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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.

Salesforce.com for SMBs: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Until a few years ago a set of scary questions used to be debated in many business board rooms. “Fire the CEO, CFO or SAP?” Nobody dared to fire SAP. Fast forward today, are we reaching the same set of questions with a difference - replacing SAP with Salesforce.com? Recent Dreamforce 2014, Salesforce.com’s annual gala event firmly established the company’s foothold in the industry and its increasing grip on the enterprise and businesses of all sizes. This year, there was also an increased focus on SMBs, a “back-to-the-roots” story, the backbone on which Salesforce.com launched its “no software” business but somewhere along the way lost sight of SMBs. But then Salesforce.com is no longer a software company, it is a platform company. Is the “no software” logo still valid? Is the company still suitable for SMBs?

The Best

Over the last three years, Salesforce.com has successfully added solutions to its portfolio and has checked off an important spoke in the SMB Wheel of CRM Productivity with business intelligence, one of key elements in the overall CRM productivity suite. Many of the other issues are addressed by the rich Salesforce.com partner ecosystem that connects via Force.com. Combined, these applications provide a 360 degree view of the sales and marketing process. Experience shows that as a software category matures, suite providers eventually win out against point product players. And Salesforce.com is winning.

techaisle smb crm wheel blog salesforce resized

 As Salesforce began its foray into the enterprise world, it seemed that it neglected its SMB market, which grew almost in spite of Salesforce’s lack of attention. However, from 2015 onwards, SFDC promises change as it is committing to doubling its investments in SMB education and driving growth. In fact, this year’s Dreamforce had nearly twice as many sessions for SMBs as in 2013.

Techaisle’s SMB segmentation, based on cloud and mobility adoption, finds that there are six major SMB segments:

  1. Smart Investors
  2. Growth Aspirers
  3.  
  4. Dynamic IT
  5.  
  6. Productivity-centric,
  7.  
  8. Innovation-Driven, and
  9.  
  10. Passive Followers


Of these, Dynamic SMBs, followed by Smart Investor SMBs, are most likely to benefit from CRM suites. 

The Good

The new Wave analytics platform, announced and demoed with fanfare at Dreamforce 2014, is one of the most important products to have been introduced by Salesforce.com recently. It gives some credence to Salesforce’s newly christened Analytical Cloud. But is it really that impressive beyond the flashy demo at Dreamforce 2014? Is it really analytics or a series of reports cleverly put together?

Let us set the context first. Business analytics is fast becoming an integral technology investment for an SMB organization, directly contributing to its revenue growth and reduction in operating costs by enabling informed decision making. Techaisle’s survey of SMBs across numerous countries shows that number of SMBs using one or more type of business intelligence is nearly doubling each year. Business Intelligence tools have matured and become more widely available through cloud-based services.  As a result, enterprise-grade ETL, analytics, reporting, collaboration, dashboards and other functionalities are now within affordable reach of SMBs.

techaisle smb cloud bi salesforce blog resized

We are also in a transformative time for mobility and thereby mobile business Intelligence. The move to mobile BI has largely up until now been accomplished by migrating existing functionality to a mobile environment by using new technologies on top of the old.  Companies such as Oracle, IBM and SAP are doing this through acquisition of smaller companies and integrating them into existing products. On the other hand, in a classic build vs. buy fashion, smaller companies, not hampered by existing architectural constraints are offering SaaS BI services and building new offers from scratch. Smaller BI vendors in many cases have gained a timing advantage, using native technology to bring existing mobile functionality to BI. Instead of simply providing mobile links to server data, these new products offer the rich, interactive capabilities, with the ability to use rich interactive screen manipulation, i.e., pinch and squeeze or geo-location awareness, as part of the data exploration and visualization experience. True mobile business intelligence includes ability to interact with data objects on the screen, such as filters, check-boxes, search, drill-down and drill-through to the record level and other interactive functions. Of course, being able to then use built-in device communications capabilities is also of importance once the information has been identified – SMS, email and Internet forms for dissemination of the information, as well as secure access to collaborative destinations.

