall growth strategy.

For more information on Techaisle mobility and/or channel research, please email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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