Channel Strategy Session: Takeaways from Impact Optimize 2022

Impact Networking’s educational event on managed IT services and how work gets done today

11179

08/17/2022

Carl Schell

 

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Cybersecurity expert Wes Spencer delivering one of the
three engaging keynote speeches at Impact Optimize 2022
(photo courtesy of Sam Siegel, Impact Networking).

 

Long story short, I was supposed to go to Impact Optimize a couple of years ago. Cue the pandemic—and then, in the blink of an eye, I was walking down Chicago’s Navy Pier to Impact Optimize 2022.

 

It was well worth the wait.

 

Impact Networking and IT have gone hand in hand for a while now, through a labor-intensive break/fix phase to its current, more efficient managed model. The show aims to address how best to fill the gap between business and technology as well as how to educate existing Impact Networking customers and its potential clients on the benefits, trends, and the future of IT. “Innovate to Evolve” is an apropos tagline.

 

“Impact Optimize provides Impact Networking the opportunity to be a thought leader in managed IT, cybersecurity, managed marketing, business applications, and digital transformation,” said Patrick Layton, Impact Networking Partner & Vice President of Managed IT Services. “Optimize 2022 was our best to date, as many vendors, partners, and customers have told us. We take pride in thinking outside the box and staying ahead of the curve—specifically in cybersecurity, where the threat landscape changes rapidly. Impact Optimize represents a commitment to strengthening our cyber resilience and that of our clients.”

 

A total of 777 people attended Impact Optimize 2022
(photo courtesy of Sam Siegel, Impact Networking).

 

Impact Optimize: Managed IT Services

Cybersecurity would have to be a major talking point at an event geared toward IT, right? This would be even more so because Impact Networking formed a cybersecurity subsidiary called DOT Security? Bet your bottom dollar!

 

Wes Spencer, a knowledge expert who has too many titles and roles to list here, delivered a keynote speech free of doom and gloom—instead offering only practical advice about how things that just sit are prone to attack, that you need to be prepared and then remain proactive in protecting information, as well as how phishing remains the No. 1 entryway for hackers. Spencer framed the picture in buckets of people, processes, and technology while also discussing cyber resilience (a subject worthy of an article by itself).

 

I doubled down on cybersecurity by attending “The Gap Between Security and IT” breakout session. Though it might seem a little soft, I was intrigued by the notion that you must be forever mindful of your security and IT mindset—of course, first you need a mindset, then you can be mindful of it. And I believe we’ve all lived through this: There is frustration when IT implements new processes, but frustration also exists when users don’t follow IT rules or, worse, fail to even participate. Security requires an all-in mentality. It’s everyone’s responsibility, especially considering that the biggest vulnerability continues to come from inside an organization, not outside.

 

Beyond cybersecurity, I was happy to see the breakout “Living on the Edge: Azure, SD-WAN, and SASE” on the menu. It was reported during this session that approximately 80% of what Impact Networking delivers on the IT side is in the cloud, but edge computing strives to bring data back/closer to the original source. My suspicion is that everyone knew what Microsoft Azure is, but fewer hands were in the air when SD-WAN (software-defined wide area network; an approach to network connectivity that can reduce costs and improve performance, basically) and SASE (secure access service edge; a cloud concept that meshes a WAN with network security services, in essence) were mentioned.

 

Ashley Carnes, Impact Networking’s Chief Strategy Officer, brought loads of energy to her
“Creating a Culture of Learning: High-Performing Learning & Development” breakout session
at Impact Optimize 2022 (photo courtesy of Sam Siegel, Impact Networking).

 

Impact Optimize: How Work Gets Done

For my money, the most thought-provoking of the three keynotes was from New York Times bestselling author Daniel Pink. He spoke of experimenting versus knowing, suggestions versus commandments, and that we’re in this flux period where we’re all just doing our best to figure out what’s next. One of his bullet points focused on the how (the process of accomplishing tasks) versus the why (clearly the tougher conversation). That simple word “why” wound up fitting snug in the overarching theme of Impact Optimize: Asking why brings understanding, and understanding is education.

 

Pink’s comments touched on the differences between the individual and the team, too. Even in a business world driven by buzzwords like “collaboration” and “connection,” we cannot forget that everyone is their own person and can work just fine by themselves. “What is an office?” Pink asked, somewhat rhetorically. With so many people working wherever and whenever, and doing a fine job in many cases, his key to turning the corner is to pair autonomy with accountability. And when leaders can create meaningful work and assume positive intent, we will reach a new level in the nature of work.

 

Daniel Pink knows how to make minds move
(photo courtesy of Sam Siegel, Impact Networking).

 

Impact Optimize: Take Risks, but Manage Risk

Taking risks can lead to massive rewards. Managing risk is central to cybersecurity. There is progressive thinking in both.

 

Admittedly, I need to have deeper comprehension of blockchain technology and cryptocurrency, which were the focus of the middle keynote. Jeff Sekinger and Austin Barnard of Orca Captial, a cryptocurrency hedge fund, took us through a 101-style presentation with a sprinkling of noteworthy items: IBM is the biggest blockchain company, that not every business needs blockchain, and how two countries now accept crypto as a form of payment. Nothing surprises me, yet everything surprises me. I think I need to hit the books.

 

Were you aware that Impact Networking has invested in crypto? Neither did I. But here is yet another example of this company putting itself out there and challenging the status quo.

 

“Working with Impact Networking as a sponsor at Impact Optimize was a great opportunity to help business leaders and IT staff to better understand the modern workplace. Moving from traditional IT to the modern workplace can be very intimidating. Impact Optimize was an amazing event to relate to the attendees and present them simplified messaging to encourage next steps to begin solving business-level problems.” –Kevin Murray, Vice President of Partner Solutions at Nerdio

 

 

Keypoint Intelligence Opinion

I knew what to expect but, at the same time, I didn’t. After all, Impact Optimize is not an OEM dealer meeting or a meeting of dealers—rather, it’s a dealer holding a meeting. A big one. And at this juncture, is Impact Networking even a dealer? A mega dealer? A pure technology provider? The whole experience on August 11 has sort of redefined things for me.

 

Not once did I feel like anything was being sold. Neither CEO Frank Cucco nor President Dan Meyer took the stage to say hello or report company earnings—totally fine by me, as it reinforced the strategy that Impact Networking was serious about focusing on education 100%.

 

Not once did I hear the word “print” from anyone at Impact Networking. The company completed construction on the Peru Production Center to house all its demo production gear not too long ago, yet still…not a peep. Mind you, Impact Networking’s 2021 revenue was a shade north of $144M, with IT accounting for a shade south of 38% of that tally.

 

Would I have preferred a little more depth during some of the breakouts? That’s a typical gripe from an analyst. Would I have preferred more networking time? That’s a typical gripe from someone who chases stories. But that’s not the point. The education provided was a cohesive story, even with all the breakouts I could not attend. My gut says that the target audience got plenty out of the day: Existing customers had the opportunity to learn from their trusted technology partner, while potential clients got a sweet taste of what Impact Networking can deliver.

 

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More on Impact Networking

New Levels of Success: Thoughts from Impact Networking’s Frank Cucco

PODCAST: Interview with Impact Networking’s Patrick Layton

Rearview Mirror: Impact Networking and The Great Recession