Techaisle survey data also shows that the right information for SMBs centers on intelligence that helps them make sound financial decisions. This is reflected in the top three analytics areas reported by SMB respondents:

  1. Financial analysis (47% of SMBs)
  2. Sales tracking (44% of SMBs)
  3. Business activity monitoring (43% of SMBs)

These findings show that SMBs are looking to analyze data that helps to manage DSO (Days Sales Outstanding, the core accounts receivable issue), maximize inventory turns, determine the return on marketing investment for a new route to market, and/or examine the potential lifetime value of a customer through various distribution channels. SMB business intelligence/analytics tools need to deliver across this set of expectations.


What Wave Analytics is not

Wave analytics is mobile business intelligence and not analytics. It can answer one question at a time, but can’t analyze a set of questions based on multi-dimensional data and queries allowing a small business executive to make informed decisions across multiple business factors. Wave analytics cloud offers some but not all of the above functionalities. And Wave’s capabilities are tied to Salesforce.com data unless an SMB is willing to invest in the customization needed to extend analysis across other data sets, thereby increasing TCO. And that is where the bad begins. As one SMB told Techaisle, “Business intelligence and analytics is big need for an SMB, but the platform must provide easy to build reports and dashboards capabilities. If you need to hire a developer for everything, we are back to square one”.

The Bad

To quote Marc Benioff’s tweet, “What skills do you need to find a job today? #5 Salesforce”, quoting an article in Infoworld. Is it SAP redux - was there not a complete industry that had popped up and thrived for SAP developers? In many cases, the level of complexity and cost of deploying Wave solutions, beyond parametric reporting, may be out of reach for many SMBs and may instead be more attractive in the enterprise segment.

Dashboards with ad hoc exploration and structured reports are becoming the ‘new normal’, empowering the SMBs to look at information within the right context depending upon the demands of the business. Right context is not just about driving new user experience, something that Salesforce.com has focused on; it is about driving new business models as well by increasing the value of business intelligence tool to the point where it informs and supports the creation of new SMB revenue models. There are some excellent examples of embedded analysis capabilities that allow very flexible use of KPIs by SMBs across all areas of their business, including creating and analyzing the impact of new KPIs on the fly. Out-of-the-box Wave analytics cloud falls short and does not adequately address SMB BI/analytics needs.

At the outset, the Wave analytics cloud looks like it is targeted towards dashboard-saturated executives who have not been exposed to new technologies. It looks great because it is on Salesforce.com platform and it is mobile. For a CEO, running a company means determining what he/she must track and what he/she can safely de-emphasize. For this, a CEO typically requires multiple dashboards delivering “what-if” analysis capabilities; these CEOs need the ability to generate KPIs quickly and easily, measure them and refine them with time. Keeping true to “no software” rule, there should be either no or very little customization required. It’s clear that Wave needs more IT involvement – and the Wave platform partners announced at Dreamforce were all ‘big names’ such as Accenture and Deloitte, which are not the typical developers for SMBs. The expectation that an SMB has programmers sitting around eager to extract, integrate, and develop dashboards to provide one view of the business is clearly mistaken – and it certainly stretches the limits of “no software” rule.

The Ugly – Have we seen this movie before?

Mark Twain said history does not repeat itself but it does rhyme. The evolution of Salesforce.com represents a remake of a movie and we are not sure it ends well for SMBs. SFDC, which was the SMB champion ten years ago, is starting to look like Napoleon from Orwell’s Animal Farm novel.

Marc Benioff’s Dreamforce keynotes always showcase large enterprise customers, and no SMBs. However, on the 2nd day, in an SMB keynote by Tony Rodoni and Brian Millham there were three case studies of SMBs. However, all three were “born in the cloud” SMBs, not representative of over 90 percent of small businesses. Even Tony Rodoni, SVP of Small Business, Salesforce.com referred to high-growth, scalable small businesses (read startups) in Silicon Valley – again not representative of most of the world. Where have the real-world examples gone? One VP of information technology for an SMB aptly observed that, “SMB for them (SFDC) is always the next Facebook”.

