Intermedia, a leading cloud communications and collaboration provider, released new research that examines how small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in the U.S. are adopting communication and collaboration solutions throughout their various growth stages. Conducted in partnership with Techaisle, a leading global SMB IT market research organization, the study examines the landscape and identifies what factors are top of mind for companies ranging in size from 10-99 employees when making purchasing decisions.
SMBs – increasingly complex and mature
SMBs represent a massive market that continues to grow, employing nearly half of the U.S. working population. Despite traditional notions of what small businesses looks like, today's SMBs share many similar traits with their larger counterparts. For example, the average number of office locations for all SMBs surveyed was 2.4, and the move to a more mobile workforce mimics that of large corporations, with the vast majority of respondents (91%) having mobile employees.
With today's workforce having an ever-increasing expectation to work in a more mobile, "virtual" environment, the tools that enable and support this mobile workstyle are no longer a "nice to have," but are now a "must have." Not surprisingly, the report shows that the adoption rate of Unified Communications (UC) and Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) continues to grow among SMBs.
"No matter the size of the organization, businesses need tools that help them be more agile, flexible, and mobile. In addition to streamlining communications, UCaaS allows employees to be more collaborative and productive, while making it feel like colleagues are right across the table, no matter their location," stated Irina Shamkova, SVP of Product Management at Intermedia. "An easy-to-deploy, reliable and scalable UCaaS solution can help foster small business success and enables partners to diversify their portfolios with in-demand solutions."
The state of UC adoption
UC adoption is on the rise, helping to support business growth among SMBs. In fact, 40% of SMBs are adopting some form of collaboration solution, up from 32% two years ago. In addition to voice communications, a cornerstone of workplace productivity, the five most commonly used communication and collaboration solutions today include:
- Productivity software (77%)
- File/document management and sharing (75%)
- Web conferencing (72%)
- Video conferencing (69%)
- Instant messaging (65%)
Lack of full-time IT support increases SMB need for reliable UCaaS tools
Despite this growth, internal support for SMBs remains a challenge. Fewer than half (44%) of all SMBs surveyed were staffed with full-time, internal, dedicated IT personnel. Without full-time IT, SMBs need reliable, secure and robust, yet cost-effective, communication and collaboration tools; ones that are easy to deploy, manage, scale and support.
Critical decision factors impacting SMB UCaaS purchasing: Reliability rules
While SMBs vary in size and business needs, the communication and collaboration solutions they choose rest on foundational elements that support long-lasting efficacy. When considering the top five purchase decision factors, reliability ranked the highest at 63%, followed by price (57%), features (50%), quality (47%) and support (35%). When it came to switching Hosted VoIP providers, SMBs named call quality issues (46%) as the number one reason, followed by cost (33%) and support (29%). This further emphasizes the value that companies put on having a solution that consistently and reliably works.
Channel partners can aid SMBs in their UCaaS transition
As SMBs continue to grow with remote workers and more offices, they are looking to move their IT and telecom solutions to the cloud for the added flexibility and mobility that it provides. Paired with the knowledge that most SMBs lack full-time internal IT support, it is imperative that partners recognize this need and offer solutions that best fit their customers' migration journey.
Shamkova stated, "Separate cloud solutions can be disjointed and hard to manage, resulting in frustration for all involved. That is why we recently launched Intermedia Unite™, an easy-to-use UCaaS platform designed to deliver a seamless experience for SMBs and the partners that serve them. Intermedia Unite builds on our 20-year proven track record of delivering against a 99.999% uptime service level agreement, with tools like VoIP Scout™ to help partners ensure call quality before the company even purchases the service. With this new offering and Intermedia's channel-first approach, partners are well-positioned to serve as trusted advisors to SMBs in need of an affordable, robust, and incredibly reliable UCaaS solution, while taking advantage of a projected $15 billion market opportunity1."