Sanjeev Aggarwal's Blog

February 24, 2015

SMB Spotlight: IBM’s Midmarket GM On New Partner Strategy and Programs for SMB and Midmarket Companies (Part 2)

Sanjeev: Hi, this Sanjeev Aggarwal from the SMB Group, and in today’s SMB Spotlight I’m speaking with John Mason, who is IBM’s General Manager for Midmarket. Hi John. Thanks for joining me in this two-part discussion about new IBM developments and solutions that are relevant for the midmarket and SMB space. Continuing our discussion in this second post, we focus on IBM’g go-to-market and channel strategy for SMBs and midmarket.

Sanjeev: How is IBM’s channel involved in marketing and selling some of these new solutions?

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John: A couple of different ways. So for Verse, for example, we make that available to and through our business partners and they have an opportunity to develop recurring revenue model, annuity model and can also add their own consultative services, things like messaging migration or post-implementation support.

We’ve also introduced something called Watson Explorer for business partners. So, that really gives a very powerful cognitive search and analytics. And through this Explorer program, the business partner can identify high revenue potential and resale opportunities on Watson Explorer and then we continue to expand that obviously into other areas. So there’s are really significant joint market investments that we make together with our business partners.

I believe it’s in the order of 100 million dollar investment in co-marketing that we spend with our business partners together. We invest and they invest and then we jointly market to identify new opportunities.

One example is in the UK where we used a very interesting customer reference from Australia. The rugby team in Australia was using, in this case, SPSS to do predictive analytics on player injuries. The customer was called the Waratahs rugby team from Australia. They were using multiple data sources, looking at the players’ training program, their previous injuries, history of injuries, number of minutes they played in matches, that kind of thing to predict future injury probabilities.

The UK team took that customer reference, turned it into a marketing campaign, which was essentially a mock newspaper. That the UK IBM team together with specific, I think, two or three business partners sent this out to 97 different sports clubs in the UK, rugby teams, soccer teams, cricket teams, with a headline that said, you know something about that particular club’s lead player getting injured in three weeks’ time.

So, they sent, for example, to Manchester United such-and-such a player gets injured in three weeks. And then explained within the text how they could have used the IBM analytics tools working with the business partner to predict and effectively reduce the likelihood of injuries and therefore seen significant benefits to the team, which counts on having a full roster of players, etc.

We sent that to 97 different clubs and within a week we had 47 calls back into either IBM or the business partner asking for a follow-on meeting to see how they could actually take advantage of this same capability. And right now, we’re in the process of qualifying a number of those different opportunities into actual closed deals together with the business partners.

So what’s being indicated there is having an actual customer reference in the industry. Having a partner with the skillset, in this case analytics, and having that partner engaged early on in the joint demand generation efforts that we co-fund. That’s where we’ve seen very high response rates and then a much higher yield on the marketing activity.

Sanjeev: That is a great example, more specifically because small and midmarket would like to know how companies similar to theirs are using these solutions and what benefits they’re getting out of them.

John: Yeah, I think the key is you’re not just talking to the customer about technology but actually listening for their business challenge and in their language that’s relevant to them and their particular industry and turning that technology into a solution to that particular challenge.

So that’s where we’re also working programmatically with a number of our business partners to try to have that intersection point between industry expertise and technical know-how around specific cloud, analytics, mobile and social solution plays that can build on an existing customer reference in the same industry to find new opportunities.

Sanjeev: And I’m sure examples like these will open up new opportunities for IBM not only in accounts that have been familiar with IBM but also net new accounts.

John: Yes.

Sanjeev: Ease of use and the value they’re providing to SMBs.

John: Exactly. Yeah.

Sanjeev: So with IBM having so many products and solutions, how do SMBs find out about some of these new solutions that are innovative, ease to use, cloud-based?

John: A couple of different ways. One is obviously through our business partners. A lot of small and mid-sized businesses treat the business partner almost as their IT department whether it’s a cloud service provider or a more traditional business partner. So, quite often that is an inroad for a customer to start using IBM. In some cases, they may not even know they’re using IBM. It could be an embedded part of a cloud service provider solution that the SMB is buying and it’s actually IBM technology that’s provided there embedded in the solution. So, that’s one way.

Also, through traditional business partners with different solutions that we provide through them. But that is in some ways kind of a second-level connection. It was important for us to also establish a direct connection point for small and mid-sized businesses. In particular, to see what is available in terms of cloud services from IBM and from our business partners.

So, that led us to develop the IBM Cloud Marketplace, which brings together this very broad portfolio of offerings that IBM has itself but also third-party cloud services. And it’s organized, it’s a very simple, you can filter in ways, you can choose by self-identifying, if you like, as a developer or as an IT operations person or as a line of business decision maker. And within the line of business decision making you can choose by horizontal sort of functional area, marketing, human resources, finance, etc. or you can also sort by industry.

So, we’re really trying to use that as an on ramp for a customer to explore some of these solutions that they may not even realize IBM provides. And it could be solutions from third parties. In some cases, they even compete with IBM’s own offerings. We won’t exclude people who have a competing cloud service either. It’s important for us to demonstrate to customers and partners that we want to participate in an eco-system, which is open and allow customers to choose the solutions that best meet their needs, not necessarily force them to buy in the ways that we dictate. So it’s really about being a participant in an active but open eco-system of partners.

Sanjeev: Can SMBs if they go to this marketplace find out solutions that they can try before they buy?

