While most technology trends and threats of disruption apply equally to companies of all sizes, approaches to managing IT and embracing new technologies are unique to business size and scale. So, this year we conducted the Insight 2020 Technology Report: IT Trends for Midmarket and Small Business.
It’s true that technology moves fast — but it does so in order to keep up with the speed of people. Small businesses are constantly disrupting established industries. New generations of workers are transforming the way we work.
I have 20 years of technology sales experience and have logged thousands of hours of conversations with clients. IT trends change, but one thing remains the same: Technology is driven by the needs of people — and technology works best when people are put first. In other words, technology should never get in the way. Implementing, using and managing IT should be seamless. But that’s rarely the case.
According to our 2020 Technology Report, 41% of companies use between six and 10 vendors to support their IT needs. And unsurprisingly, they identified a number of negative outcomes, from vendor coordination to technology integration. Some of the top concerns highlighted in the report include:
I often hear from clients about the headaches attached to vendor coordination, such as tracking down the correct service provider when an IT problem occurs. When solutions are split across various hardware and software vendors, the division of responsibility isn’t always clear.
To eradicate the pain points caused by multivendor entanglement, technology companies are growing and evolving to provide more holistic services. Insight’s position as a super solution integrator, for example, means we not only have expertise across all areas of IT — we’re also capable of architecting and managing solutions from end to end.
Consolidating IT services to one trusted partner can be tremendously beneficial by creating clarity and simplicity to IT spend, prevent siloed solutions (and even create more connected and robust solutions thanks to a holistic view of your IT landscape), streamline communications and more.
Of course, not all clients are comfortable with putting all of their IT “eggs” in one basket. Getting to a point where all of your IT needs are handled by a single IT partner takes trust.
At Insight, we often begin a client relationship with one solution or service. We get to know the business holistically — from the people who make technology decisions down to the end users. By understanding the people behind the technology, we can act as a bridge to bring IT teams together to help solve their complex challenges. The relationship I have with my clients spans many years, which really allows me to get to know the unique challenges they face and provide thoughtful recommendations to help them find more efficient ways of doing things.
But before entrusting a single technology partner, there are a few things to consider. First and foremost, choose a company that’s vendor agnostic. Recommended technology should be based on best-fit options, not just because a brand happens to be a preferred vendor. You’ll also want to make sure you work with a partner that can scale with you and meet you in your own backyard. This will make it easier to prepare for and respond to growth and change as it occurs.
Finally, insist on a partner who can provide customized solutions to fit your unique business needs. This can be challenging for midmarket and small businesses. According to our report, 42% of survey respondents are very or extremely frustrated that technology vendors cater to enterprises and 40% say vendors don’t understand their needs as a small or midmarket business.
Ultimately, your IT partner should serve as an extension of your business and your team. IT teams today are often stretched thin, pressured to do more with less. Your IT team should feel confident — and perhaps relieved — to have additional support. Your partner should be a trusted consultant to help you plan and execute a strong IT strategy.
Sometimes, before you can think about how to be innovative in your business, you have to first look at how to optimize and maximize what exists today. How can the company run more efficiently? Where can you reduce costs? And then, where can you invest smartly for the long term?
If you’re in the C-suite, chances are you’re concerned about budget. Our report found that IT budgets are pretty evenly shared among maintenance for current equipment and infrastructure (28%), investing in upgraded IT infrastructure (26%) and adopting new technologies for digital innovation (26%). The remaining 20% of IT budget is dedicated for expansion and employee growth.
There’s growing enthusiasm behind bundled services and subscription models to offset capital expenses. Organizations see this OpEx approach as a more cost-effective means of equipping their workplaces with modern technology. In fact, 84% of those surveyed have adopted a subscription-based, “as a service” model to manage their IT.
One area where our midmarket and small business clients have done an excellent job of investing is digital innovation. An overwhelming 95% of IT professionals surveyed said they had already implemented a digital innovation initiative or plan to start one within the next 12 months.
It’s a common notion that the bigger the company, the slower things move and the harder it is to make change. Maybe that’s why midmarket and small businesses express enthusiasm in their ability to adapt. According to the report, 64% believe their IT program is very or extremely flexible with respect to adapting to organizational change and scaling as the business grows.
To that end, 57% boast their ability to implement new technologies — but here’s where bigger organizations pull ahead as that number grows to 71% among the largest businesses surveyed.
