Gartner: 5 Ways The Midmarket Can Overcome Tight Budgets, Staffing Shortages

Pulled By Money, Tight Staffing

Tight budgets and a lack of adequate skills and staffing continue to weigh heavily on midmarket companies in meeting the business demand for IT services, according to Gartner.

But the research firm sees five technology trends that can help these companies – as well as smaller firms – get better at delivering IT.

Those trends focus on emerging data center solutions; strategic and tactical use of cloud infrastructure and application services; better security; analytics; and digital enablement.

"Given the pace of technology change and business demands," midmarket IT leaders can't afford to be slow and unresponsive, Gartner believes.

Here's a rundown of the five trends, which Gartner analyst Mike Cisek will present Sunday at the Midsize Enterprise Summit – East conference in Nashville, Tenn., hosted by CRN parent The Channel Company.

Adoption Of Emerging Data Center Solutions

Aggressive consolidation and adoption of virtualization technologies have yielded tremendous benefit for the midmarket, Gartner believes.

However, business leaders say internal resources are spending a disproportionate amount of time on low-value IT operations activity.

What technologies can help? Gartner lists several, notably cloud data backup, cloud-managed LANs, unified communications as a service (UCaaS), disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS), hyper-convergence, and unified threat management (UTM).

At the same time, any data center investment must improve the utilization of resources and reduce infrastructure complexity.

Strategic And Tactical Use Of Cloud Infrastructure (IaaS) And Application Services (SaaS)

This can help reduce capital expenses and address staffing and skills gaps, according to Gartner.

But midmarket adoption and consumption of SaaS must be selective, and midmarket companies need to consider both IaaS and SaaS in how they impact business processes, customer experience and technology architectures.

Again, balancing growing demand for services with the pressures to hold down costs is critical for midmarket companies, Gartner said in a research note.

Improve Security Prevention, Detection And Response

Gartner believes midmarket companies should evaluate the use of cloud security access brokers, enterprise mobility management security, identity and access management services, and unified threat management.

Midmarket companies need protection from advanced attacks but "can't manage complex solutions or a large number of alerts or events," according to part of Cisek's presentation that ITBestOfBreed received in advance. He advocates endpoint protection platforms to leverage advanced behavioral engines to protect against malware.

Midmarket firms also need better visibility and control of sensitive data in the public cloud.

And whatever those firms can't do within, they should supplement with managed security services, Gartner believes.

Security "should be No. 1 on the list" for midmarket companies, says Brian Hanify, vice president of sales and marketing at Akuity Technologies, a solutions provider based in Auburn, Mass. "The good thing is that security is getting better, and it's getting less expensive," he added, making it more likely that a midmarket company can afford a high-end security solution.

Analytics To Improve Business And IT Operations

A shift within the business intelligence and analytics markets to focus on business-led, self-service analytics has reached a tipping point that can benefit the midmarket, Gartner said in a research note.

"The architecture of the modern BI platform is much more suited to the scale and capabilities" of small and midmarket businesses, the note added.

That enables both IT and business-unit teams with scarce resources to be "significantly more productive," Cisek wrote in his presentation.

Enablement Of The Digital Workplace

The push toward more digital workplace solutions can be ideal for midmarket organizations, most of which have fewer than 1,000 users and better transparency between employees and executives, Gartner said in its research note.

Midmarket firms should "make it easy for people to share and exchange information and ideas using information-sharing environments," Cisek says in his presentation. That also includes social and collaborative capabilities that will grow and play a greater role in user productivity and satisfaction, he adds.

Hanify, of Akuity, said all major file-sharing platforms, such as Google Drive and Microsoft's OneDrive, are making room for more workers to share information. "We see a lot of that being driven by the application providers," he said.

And, with social media platforms, Hanify says, "you see some real unique ways of using Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram" to interact with customers.