John: Yeah, absolutely. One of the key requirements that we heard was the ability to get a free trial and to have limited free trial period or limited functionality for free for the customer to get a sense for whether this is a good fit. So we have a number of try before you buy type offerings. SoftLayer is one of them. You get a free month of virtual server from SoftLayer. IBM Verse, the communication offering that we mentioned before, has a 90-day free trial. Watson Analytics there’s a free version available, and then depending on which additional sources you want to use, then it steps up into a fee-based offering.

Sanjeev: How transparent is the marketplace for the users or SMBs to see not only the trial solutions but how much is the cloud solution going to cost them on a monthly basis if they do decide to go ahead and acquire that solution?

John: It varies a little bit, depending on the offerings. Obviously, some of the offerings are relatively simple, can be purchased with a credit card, in which case the pricing is clear, up-front on a per-seat, per-month basis which is the case for SoftLayer and some of the other offerings like FiberLink.

Sanjeev: How about like Watson Analytics?

John: Watson Analytics is free right now. We’re moving to additional tiers of fee-based offerings. So the switch should be coming out any time now.

Sanjeev: OK. Thanks. And what resources does IBM have to educate, train SMBs on the adoption of these new solutions? I think some of them you mentioned before. Are there any online videos, information content, online tutorials that can help them with a faster on ramp and different usage scenarios?

John: Yeah. Across every one of these solutions we have a wide range of video tutorials as well as user communities where users can pose questions, comments, share their own experiences as well as more structured tutorial content. Much of this, by the way, is accessible also through the IBM Cloud Marketplace. And so, if you start to explore one particular solution and are looking for more information we usually provide links within that same space to help the user identify more training, white papers and access to the community.

Similarly, by the way, for our business partners we also have a dedicated portal that we’ve just completely revamped called PartnerWorld where we have literally thousands of partners who have access to partner training materials and communities as well.

Sanjeev: OK, great. One last question. Does IBM and its partners have a program to help SMBs migrate from, say, Gmail to a Verse type of a solution?

John: We have several IBM Cloud Certified Business Partners who offer this type of migration, many of who are accessible through the Cloud Marketplace.

Sanjeev: Yeah, because sometimes the issue for SMBs is not only having new and innovative solutions, easy to use solutions available, they need to see how to move to adopt these new solutions based on what they have because in some cases they have lots of existing data.

John: That’s also an opportunity for our business partners to provide their value in the transition and migration type services as well. That’s something that we may not do directly. We, I know, are looking at tools that we could provide to help with that, but it’s also an area that a lot of our business partners have years of expertise in helping migrate from one platform to another.

Sanjeev: Yeah, definitely. I think if you can provide some of these tools to help the business partners make the life of SMBs easier in this migration I think it will go a long way to help both IBM and the partners. Great. Thank you.

John: Sanjeev, one other thing I forgot to mention is also on a cloud infrastructure approach with software, particularly for startups, we’ve also recently introduced a free cloud access On Ramp to help startups get started on using SoftLayer by providing up to $120,000 worth of free usage of SoftLayer for startups. That’s maybe something that they can also consider.

Sanjeev: How can startups can find out about the availability of these resources.

John: That was announced in November and you can view the press release on ibm.com: IBM Global Entrepreneur Program.

Sanjeev: Thanks for this very informative session. I think IBM, at least today, does have a really good roster of products to help SMBs be more productive in their journey to compete with the larger companies. I look forward to seeing the progress some of these solutions make in the upcoming months. Again, thanks for taking the time to talk to me.

John: Thanks, Sanjeev. Appreciate the time and I certainly look forward to continuing the discussion. Thank you.

This is the second of a two-part SMB Spotlight interview with John Mason, IBM’s General Manager for Midmarket. In the first post, we discuss new IBM developments and solutions that are relevant for the midmarket and SMB space. (link to first post)

June 5, 2014

SMB trends driving interest in Online File Sharing and Collaboration (OFSC) solutions

SMB Group recently wrapped up its 2014 Small and Medium Business Routes to Market Study, which examined U.S. SMB technology adoption and the buying cycle in 10 key solution areas. (Small businesses are defined as those with 1 to 99 employees, and medium businesses are those with 100 to 999 employees.) As part of this study, we gathered SMBs’ perspectives on their top business challenges, how technology impacts their business, and their technology spending plans.

One of the study’s most dramatic findings is SMBs’ growing realization that cloud-based services, especially SaaS applications, offer powerful and capable solutions while decreasing capital outlays, risks and operational costs. Among the 10 solution areas we assessed, online file sharing and collaboration (OFSC) solutions is one in which SMBs seem particularly interested.

The online file sharing and collaboration (OFSC) market includes a cloud-based infrastructure and software application platform with a range of functionalities that enable SMB employees—regardless of file format, device, application environment, operating system or location—to:

  • Store and synchronize files from multiple endpoints using a cloud service.
  • Upload, manage and distribute content files.
  • Share files from multiple endpoints (e.g., desktops, laptops, smartphones, tablets).
  • Share files among various applications on a given device.

Share files and collaborate with colleagues within the company as well as partners and customers outside the company.

