The Technology Assurance Group’s MTSP Meeting Is a Win-Win
On the Verge of 2020, TAG Helps Members Prepare for Further Growth
“Hindsight is 2020” and “2020 vision” are the most oft-used puns about next year. Fortunately, at the Technology Assurance Group’s two-day MTSP meeting in Austin, Texas, neither was said. And that’s just one reason—a very small reason, granted—why “Planning Your Success in 2020” in early November was, well, a success.
Dale Stein, Co-Founder of TAG, mentioned “selling uniqueness” in his opening remarks. What a great way to get everybody’s attention right off the bat. To boot, the agenda tied directly into this theme. Though the sessions on security and the cloud carried the most weight, no surprise as they’re two of the biggest topics today in not only the IT space but the imaging sector too, the rest of the program was equally informative.
Microsoft will end support for several of its products—Windows 7, Server 2008, Exchange 2010, among others—by mid-January. This was the basis of one of the six educational blocks, a joint effort from Brian Suerth, President of TAG, and Myles Olson, Vice President of Sales at Managed Services Platform. Sure, the Redmond-Washington-based giant is clearly pushing its Azure system, but the overarching message as relayed by Olson was that the more “technical debt” you carry, the less competitive you’ll be.
What is SD-WAN? During his session, Stein explained software-defined wide-area network as an efficient protocol for transferring information through a secure, hybrid—business-grade IP VPN, broadband Internet, wireless services—approach whereby the MSP owns it, not the carrier. More importantly, SD-WAN could be up to an $8 billion area of IT by 2023. That made my eyes open wide and my ears perk up, and I’m sure it did the same for the MTSP reps in the crowd who couldn’t raise their hand when asked if their company has an SD-WAN offering.
Two presentations dealt more with account management than the technical side of IT. Executive Vice President of TAG Tim Schatz spoke about how to implement price increases and the nuances of the process (not just an inflation hedge; remediation and project labor by the hour; fear of upsetting the apple cart or, worse, losing clients), all to achieve 20 percent EBITDA. Ryan Mulvaney, TAG’s Vice President of Member & Partner Relations, gave a session on cross-selling (mining your base for recurring revenue is easier than net-new; segmenting IT services, voice systems, video surveillance, and managed print reduces the feeling of being overwhelming)—in short, an impactful hour rife with advice, hints, and tips.
|Brian Suerth, President of TAG, presented on expiring Microsoft products, particularly Windows 7, and how to turn them into opportunities.|
Security and the Cloud
Risk isn’t just a boardgame. It needs to be managed. Lane Smith, Founder of the Master MSP Do IT Smarter and now TAG’s Vice President of Member Advancement, delivered a powerful block of learning on security.
So much focus has been on customers that MSPs have forgotten about themselves, and they need to be secure before they can sell cyber solutions. Over 300 MSPs have been hacked in 2019 alone, which is absolutely crazy. Then again, with MSPs being the gatekeeper to so much business data, it’s no wonder that hackers are attacking them rather than companies one after another.
Cybersecurity has to be layered. It’s about not only antivirus measures (malware) and the firewall but also dark web monitoring, DNS protection, endpoint security (SOC for forensics), multifactor authentication, and, of course, training (phishing simulator included). As security evolves, the hope is that software will develop to the point where a user’s behavioral patterns will be put into the equation. ID Agent, WatchGuard, and Webroot were three IT security vendors that exhibited at the Sheraton Austin Hotel at the Capitol.
“Employees are the biggest security risk” has been preached from the mountaintops for years. On the other hand, in a presentation almost designed to scare, the most shocking part was that not all MSPs have contracts with their clients. Jesus! To that point, thanks to Robert Scott, Managing Partner of the technology attorney firm Scott & Scott, TAG members were forced to sit up straight when hearing that they need to manage risk more fully. Customers should have cybersecurity insurance, yes, but so should MSPs. A Master Services Agreement is a must, yet it doesn’t seem like a lot of MSPs have that, either. Peace of mind, essential, especially when the cybersecurity market is forecast to be $282 billion by 2023.
