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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.

Cisco’s Master Plan for Seizing the SMB Market Opportunity

According to data from Techaisle, it is projected that the global IT expenditure of small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) will escalate to a staggering US$1.35 trillion by 2024. Furthermore, this spending is anticipated to experience a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.7%, extending through 2028. Cisco is making a significant push into the SMB market, a segment where it has enjoyed steady growth. In fiscal year 2023, which concluded in July, the SMB segment was Cisco’s top-performing customer category for a third consecutive year. Cisco sees this segment as a $25 billion addressable market opportunity, captured with mid to high-tier SMBs transitioning to cloud and SaaS solutions. Notably, about 20% of Cisco’s SMB business comes from new customers every year, underscoring this segment's critical role in expanding Cisco’s reach and reflecting on the growing demand for technology amongst SMBs.

Cisco’s go-to-market in the SMB segment is partner-led, catalyzed with continuous partner-focused programs, initiatives, and marketing investments to foster robust relationships. According to the latest research by Techaisle, a significant majority of SMBs, 87%, depend on their partners for technology solutions. Furthermore, these SMBs channel nearly 89% of their IT expenditure through these partners. Cisco is, therefore, continuously enhancing its engagement with partners, revamping its marketing strategies, and adapting to the changing needs of its customers. A vital part of this strategy is the focus on the new “Scale” go-to-market initiative, aligned to engaging SMB customers and Partners in this space, as unveiled at the company’s sales kickoff meeting in August. This model offers partners and customers enhanced sales and marketing support, ensuring that SMBs receive expert advice in crucial care-about areas such as cybersecurity or hybrid work.

The concept of “digital transformation” has become a staple in corporate discussions over the years. While some may write it off as a fad, many, particularly SMBs, understand its importance. For these businesses, digital transformation involves adopting digital technologies to streamline operations, improve customer relationships, and position themselves as agile and innovative entities in their respective fields. Techaisle data reveals that 71% of SMBs are investing in digital transformation, and 37% have a holistic digital strategy. SMBs, once perceived as technologically behind, are actively embracing cloud solutions to meet their IT requirements. These technologies have become crucial to their digital transformation journey, enabling them to automate various operational aspects and gain a competitive advantage through essential business process automation tools, orchestration, and integration or advanced offerings like custom AI and analytics applications hosted on cloud platforms.

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SMB SD-WAN adoption unlocks business potential for MSPs

SMBs are wrestling with many challenges, including unreliable network connections, cybersecurity and privacy concerns, productivity issues, and support. In addition, SMBs are mindful of the need for help composing, deploying, and managing digital business infrastructure. The recent surge in remote work has also significantly increased the requirement for effective networks and network management and the complexity of deploying a holistic digital business infrastructure.

SMB networks and network management resources are not as sophisticated as those in enterprise environments. As a result, SMBs will encounter high incidences of network issues such as delivering robust support for videoconferencing and jittering and extending security across distributed applications, devices, and networks.

Networking, a necessary foundation for digital business infrastructure, is a particularly onerous IT management category. Techaisle survey data shows that managing network hardware or network support consumes 47% of SMB IT staff time.

In response to explosive increases in demand for deployment and support of digital business platforms, resource-constrained SMBs are looking for new solutions. They are looking for MSPs as external service providers – and they are looking at SD-WAN. Techaisle data shows that SD-WAN adoption among SMBs will likely grow by 160% within one year. The adoption growth rate is second only to 5G. There is a firm belief within the SMB community that SD-WAN is a critical technology for enabling digital transformation within the SMB segment.

This data indicates a significant and growing opportunity for MSPs to help SMBs deploy digital business infrastructure and manage the associated networking challenges. So what do MSPs need to do to capture this new business?

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SD-WAN adoption likely to increase by 145 percent within US SMB and Midmarket firms

SMBs are increasingly becoming aware of SD-WAN and its advantages. SD-WAN adoption is likely to grow by 145% within the US SMB market within a year. Techaisle survey data shows that today, only 10% of SMBs are currently using SD-WAN solutions, but 25% are planning adoption. Networks are a clear pain point for SMBs as they embark on digital transformation to align with the emerging requirements of the post-pandemic world. Networks consume scarce IT resources, and they are the critical link providing the connectivity that unlocks all other digital opportunities and potential. Techaisle’s survey data shows that 47% of SMB IT time is allocated to networking-related issues. Nearly 90% of SMBs believe that proactive, consistent network management to deliver ideal performance is important.

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Causation or correlation - The link between approaches to digital transformation and business success

Techaisle’s 2021 US SMB and Midmarket Digital transformation adoption trends research covering businesses from 1 to 4999 employees (collectively named mainstream businesses by Techaisle) shows a correlation between digital transformation and business growth. Unlike many IT market terms, which tie to specific technologies, digital transformation is most often used to indicate an amorphous state. A state in which firms can seamlessly deploy new digital capabilities that streamline current or next-step processes, eliminating the friction inherent in basing these capabilities on manual tasks and physical documents/inputs. SMBs and midmarket firms view digital transformation as a proxy for business process efficiency. For many years, it has been a management goal, embedded, usually without a consistent set of steps and defined outcomes, in the IT plans of a substantial majority of small businesses (1-99 employees) and more than 90% of midmarket (100-4999 employees) firms. The pandemic brought urgency to these plans. The speed reflected the management’s understanding that highly automated processes are essential in a business environment where physical interactions are awkward or forbidden, adding necessity to efficiency as compelling reasons to invest in digital transformation.

Digital transformation segments

To refine the current and planned digital transformation adoption status perspective, Techaisle segmented the market to one of four phrases to characterize organizations’ attitude or approach towards digitalization of existing processes –

  • Holistic: Digitalization is an essential aspect of overall business strategy
  • Inclusive: Digitalization is a meaningful but non-essential aspect of overall business strategy
  • Siloed: Digitalization strategies are underway in some departments, but there is no overall digitalization strategy for the business
  • In the shadows: Digitalization may be occurring in areas of the company, but it is neither a departmental nor overall business strategy
  • Nonexistent: Business has no digitalization activity or plan; firms have yet to begin digital transformation adoption.

Small business adoption of digital transformation is still at a primary stage. In 27% of small businesses (1-99), digital transformation is either “nonexistent, “in the shadows,” or “siloed.” However, this is vastly lower from 51% in 2020, indicating that small businesses drastically improved their approach to transformation within the last year. Midmarket firms, which have higher overall digital transformation adoption rates, are also much more advanced in their approaches. 90% of midmarket firms take either an “inclusive” or “holistic” approach to digital transformation today. Data shows that there has been an increase of 34% within midmarket firms (100-999) and a corresponding increase of 26% within upper midmarket firms (1000-4999) in their approach to holistic digital transformation from siloed or inclusive approaches.

Digital transformation and business growth

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