SMB Adoption of Unified Communication and Collaboration (UCC) On the Rise

—by Sanjeev Aggarwal and Laurie McCabe

Today’s small businesses need the right mix of collaboration tools to create a productive work environment. SMBs looking for new collaboration solutions that will help them work smarter, and achieve top business goals of attracting new customers, growing revenue and improving customer experience. Flexible solutions that connect employees with each other and with customers and partners from any location, device or network will play a big part in achieving these goals.

But as SMBs increase their reliance on collaboration tools, managing and integrating multiple solutionsincluding email, instant messaging, voice, click-to-dial, presence, videoconferencing, and morecan become difficult. As a result, more SMBs are considering unified communications and collaboration (UCC) solutions to aggregate and integrate these functions and bring some order to collaboration chaos.

Mainstream VoIP Adoption Lays the Foundation for UCC

SMB adoption of voice over IP (VoIP) solutions is already well underway. According to SMB Group’s recently completed 2016 Small and Medium Business Communication, Collaboration and Mobility Study, 53% of small businesses (companies with less than 100 employees) and 68% of medium businesses (companies with 100 to 1,000 employees) are currently using VoIP. In addition, 16% and 10%, respectively, plan to implement VoIP within the  next 12 months.

Figure 1: SMB VoIP and UCC Adoption

b2-picture1-768x383Source: 2016 SMB Communication, Collaboration and Mobile Study

With a VoIP foundation in place, more SMBs are considering deploying UCC solutions. Currently, just 12% of small businesses (companies with less than 100 employees) and 28% of medium businesses (companies with 100 to 1,000 employees) use UCC solutions. But, over the next 12 months, 17% of small and 35% of medium businesses say they plan to deploy a UCC solution, potentially doubling year-over-year penetration.

SMBs Are Split on UCC Implementation Preferences

Our study shows differences in SMBs’ UCC implementation preferences. While small businesses tend to gravitate to cloud-based solutions, medium businesses are more likely to choose on-premises deployments. In addition, 14% of small and 20% of medium businesses favor a hybrid UCC approach.
Figure 2: SMB UCC Implementation Methods

b2-picture2-768x320Source: 2016 SMB Communication, Collaboration and Mobile Study

Drivers for UCC Adoption

As shown on Figure 3, SMBs are turning to UCC to:

  • Improve employee productivity from any location, device or network
  • Standardize communication and collaboration tools
  • Increase security
  • Easier to use, monitor and manage
  • Better integration between communication solutions and business applications
  • Lower telecommunication costs
  • Create a more professional image with customers, suppliers and partners

Figure 3: Top Reasons to use UCC

b2-picture3-768x340Source: 2016 SMB Communication, Collaboration and Mobile Study

UCC Solution Purchase Channels

32% of the small businesses and 23% of medium businesses have purchased or plan to buy their UCC solution from their traditional phone carrier (Figure 4). A greater percentage 28% of medium businesses have purchased these solutions from an Online UCC service provider vs. 24% of small businesses. Small businesses prefer to buy from channels they have an existing relationship with. Medium business that have some more IT resources prefer to buy from newer online channels or VARs (if their requirements are more complex).

Figure 4: UCC Solution Purchase Channels

b2-picture4-768x354Source: 2016 SMB Communication, Collaboration and Mobile Study

Most Important UCC Features

SMB survey respondents ranked the UCC features that are most important to them (Figure 5), with the following coming out on top:

  • Better security and compliance capabilities
  • Lower cost
  • Easier for end-users to use
  • Easier to integrate with other business applications
  • Easier and flexible to deploy, manage and extend
  • Better voice and video quality and reliability

Figure 5: SMB Rank Importance of UCC Features

b2-picture5-768x378Source: 2016 SMB Communication, Collaboration and Mobile Study

Summary and Perspective

The market opportunity for UCC in the U.S. SMB segment is around $4.5B. Adoption among both small business and medium business segments should be continue to rise, as more employees work away from their companies’ main offices. Traveling employees, telecommuters and employees in remote offices represent different types of mobile workers and cloud-based UCC solutions can help keep them connected—both among themselves and with their customers—in a more streamlined and manageable way.

