AUSTIN, Tx. – Advertising-based business models rely on the premise that consumers are willing to give advertisers information in exchange for free access to a service. When Spiceworks launched in 2006, its business model was not unique for business-to-consumer (B2C) businesses, but practically unheard of in the B2B technology space, where the perks of free software are confined to a trial period or a reduced feature set.
Spiceworks’ IT tools are provided free of charge to organizations of all sizes because of ads that run within them, connecting IT pros with vendors. Twelve years later, the Spiceworks community has grown to over 18 million IT pros. It is hoping to make the experience of finding the right technology solution less painful for IT pros, salespeople, and marketers, using smart analysis of data it already collects on its users.
Spiceworks’ IT management tools include a help desk, inventory, IP scanner, network monitor, and remote support. Networking and IT security tools are also available, as is a tool for monitoring cloud costs on AWS and Azure. The Spiceworks community can access the tools and support free of charge. The company is hoping that artificial intelligence can help better serve its community of IT pros and vendors by better understanding their technical needs.
“We want businesses to get matched with the technology they need,” Spiceworks VP of business operations Nicole Tanzillo said in a keynote at SpiceWorld this week where she laid out the vision for the future of its platform as more of a marketplace.
Ninety-five percent of the 17 million businesses in the Spiceworks community have less than 100 employees, which makes sense when you consider that Spiceworks tools are free. IT departments in small businesses not only have the challenge of tighter budgets, but also fewer employees to roll out IT projects, which means that any time IT pros spend answering cold calls takes away from the bottom line.
According to Tanzillo, the top budget drivers in 2019 across SMBs, medium-sized businesses and enterprises are aging infrastructure, growth and security, with the latter being of top importance for enterprise organizations.
Spiceworks has done its own research in this area. Eighty-eight percent of enterprises agree that heightened security concerns are a top factor leading to IT budget increases in 2019. Spiceworks senior technology analyst Peter Tsai said that its research indicates that large companies have more to lose by not adopting security solutions, particularly considering GDPR regulations.
With these budget priorities in mind, it may seem that IT pros should have a clear idea of how to allocate those dollars. But often this is not the case. It is difficult to understand how a new technology will play off their existing stack, and whether it can meet the specific compliance requirements in an industry like healthcare.
The Spiceworks marketplace will use data and artificial intelligence to show whether technology is compatible with the existing stack, how their setup compares to other similar sized organizations, and surface recommendations for MSPs with the right expertise that could help them implement it. To be clear, this so-called marketplace is not live yet, so the details are sparse for now, but is the vision for the next few years at Spiceworks.
“The new marketplace will show you compatibility with your current stack, reviews from people who have implemented technology in similar organizations, and surface tech that you haven’t considered yet,” Tanzillo says.
“What Spiceworks has done so far is we help IT pros connect with products, but most of those connections have happened offline,” Spiceworks SVP of product and engineering Manish Dixit said. “We believe we can help the IT pro connect with a brand on our own platform where they will make decisions based on understanding what technology they already have, based on where they fit in the industry, and how any new technology adoption will work in their business.”
Tanzillo says that there is $300 billion in marketing and sales spend each year from tech brands, so Spiceworks’ priority is engaging new businesses that would benefit from a vendor technology. The data will also allow salespeople to contact IT pros that have indicated they are interested in a specific technology, theoretically saving everyone time.
“It saves a vendor a lot of time and effort because you are not shooting in the dark and hoping someone will buy your technology,” Dixit said. “That would mean they can use that time to either improve the product or go to a bigger market or a different market.”
For IT pros, “they create a scenario where they have asked for the call, and one call comes in, they are willing to have the conversation.”
And it’s a win for Spiceworks, too, since it will be able to prove to advertisers that they are meeting qualified leads and potential buyers through its platform.
Disclosure: Spiceworks arranged and paid for Nicole Henderson’s airfare and hotel costs to travel to SpiceWorld, from which this article was written.