Several trends are driving interest in OFSC solutions, including the following:

  • Email-based file sharing: The use of email for communication and collaboration probably won’t cease anytime soon. SMBs currently use email systems for file sharing and collaboration. Sending multiple copies of files consumes the biggest amount of storage space, accounting for 70% to 80% of storage capacity and storage system costs. However, cloud sharing and collaboration solutions are helping SMBs gain control over file proliferation and replication as well as storage costs while increasing employee collaboration and productivity.
  • Accelerating cloud adoption: SMBs have bought into the cloud promise—a faster, flexible, cost-effective and secure route to obtain the IT solutions they need in order to create and run their businesses. SMB Group research shows SMB use of cloud business and infrastructure applications is poised to grow from 33% to 44% over the coming year.
  • Decreased costs:Cloud-based solutions deliver applications to users over the internet without requiring the purchase of supporting hardware, software or ongoing maintenance. Because cloud vendors manage all of their customers on a single instance of the software, they can amortize infrastructure-related costs over thousands of customers. This results in substantial economies of scale and skill, reducing the total cost of ownership (TCO) for customers that deploy business solutions, and represents a compelling alternative to traditional on-premises solutions.
  • Rising adoption and functionality of mobile devices:SMBs have been adopting mobile solutions at a fast and furious pace. SMB Group research indicates 67% of SMBs now view mobile solutions and services as critical to their businesses. 83% have already deployed mobile apps to help improve employee productivity. However, easy-to-use mobile file-sharing and collaboration solutions failed to keep pace with this explosion until solutions such as Dropbox, Box and Google Drive became available. SMBs will be looking for easy-to-deploy, cost-effective file-sharing and collaboration solutions to get more value from their mobile investments.
  • Explosion of content and data: The volume of data continues to grow at a very rapid rate as SMBs increase their use of data-rich applications and access these applications and content from multiple connected devices. According to a McKinsey & Company report, the amount of global data generated per year is projected to grow 40% versus 5% growth in global IT spending; 30 billion pieces of content are shared on Facebook every month; and 5 billion mobile phones were in use in 2010. This is creating increasing demand for cost-efficient and scalable online storage and content management solutions because SMBs don’t have resources to implement and manage this magnitude of growth with their meager internal IT resources.
  • Increase in information-driven decision making:Data use increasingly will become a key basis of competition and growth for individual SMB companies. SMBs will leverage data-driven strategies to innovate, compete and capture value from information, creating increasing numbers of “knowledge workers” who need to create and access information on a regular basis both from the office and remotely.
  • Limited or no IT resources: SMBs lack the dedicated IT resources of larger enterprises (Figure 2). Most SMBs have limited IT resources, and the resources they do have are fully deployed to keep the IT infrastructure and endpoints up and running. Consequently, they do not have bandwidth to adequately implement and provide ongoing support for on-premises solutions—prompting SMBs to adopt high-quality and high-availability cloud-based solutions.

Small and medium businesses (SMBs) are rapidly adopting OFSC solutions to give employees powerful and capable collaboration solutions without the hassles of traditional on-premises collaboration and file sharing alternatives. However, since the functionality of different vendor OFSC offerings varies significantly, SMBs should thoroughly examine their options to see which solutions are best suited to their current and future needs.

The SMB Group recently published a report Online File Sharing and Collaboration: The SMB Market Opportunity. This report examines the key drivers prompting SMBs to adopt cloud-based OFSC solutions; provides market opportunity and revenue forecast from 2014-2020 for these solutions; and detailed information about the top OFSC vendors in the SMB market (AirWatch Secure Content Locker, Box, Citrix ShareFile, Dropbox, Egnyte, Google Drive, Hightail, IBM Connections, Microsoft OneDrive, Salesforce Files). The report concludes with our recommendations for both vendors that offer OFSC solutions, and for SMB customers that are evaluating them.

February 6, 2012

Swimming with the Smarter Customer: The Speedo International Story

—by Laurie McCabe, SMB Group, in partnership with Brent Leary, CRM Essentials

Recently, Brent Leary and I had the opportunity to talk with Gareth Beer, Ecommerce Manager for Speedo International and learn about how Speedo International is applying smarter commerce philosophies and solutions to better serve its customers. We think Beer’s insights about Speedo’s experience in this area illustrate how important it is for a company to start with a strong vision for delivering a great customer experience–and how to execute to make that vision a reality.

Start with the Customer

Anyone that’s ever been near a pool let alone belonged to a swim team knows the iconic Speedo swimwear brand. But, we do need to supply a bit more background to put this post in context for our discussion.

Speedo International is a subsidiary of Pentland Brands with headquarters and about 200 employees based in Nottingham, UK, and operations around the globe and sales in 180 countries. Up until 2008, Speedo International had been a traditional wholesale business, with retailers serving as its sole sales outlet to customers. The company had no desire to compete with its retail partners, but consumers were clamoring for better access to the full range of Speedo products, in all sizes and colors–which they couldn’t always find in their local stores.

Bringing Speedo International online was an obvious solution to providing customers with better access, but Speedo faced a dilemma common to many companies in this position–the threat of potential channel conflict. But as Beer told us, “Speedo understands that many customers will use the site to search, browse and add to the cart and ultimately buy at a local store.” Speedo’s goal is to give customers a place to search, browse and find information–and then purchase the product wherever they choose.

Zero in on Objectives

In line with these goals, Speedo International needed to create a site with detailed photos, images, descriptions, fitting guides, FAQs and videos of all Speedo products; the ability to purchase; and customer feedback mechanisms. Speedo had a jump-start because Pentland, its parent company, was already running IBM WebSphere Commerce for all of its companies, making this platform the natural choice for Speedo.

So Speedo’s ecommerce team got busy figuring out what analytics capabilities they wanted. They were looking for a solution that “would let us go to another level of thinking, beyond looking at visitors and traffic. We wanted to really understand the customer, how they behave, how they think and how they liked to be interacted with, so that we could optimize marketing, retention and recruitment,” according to Beer. The company also wanted the flexibility to gather and analyze new sources of information as requirements evolved.