In a Techaisle survey of 2155 SMBs (US, Canada, Germany) to understand cloud adoption, 42 percent mentioned that they are afraid of losing control of their data and another 31 percent said that they are fearful of vendor lock-in. These businesses worry about vendor control of data as they have neither the technical expertise nor the purchasing power to extricate themselves from supplier relationships if they experience difficulties. This concern extends to Salesforce: as the CIO of a financial services SMB said, “SFDC does not play nice when you have to import data from non-cloud solutions, and it is a challenge even with cloud applications.”

With Salesforce.com an SMB could experience both the fear factors – lock-in, loss of control on data - the concerns that are common to enterprise software suites. When software becomes a platform it develops a tendency to move over to the ‘dark side’: It unconsciously forces a lock-in, reduces the pace of innovation, limits price protection and restricts future proofing. SFDC SMB customers are already experiencing this; as one said, “They (SFDC) list per-month prices, but the contracts are executed in years’ terms”. Taken as a whole it flies in the face of everything that is cloud. Is it time for SMBs to find a new champion? And can they, or is the Salesforce grip already too tight? As a platform, Salesforce.com is like a runaway train, very difficult to stop by numerous point solution players. 

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34 percent SMBs want out-of-box Collaboration within SaaS/Cloud applications

Techaisle’s SMB & Midmarket Collaboration adoption research found that apart from traditional collaboration solutions of file sharing and communication, SMBs need SaaS business applications to have collaborative properties. 34 percent of SMBs and 44 percent of midmarket businesses say that SaaS applications should have built-in collaboration properties out-of-the-box. They say that the success of a cloud business application is its ability to provide /support collaboration, including email and/or hosted telephony.

Techaisle survey data shows that there is a strong connection between SaaS applications and collaboration. In some ways, these connections are intuitive: SaaS is a resource that can be accessed simultaneously by multiple individuals located anyplace where there is a network connection and cloud is inherently supportive of collaboration, and many applications are either explicitly focused on collaborative activities (ranging from SharePoint to CRM) or embed these capabilities (as with productivity applications like Office 365 or Google Apps).

Techaisle’s SMB research found quantitative support for these perceptions. When SMB respondents were asked, “what are the key attributes of a successful cloud solution?” As would be expected, security, scalability, and data management (including disaster recovery) were prominent in these responses. However, the most common answer was “the ability to support mobility,” which speaks to the requirement to enable mobile collaboration. And the fifth-most common response was “the ability to provide or support collaboration.” As the figure below shows, this is an important issue across size categories: it was cited as an important cloud success attribute by nearly half of near-enterprise (500-999 employees) firms, and also by companies with just 10-19 employees.

techaisle-saas-collaboration-connection-blog-smb-attributes


Further analysis of current and planned SaaS workloads underscores the importance of collaborative capabilities within SaaS applications. Techaisle asked small business and midmarket respondents who are currently using or planning to use cloud to identify the top SaaS workloads in use today, and those that are in current adoption plans. The results, that collaboration plays a role in most SaaS applications:

Workloads explicitly focused on collaboration

    • Hosted VoIP (used today by 52 percent of midmarket businesses, with 35 percent planning adoption)

 

    • Content publishing (used today by 53 percent of midmarket businesses; 56 percent of SaaS using small businesses are planning deployment)

 

    • CRM (in use or planned by 93 percent of midmarket businesses and 71 percent of SaaS using small businesses)



Workloads where collaboration is a key differentiator, attribute or outcome

    • Office suites (both Google Apps and Office 365 emphasize intrinsic collaboration capabilities. Office suites are the most commonly used SaaS application type within small business, and the third most commonly used application type within midmarket business)

 

    • Project management (most commonly used SaaS application type within midmarket business, and the third most commonly used SaaS application type within small business)

 

    • Business Intelligence (53 percent of midmarket businesses and 44 percent of small business are planning adoption)



Workloads where better collaboration or reporting within/across departments/functions and/or with external stakeholders is a key outcome

    • Accounting/financial management and ERP (accounting/financial management is the second most widely used SaaS application type within small businesses)

 

    • HR management (deployed by more than half of midmarket business SaaS users)

 

    • Marketing automation (highest rate of planned adoption within midmarket business SaaS users)



These findings underscore trends that are apparent in the SMB SaaS and collaboration markets: that increasingly collaboration is important to SMBs (as a means of boosting productivity), and that cloud-based systems – including file sharing systems, and extending to SaaS applications as well – are expected to provide support for many forms of collaborative activities.

