“Pardon the Interruption” ... MSP-style

Marc Thaler

ORLANDO – Sports fans attending the MAX 2014 U.S. Customer Conference likely found the format of Tuesday’s late-morning general session familiar.

On the main stage at the Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld, GFI MAX Director of Partner Community Dave SobeStopl and CompTIA Director of Technology Analysis Seth Robinson teamed up for a managed services version of “Pardon the Interruption” – modeled after ESPN’s daily sports-debate show.

Cloud Guru founder and CEO Terry Hedden served as moderator. Here are some of the subjects Sobel and Robinson covered in 5-minute blocks:

What does it mean to the reseller to be cloud-friendly?

SR: “Cloud” has become a hugely hyped topic. As we’ve been looking at it the past five years at CompTIA, we view it as a radical shift. We’re in this new era where end users might say, “How am I going to do IT?” I think it is a big deal.

DS: We’ve had names for cloud for a long time. Cloud is really a marketing and sales moniker that has caught on …. Now, everything is cloud. I like how we rebranded “on-premise” to “private cloud.” No. It’s on-premise stuff. That’s what we called it three years ago. I believe the Internet (has undergone) a fundamental shift.

How important is innovation?

DS: Managed services is about standardization. But without the development of new product lines, that’s where you run the risk of being irrelevant. The answer is I think it’s incredibly important. Building a system of structured innovation, that’s the piece that’s missing.

What impact will the Amazon model have on this market?

DS: Amazon’s funny from my perspective. We often think of them as a retailer. But they’re really a logistics shop. We can learn a lot from them from a logistics perspective.

Time-Out

SR: We talk so much about the “consumerization” of IT. It’s had a lot of impact. But businesses are seeing they have to have security. They can’t just plug in and be OK ... There’s still a market to provide those products in an enterprise-friendly way. I don’t know if Amazon is the answer.

What do you think about “bring your own device” (BYOD)?

DS: I rebel a little bit about the “smartphone” label. I think they’re doing it an injustice. It’s a computer. I think we need to call it that. I think we also run the risk of managing it incorrectly by calling it a phone.

SR: We’re seeing companies still kind of resisting it. If you’re going to have a “no BYOD” policy, you’re not going to have much luck with that. I think businesses are going to get smarter about what you can do with the device … but there’s no one-size-fits-all (answer).

How are millennials “born in the cloud” changing today’s companies?

DS: There are some habits that are good and some habits that are bad. I’m sure the generation before us said the same thing. I think millennials' lack of loyalty is something interesting to explore. Is it that they have a different life philosophy? And how can (older generations) support that?

The trick is we’ve got to continue to find ways to add new elements to our businesses to stay relevant and stay engaged.

SR: What makes it kind of new is the nature of technology. Social media, I think, tends to amplify this more than it ever has before … I think we’re going to see this tension between businesses saying, “This is the amount of risk we’re willing to accept.”

Where the digital native really comes in to play is in the workflow ... You have to have a new way of thinking about it.

Where is this industry going to go? What’s the five-year plan for MSPs?

SR: More and more, companies are going to say I want to … focus on my core competencies. I think that’s where MSPs step up as well: “I’m going to figure out how to manage your processes and help drive your business.”

There’s still going to be lot of sales. But there’s going to be a lot of sitting at the table saying, “How do I help you get there?” The trick is (determining how) you have that discussion beyond speeds and features.