Technology continues to level the playing field for businesses of all sizes. Tools that were once only in use at the largest corporations are now available as services to SMBs. Despite the increased availability of these tools, though, there are still a host of challenges and considerations facing mid-market businesses.
A recent report from professional services firm Deloitte titled Disruption in the mid-market: How technology is fueling growth took a look at the top IT issues affecting mid-market businesses. Of the 500 survey respondents, half were C-suite executives, while the remaining half were in management. About 75% of the companies represented were private, while the remaining 25% were public.
To start, let's take a look at how the respondents said their companies view technology overall. Almost half of the respondents (48%) said that technology was a critical differentiator and key to growth. About 36% said it played a strategic role as more of an investment and less of an expense. Of the remainder, 15.2% said it was necessary and 1.2% said it was not critical.
Compared to last year, 67% said that their spending on technology was higher in 2015, with the top challenges listed as keeping up with new technology and budgeting to implement new technology. It's clear that business strategy is deeply linked to technology.
"In fact, the very future of many businesses are inextricably linked to harnessing emerging technologies and disrupting portions of their existing business and operating models," said Stephen Keathley, National Technology Leader of Deloitte Growth Enterprise Services.
So, where's all that money going?
When asked what trends affected their companies over the past year, respondents listed information security, analytics, and cloud infrastructure. Looking ahead at the trends that will affect them in the coming year, the top two remained the same while cloud applications replaced cloud infrastructure in third place.
The report has quite a bit more information, but let's take a look at these top three trends, starting with security.
Information security took the top spot as both the most important trend over the past year and the most important trend projected for the coming year with 17.2% and 17.4% responses respectively.
The top security and privacy risks listed by respondents were as follows:
- Phishing and targeted attacks - 60.1%
- Integration with external systems - 52.5%
- Migration to the cloud - 47.5%
- Internal access controls - 46.2%
- Mobility - 38.6%
"Even as cybersecurity continues to be a top concern, most mid-market executives admit being ill-prepared for a security breach," Keathley said.
Only about half of those surveyed said they had "the most up to date and robust security measures in place."
Still, roughly 32% said they acknowledge how important it was, but didn't have the right infrastructure or resources. Additionally, 11.2% said it was difficult to keep up with evolving security threats and the remainder said that there wasn't enough preparation or awareness, or it wasn't a priority.
Even though many felt they don't have the right resources, a majority of the respondents at least had plans in place for responding major security threats (respondents could select multiple answers).
- We have a plan in place to manage external information security threats - 66.6%
- We have a plan in place to manage internal informational security threats - 60.8%
- We have governance structures and procedures in place concerning information security threats - 47.4%
- We encrypt sensitive information - 44.0%
- We offer education and training on information security matters - 29.6%
- Don't know/Not sure - 4.0%
The recent rise of big data saw an almost paralleled rise in analytics tools and services. More than 80% of the respondents in this Deloitte survey said their company was using analytics.
While 80% of respondents were using analytics, only 10% had deployed analytics throughout the organization. Most respondents were piloting analytics or in the early stages of using the tools. The biggest hurdles for these deployments all had to do with data collection and standardization — not a huge surprise.
Of the 13.2% that said their company wasn't using analytics, the top two reasons given were "Our company is not at the scale or maturity level where we can benefit from analytics" and "Not sure where to begin to capture the most value."
Here's how respondents broke down the business needs in regard to analytics:
- Influencing business strategy and operational priorities - 34.4%
- Providing metrics, information and tools needed for sound business decisions - 34.0%
- Forecasting and reporting business results - 20.6%
- Predictive client, customer, or business behavior analysis - 8.4%
- The remainder was listed as "Other" or "Don't know"
Analytics come in many different forms. Roughly half of the respondents said they were using basic reporting analytics, predictive modeling, and implementing integrated enterprise analytics solutions. About 30% mentioned using outsourced or subscription-based analytics tools.
One of the reigning IT trends of the time, it would have been surprising to not see the cloud make it into the top three tech issues for businesses. Of those surveyed, almost 86% were at least experimenting with the cloud, while 11.6% were investigating, and the remainder hadn't taken any action.
How quickly the companies adopted cloud technologies was a different story. Privacy and security were listed as the top aspects that dictated the pace of cloud deployment, and getting the cloud to work with existing products and services was a close second. The greatest challenge to cloud deployments, as selected by 35.3% of respondents, was "ensuring data integrity and reliability."
Survey respondents were then asked to list what processes in their organization were already cloud-based and which ones they were considering moving to the cloud or in the process of doing so. Here are the top five business functions already being in the cloud.
- Financials and accounting - 37.8%
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM) - 33.8%
- Sales Force Automation (SFA) - 31.9%
- Data warehouse/analytics - 29.5%
- Supply Chain Management (SCM) - 27.0%
Conner Forrest has nothing to disclose. He doesn't hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.