Midmarket and small businesses are eager to apply digital innovation to create better customer experiences, improve operational efficiency and enhance workforce productivity. This is the trifecta for successful business these days because one category of the business directly influences the next. Customers need to have a positive experience to come back. And to provide great customer experiences, businesses need to run as efficiently as possible by ensuring employees are set up for success.
Those organizations that haven’t yet begun digital innovation initiatives are often stalled because they don’t know where to start, which vendor(s) to use or whether they have budget to support an initiative. This is an area where a super solution integrator can help. With a holistic view of your IT environment, a single IT provider can work collaboratively with you to uncover opportunities to deploy new solutions that will further maximize your existing IT in meaningful ways.
When I began my career in technology sales 20 years ago, I walked into an office on my first day and sat down at a cubicle. Just six years ago I sat in an office during normal business hours and worked on desktop with a 17-inch monitor.
Today, I only spend a fraction of my time at a desk because I’m on the move, connected to the office from the cloud, taking calls and joining web meetings via mobile, meeting clients where they are and balancing work with my personal life.
Business has changed. We see it here at Insight and we hear about it from our clients. With workers becoming increasingly remote or on the go, staying connected is critical — and companies understand and are embracing the new mobile workforce. In fact, 55% say their technology is effective at supporting a remote workforce. As the future of work continues to shift, you’ll need to ensure employees have access to all the tools they need to support your business, no matter where they are.
From a long list of technology solutions, IT leaders pointed to the cloud as the technology expected to have the greatest impact on company growth in 2020. However, there continues to be a lot of misunderstanding about the cloud.
While clients see the potential of cloud technology, security concerns are preventing 50% of survey respondents from migrating. Other top concerns for cloud implementation include compliance, workload assessment and costs. Small to midmarket businesses often assume cloud solutions will be too expensive for them, but more often than not, the cloud turns out to be a smart investment. While costs can feel overwhelming, adequate time and research can help you decide on a cloud solution that fits your needs and your budget.
At Insight, we’re always happy to meet with clients to answer questions and offer our expertise, but I also encourage clients to shop around. A vendor-agnostic IT provider should provide you with options customized to your IT environment and needs. Take the time to meet with different IT partners and also go directly to cloud providers. Discuss and gain clarity around your short- and long-term goals. Ask about pricing models. Challenge providers with your security concerns. Comfort and confidence in your cloud solution are critical.
The challenge for nearly all IT teams is finding ways to do more, with less. The IT supply chain is an ideal starting place to maximize efficiency in order to save time and money.
Over the years, technology has been infused into the IT procurement and deployment process to do just that. For example, when businesses used to order devices they’d be delivered in the box and then set up and configured on-site. Now, when clients order devices, it’s standard for them to ask about imaging and asset tagging. End users receive their devices, log in for the first time and their system is 100% ready for them to get straight to work.
According to the 2020 Technology Report, 56% of IT professionals feel confident that they have optimized processes for procuring, maintaining and replacing technology. But there’s always room for improvement. E-procurement systems are a necessity in order to maintain governance for purchasing (which, according to our report, is particularly important to smaller organizations of 10–250), along with visibility over spend and simplification in reporting.
Because software is such a critical component for any business, many clients I talk to are looking for ways to simplify software management and reduce costs. Effective Software Asset Management (SAM) tools add tremendous value by automating software renewals, bringing visibility to unused software instances and ensuring organizations are in compliance with software agreements. In fact, “using SAM tools to optimize purchasing” is a top focus for improvement for 53% of IT leaders, according to our report.
Additionally, IT leaders are focused on bringing more automation to their procurement process. 63% have already fully automated their current process or have automated some of the processes with plans to automate further. It’s not hard to understand why — with fewer menial tasks on their plate, IT teams can focus on larger, more innovative projects that help forward the business as a whole.
If you’re looking for one area of IT to improve in 2020, I advise fully optimizing your supply chain. An optimized supply chain opens the door for the other things because it stabilizes the budget. When you have visibility over hardware and software use, optimized licensing management and controlled spending, you can see where your budget is going and where there’s room to increase investments.
Or, if you don’t have the budget for more, you can investigate where you might be overspending or where you can cut back and plan for the next year.
2020 is sure to be another exciting year for emerging technology, bringing more changes to the workplace — and yes, more industry disruptors. But at the end of the day, business success stories will come from those who are able to build meaningful, human connections and apply technology in ways that improve the human experience.
To learn more, you can read the full report here.