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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: Dell’s SMB Integrated Cloud Front Office

Solution for End-to-End Lead-to-Cash Workflow

As part of our Pick of the Week series, we requested an online demonstration of what sounded to be too easy, and were privy to a demo of Dell’s DCBA (Dell Cloud Business Applications) to see the lead to cash process from building customer awareness to sales contract. We were impressed at how far the industry, and Dell, has come in the last few years at solving the practical challenges around marketing and sales integration. Dell is providing enterprise-level CRM capabilities to SMBs that might have run into seven figures (and a year-long implementation) only 10 years ago. And going even further by tying all this front-office activity together with accounting to synchronize invoicing and billing into the process, insuring that sales staff can be paid without spending 12 hours a week updating their CRM records, and Finance does not have to chase down account managers for collections and accounts receivable updates on the 29th of every month.

Small and Mid-Market Companies Choose Online CRM as the Shortest Path to Revenue

SMB CRM Integration

The killer Enterprise Application to emerge at the end of the Client/Server era was CRM, which spawned a huge ecosystem of sales process, configuration and customization experts. The next step was online CRM solutions led by Salesforce.com, a true multi-tenant architecture and Cloud ecosystem in and of itself. The ample supply of CRM expertise, along with the market needs to generate revenue as quickly as possible resulted in a wave of online CRM start ups and then pure-play Marketing Automation vendors that were eager to plug into the accelerating number of customers opting for a services model.

 

Falling Through the Cracks

Even with the best CRM software and a lot of customization, even for those who spent the most on these systems, and especially large organizations, getting to a state of accurate and current information has always been a challenge. The perpetrators tend to be too many steps in the process, unclear roles and responsibilities, limitations in the software that force workarounds, ineffective hand-off of customer relationships, different levels of process and software maturity, and many others. Much of this was caused by contention for capital budgets, the complexity and expense of internal systems integration and never being able to get ahead of the technology curve, resulting in a large percentage of CRM implementations failing outright. Properly selected and integrated Cloud-based Applications like this one from Dell have already gone a long way to eliminate many of these challenges by offering a shared customer database approach from the very beginning.

Dell SMB Lead to Cash Application

 

Following the image above, it is quickly apparent that the demand and supply cycles are covered by this approach: Lead to Opportunity, to Proposal, to Customer Support, which is good for the customer. The internal operational cycle is also enabled from Marketing to Sales to Invoicing and Billing, to Customer Service, which makes life a lot easier for everyone involved.

Dell End to End SMB SalesThe demonstration was recorded and we have included relevant excerpts that follow the process. Dell offers Pardot, a leading Marketing Automation Solution for marketing which connects automatically to Salesforce.com by synchronizing User-IDs from each component, in less than a minute. Sales Funnel, Alerts, Dashboard, Forecast are coordinated out-of-the-box, and rules are customizable between the applications.

Next comes Conga, which merges customer information, selected products and services, proposal template and cover letter into a print-ready quotation that shares all data with the appropriate customer and pipeline records.

EchoSign, an e-Signature solution from Adobe follows, allowing the customer to authorize the order securely and purchase immediately, which is always a good thing in Sales.

The next part of the solution solves the ever-present issue of ensuring the Sales and Accounting Systems contain and report the same information. This is accomplished using the process integration presented below:

 



Dell SMB Lead to Cash Process Automation 1 from Techaisle on Vimeo.

 

As shown in the image, the same information that is incrementally collected throughout the marketing and sales process is used to auto-populate the agreement, invoice and collections data within the accounting package, for our demo, this was done using QuickBooks Online, one of several pre-configured packaged integrations that do not require manual intervention except for company-specific policies and table structures.

Again, seeing it is more impressive than reading about it:



Dell SMB Lead to Cash Process Automation 2 from Techaisle on Vimeo.

What was the name of your company again?

The benefits of sharing information between Marketing, Sales and Accounting are equally or more important with Customer Service, which is the lifeblood of all companies’ online reputation these days. Taking the data one step further into customer service affords the advantage of having the full customer history at your fingertips while fielding support calls – which provides a higher level of satisfaction and smarter service capabilities.

 



Dell SMB Lead to Cash Process Automation 3 from Techaisle on Vimeo.

 

Why this is Important

This is important because it goes back to some basic principles that improve information system management, including:

Move Data, don’t type it more than once. Whether using drop downs to input categories and exact descriptions or whole sections of records or groups of records, moving data will result in fewer errors than typing it into the system. In addition to the accuracy this offers, it eliminates a lot of the drudgery associated with maintaining CRM systems and allows sales people to get back to selling.

Build Information Incrementally. Capturing the same data repeatedly will annoy customers and staff, records should be built up over time and sections of data moved to populate application modules as they are brought online. Dell’s solution does this through progressive web forms for customer records and by sharing data between marketing, sales, accounting and customer service.

Centralize Data. Trying to manage multiple customer databases is confusing, inefficient and causes a lot of frustration. Accuracy, Consistency, Reliability and Timeless are hallmarks of data quality and all suffer from running disparate databases of the same information. While data tends to take on a life of its’ own with volume and increased usage, starting with a design that shares information between systems will eliminate problems down the line and can actually give Small and Mid-Market businessesan advantage over Enterprise customers who have been wrestling with huge CRM database and internal IT for the past 15 years.     