Deployment scope further impacts SMB buyer requirements

As Techaisle observes the evolution of collaborative solution capabilities within SaaS, it is important to also consider the scope across which these applications and solutions are expected to operate. Solutions that connect workers within a group or department benefit from a common understanding of context and source applications; those that connect users across groups/departments exist within a single company, and can focus on supporting IT-approved devices with reference to IT-defined security policies. Solutions that extend beyond the organization’s own staff may well offer more business impact than internal-only systems by speeding communications to customers, prospects and/or suppliers – but they come with increased issues in terms of support for seamless connectivity across multiple platforms, and potentially, may raise security concerts as well.

techaisle-saas-collaboration-connection-blog-smb-scope


In the research, Techaisle asked respondents to specify the scope of their collaboration solutions. The results help clarify the strong demand for collaboration within microbusinesses, and provide insight into why businesses view collaboration as an essential solution investment area. More than 40 percent of microbusinesses, and 39 percent of all SMBs, extend their collaboration infrastructure to support for customers. Midmarket businesses are more likely to focus on internal collaboration, but they join smaller peers in having a roughly 20 percent incidence of supporting supply chain relationships (suppliers/vendors) through their collaboration systems.

Looking at the above chart, one sees that there is the potential for missed connections within the emerging panoply of collaboration-enabling systems. Social media, mobility, BI and cloud all have important collaboration extensions. But how can businesses ensure that these technologies will connect internally once they are in place? Techaisle believes that collaboration is evolving in response to this market condition. IT vendors have traditionally tried to position collaboration solutions as a platform on which businesses can create new capabilities and integrated processes. However, data shows that businesses are instead acquiring collaborative capacities as part of other applications: social media, mobility, cloud and BI all provide discrete and important – but potentially disconnected – collaboration capabilities. Moving forward, Techaisle expects that collaborative technology solutions will increasingly be positioned as a framework that integrates and extends the value of these discrete system capabilities, rather than as a “first step” platform.

Related Blogs:

SMB and Midmarket File Sharing & Collaboration Adoption to Grow by 52 percent

SMB Content Management & Collaboration Solutions Adoption: Seven Key Trends

Report details:

360 on SMB & Midmarket File Sharing & Collaboration Solutions Adoption Trends

 

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SMB IT Solution Leadership Divide

Techaisle’s unique SMB research to understand the current state and implications of distributed IT influence and authority shows that today, the DMU (Decision Making Unit) is much bigger, much more diverse, much more difficult to inform, and can be much slower to take action. Business decision makers (BDMs) are an intrinsic force within DMUs in most SMB organizations, and are the primary decision makers in some high-growth areas. These BDMs have different objectives for technology, different perspectives on adoption drivers and impediments, and tend to be influenced by different information sources. The resulting diffusion in responsibility/authority and information channels has created an environment where buyers and sellers struggle to develop the cohesion needed to promote or embrace new IT/business capabilities within existing IT and business process structures.

The study shows that both ITDMs and BDMs play important roles in the (formal and shadow) acquisition of IT products and services. However, Techaisle’s research has found that the distinctions between these roles are not evenly applicable across all types of IT-enabled solutions: in some areas, the business will look to IT for leadership, and in others, it will take direction from BDMs.

