Gartner: 5 Key Technology Trends For Midsize Enterprise Companies

Sizing Up The Midmarket

More so than company size or revenue figures, Gartner believes the shared challenges, business priorities and skill gaps faced by midsize enterprise IT departments are what best illustrate the unique economic and managerial environments they face.

Gartner research director Mike Cisek explained as much Sunday at the Midsize Enterprise Summit, a conference hosted by CRN parent The Channel Company this week in San Antonio. Midmarket organizations need to consider alternative approaches to infrastructure, applications, security, networking and operations as they deal with budget and staffing limitations, he said.

"You can't build it internally," Gartner told a room of 200-plus IT leaders. "You're not going to staff for it. You're not going to build the tools, the SOC and the NOC. You can solve the problem. But you have to do it a different way."

Citing the research firm's extensive analysis, Cisek highlighted five trends that midsize enterprise decision-makers should consider when trying to overcome these marketwide hurdles.

Agile, Cloud-Inspired Hybrid Infrastructure

Freeing up resources from labor-intensive, low-level infrastructure operations tasks allows IT staff to focus on activities that can better impact business performance, Cisek said.

Integrated infrastructure offerings consume fewer technical and financial resources than the alternative, and decision-makers must ensure their infrastructure investments yield tangible results and reduce complexity.

Hyper-converged infrastructure, Disaster Recovery as a- Service, Unified Communications as a Service and hybrid cloud computing were among the areas Cisek said midsize enterprises should evaluate – particularly those on the smaller end of the spectrum.

"Resist the temptation to build it yourself. Save yourself from the engineering side," he said.

Using Anything-As-A-Service

While Cisek rejected the notion that "everything has moved to the cloud," noting that Gartner's last survey found that roughly 20 percent of the infrastructure and apps portfolio was cloud-based, he said certain situations make plenty of sense for the midmarket.

IT leaders should find contracts due to expire in the near future and assess whether an as-a-service alternative might make more sense for their business. In the right instances, Gartner found that these moves reduce capital expenses, address skill gaps and free up time and resources.

"Don't automatically fall into renewal mode and get stuck with on-prem infrastructure solutions. At some point, it's not going to make sense anymore," Cisek said.

The research firm highlighted cloud office suites, cloud-based IT PPM services, public cloud SaaS, integrated IaaS and PaaS among potential avenues midmarket organizations can take.

Enhanced Security Detection And Response Capabilities

Gartner sees security as the biggest skill gap that exists in the midmarket. Organizations of all sizes face evolving security threats on a daily basis, Cisek noted, and even those with vastly superior manpower and financial resources – such as Equifax – deal with breaches.

"It's changing too quickly for you to assume you can build this and be effective," he said.

For midsize enterprises that face far greater limitations, complex solutions or situations that involve a large number of alerts and events are essentially untenable. A potential remedy: blending on-prem security as a service with managed security as a service.

Firewall as a service, cloud access security brokers, IDaaS, IAM managed services, application security-as-a-service and enterprise mobility management suites are all options midsize enterprises should weigh.

Cisek again emphasized that companies that try to manage security in-house often face tremendous difficulty because of existing skill gaps and the limited resources IT leaders can sink into security operations. An MSSP can providea round-the-clock monitoring for a few thousand dollars per month, he added.

"They buy the [security] tool, they hire the person, they send him out, get him trained. They just made that person extremely marketable in the hottest job market ever," Cisek said. "Guess what [the security technicians] do? They leave and double their salary. Then you have to start all over."

Embracing Platforms That Optimize Operations, Customer Experience

With the end goal of making information more easily sharable, Gartner found that consolidating customer service and business processes can improve companywide operations.

For the midmarket, this can include adopting Internet of Things and knowledge management for customer service, third-party support for enterprise resource planning, enterprise file sync and share and customer self-service suits.

Developing a custom app – even a disposable application or one built with a microservices focus – is also a good route to evaluate, Cisek said.

Leveraging Data And Analytics

Because IT decision-makers have to be especially judicious with their investments and contract choices, Gartner points to data and analytics platforms as a means of improving business insight and enabling competitive differentiation.

An in-house look at the organization's IT and business operations data can sometimes make or break a fiscal year, Cisek said, and finding meaningful analytics that affect the bottom line can be huge for an IT department.

"Tools is one area where midsize is underinvesting," Cisek said. "If you're going to invest in a tool, if you have operations handled in one shift, this is one thing you can't live without. Give them the insight they need to figure out what the issue is before they get engaged."

Applying those same analyses to customers, determining which additional services they might want and what an appropriate fee for those might be, is another effective way to potentially generate revenue.