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Blessed are the Mid-Market Companies, for They Shall Scale Big Data

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Blessed are the Mid-Market Companies, for They Shall Scale Big Data

In a parody of Start Trek, Silicon Valley technology companies describe their business goal as “Scale, the final frontier…”.

[Editor's Note:  While it is our policy to avoid the meaningless and, indeed, misleading designation "SMB," on the grounds that small businesses are wholly different than middle market businesses, we felt that this article was useful for executives of the latter.]

Mid-market companies, defined as those having 100-2500 employees, may indeed provide an opportunity to emerging technology vendors to scale their business. According to Techaisle, a market research firm, these 800,000 global companies spend $300B on IT and are sought after by technology vendors big and small. In the last decade, technologies such as Cloud, SAAS and Virtualization have reached scale with a large number of mid-market companies as early adopters. Intuit, Salesforce.com, NetSuite and Amazon are just a few examples of companies who have relied upon mid-market companies as a key building block for their business.

What does this mean for Big Data? To find out, Carpe Datum Rx spoke to “SMB Guru”, Anurag Agrawal, CEO of Techaisle and the former Head of Worldwide Research Operations at the Gartner Group. Techaisle recently talked to 3,300 global businesses about their Big Data adoption plans. Here is an excerpt from our discussion.

The SMB Market is considered the Holy Grail for technology vendors because it is hard to penetrate. Does your research show that mid-market companies will adopt Big Data before large enterprises do? Are they the early adopters of this technology?

Yes, you are right the SMB Market is the Holy Grail as it is hard to penetrate but with the highest potential. To elaborate, there are slightly over 70 million small businesses and 800,000 mid-market businesses worldwide. They constitute over 97 percent of the business segment. And their collective IT spend is projected to grow by 6.5% between 2013 and 2016 which is quite a lot faster than the Enterprise segment. To really identify the SMB segments and their type of technology spend is a mind-numbing exercise due to the sheer volume of data points. This is compared to the enterprise segment where there are fewer companies and larger dollar amounts being spent.

To answer your second question about whether mid-market businesses will adopt big data before large enterprises, let us look at some facts. Cloud computing started as an enterprise play, however, it was quickly discovered that SMBs would be the more relevant target segment with a faster path to adoption. Similarly, as enterprises adopted Virtualization, vendors shifted their focus to the SMBs with some very creative solutions. Mid-market companies, defined as those with 100 to 2500 employees could certainly be the early adopters of Big Data. We recently did a study where we surveyed 3,360 mid-market businesses worldwide covering all regions – North America, Europe, Asia/Pacific and Latin America. What we found is that the promise of superior data-driven decision making is motivating 43 percent of global mid-market businesses to at least look at Big Data technology. And above all, 18 percent of mid-market businesses are now investing in big data related projects.

In the mid-market segment, there is also a competitive imperative to understand customers, create innovate products and improve operational efficiencies. They are not burdened with too many silos and large legacy systems deployments. The absence of large legacy systems is an important point to consider because it makes mid-market businesses more agile to implement new types of solutions that solve their business problems. It is expected that in year 2016, global SMBs would spend US$3.6 Billion on big data solutions exhibiting a growth rate that is faster than what was exhibited by cloud computing solutions.

We understand that you cast a very wide net to get your 43% number. Is there a consistency in the sentiment on big data across different parts of the world? 

Yes, we had to cast a wide net to really understand the adoption and trends within mid-market businesses. And yes, there is a difference across geographies and employee sizes. North America has both the largest market and the highest level of adoption in Big Data overall. In terms of actual deployment activity, the market grows in relation to the size of the companies. Additionally, mid-market business attitude towards Big Data transitions from “Over-Hype” to must-have technology with the increase in employee size. Let me give you some examples. A small-to-mid-sized bank is developing a Proof of Concept for fraud analytics. Another example is of a small advertising agency that is trying to deploy digital advertising analytics. So big data is not only within the radar of enterprises, the same problems exist across all sizes of business, only the volume of data, available budget and the required simplicity varies. The problem is that we all get caught up in technology which instills a sense of fear. We have to shift the conversation from technology to solving business problems.

Big Data adoption is often stalled by a lack of knowledge or understanding of the technology and its capabilities. Do mid-market companies have a better understanding of this technology than large enterprises? Do they have an advantage over large enterprises in implementing effective solutions?

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