MAX 2016 – Opening keynotes: a year of change across the market

Pete Roythorne

It’s been a big 12 months for both the IT sector and for SolarWinds® MSP. John Pagliuca, general manager, SolarWinds MSP, took to the stage at MAX 2016 in Edinburgh against a backdrop of a giant elephant. He made no bones of the elephant in the room and set out to put the record straight. 

pagliuca.jpg“Since we were acquired earlier this year, folks have been guessing at what this means for the products,” he said. “To dispel any of the guessing, I can tell you we’re finishing the 2017 planning and we’re going to be investing more in R&D than ever before in the history of the company.” 

Importantly, John reiterated the fact that the company is 100% behind both platforms and will be driving development in both with no plans to force customers to use one or the other. He went on to highlight how bringing together the leadership teams from both sides of the acquisition is providing a more well-rounded view of the industry, and helping to put the right solution in front of customers.

“We’re also looking for other offerings to provide the best solutions for you,” he added. “We’re going to do everything we can to make you successful.”

Of course, it’s not just SolarWinds MSP that’s been undergoing change. Dave Sobel was up next  took to at the big trends and challenges in the wider IT market. For the first time in years IT spend in SMBs didn’t grow in 2016; it stayed flat. As Dave was keen to point out two big political and electoral decisions played a part in this – Brexit and the US election. “We need to acknowledge that whichever side of the fence you sit, we’re moving past that and can now focus back on business and growth,” he said.

sobel.jpgAs part of his back to business as usual message Dave’s focussed on five key trends that MSPs and IT solution providers need to be aware of: 

1/ State of the market

Despite flat growth for this year (as mentioned above) all is not lost. Gartner is predicting a 2.9% growth in spend for 2017, and everyone still has high expectations for the managed services market. 

However, within this Dave pointed out that research suggests there is one trend that needs to be curtailed; MSPs are showing a reliance on existing accounts for growth. While this is good for business, it’s not good for sustainable growth of a business. It’s easy see to why it happens as it’s easier and quicker. However, MSPs need to focus on developing new business with new customers and accept that there is a cost associated with this.

2/ The competition

Competition for IT solution providers also provides insight into an interesting trend: one of the big headlines from Dave’s presentation was the fact that research shows that 33% of solution providers were founded 25 years ago or more. This has a significant impact for the next eight years as it means many of those businesses are likely to be either be retiring from the market or be sold off. This means MSP’s competitors are going to be changing dramatically. The industry is mature, but the new generation think differently, so solution providers need to think about ways to stand out. Doing the same thing is not going to beat competitors in next few years. 

3/ What you support is changing 

In a somewhat nostalgic turn, Dave then went on to focus on the need to move away from thinking about computers as being something with a monitor and keyboard – devices that we could know everything about. The definition of a computer is just something that is a programmable electronic device, and MSPs need to start looking to broaden the picture of what they support as the current devices don’t fit into the narrow definition we used to have. The new IT reality means learning to manage everything and offering consulting services as to how to make all the new systems work together to create business benefit for customers – in essence this is exactly what solution providers have been doing for years. 

4/ Information matters more than machines

Dave also went on to explain how the balance has shifted away from technology to information. Today we handle more data than we could ever have predicted, and it’s more important than ever to use that data for execution. Data driven automation is a big trend with big opportunities. Almost half (44%) of solution providers already claim to be data driven, meanwhile 38% say being data driven would enable them to service more customers, and 72% say it would enable them to serve more complex customers. “Helping MSPs capitalise and use this data is crucial for MSPs,” said Dave. “LOGIC cards is just the start of our investment to continue to bake data into what we do and help you grow your businesses.”

5/ You’re nothing if you’re not secure

If you needed any more convincing, Dave showed a recent eye-catching headline: “NATO acknowledges cyber space is a domain for war.” He then went on to produce stats that showed that 64% of companies had between one and four breaches in past 12 months. “Businesses are desperate for help around security, and it’s a real opportunity for MSPs to help their customers do better,” he explained. “Solution providers are the way this gets solved.” 

The secret, Dave unveiled, is to manage everything. Managing the entire solution not just desktops and latops, but building system to help customers grow and help them hit their objectives – and that includes connected devices – allows MSPs to become trusted partners and act as the gatekeepers to secure the whole system. 

“To embrace these new opportunities we need to be thinking about solving these problems together’” he concluded. “The businesses that are the most agile, respond to trends and adapt are the healthiest in the market. We have these events to help you take advantage of these trends and learn from these businesses.”