Cavell Group has been analysing data pertaining to enterprises’ awareness of different technology brands and particular solutions. In our Enterprise Insights Report from 2019, a study of over 1800 businesses based throughout EMEA and North America, the results highlighted a relatively low level of awareness of some of the world’s biggest technology companies. When key technology stakeholders within each business surveyed were asked if they were aware of particular technology solutions the results showed that even class leading solutions, such as Microsoft Teams, were an unknown quantity within many businesses.
"Only 50% of small enterprises - businesses with less than 49 users - were aware of Microsoft Teams as a collaboration solution"
Of course, the levels of awareness varied depending on the businesses size with the rates of recognition increasing within larger enterprises – perhaps reflecting their greater usage of diverse technology solutions. Around three quarters of organisations with more than one thousand users were aware of Microsoft Teams. Microsoft is arguably the world’s leading and most well well-known technology brand so how did a relative new comer compare in terms of awareness? The technology poster boy of the coronacrisis, Zoom Video, was much less well known.
"On average only 39% of the businesses surveyed were even aware of Zoom as a technology solution"
These seemingly low levels of awareness perfectly set the backdrop for one of the key pillars within global technology markets – the position of the ‘trusted advisor’.
The not so trusted advisor
For decades service providers and vendors, within both the IT and communication sectors, have been trying to position themselves as a trusted advisor. Offering businesses theoretically unbiased advice and sage technology wisdom was the primary method of ensuring that your business remained a vital cog in your end customer’s own progression. Research backs this up. In businesses of all sizes trustworthy pre-sales advice is the most highly valued criteria in enterprise technology partner selection, over and above cost or solution variety. In the same Enterprise Insight Report in 2019, around 47% of the business surveyed said that excellent pre-sales advise was the number one attribute they looked for in a technology provider. So how does growing enterprise awareness of technology solutions change the status quo?
Historically, the surprisingly low awareness levels of enterprise awareness relating to brands and solutions has allowed trusted advisors to recommend solutions and products that the end customer would have been largely unaware of. Potentially only the technical buyer within an organisation, the IT or Communications Manager, might have been aware of the myriad of solutions available to them. Now – as awareness rises because of various factors – partners can expect virtually all users within a customer’s business to be aware of Zoom or applications such as Microsoft Teams, as most of them will be familiar with the platforms from the dreaded Sunday night family quiz.
This raises some quandaries for technology providers and the technical buyers within customer organisations. End user demands – reasonable or otherwise – are likely to be more readily voiced.
‘We can have up to 49 people in the family quiz’, ‘We never have to enter a password at home’, ‘Can't we just use the free version?’, or ‘Why can't I have the Sistine Chapel set as my background?’
The rudimentary knowledge end users have gained over the past three months relating to video conferencing and collaboration solutions could potentially cause more issues than it solves. They might now know what they like and have higher expectations when it comes to technology platforms but they are unlikely to factor in any consideration of security, manageability, or cost factors.
Knowledge, or awareness at least, is growing
When Cavell asked cloud communications service providers about the ramifications of the coronacrisis one of the most interesting revelations related to customer demand for specific solutions. Maybe because end customers had heard about them on the news or been exposed to some of the vendor’s aggressive marketing and advertising campaigns.
‘COVID-19: Impact on the Cloud Comms Market’ revealed that over 60% of the service providers surveyed had been asked by their end customers for Microsoft Teams specifically by name. 30% of the same service providers had been asked for Zoom specifically. You have to also bear in mind that the rate of interest in these products is probably significantly higher. If a customer is asking their existing providers for specific solutions you can almost definitely assume that they are also looking elsewhere and speaking to new potential providers who advertise the particular solutions they are interested in.
It seems unlikely that six months ago so many customers would have been requesting specific products. The traditional arrangement would have had customers explaining a process issue to a trusted advisor with the advisor then recommending a suitable solution to solve the initial issue and achieve the desired outcome. Now the customer may feel they have already identified the solution.
As we begin the research for our Enterprise Insight 2020 Report I am open to making a small wager. I bet that the awareness levels that the research in 2019 uncovered – that I listed at the start of this article – have multiplied exponentially. Is there anyone left know who doesn’t know what a Zoom meeting is? Will any business not now be considering Microsoft Teams? I doubt it. Once the results come back at the end of the summer the, almost inevitable, universal awareness of these products will only amplify some of the issues for those who currently hold trusted advisor status.
How does this impact the trusted advisor?
Well one thing appears certain. Service providers are going to be asked for specific solutions like Microsoft Teams or Zoom. One option is to incorporate these platforms into their portfolios so that they can provide end customers with the industry’s most recognised brands. This isn’t always easy though, and many providers will have to completely re-evaluate their portfolios to avoid areas of overlap or duplication. The other factor is profit. Service providers are unlikely to be able to leverage the same level of margin reselling these solutions than they might have been able to make previously on their own, or more specifically channel designed white label, platforms.
The other option is simple but equally challenging. If a customer comes to you and asks for Microsoft Teams, or Zoom, you have to have a product in your portfolio that you can propose as an alternative. The product has to meet the increasing demands of the end users – who are now used to using Zoom at home – and outcompete the platform in terms of business suitability. Service providers need to be able to offer the less obvious benefits; security, reliability, manageability, and cost efficiency.
Competing with the industry’s leading solutions isn’t going to be easy. That’s why we have seen huge swathes of the industry rush to integrate with Teams, rather trying to compete against it. It’s a decision that all technology partners are going to have to make. Now one thing is for sure though, your customers will have heard of these solutions, so you better have a strategy in place.
Cavell Group’s Enterprise Insight Report 2020 will be available in September this year.