Figure below illustrates the extent to which ITDMs and BDMs are seen as solution leaders within small and medium businesses, and across nine major solution areas. The solutions have been assigned to three groups: those on the left (virtualization, managed services and IaaS) are labeled “IT led,” and represent areas where IT is generally seen as leading corporate initiatives; they are focused on the core infrastructure used by IT to deliver corporate services to users. The ones at the right (collaboration, social media and analytics) are labelled “BDM led,” and are solutions in which BDMs provide most corporate leadership, and IT is cast very much in a supporting role. The solutions in the middle – Big Data, SaaS and mobility – have been labelled “IT/BDM collaborative.” These are solutions that respond to BDM needs, but where IT is important to supporting delivery capacity.

smb-solution-leadership-blog-techaisle


The positioning of these solutions is important to IT vendor sales and marketing strategies. Solutions in the “IT led” category need to have strong IT-focused positioning, with detailed information on product attributes; this material should be supported with a second layer of collateral containing information on the business case for the solutions, and aimed at BDMs.

Solutions in the “BDM led” category require very different positioning: here, vendors need to make a strong case for the business benefits and relevance of the solution and orient these messages towards BDMs, supporting this campaign with accompanying technical information designed to provide clear deployment and integration guidance to ITDMs.

The “IT/BDM collaborative” category is the trickiest to address. It requires deep information on business benefits and the process steps required to capture those benefits targeted at BDMs, and deep information on how to assemble, deploy, integrate and support/optimize these solutions targeted at ITDMs – and an understanding of how to position and convey the messages to each audience.

During the survey, Techaisle explored one other solution issue that is important to understanding the different perspectives of ITDMs and BDMs. Each respondent was asked to categorize the nine solution areas as having one of two primary impacts: driving growth or containing costs/”increasing the bottom line.”

The comparison of small and mid-sized ITDM and BDM perspectives provides an instructive view of the differences between the two communities. Looking first at the small business results the survey finds that in six of eight areas (IaaS and SaaS combined into a single “cloud” category), BDMs are more likely to view a solution as contributing to growth, and ITDMs are more likely to view a solution as helping to control costs; this may reflect a fundamental difference in how each group approaches its business objectives. In the mid-market findings study reveals that the perceptions of value of ITDMs and BDMs are very closely aligned in mobility, virtualization, Big Data and managed services. ITDMs are more likely to believe that cloud will drive growth than their BDM peers, while BDMs are much stronger believers in the growth contributions of the three IT-led solution areas (collaboration, social media and business intelligence/analytics).

About the Study: 360 on SMB & Mid-Market IT Decision Making Authority - BDM vs. ITDM

The study covers:

    • Stakeholders and their roles in end-to-end IT solution adoption

 

    • ITDM vs. BDM : Balance of Authority (Needs, Budget, Purchasing)

 

    • ITDM & BDM: Locus of Leadership in driving different types of IT Solution Adoption

 

    • ITDM & BDM: Leadership roles in securing Cloud, Mobility

 

    • ITDM vs. BDM: Success Attributes and Benefits of Cloud & Mobility Solutions

 

    • SMB & Mid-Market Businesses: Shadow IT Spending

 

    • Business Impact of BDM vs. ITDM perspectives and expectations with respect to IT Solutions

 

    • ITDM vs. BDM: Differences in Business Issues, IT Challenges, IT Priorities

 

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SMB Cloud Computing – Looking from Back to the Future

In the early days, the key question wasn’t “when?” but “what?” Looking back at 2011.

Four years ago, Techaisle’s 2011 SMB Cloud Adoption report began with a discussion of cloud awareness within the SMB community. Results showed that while SMBs were reasonably familiar with the terms “private cloud” and “public cloud” (recognized by 84% and 74%, respectively, of SMB respondents), “XaaS” had not yet entered the SMBs’ lexicon: less than 25%  were familiar with the term “hybrid cloud”, and IaaS and PaaS were also not commonly understood.

Discussions of reasons for adoption and barriers to cloud adoption also illustrate how much the cloud market has evolved over the past four years. In 2011, SMBs cited “simplified access through a browser from any location” as the second-most important reason to adopt cloud; in today’s multi-screen, mobile world, requirements have progressed much further, with an application interface layer capable of responding to different displays, a practical necessity for many business systems. Similarly, features like “eliminating the need to upgrade individual users” and “getting new features automatically” have become expected attributes of cloud, as attention progresses to issues like building agility and obtaining new capabilities. The data did highlight one issue that has remained constant from 2011 to 2014 though: as was the case with Techaisle’s most recent 2014 SMB cloud survey, the 2011 results emphasized a desire to increase IT staff’s efficiency as a key reason to embrace cloud.