Keep it Simple, Get Going Fast. In a recent survey 77% of SMB complained that even there has been a lot of progress in the past few years, complexity managing IT has grown faster than the problems it is designed to eliminate. SMBs want to spend money on revenue generating activities and reducing costs, which means focus on the core business, not hiring people to manage IT adoption that cannot stay engaged full time on building the business. We were surprised at how easily this whole integrated solution came online, easy enough for a power user to manage and available to use in a matter of days, quicker for those who are familiar with CRM systems.  The Dell solution comes with fixed fee, fixed scope implementation services for all of the applications they sell, making it easy for SMBs to get going quickly with a single vendor for support.

The Bottom Line

Dell’s DCBA solution was announced last September and has come a long way since introduction. In this example the demo provisioned a new account without need for any coding; userIDs tied Sales and Marketing together.  Customers signed the necessary paperwork and and Invoicing data was moved automatically once the new account was opened in QuickBooks. For small and medium sized organizations, finding ways to make best use of their IT investments-- to streamline their sales processes, as in this example here, can be the path to increased sales and help them realize greater business success, and is certainly much easier and cost effective than it used to be.

 

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SMB Channels Mobility Solutions Snapshot

Having the right information in the right context in the right format at the right time is critical to making business decisions these days, and increasingly that means access through mobile devices – whether it is the roughly 30% of consumers who own tablets or those tens of millions who get information from a Smartphone. A recent Techaisle survey of over 600 channel partners uncovered several important similarities and differences between how SMB channels are approaching three of the most important trends in the market: Cloud-Computing, Mobility Solutions and Remote Managed Services. In this post we will offer a snapshot of some characteristics of Mobility in the SMB Channel.

SMBs Requesting Mobility Solutions from the ChannelFrom a demand perspective, 60% of partners reported having SMB customers request Mobility Services, with almost 80% of ISV customers topping the list. Not surprisingly, email – the killer app, is the most used and offered service with about 50%, followed by Payment Processing with over a quarter. As we have found in other surveys, the front-office, revenue-related applications of CRM, especially among ISVs, and SFA, especially among SPs and Social Media Marketing, especially among SPs, were all being adopted by almost a quarter of respondents. We expect a rapid uptake in 2013 in the area of Mobile Analytics, which is being embedded into many front office SaaS applications in the form of dashboards and self-configured KPI management with proactive communications, or from the several cloud-based pure-play BI vendors in the market. As mentioned following the recent Citrix announcements, we also believe the market is ripe for adoption of Cloud-based Productivity Suites, which will also drive adoption of mobility among SMBs.

In many areas of Cloud Computing and especially Remote Managed Services, the big inflection point in both adoption and average spending does not happen until the 100-249 employee segment, but not so with Mobility; approximately 60% of the demand comes from the 1-9 and 10-49 employee segments, with the increase in email (across the board) and Social Media Marketing and Mobile Advertising (ISVs, SPs) driving the trend.

SMB Partner Mobility ChallengesThere are differences in the approaches, needs and challenges between SMB channel types when offering Mobility Solutions to customers, typically falling into Cost and Complexity, Management and Employee, Network and Device and Security categories. In this example, we see some key differences between the VAR/SI and SP partners related to the provision of Mobility solutions. Poor Network Service is the biggest challenge for VAR/SI partners, followed by Insufficient Network Speeds, Lack of Integration/Compatibility, and Immature Platform Choices. Both were challenged equally by Slow Performance of Mobile Apps and Device Management issues. SPs biggest challenges relative to VAR/Sis included Lack of Applications Availability, followed by Poor Mobile Web browsers, and Network and Device Issues.

As the market matures, these challenges should dissipate with increased mobile responsiveness built into websites and applications, more affordable device and data plan pricing and wider adoption of smart mobile devices. For now, the perennial SMB issue of cost and complexity of new technology balanced against perceived and demonstrated return on investment remains the most important barrier for channels to overcome.

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Symantec Simplifying Security for SMBs With Cloud Solution

Symnatec just announced its Endpoint Protection Small Business Edition 2013 which effectively moves Symantec's flagship security solution for SMBs to the cloud. The solution has an on-premise solution as well giving SMBs the flexibility to start with an on-premise solution or use directly a cloud-based solution with no additional hardware requirements and no special IT staff or training needed.

Techaisle Take
In the SMB space, the trend is definitely moving to the cloud, with SMBs reporting growth in the average number of cloud applications rising from 2 in 2010, to 4.3 last year and expected to hit over 7 this year. Symantec has seen flat revenue in a growing market and needs to take advantage of this trend in cloud services. Security is among the most widely deployed cloud application (~60% of Cloud Users).  Symantec has a very broad portfolio of products and despite a management shakeup and unwanted attention from hactivists; they have been able to maintain stability over the past few years. Having said that, there is always some uncertainty when migrating from one architecture to the next; it will be very important to maintain a solid opportunity for channel partners and they will have to execute well as they make this move.