Integrated UCC solutions that also connect easily with key business applications can further fuel adoption. And, UCC solutions can help SMBs gain more control, and as a result—security—when compared to a hodge-podge of disjointed point solutions.

Especially in the resource-constrained small business segment, cloud-based options, which offload deployment and management headaches, and offer more affordable subscription pricing, will continue to help facilitate UCC adoption among SMBs.

However, the concept of UCC as an integrated set of systems and applications is still confusing and complex for SMBs who have yet to adopt these solutions. UCC vendors and their channel partners need to help SMBs better understand benefits and evaluate the best-fit alternatives to best capitalize on the growing interest in UCC.

For a complete table of contents and ordering information for SMB Group’s 2016 Communication, Collaboration and Mobility Study, click here.

Act Local to Grow Global: Part 1, Entrepreneurs’ Organization

world-549425_640How can quality localization help small and medium businesses (SMBs) enter, sustain and grow their businesses internationally? I’ve been interviewing customers for this four-part blog series, sponsored by SDL, to learn more about how SMBs are using localization to improve customer experience and grow their businesses.

In each interview, we discuss the role that international markets play in these businesses’ growth strategies, and how they are using centralized language localization services help them improve engagement, sales and retention in overseas markets.

In this first interview, “Entrepreneurs’ Organization: Using Localization to Grow International Membership,” I talk with Taylor Collision, Marketing Manager at the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO), a global, non-profit membership organization designed exclusively to engage leading entrepreneurs helping them learn and grow. We learn why international growth is critical to their business, and discuss how EO is using localization to help expand membership in key international markets.

Where is SMB Collaboration Headed?

—by Sanjeev Aggarwal and Laurie McCabe

 In today’s digital age, location no longer needs to be a barrier between co-workers. Whether the other person is sitting next to you or on the other side of the world, collaboration solution—such as email, audio and video conferencing, cloud-based file sharing and stream based messaging—make it easier for people to communicate and get their jobs done.

However, the business and technology landscape is always changing. Solutions that may have worked fine in the past may not be the best fit for new requirements. As shown on Figure 1, 34% of SMBs agree that they “spend too much time going back and forth” between solutions, and 42% say employees use collaboration tools without IT approval/support.

Since collaboration solutions are key to improving employee productivity and customer satisfaction, business decision-makers need to periodically reassess their collaboration needs and how they’re filling them to make sure they have the right mix of solutions.

Figure 1: SMB Views On Collaboration Solutions

chart1Source: 2016 SMB Communications, Collaboration and Mobile Study

SMB Group’s 2016 SMB Communication, Collaboration and Mobility Study shows that small and medium businesses are expanding their use of collaboration solutions (Figure 2). While use of more established collaboration solutions, such as file-sharing and instant messaging is pervasive, SMBs are also adding newer solutions, such as video conferencing and stream-based collaboration. This highlights the fact that businesses are looking to create a more social collaborative environment. Interestingly, however, SMBs are not displacing older solutions with newer ones, but instead expanding the types of tools they use to better meet evolving collaboration needs.

Figure 2: SMB Collaboration Solutions Use and Plans


Source: SMB Group 2016 SMB Unified Communications, Collaboration and Mobile Study

Brands SMBs Use For Collaboration

The good news is that SMBs have a multitude of choices when it comes to collaboration solutions, and the cloud has made them easier and more affordable to access and use. The bad news is that it’s often hard to figure out which ones are the right fit. In fact, 41% of SMBs in our survey say that “figuring out which solutions can best help my business” is one of their top 3 technology challenges.

In our study, we asked business decision-makers what brands they’ve selected in the solution categories used by them. Here’s how the rankings stack up for a few of them.


Microsoft Office 365 tops the rankings, followed by Microsoft Exchange. Google for Business came in third as the top email solution provider chosen by SMB owners. Microsoft’s two solutions now own more than 50% of the U.S. SMB market, Google is losing momentum and now has about a quarter of Microsoft’s adoption.