In 2011, when asked, “What vendor actions would compel you to use cloud services?” 46% of small businesses and 38% of medium businesses replied that they would “never consider using hosted applications.” Today, of course, refusal to consider SaaS is still an option; but increasingly, it is an expensive, non-mainstream option – helping to remind us that “never” is not a good planning horizon for new technology.

Overcoming Cloud Adoption barriers of 2011

In many ways, a review of the list of barriers to cloud adoption cited by our 2011 respondents is even more helpful in illuminating increased SMB focus on cloud. In the 2011 research, respondents not using cloud were asked to specify the conditions that would prompt them to consider use of cloud services. The list of top responses is intriguing. The most frequent answer cited by 2011 respondents was “if the cost of owning the applications is significantly higher than renting them”. It can be argued that this condition has been met – that for many applications, ranging from office suites (where pricing for Office 365 is more compelling than for boxed versions of the software), to niche-specific applications where on-demand fees provide far superior economics than a combination of new hardware and licensed software, to the “fail fast” mantra used to apply cloud to emerging business opportunities (one which relies on the freedom to spin up and spin down applications quickly, without reference to the depreciation cycle associated with the underlying hardware), the economics of cloud are compelling for at least some applications.

Similarly, the second most frequently-cited condition that would prompt 2011 non-users of cloud to consider adoption – “if the application we need meets our needs completely” – is also often frequently met today, thanks to the explosion of niche-specific applications available from an ever-expanding universe of cloud application sources. Viewed in hindsight, we can see that cloud provides an ideal delivery platform (and associated business model) for addressing these conditions, which has in turn helped fuel cloud’s advance in the SMB market.

Where are we heading from here? Tracing the trajectory of SMB cloud usage

Through its relatively brief history, cloud projections have been hampered by the “hockey stick” phenomenon. Cloud is growing in multiple ways simultaneously: the number of firms using cloud is increasing, the number of individuals using cloud within these firms is increasing (e.g., as business users in different areas and IT workers find discrete uses for cloud-based systems), and the number of platforms and applications in use within each organization is increasing. These compounding growth curves drive extreme growth expectations that are difficult to digest.

Based on our most recent 2014 SMB cloud study we have constructed a “current and projected” perspective. The data serves to reinforce the belief that hybrid is emerging as the dominant cloud delivery model. Some of the hybrid growth numbers are extraordinary: use of “hybrid-only” is increasing by 87%, while the proportion of SMBs using a combination of private and hybrid is expected to grow by 122%, and use of all three of public/private/hybrid cloud is expected to increase by 130%.

However, even the figures that are less exceptional still relay an impressive underlying story. Take, for example, the “public only” group. Data shows that businesses using only public cloud will shrink by 20% within US-based SMBs. However, public cloud itself will be a growing part of SMB cloud delivery strategies and is actually poised to increase by 75% through the forecast period.

Using the same survey data based projection methodology we have created workload scenarios across sixteen different applications areas. The “full market adoption” scenario assumes that all SMBs reporting plans to adopt cloud do so whereas the “gradual adoption scenario” takes a different approach: it assumes that current cloud users will adopt each technology according to current plans, while new cloud users will adopt each technology only at current usage rates.

Data clearly shows the coming dominance of hybrid as a delivery model – which drives increased demand for both public and private cloud as well – and provides high-growth forecasts for cloud storage, data backup and cloud security at a workload level, and for vertical applications, content publishing, CRM and BI/analytics in SaaS. It can be difficult to parse through the many, extraordinary growth projections for cloud. By connecting user intentions for growth in overall cloud adoption with adoption patterns for delivery, workloads and applications, Techaisle provides its clients with the data needed to calibrate the growth needed to keep pace with or exceed the overall SMB cloud opportunity.

Related research report: SMB & Mid-Market Cloud Computing Adoption Trends

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