With the cloud, growth can also be huge. So many applications already exist. On-prem solutions are dying as SaaS continues to dominate. Amazon, Google, and Microsoft are duking it out for share. And as he did with the security session, Smith hosted the block on the cloud in engaging fashion, with big assists from some vendor reps.
Office 365 deployments won’t break the bank, but Mike Comeau, Senior Business Development Manager at Sherweb, stressed that MSPs need to understand how to sell it, namely to increase margins and position themselves as valued partners (cloud suite doesn’t require new licenses; streamlines communication; SharePoint Online has 1 TB of storage). Tony Cai, Partner Sales Executive at Nerdio, comprehensively addressed Microsoft Azure (57 percent of SMBs in the US are accelerating cloud adoption; the platform is gigantic, so pick things relevant to your business) and urged the audience to take advantage of the Azure pricing calculator. Microsoft Teams was also cast in the spotlight, as Founder and President of i-NETT (formerly VoiceSmart Networks) Mark Wadnizak and Brian Buys, Principal and CIO at Compute-ER, showed everybody how they’re developing inside Teams and then farming those enhancements out to their customers.
The bottom line is that customers today seek the tools to work more efficiently, and MSPs have the answers.
|Over 100 people, from 60 MSPs and 20 IT vendors, gathered in Austin, Texas, for TAG’s “Planning Your Success in 2020” event.|
Talking about what your company should do is one thing—doing something about it is entirely different. Here are the Top 5 action items for MTSPs, based on comments during the second day…
1) Redo customer contracts and procure proper insurance
2) Increase client security by bundling new products and services
3) Expand cloud offerings to become a bigger player in that space
4) Replace outdated phone systems with hosted voice
5) Standardize tech stack to make life easier for all
For somebody who’s been in the print arena for over 13 years, attending a managed IT show for the initial time could’ve been daunting. However, each session was well authored and communicated effectively, which made for easy learning. The diversity of the program was also quite good, both in the subjects covered and the balance of technical info versus real-world application, though some of the blocks did feel a little too long—minor gripe. There was ample time to network, with people I thoroughly enjoyed.
Still, security and the cloud. TAG did its job in providing attendees with useful and important information galore. And, by the bullets above, it’s obvious that these are critical topics for MSPs. In fact, according to an InfoTrends survey on the smart office, security is the top business priority today (59%), followed by cloud solutions (40%), so the synergy between IT and print is apparent. What’s more, MSPs need to transition to CSPs. Soon, and in the most seamless way possible.
The world isn’t static. Change is necessary. And for MSPs, constant updates are imperative.
|“Technical debt” and his company’s QBR tool were the focus of a presentation by Myles Olson, Vice President of Sales at Managed Services Platform.|
They Said It
“The pace of technology is overwhelming, and the evolution always produces new questions that must be answered. Cornerstone Technologies has been a TAG member for five months and we already know that TAG is the most qualified to guide us through the maze. The content in Austin was the most relevant we’ve seen from TAG yet, with its the focus on cybersecurity, contracts, and liability issues.” – Jon Pellowe, Founder and President of Cornerstone Technologies
“It’s always a pleasure working with TAG members. This past meeting was particularly exciting as we were able to have a lot of 'light bulb’ moments as far as ways to deploy the TAG Express SD-WAN platform powered by Multapplied and the different use cases it fits into. We’re extremely appreciative for the opportunity to have attended. We love working with TAG members and look forward to what 2020 has in store.” –Logan Campbell, Vice President of Sales at Multapplied Networks
“TAG members and strategic partners raved about ‘Planning Your Success in 2020’ in Austin. All attendees learned strategies to position their companies for explosive and profitable growth, capitalize on emerging cloud technologies, take advantage of marketplace opportunities, and engage with customers on new levels. Information provided throughout the event will increase the distance that our members now have over their competitors even more. We’re excited about the upcoming year and new deliverables that TAG will bring to those we serve.” –Brian Suerth, President of Technology Assurance Group
And be sure to listen to our podcast on Microsoft Azure with TAG’s Lane Smith!