File Sharing & Data Storage

DropBox is the top file sharing service used by small businesses (companies with 1-99 employees), followed by Google Drive and then Microsoft OneDrive.

Figure 3: Small business file sharing and storage solutions 


Source: SMB Group 2016 SMB Unified Communications, Collaboration and Mobile Study

Among medium businesses(companies with 100 – 1,000 employees), Microsoft OneDrive is the top solution, followed by Dropbox, on-premises solutions and Citrix ShareFile.

Figure 4: Medium Business File Sharing and Storage Solutions


Source: SMB Group 2016 SMB Unified Communications, Collaboration and Mobile Study

Video Conferencing

SMBs are most likely to se Citrix GoToMeeting for video conferencing. Microsoft Skype for Business is number two, Cisco WebEx number third and Google Hangout has the number four spot.

Stream Based Messaging

Although relatively new to the market, SMB adoption of stream based messaging is gaining momentum. SalesForce Chatter and IBM Connections, which were among the first to offer these solutions, lead in adoption, followed by Citrix Podio, Slack and Flow.

Figure 5: Small business stream-based messaging solutions


Source: SMB Group 2016 SMB Unified Communications, Collaboration and Mobile Study



Figure 6: Medium business stream-based messaging solutions


Source: SMB Group 2016 SMB Unified Communications, Collaboration and Mobile Study


As the pace of business accelerates, we all have to operate in and connect with more people and business networks, and connect to and collaborate with people in different locations, in different ways and on different devices. The right collaboration tools can help people more easily share and manage information, get their jobs done and make better business decisions.

With so much of our business work being done today within digital environments, creating an effective digital workplace that empowers people to work more efficiently and effectively should be a top priority.

SMBs that start by reassessing their collaboration requirements and employee preferences will find it easier to sort through the proliferation of available collaboration solutions, and make the necessary adjustments to ensure they have the right tools in their collaboration toolkits.

For a complete table of contents and ordering information for SMB Group’s 2016 Communication, Collaboration and Mobility Study, click here.

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Acumatica: Mapping ERP to SMB Customers

acumaticaI had the opportunity to talk with Jon Roskill, Acumatica CEO, at the company’s September 7 analyst event. We talked about Acumatica’s solution, customers, and the newly released Acumatica 6.0. Here’s a summary and video excerpts from our conversation. 

Laurie: Hi Jon, thanks for speaking with me today. Before we get into what’s new with Acumatica 6.0, can you start by giving us some background as Acumatica?

Jon: Sure, Acumatica develops and sells business applications to mid-market companies. Typically, companies that are about a $10 million revenue number, going up to…we have customers now that are in the billions. The company was formed in 2008, by a set of folks who were really ERP veterans from the ’90s, by some of the founders of Solomon saw the cloud transition happening. They said, “Wow, this cloud platform is real, and we should build an ERP product for the mid-market for that platform.” And that’s how Acumatica started.

How Is Acumatica Different Than Other ERP Vendors?

Laurie:   As you know, there are a number of companies competing for business in that space. What differentiates Acumatica from the pack?

Jon: A few things. One is we had the advantage of coming to market a bit later than many. We were founded in 2008, the year the iPhone shipped, and the year HTML5 was ratified as an internet standard. So we’re built on modern cloud technologies. But, 2008, that’s not yesterday either. It takes about five years to build a very robust platform. So, we have the right combination of new technology, and we have thousands of customers using it. It’s proven and tested. The second thing is our licensing policy’s very different from most ERP vendors, who are trying to milk as much money as they can on a user model basis.

Laurie:  With per user, per month pricing?

Jon: Exactly. Our philosophy is that ERP is the system of record for the company, and that it’s very important that people in the company who should get access to that information should be able to get that access when it’s needed–without this having to drive a decision of when the business should have to pay for another license or not. So, we basically slot customers into small, medium, or large configurations. From then they get unlimited access, both for employees but also sometimes more importantly is their partners.

Laurie:  What about their customers?

