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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.

Revolutionizing the Workplace: Cisco Webex’s AI Innovations

My journey with Cisco and its Webex product began when I established Techaisle. At that time, Zoom was not even on the horizon. Initially, GoToMeeting was my go-to platform for presentation collaboration, but we eventually transitioned to Webex. However, we switched as the Techaisle team grew and MS Teams was introduced. In the past two years, I have expanded my toolkit to include Webex, the Webex Desk Pro, Webex Desk Mini, Webex camera, and most recently, the Bang & Olufsen Cisco 950 wireless earbuds. Besides Webex, I have used these devices with various platforms, including Zoom, Teams, and Google Meet. The interoperability has been impressive, and the performance of the Webex devices has been outstanding.

But I am getting ahead of myself.

The recent WebexOne event marked a significant shift and showcased a transformed platform. Webex has shed its old skin and emerged as a rejuvenated entity steered by a team of exceptional executives. 

The digital revolution has reshaped the business landscape, with hybrid work becoming a cornerstone of modern corporate culture. Yet, the transition to hybrid work models is not without its challenges. Many organizations struggle to foster a consistent work culture and build high-performing teams in this new environment. Technological disparities, such as inconsistent internet connectivity, further complicate matters, impacting workforce productivity and inclusivity. This digital divide can lead to a sense of exclusion among employees facing connectivity issues, undermining the inclusivity of hybrid workplaces.

Webex is dedicated to helping organizations overcome these obstacles. By integrating Artificial Intelligence (AI) into its platform, Webex has enhanced its efficiency, user-friendliness, and audio, video, and language processing capabilities. The platform now boasts advanced noise cancellation, speech-to-text conversion, automatic camera framing, facial recognition, and real-time automatic language translation, making meetings more accessible and productive. These AI-driven enhancements were unveiled at the WebexOne 2023 event.

webexone23

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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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Techaisle study reveals that the Cloud is closing the gap between strategy and execution for SMBs and Midmarket firms

In a genuine sense, the discussion of “the cloud” is similar in scope to the discussion of “IT.” In both cases, use is a given, but the scope and impact of that use are critical to the operational effectiveness and competitiveness.

In today’s world, there is little distinction between “business infrastructure” and “digital business infrastructure;” in recent SMB survey research, Techaisle found that executives from nearly all upper midmarket firms (1000-4999 employees) agree that we have reached a “post-digital” state where all business strategy discussions include digital considerations.

Cloud is the linchpin for these strategies. A Techaisle survey of more than 2,000 firms, segmented into small business (1-99 employees), core midmarket (100-999), and upper midmarket (1000-4999), found that across this broad spectrum, SMBs universally see cloud as a way to reduce IT and operational costs, increase operational agility, and support improved business processes that drive increased efficiency and profitability.

Cloud in an SMB Business Context

For more than a decade, the cloud has been touted as a means of enabling SMBs to capture IT benefits that were previously the sole province of large enterprises: the ability to achieve both IT cost-efficiency and the competitive edge arising from ubiquitous automation that accelerates processes and unlocks the potential of new relationships, offerings, and markets. Today, SMBs and midmarket firms are seeking a zero-friction future: a state in which businesses can seamlessly deploy and integrate capabilities across multiple business areas, creating fluid systems linking core functions to new approaches to engagement, insight, and innovation.

Since 2014, the path forward has proved to be more fractious than the vision. In most SMBs, the cloud itself advanced in fits and starts, with early attempts at hosted private cloud and use of public cloud to support business-critical workloads snagging on unclear platform standards, a lack of experienced talent, economic worries, and a delivery horizon which remained stubbornly beyond practical experience. But in time, knowledge and improved technologies have addressed the rough edges.

Cloud is increasingly able to deliver real benefits to SMBs: it is both a priority and a current reality, providing business infrastructure that connects strategy and execution, responding to changing business requirements, changing customer and supplier expectations, volatile competitive pressures, and new opportunities for automation of both systems and system-dependent processes and workflows.

Six truths about cloud in the SMB

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Techaisle study shows the Complex Reality of SMBs and Cybersecurity

SMB buyers are acutely aware of the threat cyber attacks pose to their businesses. The Techaisle SMB and Midmarket Security Adoption Trends survey of 2,035 IT and business decision-makers from SMB and upper midmarket firms found that nearly 30% of SMBs (1-999 employees) consider cyber attacks to be among the top three issues facing their business, with an additional 26% stating that it is the most pressing/critical IT issue facing their firms. However, less than half of the respondents were more optimistic, choosing one of three responses: “it is a critical issue, but we have established best practices to control cyber attacks,” “it is one of many different issues, and we are satisfied with our status,” or “cyber attacks are not a significant issue.”

Drilling down, we see that small businesses (1-99 employees) are less inclined to see cyber threats as a top-one IT issue or a top-three business issue; this likely arises from the fact that SMBs have less mature IT operations (meaning that many factors that are controlled in larger firms could represent top IT issues) and that they face a wide array of daily business challenges. The data showing that small businesses are likelier to have established best practices to control cyber attacks probably isn’t grounded in market reality: small businesses that handle security internally lack the resources needed to deploy optimal defenses.

However, those relying on a capable third party may reasonably claim to use best practices. Most worrying from this data, though, are the top two bars, indicating that 22% see cybersecurity as “one of many issues, and we are satisfied with our status,” with another 12% claiming that “cyber-attacks are not a significant issue.” There are small businesses – for example, individuals billing larger businesses for hourly labor – for whom cyber attacks wouldn’t represent a critical issue. However, the data shows that one-third of small businesses are unconcerned about cybersecurity. In contrast, independent studies show that most small businesses fail within six months of being breached. Techaisle thinks these businesses likely struggle to find financial justification for investments in meaningful cyber defense and instead persuade themselves that this is not a real business problem for them. Techaisle suspects that many of these firms are tuned into vulnerabilities associated with digital business practices and might be persuadable concerning the value of cybersecurity if issues and remedies were clearly and convincingly presented to them.

Core midmarket (100-999 employees) and upper midmarket (1000-4999 employees) businesses take a more proactive view of these issues. Approximately two-thirds of respondents in each group view cyber attacks as either their most critical IT issue or a top-three business issue, with the core midmarket group evenly split between these positions and the upper midmarket more likely to identify cyber as a top IT concern. More than 80% of these organizations are focused on establishing effective cyber defenses and should be viewed as prime candidates for effective solutions.

Should SMBs worry about cyber attacks?

The data above begs a related question: Is the lack of concern demonstrated by small businesses rooted in reality – is it the case that one-third of respondents don’t have much to fear from cyber-attacks?

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