Symantec needs to ensure that their channel partners are well trained in the difference between between the 2013 cloud edition and the 12.1 on-premise version to avoid any SMB marketplace confusion. Symantec also needs to make sure that their marketing campaigns present the choice of offers as a benefit rather than a hard decision; there are benefits to both cloud and on-premises versions depending on the SMB customer need. We have found that there is a gap in demand from channel partners for cloud security services based on what they are hearing from their SMB customers – Vertical Applications, Security and Storage and Backup solutions top the list of requested applications.

All software companies are wrestling with or implementing cloud services strategies. After Cloud Security, which is a strategic imperative for Symantec, the largest opportunities within Cloud Infrastructure are in Remote Storage & Backup services, unless they step far outside their core business. SMBs recently reported that although their business priorities have remained fairly constant, 77% want vendors to reduce complexity in IT so they can focus on business and customers. It seems Symantec wants to enable that by offering both (all) their services through a common interface which is delivered through the channel and allows remote management of both On-Premises installed base and Cloud versions. If they can do this successfully, it should be a win for both small businesses and channel partners.  Even so, the devil is in the detail, and if they fail to bring both of these to the market successfully they risk losing credibility in their core security market.

Anurag Agrawal

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What the SMB channel needs from Cloud-based Service vendors

New Competencies in SMB Cloud ChannelTaken from a 2009 White Paper, this image shows the new competencies required from partners to make the transition from traditional reseller to Cloud Aggregator or Cloud Reseller. What Techaisle described was the opportunity to become either an aggregator, by becoming the equivalent of a “first tier” distributor (positioned between the vendor and resellers who then sell to end-users), or as a Cloud Reseller, selling directly to end users.

Competencies required for the aggregator include the ability to aggregate services and integrate them across services, either data across applications or building solutions between infrastructure, communications and application services. In addition, core competencies were/are needed in the areas of service provisioning and datacenter management. Then an Aggregator needs to be able manage reseller relationships with structured sales and marketing programs, implementation and post-implementation support for the channel, and tier 2 customer support for end users. Given these demanding requirements and the price pressure, it is not surprising that larger organizations like Dell have been the companies to aggressively pursue this strategy and taking advantage of an existing hardware and storage business to offer a full solution stack to resellers and Enterprise customers. As we have written on several occasions, the SMB channel is being squeezed by several trends including the rise of the Digital Channel, Self-Service Applications, Remote Management Dashboards, Plug-and-Play Horizontal Applications, and others. These make the aggregator approach difficult and susceptible to commoditization, more so given the additional challenges of recruiting, managing and supporting an additional tier of resellers. As a result, there has been a lot of confusion around how to make money as an aggregator, and the assumption that a solution has to include all layers in the stack: Computing, System Software, Storage, Network and Application. Even considering wholesale remote infrastructure availability, channels are confused about  which layer to start with, how to choose the vendors, where to recruit staff, how much investment, how to migrate existing customers and many other questions have prevented many channel partners from making the move.

SMB Cloud Channel Needs
The other option for SMB channels is to move existing and new customers to cloud-based services, which still requires embracing new technologies, and figuring out how to add value through specialization, integration, customization and/or all-in-one provisioning, maintenance and support. With that as background, we can move into the topic in the headline: What the SMB channel needs from Cloud-based Service vendors. The partners here represent VARs/SIs, ISVs and SPs, and are more typical of the Reseller category rather than the Aggregator.

In a recent survey of SMB Channel Partners who offer Cloud-based Services, the most important need from Cloud Vendors was for an SLA that guarantees availability. SLAs were cited as most important by Service Providers and VARs/Sis with 61% and 59% respectively, which brought overall average to the top of the list at 53% of all partners surveyed.  This is consistent with what we have heard directly from SMBs, who are using the SLAs as a proxy for the brand of underlying infrastructure and system software of the applications. The effect of this is strongest on hardware vendors, whose equipment is becoming increasingly commoditized by plug-and-play infrastructure and exacerbated by a digital channel that uses self-service interfaces and management dashboards instead of on site visits. In a similar vein, the next requirement also comes directly from SMB customers, who want access to 24x7 support services. As SMBs move to SaaS and Remote Services, outsourcing infrastructure and applications exposes them to more risk and loss of control, increasing the need for the security of a 24 hour Support Desk to reduce the perceived risk of “offsite everything”. These first two needs line up with SMB purchasing criteria, ironically two of the other most important factors are Price and Data Security. That they are not passed on as needs to the vendors probably suggests that these are largely under control – users also typically rated high levels of satisfaction in these areas.

Most of the remaining issues relate to two categories: Product Related and Partner Program Related.

Product Needs included better methods of integration, a broader catalog of applications and single sign on across applications.

Partner Program Issues included better notification of upgrades, changes and downtime – providing onsite training, having a policy concerning data migration to competitive products, and ability to offer discounts for paying annual fees upfront.

Vendors and Cloud-Services Aggregators should keep these needs in mind to develop the best Cloud Partner Programs, and SMB Resellers should use these vendor capabilities to select the right Vendor/Aggregator to work with as they migrate customers from a traditional offers to Cloud-based solutions.

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