After investigating different solutions, Speedo International selected IBM’s Coremetrics for several reasons. First, Coremetrics was available as subscription-based cloud service, and pre-integrated with WebSphere Commerce, which meant that Speedo didn’t need to spend time on technical implementation and integration.

More important, Beer advised us, was that “all the data is in one place and we have a common interface across the 12 Coremetrics modules we use. Other vendors have similar tools, but with Coremetrics, we get the different capabilities we need, from measuring the effectiveness of pay-per-click campaigns to creating personalized interactions with top customers.

Create a Virtuous Cycle

Some of the many ways Speedo uses Coremetrics are to:

  • Track KPIs for sales, orders, visitors, stock and margins, and its consumer index score, which rates customer experience with Speedo.
  • Gauge the effectiveness of pay per click campaigns and retargeting efforts.
  • Get a clear view of who the customer is, how they behave, and how they like to be spoken to.
  • Set and meet service level agreements to pick, pack and dispatch orders.

As a result, Beer’s team can deliver feedback to business decision makers more rapidly. “We can quickly pick up on trends, what’s working, what’s not, what colors and styles people like or don’t like. Then the business can make better commercial decisions faster,” Beer told us.

Using the Coremetrics Lifecycle module, Speedo also gains a complete view of its top customers, which enables it to do things such as offer more personal attention and rewards, and encourage them to post more ratings and reviews. In turn, this gives Speedo more data to feed back to the business, turn top customers into advocates, and generate more business.

Speedo International has held fast to its pledge not to compete with its retailers on price. However, about 15% of Speedo’s customers pay a premium to buy on the Speedo site. Speedo’s research indicates that these customers buy on direct because of the exceptional customer service experience that Speedo delivers–facilitated to a large extent by WebSphere Commerce and Coremetrics.

A Work in Progress

Speedo International launched a Facebook page about 18 months ago. It uses Coremetrics to make sure that Facebook information jives with information on its estore, and to track how many people go to the estore from Facebook. Speedo can append Facebook images, URLs, etc. with tags which feed into Coremetrics. Using these tags, Speedo can also create special product offers, or have people vote on colors on Facebook, and see how many people come to the estore as a result of these campaigns.

One of the most compelling parts of Speedo’s strategy that Beer discussed with us is to “put any Speedo store on top of WebSphere Commerce, and have one place underneath as a common foundation for all stock and inventory management.” In 2012, Speedo plans to launch a new Facebook store, a new mobile store and create stores in key European countries with localized content, currency and language. The unified WebSphere Commerce foundation will ensure consistency and continuity of the customer shopping experience across these different sites.

Summing Up

Beer summed up his perspective by saying “the business is all about the customer. We need to be in as many channels as customers are in and align them as closely as we can–whether the customer is on smart phone, iPad or in a brick and mortar store. The goal is to have consistency and visibility across these channels and heighten our understanding of the customer.”

We couldn’t have said it better.

This is the fourth of a six-part series by SMB Group and CRM Essentials that examines the evolution of the smarter customer and smarter commerce, and IBM’s Smarter Commerce solutions.

December 28, 2011

2012 Top 10 SMB Technology Market Predictions

Here are the SMB Group’s Top 10 SMB Technology Predictions for 2012! A more detailed description of each follows below.

  1. Economic Anxiety Lowers SMB Revenue Expectations and Tightens Tech Wallets
  2. The SMB Progressive Class Gains Ground
  3. The SMB Social Media Divide Grows
  4. Cloud Becomes the New Normal
  5. Mobile Application Use Extends Beyond Email to Business Applications
  6. Increased SMB Business Intelligence (BI) and Analytics Investments Are Sparked by the Social-Mobile-Cloud Triumvirate
  7. Managed Services Meet Mobile
  8. The Accidental Entrepreneur Spikes Demand for No-Employee Small Business Solutions
  9. Increased Adoption of Collaboration and Communication Services in Integrated Suites
  10. The IT Channel Continues to Shape-Shift