John: Yes. We service a lot of businesses that are in ecommerce distribution, wholesale warehouse-type operations, and they have customers or partners interfacing through some sort of portal, and you don’t want to have to pay a license for those customers, who may place an order once a month. And the third differentiator is mobile. Our mobile solution is really unique in that it’s extremely rich, available on iOS and Android, and we truly differentiate versus any of our competitors.

Laurie: In what respect?

Jon: It’s included. What most of the competitors do is they give you a fixed application. They’ll give you an expense app, or a time reporting app. What Acumatica does, we’ll give you a set of applications out of the box, but because we deliver through a channel–this is another thing we should talk about some point, is our partner channel–because we deliver through a channel, our partners can add value and customize so that time and reporting application is unique to your company, and not a generic.

Laurie: What kind of uptake are you seeing on the mobile capabilities in your customer base? .

Jon: Very strong. Especially lately this year, pretty much everybody is doing something with mobile. Some vendors will tell you that because they have a browser-based solution, that means they’re mobile, but it really isn’t. If you look at the typical accounting screen, it’s very complicated. So, you don’t want to take this really complicated screen and look at it on a little phone screen. You want to have simplified screens, tailored to the device, that work with your workflow.

At this point, all of our customers are using our expense app. So if you’re having dinner with a customer, you just snap picture of the receipt, and automatically file the expense report from your phone. So you don’t have a stack of them on your desk at the end of the month, which I certainly used to have.

Laurie: That brings up another question. ERP, enterprise resource management, and business application management–these labels can cover many different functions. What are the key functions that the Acumatica handles?

Mapping Functionality to Customer Stages

Jon: The starting point is financials. In fact, 20% of our customers are coming from QuickBooks. They’ve outgrown QuickBooks, and need to figure out something else. If they’re in QuickBooks Online, they’re already in the cloud, so it’s a very easy migration to an Acumatica solution. It’s typically driven by something such as having to process multi-currency transactions, because they’re getting paid in other currencies. Or they open another office as a different subsidiary. So, it starts with the financials, I call called that “tracking the business”. You go into Acumatica, and you can see what’s going on with the money.

The second phase is that customers may start using Acumatica for things like CRM and distribution. You’ve got your customers in your system, and you want to help drive renewals or service opportunities for your business. Acumatica distribution capabilities help you track inventory, shipments, and more. At this point you’re truly operating your business on top of Acumatica.

The third stage is when customers become very thoughtful about their business processes and workflows. You know, there are too many companies out there that I see where they make the business fit the software, and that’s just wrong. The software should fit the business. So, you want to think about how should your business operate, what processes do you really want to get good at. At this point, Acumatica has a workflow engine that lets you encode these processes into Acumatica.

Laurie: A company’s unique workflow?

Jon: Your unique processes, right. Our partners help our customer do that, so at that point you have a custom business solution with Acumatica, probably in the price range of $75,000 to $200,000.

Laurie: So what’s new with Acumatica 6.0? Are you announcing a new vertical focus?

What’s New In Acumatica 6.0

Jon: Our customers fall into some major verticals. Professional services, manufacturing, ecommerce, and retail solutions, and distribution or wholesale distribution are the top ones for us. We announced in February that we had acquired M5 Solutions, a service management company, and we’re integrating that with Acumatica–and it’s been selling like crazy. Q2 was awesome, awesome results for the company, partially driven by how much that new service module that we’ve been attaching.

Laurie: In addition to the fact that companies like to have things their way, what else have you heard from customers that influences product development?

Jon: Our CRM product is a good example of that. Often customers buy ERP from one vendor and CRM from another. Then you need to bring the two together and synchronize them, and you wind up with two separate customer formats. The fact that Acumatica sells both an ERP and a CRM is an advantage for half of our customers, 50% use our CRM, and they love it. There’s one version of the truth all the time, and that’s a place where…

Laurie: And what’s new in Acumatica 6.0 in terms of Office 365 integration?

