At a conceptual level, most mid-market decision-makers understand the need to capitalize on new digital technologies to sustain and grow their businesses. SMB Group survey research shows that 88% of decision-makers in medium business with 100-1,000 employees believe that technology solutions can help them to significantly improve business outcomes and/or run the business better.
But all too often, infrastructure technology vendors miss the mark when it comes to serving midmarket companies, for a couple of key reasons. First, “the midmarket” is an amorphous term, without a standard definition. Second, while many small businesses self-identify as being small businesses, few midmarket companies self-identify with the midmarket label.
Being grounded in their vertical makes more sense, as market requirements, competitive pressures, workflows and other dimensions of doing business differ dramatically between, say, a law firm with 200 employees, and a consumer manufacturer with 1,500 employees.
However, many midmarket companies face common challenges in an age where technology is transforming virtually every industry, with pressure from both large enterprises and startups. They need to compete against enterprise behemoths with deeper pockets, and greater technology and business expertise, and battle disruptive digital startups that can start with a clean slate–without legacy infrastructure and business models to complicate or limit their goals.
Dell Technologies (Dell EMC) recently conducted a survey among 4,000 midmarket and large businesses that underscores these challenges. The study assessed how business decision-makers are thinking about and planning to transform to survive and thrive in the digital era.
In this post, I discuss these challenges, and Dell EMC’s strategy to help midmarket companies refocus on key areas that they will need to adapt to compete effectively.
The Heat is On, But the Path Forward Isn’t Always Clear
Dell EMC’s study reveals that companies are clearly feeling the digital heat (Figure 1). Rapid technology innovation is fueling uncertainty about their businesses and industries, and fears that new competitors with new business models will threaten their businesses.
Figure 1: Business Decision Makers’ Concerns About the Digital Future
Source: Dell EMC and Vanson Bourne, Embracing A Digital Future Survey, 2016
In addition, 2/3 of respondents say they’re not doing a good enough job keeping pace with digital transformation. Even more alarming, roughly 60% say they are unable to meet customer demands in key areas such as product/service innovation, building trust, predicting opportunities, providing more personalized experiences, and operating the business in real-time. Several obstacles are impeding their capabilities in these areas, including:
- Insufficient budget and resources
- Inadequate skills & expertise
- Lack of senior support
- Technologies working at speed of business
- Data privacy and security concerns
These challenges are more daunting for midmarket companies than for large ones. According to SMB Group research, the #1 technology challenge for U.S. medium businesses is implementing new solutions, followed by keeping company information secure (Figure 2). Notably, just figuring out which technology solutions can best help the business is their number tech challenge, followed by keeping existing systems up and running. With annual median IT budgets between $250,000 to $499,999, it’s no wonder that containing technology costs rounds out the top five.
Figure 2: Medium Business Technology Budgets and Challenges
Source: SMB Group
Bringing Digital Transformation Into Focus for Midmarket Businesses
Given so many uncertainties and challenges, how can midmarket companies turn the somewhat fuzzy concept of digital transformation find the right formula to actually achieve it?
Dell EMC is tackling this by first, bringing the specifics of digital transformation into sharper focus, and second, by providing the technology foundation required to bring this transformation to life.
From Dell EMC’s vantage point, the following capabilities are core to achieving digital business transformation (Figure 3):
- Agile product/service development to accelerate go-to-market readiness
- Being able to predict new opportunities with real-time data and analytics
- Creating transparency to build customer trust
- Providing a personalized experience to engage and keep customers
- Operating the business in real-time using analytics for better decision-making
- Protecting business assets and people from cyber threats
Figure 3: Enabling Digital Transformation
Source: Dell EMC and SMB Group
Dell EMC views three technology pillars as essential to enable this:
- IT transformation to power business transformation. IT must add more value to the business, with capabilities to develop new applications and optimize infrastructure. By putting technologies such as cloud native applications, hybrid cloud, converged infrastructure and storage, big data and analytics, and Internet of Things (IoT) in place, businesses can automate and streamline existing operations, and be ready to spot and tap into new opportunities.
- Workforce transformation to help attract and keep the best talent. Changes in technology are reshaping what employees expect the workplace to be. Businesses need more effective, flexible ways to get work done and collaborate–anywhere, anytime and on any device. Innovative client devices and digital workspaces that afford easy yet secure access are critical to keep up with these shifts, and to improving key business metrics in areas from worker productivity and efficiency to customer satisfaction.
- Security transformation to help prevent breaches and business loss. Digital security must transform to support digital and business transformation. Businesses must stay ahead of rapidly evolving cyber threats to prevent breaches that can decimate or even destroy a business. As digital capabilities evolve into core business assets, midmarket companies need to update their security approach with solutions that help them proactively detect and respond to threats, manage access, prevent fraud, secure endpoints and the perimeter, and strengthen governance, risk and compliance practices to stay safe.
Summary and Perspective
The bulk of business transformation occurring today wouldn’t be possible if not for the technology transformation that underpins it. Not long ago, companies were struggling to ensure that IT operations were aligned with their business needs and objectives. Now, as digital increasingly becomes part of the business fabric, it’s becoming difficult to find any dividing line at all to separate business and IT. In a digitally driven world, IT and business are becoming inseparable sides of the same coin.
Resource constrained midmarket companies need to partner with providers that can help them determine what business transformation means for their individual companies, sort through the digital hype, and develop strategies to revamp their IT, workplace and security approach to streamline existing operations and create new business models that will move the business forward.
Of course, Dell EMC isn’t the only IT infrastructure player touting digital transformation in varying shapes and forms. However, Dell EMC is the only major player providing a one-stop shop for end-to-end, desktop to data center infrastructure solutions.
Dell EMC has also been a pioneer in workforce transformation. Over the past eight years, Dell EMC IT and human resources teams have collaborated to create a more flexible workplace. Today, 25% of Dell EMC’s workforce telecommutes (the company has a goal of having 50% of it’s workforce work remotely full or part-time by the year 2020), and Dell EMC has built a website devoted to helping IT, human resources and other decision-makers to figure out how to adapt their own workplaces for the future.
Finally, midmarket companies can’t start IT and business planning from scratch, and often need solutions that can plug into existing infrastructure. Dell EMC provides a full spectrum of solutions, from consumer to very small business, to midmarket and large enterprise. This puts Dell EMC in an advantaged position, as it can calibrate and scale infrastructure, workplace and security solutions for mid-market customers, regardless of where they are along the transformation curve.
Note: This post was sponsored by Dell Technologies.