2012 Top 10 SMB Technology Market Predictions in Detail

  1. Economic Anxiety Lowers SMB Revenue Expectations and Tightens Tech Wallets. After the Great Recession officially      ended in 2009, the U.S. economy resumed moderate economic growth in 2010—and the SMB outlook for 2011 became fairly bullish. But new economic worries and uncertainties are dampening some SMB outlook. Our 2011 SMB Routes to Market Study indicated that SMBs are less confident about their revenue prospects for 2012: 56%  of small and 63% of medium businesses are forecasting revenue growth for  2012, compared to the 77% of both small and medium businesses that forecasted growth for 2011. And many SMBs are tightening their tech wallets: More are forecasting flat or decreased IT spending for 2012 compared to 2011. To loosen the purse strings, tech vendors must deliver a rock-solid case for how their solutions help address top SMB challenges—which are to attract new customers, grow revenues and maintain profitability. In addition to broadening subscription-based cloud solution options (which offload big upfront investments), more vendors will offer flexible, alternative financing to help ease the financial burden—and gain a leg up on competitors.
  1. The SMB Progressive Class Gains Ground. That said, we also see a distinct category of SMBs that we are terming      “Progressive SMBs.” Despite economic uncertainties, Progressive SMBs plan to increase IT spending. These SMBs see technology as a vital tool for business transformation, a mechanism to create market advantage and a way to level the playing field against bigger companies. Although price is still a key factor for Progressive SMBs, they are more likely to rate other factors—such as easier to customize for my business, strong reputation and brand, and ability to provide local service and support—higher than other SMBs when making technology decisions, according to our 2011 SMB Routes to Market Study. Progressive SMBs invest more in technology and see the results in terms of higher revenue expectations. For instance, 73% of medium businesses that are investing more in technology anticipate revenue increases in 2012, compared to just 17% among those decreasing IT spending. Technology      vendors need to develop different marketing campaigns and more sophisticated solutions for Progressive SMBs than for their counterparts to win in this very important segment.
  1. The SMB Social Media Divide Grows. SMB use      of social media is rising. According to our 2011 Impact of Social Business in Small and Medium Business Study, about 50% of SMBs already use social media, and another 25% plan to do so within the next 12 months. The study revealed that about half of SMBs take a strategic and structured approach with social media. These      “strategically social” companies use social media for more activities, use more channels and are more satisfied with the business results than the other half of SMBs that are still throwing spaghetti on the Facebook wall.  These more informal, ad hoc users say that they don’t have enough time to use social media effectively; they can’t decide what social media strategies and tools will work best; it’s too difficult to integrate      social media with sales, marketing, service and other business processes; and they are unable to measure value from social media. As new social media tools—from crowd-sourced pricing to video commerce—take shape, SMB      social media “haves” will gain business ground on the “have-nots” in an exponential manner. As the have-nots lose ground, they will clamor for better social media guidance and easier-to-use, better integrated and more affordable social media management solutions.
  1. Cloud Becomes the New Normal. Is the      cloud perfect? No. Is it right for every solution and every business? No.  But that said, the rate and pace of technological change are in overdrive, and the need for businesses to harness new technology-based      solutions—social, mobile, analytics, etc.—to maintain a business edge is rising. Our 2011 SMB Routes to Market Study results      reveal that demand for cloud-based solutions is accelerating in almost all solution areas. For instance, in the past 24 months, only 7% of small businesses purchased or upgraded cloud accounting/ERP solutions, compared with 13% that plan to purchase them in the next 12 months. Areas that show the biggest potential for cloud gains in 2012 are marketing automation, business intelligence/analytics, and desktop virtualization solutions and services. Most SMBs simply don’t have the staff, expertise or capital budgets needed for do-it-yourself IT—and they can’t afford the time it takes to get business payback from a solution that they need to vet, buy,  install and deploy in-house. This makes the arguments for cloud computing—reduced capital costs, speed to deploy, and real-time collaboration and visibility—compelling. Demand for anytime, anywhere, any-device mobile access to applications will also accelerate cloud adoption, as many SMBs will want to offload management of mobile applications to a cloud solutions provider too. Enterprise players such as Oracle (with RightNow) and SAP (with SuccessFactors) have already begun their cloud shopping sprees. Look for traditional SMB vendors (Intuit, Microsoft, Sage, etc.) to join in the fun.
  1. Mobile Application Use Extends Beyond Email to Business Applications. In a custom study we completed this summer,  SMBs indicated that they plan to significantly increase spending on mobile devices and services in the next 12 months, with the highest jump in the 5-to-49–employee size band. The study revealed that with mobile use of collaboration apps (email, calendar, etc.) now mainstream, SMBs are  mobilizing business applications. Some of the strongest categories for SMB  current and planned mobile app use are mobile payments (52%), time management (59%), field service (59%), and customer information management (69%). This rapid uptake will also include more vertical apps that are a perfect fit for industry-specific needs, especially given the choice of both smart phone and tablet (read: iPad) form factors. Unfortunately, our crystal ball is cloudy when it comes to predicting if another vendor will be able to give Apple a run for its money in the business-use tablet market.
  1. Increased SMB Business Intelligence (BI) and Analytics Investments Are Sparked by the Social-Mobile-Cloud Triumvirate. According to our 2011 SMB Routes to Market Study, 16% of small and 29% of medium businesses purchased/upgraded a BI solution within the past 24 months, and 16% and 28%, respectively, plan to do so in the next 12 months. The social-mobile-cloud triumvirate will fuel new and increased SMB investments in this area as businesses try to plow through the growing data avalanche to get to the insights they need to grow their businesses. As SMBs try to get a better handle on customers’      and prospects’ opinions and influence networks, interest in sentiment analysis and social graphing solutions will grow. New mobile access capabilities and applications from BI vendors designed to provide SMBs with just the information they need, when and where they need it, will spur interest as well. Finally, our study indicated that roughly a third of SMBs use or plan to use cloud-based BI and analytics solutions. An expanding array of cloud options in this area will make it easier and more affordable for more SMBs to deploy these solutions.
  1. Managed Services Meet Mobile. Despite momentum toward the cloud, it will continue to be a hybrid world for a very long time. Many SMBs will continue to use existing on-premises apps  and choose on-premises deployment as security, regulatory or other needs dictate. So most SMBs will continue to grapple with IT infrastructure management—even as new mobile device management and governance challenges  grow. SMB adoption of mobile phones and tablets is now on par with that of traditional landline phones, according to our 2011 SMB Collaboration and Communication Study. With employees more likely to lose a smart phone than a laptop, security issues abound and will only increase. The “bring your own device” (BYOD) phenomenon creates additional concerns, not least of which is to create a firewall between personal and business data. These SMB challenges provide ample opportunity for wireless carriers, networking vendors, MSPs and others that can provide integrated and automated managed services. These are likely to include services that encompass management of cloud-based infrastructure and all end-point devices, from desktop PCs, tablets and smart phones to purpose-built mobile devices; network services to reduce downtime and help optimize the network that mobile access relies on; and support for cloud-based dual-persona solutions on personal mobile      devices.
  1. The Accidental Entrepreneur Spikes Demand for No-Employee Small Business Solutions. As unemployment has increased, so has the number of freelancers, contractors, independent consultants and others choosing to go it alone. According to      the U.S. Census Bureau, small businesses without a payroll make up more than 70% of America’s 27 million companies, with annual sales of $887 billion. Many entrepreneurs never intended to take this path, but stay solo because they prefer it to going back to the corporate payroll. Others      stick it out due to limited employment options. Either way, more accidental entrepreneurs view what they’re doing as a long-term business venture instead of a short-term stopgap. As a result, they see themselves more as business owners than as freelancers or contractors. But many have no intention or desire to hire employees. This will spike demand for—and growth of—applications and services that help them to achieve their business goals without adding employees. Traditional small business powerhouses (Intuit, Sage, etc.), pioneers in the SOHO space (FreshBooks,      Shoebox, Zoho, etc.), new start-ups and others will increasingly cater to their needs with solutions that make it easier for them to fly solo—whether from a home office or on the go.
  1. Increased Adoption of Collaboration and Communication Services in Integrated Suites. As evidenced in our 2011 SMB Collaboration and Communication Study, the SMB pendulum is swinging from point solutions for voice, communications, social media and collaboration solutions to integrated suites. Medium      businesses are leading the charge, with 28% currently using an integrated collaboration suite, and 35% planning to do so in the next 12 months. Small businesses are slower to make this leap, but a transition is under way here too. By moving from disparate point solutions to an integrated offering, SMBs can avoid the hassles of learning to use multiple user interfaces, going to different sites to login and remembering different passwords—in short, things that waste time and frustrate users. They also can lower costs and improve their ability to collaborate effectively. A  growing roster of low-cost (or free), easy-to-use integrated collaboration suites (Google Apps, Microsoft Office 365, IBM LotusLive and HyperOffice, to name a few) are adding fuel to the convergence fire—although vendors will still need to address the obstacle of user resistance to learning  something new.
  2. The IT Channel Continues to Shape-Shift. The trend triumvirate—cloud, social and mobile—is also reshaping the IT channel. These trends are moving the goal posts and changing the ways in which channel partners add value. Cloud computing reduces the need for hardware, software and infrastructure deployment skills, and ups the ante for educational guidance, business process transformation and integration skills. Re-imagined channel partner programs from vendors such as Intacct and IBM’s Software Group have blossomed as they shift partner rewards to focus more on value-add and renewals. Meanwhile, non-traditional IT partners, such as creative and marketing agencies, have stepped in to fill a gap by providing social media and digital marketing services for solutions such as Radian6 and HubSpot. In the mobile domain, partners will need to bring more value to help SMBs develop and implement mobile strategies, and offer solutions to manage mobile devices and applications and provide better network performance, reliability and redundancy. As with any significant inflection point, the cloud-social-mobile trend necessitates that older partner models continue to move aside as new, more relevant ones take shape.