Jon: In the 5.0 release, we introduced Office 365 integration, and integrated Office 365 contacts and tasks and calendar with Acumatica CRM. But we know that many users don’t spend their life in the accounting system, they actually live in things like Outlook as well. I certainly do. You probably do as well. So in 6.0, we’re launching a new Acumatica Outlook add-in. So, when you’re working inside Outlook, you’ll have the context of all of your Acumatica contacts there. So, if you’re looking at an email from Laurie McCabe and Laurie McCabe has an outstanding invoice for$200,000, it will pop up and show me that. Or if, for instance, a regular service update needs to be done, that will show up. So, it’s the sort of thing you would have in your system automatically. So, when you’re talking or emailing with someone, you see it in context.

Laurie: It sounds like Acumatica 6 has some great updates, and thanks for sharing some high-level background as well.


Thinking About Going Global? Read This Book First

book-cover-2016-3This past week, I had the opportunity to talk to Steve Creskoff, a lawyer and a leading expert on international trade. And Steve has just published a new book called “What You Need to Know to Go Global: A Guide to International Transactions.” The best part about this is he’s written it specifically for small and medium businesses that want to explore their options in the international market.

Laurie: Steve, I’m excited to talk to you, because in our SMB Group surveys and the research we do, we see that only a small percentage of U.S. SMBs do business outside of the United States. So, first of all, why do you think this is?

Steve: Well, this is just what the case is today, and it’s unfortunate because small and medium businesses are very competitive internationally. They need to think more about their position in global markets. The statistics tell us that, in terms of trade and goods, only about 23% of U.S. GDP is in trade and goods, and about the same for trade and services, and this is very low. The lowest for any developed economy. So, our small businesses often are not aware of the international opportunities for them.

Laurie: That is very similar to what our data says. But I didn’t realize that the U.S. is the lowest.

Steve:  For a developed economy, we’re by far the lowest.

Laurie: So why should more small and medium businesses think about doing business beyond U.S. borders?

Steve: Well, first, let me talk about services. Our economy is about 80% services, and a lot of those services are tradeable, and we’re extremely competitive internationally with our services businesses. We export more services than any other country in the world by far and we have a very favorable surplus in trade and services, so this is important. The politicians don’t talk about that, but this is an area of international trade where we’ve been very successful. And then, of course, about 94 to 95 percent of world population is outside the U.S., so there are all sorts of opportunities for small businesses, whether it’s services providers or if they have a tangible product. So, there are great opportunities that should not be ignored.

Laurie: What are the risks to ignoring the potential?

Steve: First, what you don’t know can hurt you. If you’re not aware of how your product is situated internationally, an international competitor can come into the U.S. market and eat your lunch, so to speak. So, you have to be aware of… You have to evaluate your product or service for the international market and for the global economy, no matter how small you are. For instance, I’m a very small service provider, but most of my work is international, and that’s the case with a lot of businesses that I know.

Laurie: Yes, but many business owners don’t see a ready opportunity to extend their business overseas. Do you have a couple of examples you could share of creative ways that SMBs have gone into new markets.

stephen-profile-square-244Steve: Well, first of all, it’s like domestic business. It’s all about people. It’s about meeting people, developing a personal relationship, and telling them about your product or service. You can do this at international trade shows. You can do this through visits, as you do, of course, for domestic clients. And, of course, there are government resources, which are valuable. The U.S. Commerce Department and Small Business Administration have excellent resources. And last but maybe most important are the new internet platforms that have been developed that open up all sorts of potential for international business. Probably it’s an exception about my point about meeting the people, because now you can actually put up your goods or services on an Internet platform and start engaging with prospects in new countries through that.

Laurie: Right. The Internet definitely makes the world smaller. Do you have a favorite business story about a particular business that did something innovative in terms of going to market in another country?

Steve: Well, I’m legal counsel to the Trade Association of Fencing Manufacturers, and one of the members makes equipment to manufacture fencing. They’ve sold in more than 60 countries around the world. They’re located in Southern California. It’s a small business, and it’s not a new technology, but the services component is very important because they send people to their customers to train them on how to use the equipment, and that’s been very significant. So, there are many, many examples of small businesses that have been extremely successful.

Laurie: And you can differentiate yourself with customer service.