October 4, 2009

Could Video Conferencing become the SMB segment ‘Killer App’ ? At least Cisco thinks so with the Tandberg acquisition!

Good move by Cisco. The key beneficiary of Cisco’s acquisition of Tandberg will be the SMB and mid-market. Cisco already has video Telepresence solutions. However, these Telepresence solutions are primarily enterprise solutions – way beyond the affordability of the SMB (1-499 employees) or the mid-market enterprises (500-1000 employees). Both segments together are referred to as SMB in this blog.

The SMBs and vendors (that service this segment) are rapidly comprehending the business value and short-term ROI that Video Conferencing solutions offer. The global SMB video conferencing solutions and services market opportunity is around $150M in 2010 and forecasted to grow at an annual rate of around 9%. The SMB segment purpose built, cost effective, standards based solutions (from vendors like Tandberg and Polycom) coupled with rapidly declining prices of high throughput network bandwidth are now making the SMB video conferencing market very interesting.

In my 2 previous blogs, I have addresses the market opportunity for these solutions and vendors that provide solutions: Video Conferencing Solution – Now Affordable by the SMBs, SMB’s turning to Conferencing Solutions in tough economic times

Tandberg has an extensive video conferencing solutions family purpose built for the SMB market. With the introduction of the Quick Set C20 solutions, they have priced these solutions more in-line with what the SMB market can afford. What Tandberg lacked was a channel that could sell and service the SMB market – hence, not much of a installed base.

What does Tandberg bring to the Cisco-Tandberg party?

  • A complete set of video conferencing solutions for the SMB market that are standards based
    • Personal, desktop to conference room based video conferencing solutions
    • Desktop video conferencing phone with E20 and the MPX desktop solutions
    • PC based video conferencing with Movi
    • Conference room based solutions from standard def. to HD with the Quick Set C20
  • Almost no product overlap between Cisco and Tandberg in the SMB segment
  • The recent acquisition of Nortel Enterprise Div. by Avaya makes them the market leader in the SMB IP Communications segment. Cisco’s differentiation for these products was diminishing. Adding video conferencing to the Cisco product portfolio will provide the required differentiation.

What does Cisco bring to the Cisco-Tandberg party?

The Cisco/Tandberg pairing will open-up opportunities for Polycom to work with vendors such as Avaya, Nortel, HP (a Tandberg partners) – as they compete with Cisco in the SMB segment.