Steve: Yes. We think in terms of products and services being separate, but they’re not really. Maybe you’re selling a tangible product, but the services might be critical to that product. Conversely, you may be selling a service, but there may be certain tangible products that support that service

Laurie:  So, once a business owner says, “Hmm, I think I do have an opportunity to compete in this market. I can differentiate on either innovation, my product, or service, or whatever,” some of the key financial or regulatory or other kinds of considerations that a business really needs to understand to be successful?

Steve: It’s not really rocket science. There’s a great deal of uniformity around the world in terms of the regulations that apply to international trade and goods and services now, whether it’s a World Trade Organization agreement or a different type of international agreement. Because our businesses are so successful in the area of technology, export controls is one issue I would identify. Not that many goods and services are subject to export controls, but anything that is a so-called dual use item that might have a military application, the commerce department is responsible for that regulation here in the U.S. But businesses can very quickly find out whether there may be an issue or not. Only about 10% of exports are subject to export controls. As far as import controls and taxation and so forth, there are a lot of advisers that can be helpful, whether they’re freight forwarders, customs brokers, trade consultants. And, of course, the commerce department and the small business administration also provide advice. And my book–I’ll be shameless and promote my book!–has a great deal of detail and provides an overview of these various regulations so that a business can have an idea of when they should be talking to a consultant or a lawyer and when they’re probably okay.

Laurie: Absolutely. This has really been interesting, and starts to lessen some of intimidation about expanding a business internationally. But we’ve only just touched on just the tip of the iceberg. As you said, business owners that want to learn more can find a wealth of information about key considerations in your book, “What You Need to Know to Go Global,” which is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, both in paperback, and for Kindle and other ebook formats.

Steve: Thanks. Businesses can also check out my website. And I’m happy to say that the World Trade Organization in Geneva has taken an interest in my book, so my official book launch is going to be September 28th in Geneva. I’m very happy that they like the book and they’re going to be joining me in promoting it. The book isn’t t intimidating in terms of a lot of technical detail, and you can skip chapters if you’re not particularly interested in a given area. It’s like a travel manual. You read the parts that are of interest to you and relevant to your business and you can skip the other parts. So, I hope that many of your listeners will take a look at my book and start exploring their options.

Laurie: Thanks again, Steve, and best wishes for the book launch.



Missed Sales Machine? Attend the Encore Presentation!

I had an amazing time attending and being a panelist at #SalesMachine in NYC a couple of weeks ago. Maybe the best line up of inspiration, motivation and education I’ve seen at one event! Plus, there were so many great opportunities for networking.


If you didn’t get a chance to attend, Salesforce and SalesHacker are presenting a 2-day Encore presentation of the entire Sales Machine event on July 6 and 7. Just use this link,, if you’d like to attend!

QuickBooks Self-Employed: Built for the Business of One  

According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), over 40% of all U.S. workers are now contingent, which includes the self-employed as well as temp workers, contractors, on-call workers and part-time employees. That number is up 10% from the previous GAO survey in 2006.

This trend spans across industries, from construction to pet care, and from professional services to Uber and Lyft drivers–and shows no This trend shows no sign of abating, with the GAO predicting the percentage of self-employed workers to rise to 50% by 2020. Self-employed workers need tools to manage finances, build brands and grow their business—but they must do all this on a shoestring budget and little or no accounting expertise.

I recently had the chance to speak with Intuit’s Cassie Divine, Business Operations Leader for the Self-Employed Solutions business unit of Intuit’s Small Business Division about the “gig” economy and Intuit’s QuickBooks Self-Employed solution , developed specifically for people that are self-employed.            

Intuit built QuickBooks Self-Employed to fill the gap between personal finance solutions, which are easy to use, but don’t address accounting and tax needs, and small business accounting solutions, which can be too complicated and expensive because they include many things self-employed people don’t need.

Whether you think of yourself as a business of one, solopreneur, freelancer, or contractor, QuickBooks Self-Employed can help you track and organize business and personal expenses, maximize deductions, estimate tax payments, and manage cash flow more easily and efficiently.

QuickBooks Self-Employed may be just what you need to streamline these tasks, get better visibility into your finances, and make tax time a whole lot easier to deal with. Watch this video to learn more!

This post is sponsored by Intuit.