Cisco’s strength in integrating some of the SMB segment based acquisitions has been less than stellar, especially in the collaboration area. Acquisition such as WebEx, Jabber, PostPath have lost the momentum they once possessed before the Cisco acquisition. Hopefully Cisco will do a better job integrating Tandberg.

One private company (which is a partner of Tandberg) that will make a good acquisition target for Cisco is Broadsoft. They could provide Cisco the push and presence with the global service providers for hosted VoIP and Unified Communications solutions that Cisco currently lacks or are not much of a competitor.

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June 15, 2009

Intuit’s Federated Apps Cloud Computing Partner Platform Will Provide Very Significant Benefits to ISVs

Filed under: Cloud Computing, Cloud Computing Platform, Collaboration, community knowledge, ISV, mid-market, SaaS, SMB strategy — sanjeevaggarwal @ 2:38 pm

One of the key technology pain-point (for SMBs) relate to multiple disparate SaaS/on-premise based business and collaboration applications that do not talk to each other (requiring re-entry of the same data) and each with their own separate access, UI, billing and pricing schemas – making it very difficult for them to resolve problems when they occur as they cannot triage the source of the problem. These SMBs lack the IT resources to identify the source of problems in an environment of multiple SaaS applications or have the capabilities integrate multiple soiled SaaS applications (each with a different UI, access requirements and billing platforms) and infrastructure services.

Intuit has a deep understanding of the SMB market based on its proven track record as leading business applications vendor in the U.S. Based on this in-sight, Intuit has developed a much more expansive CONNECTED SERVICES strategy to address the above mentioned technology problem – by providing a platform to connect and distribute all the varied cloud-based SMB applications and also providing a cloud-based development platform for ISVs that want to develop on the Intuit QuickBase platform.

Why is this of value to the ISVs that want to service the 6 million plus SMB companies in the U.S.?

This federated application capability now available on the Intuit IPP. Every application on the IPP will work together, use a single username and password, and be accessible via browser. Some of the federated applications will also work with the Intuit family of products. To make all these applications work in harmony on the IPP – Intuit will run a security assessment and privacy policy review on these applications prior to publication on the IPP. The four integration points for the federated applications are:

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June 10, 2009

Video Conferencing Solution – Now Affordable by the SMBs

Filed under: Channels, Collaboration, Conferencing, mid-market, SMB strategy, video — Tags: , , , , , — sanjeevaggarwal @ 10:06 pm

As the on-premise systems now support reservationless On-demand conferencing, they let employees hold impromptu meeting, without pre-scheduling these meetings – allowing them to collaborate when they need to, with whomever they need to, provided both parties have access to compatible video conferencing systems.

Vendors are recognizing the market opportunity and value of video conferencing solutions for the SMB market and are making available systems that are affordable and easy-to-install/ use/manage because SMBs typically don’t have the IT staff to support these solution. In some instances these solutions can be managed remotely by VARs and service providers. However, they are still a ways away from a price that will explode mainstream adoption in the global SMB markets.

Video conferencing solutions fall in three broad categories:

Video conferencing solutions vendors are now developing products and solutions designed specifically for the SMB and mid-market. These systems are easy-to-use and priced appropriately for this market segment. Polycom’s QDX6000 system is now available for under $4,000. The QDX6000 is a full featured SMB product that offers high resolution DVD quality video room-based video conferencing solution that has low-bandwidth requirements. A these price points, SMBs can pay for the systems by reducing travel expenses – reduction of 2-3 business trips can now pay for these solutions providing short-term ROI.

Video conferencing solutions are leading to more frequent meetings between distributed workers (and in several cases with outsourcing partners), and providing improved productivity by speeding product development by helping teams triage and resolve problems faster. This is especially true for SMBs that sales and development office in the U.S., outsourced software development locations in India, and outsourced manufacturing in China and Latin America.

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June 3, 2009

The next generation Contact Center – Social Networking + Traditional Contact Center

Filed under: Collaboration, community knowledge, Contact Center, mid-market, SaaS, salesforce.com, SMB strategy, social networking, twitter — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — sanjeevaggarwal @ 11:41 pm

The traditional contact centers now support more real-time communications technologies – VoIP, IVR, e-mail, IM. However, the intelligence and information repositories that are leveraged by these contact centers is very much static and internally focused.

With the growing popularity of social networking and community knowledge, where contact center agents can take advantage of consumers/customers helping each other with issues and queries – reducing the number of inquiry interactions the contact center service reps have to make, delivery real cost savings and improving the contact center ROI. The issue is – the lack of a comprehensive easy-to-use solution that integrates blogs, social networking sites (Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, etc.) and search to easily aggregate the desired knowledge and mesh it with the internal knowledge repository, including the customer information stored in the enterprises CRM systems.

I was at the Salesforce.com CloudForce.com seminar some time ago, where they showcased their service cloud strategy. This Service Cloud showed an elegant and easy-to-use dashboard to present and search the popular social networking sites to the contact center agents – this will help them take advantage of all the community knowledge without spending a lot of time and effort following individual solutions like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, WordPress,

Traditional contact center solutions when integrated with an easy-to-use comprehensive community knowledge solution – presents a market disruption elevating this new contact center solution to one that provides significantly higher ROI and customer satisfaction. The Salesforce.com ServiceCloud can be integrated with the traditional contact centers solutions that have primarily relied on static internal information to service the customers, and have been separated from the community knowledge in the cloud from social networking conversations, blogs and Google. The Service Cloud presents an excellent dashboard to bring these two disparate clouds to establish a cloud-based customer service platform and knowledge for contact/call centers – for customer service agents, customer self-service portals and partners. SIP and presence enable this cloud service platform, and it is ready for some very significant communication and collaboration – via VoIP phones (click to call), e-mail, or IM based conversations.

Why is this of value to Customer Contact Center solutions companies? The current leading Contact Center solutions from the leading telecom equipment vendors like Avaya, Cisco, and Nortel are more along the lines of the traditional on-premise solutions and do not present an easy solution to integrate the cloud-based community knowledge, except in some cases they have integrated search solutions by integration with Google. The Salesforce.com Service Cloud platform can be used to provide an integrated internal knowledge base and the community knowledge/social network (enterprises can define the scope, and members of their communities) from Twitter, Facebook, blogs, Google search, etc. In addition, one can include CRM to monitor customer satisfaction, address any questions/concerns, resolve problems quickly, provide product tips and tricks, and send out information in the customers’ preferred way of communication – without long waiting times or endless forwards and escalations. This could present a disruptive service solution which has the capability to significantly improve customer satisfaction and at the same time reduce the cost to provide this service.

This presents a good partnership opportunity for the traditional contact center application vendors to integrate with the social networking/community knowledge cloud-based service platform without the long internal development cycle. Adopting the Salesforce.com Service Cloud platform will provide a 1-2 years time-to-market advantage vs. the vendors that choose to do it themselves.

 


 

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Social Networking – The SMB challenge and how the SMBs can gain value from Salesforce.com Cloud Service solution

Filed under: Collaboration, community knowledge, Contact Center, mid-market, salesforce.com, SMB strategy, social networking, twitter — Tags: , , , , , , , , — sanjeevaggarwal @ 10:33 pm

Social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, WordPress are all the range in the B2B and B2C world today. But does the SMB business owners/CEOs or a lone marketing person have the time to devote to track and follow these sites without spending an inordinate amount to time and effort – especially when there is no clearly identifiable direct linkage that this leads to increased sales. How can SMBs participate in and leverage these market trends effectively to address their business and marketing needs?

All these social networking sites present vast amount of unstructured information to the SMBs. In addition, SMBs are also beginning to see a large number of e-mails sent to our e-mail In-boxes from these social sites – leading to information overload, and in many cases turning away the SMB that could benefit from it. What is needed is a solution that aggregates information from all these social networking/community knowledge sites and presents it to the SMBs in a manner that make the information (which at times is very valuable) more easily consumable and easily searchable.

I was at the Salesforce.com CloudForce.com seminar some time ago, where they showcased their social networking integration and service cloud strategy. The Service Cloud shows an elegant and easy-to-use dashboard to present and search the popular social networking sites to the SMB and mid-market enterprises – this will help the SMBs take advantage of all the community knowledge without spending a lot of time and effort following individual solutions like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, WordPress, etc. CRM platform has the potential to pull together information/community knowledge from the various social networking sites and meaningfully relate it current customers, prospects, and partners to deliver more engaging conversations and communications – providing significantly better ROI compared to an ad-hoc social networking access.

Social networking & community services do have the potential to:

SMBs are actively exploring how to participate and incorporate all of these social networking sites/feeds to develop a social networking strategy that drives a broader marketing and services strategy.

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April 3, 2009

CitrixOnline #GoToMeeting is the leading Web Conferencing and Collaboration solution for Small Businesses

Filed under: Collaboration, Conferencing, mid-market, SaaS, SMB strategy — sanjeevaggarwal @ 4:22 pm

In a recent Twitter Tweetchat discussion hosted by @sbbuss, majority of the small businesses mentioned #GoToMeeting as their solution of choice for Web Conferencing and Collaboration.

The web conferencing software and services market is becoming highly competitive, lead by the presence of a few major brands and a plethora of small vendor. Web conferencing is an integral workplace application that is used for communications and collaboration.

Small businesses are primarily using hosted web conferencing services offered by service providers on a on-demand SaaS (Software as a Service)  delivery model for a flexible licensing model based on pay-as-you-use fee (cost per user per minute) or fixed fee (cost per seat per month). Medium businesses use a mixture of these hosted and in some cases on-premise IP-PBX based web conferencing solutions.

Designed for the unique needs of SMB enterprises, leading web conferencing vendors are striving for ease-of-use, simplicity, efficient network performance and flexibility in their licensing and pricing models.

Key Drivers for Web Conferencing:

Vendors The leading global web conferencing vendors based on number of customers/registered users are Cisco/#WebEx, Microsoft LiveMeeting, CitrixOnLine #GoToMeeting, and IBM #Sametime Unyte and Lotus SameTime.

In the small business segment, #CitrixOnline GoToMeeting has the largest share driven by the very visible and successful TV advertisement campaigns.

Several new web conferencing startups – like DimDim, Yugma – based on open source are promoting free hosted solutions with basic features for a small number of users (usually 10) and charging SMBs as the number of users increases or for a customer hosted version. The question is ‘Are SMBs jumping to the free bandwagon?’ There always will be the small businesses (mainly SoHo users) that are looking to use these vendors on an ad-hoc basis where communications are not mission critical. SMBs do not want a repeat of the internet bubble where all these types of ‘free stuff’ companies got wiped out.

Applications/Markets This application is now used extensively horizontally across all small and mid-market companies. Sales, marketing (product announcements, partner recruitment, investor conferences), training (for distributed employees, partners, and customers), project management, and product development are the key application segments.

Vertical industries including financial services, technology, manufacturing, healthcare, construction, law, education, and professional services are among the top adopters of web conferencing solutions.

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