All of us here at Continuum still have our post-Navigate afterglow, two days later! Navigate wouldn't have been such a hit without the inspiring and actionable addresses given by our keynote speakers. Did you miss any of these speeches? Maybe you were unable to attend Navigate or you just decided to sleep in after jet-lag. No matter - we've summarized the key points from each below!
Keynotes & Noted Speakers
Peter Isler Keynote
World-renowned sailor, Peter Isler, gave his keynote speech to a packed room on Monday morning of Navigate 2014. Isler is a 2-time winner of America’s cup, and paralleled his experiences in sailboat racing to those in business.
Isler took part in the 1987 America’s Cup race, which turned out to be one of the most historic years in the race’s existence. Isler’s team ended up winning the race that year, but due to a technicality in the race’s governing document, the losing New Zealand team was able to challenge the American team to a head-to-head race, which has become known as The Mercury Bay Challenge.
The New Zealand team had developed a giant yacht for this race that was over 90 feet long and featured the largest mast acceptable under the race rules. The American team knew they couldn’t compete with this design, as there was no way to have a competitive boat built in time for the race. Instead, they looked for a different way of approaching the race.
Isler’s team settled on a catamaran design, which was drastically different from their New Zealand counterpart. Ultimately, the American team crushed the New Zealand team in the race because instead of trying to compete with them on size, they completely re-thought their approach to the race and was able to come up with a better-designed vessel.
This is an important point for MSPs. There are major challengers in the IT channel, and they are gigantic! Cloud technology providers are starting to sell their services direct to the end user, and MSPs can’t directly compete with these giants. Therefore, you must play to your strengths and re-think your approach to your business and how you add value to your clients.
Michael George Keynote
After Peter Isler’s talk, Continuum’s CEO, Michael George, took the stage to deliver his keynote address. Again, Michael emphasized the threat posed by the big companies in the technology space and what it means for the IT channel. He explained how “we’re in the midst of a major paradigm shift” and that if MSPs aren’t ready, they’re going to miss out on the opportunity.
In his keynote, Michael referenced Thomas Friedman’s famous book, The World Is Flat, where Friedman explains how outsourcing has helped contribute to the globalization of the world economy. However, Michael put his own spin on this concept and recommended MSPs start practicing “smartsourcing”. Instead of completely offloading core business functions to a third-party, smartsourcing implies allocating your resources on the right projects.
“[Smartsourcing is] taking your best resources off your biggest problems, and putting them on your biggest opportunities,” Michael exclaimed. Smartsourcing is not about replacing your technicians, but rather, offloading the projects that are weighing them down and allowing them to focus on more complex problems and revenue-driving activities.
Michael also explained the concept of SaaS (software-as-a-service) and why this business model has transformed the software industry. With SaaS, you have your software accessible anywhere, anytime and it’s always up-to-date. Continuum provides it’s own version of SaaS, but rather than software, it’s “Services-as-a-service”. The same way your software is accessible anywhere and anytime, with Continuum you now have IT services and expertise available to you on-demand, anytime and anywhere.
This is a huge competitive advantage for MSPs, because they have access to the technical resources they need to grow, in a way that’s cost efficient and scalable for their business.
To end his keynote, Michael stuck to the nautical theme of Navigate and introduced one of the most recognized movie quotes of all time, “you’re gonna need a bigger boat”. He mentioned the threat imposed by the big technology providers in the channel, and that in order to compete with them, MSPs will need to grow stronger and prepare for the challenge. “With Continuum, you are that bigger boat”, he explained, and urged MSPs to take advantage of the services and the business model that Continuum provides.
Larry Lucchino Fireside Chat
We had a special guest join us Monday night for a fireside chat with our Master of Ceremonies and VP of Sales, Mark Connolly. That guest was President & CEO of the Boston Red Sox, Larry Lucchino. Lucchino was part of an important transformation for the Red Sox organization, where he was appointed CEO in 2002 after he purchased the team with John Henry and Tom Werner.
Lucchino was tasked with winning a World Series for Boston and breaking the then 84 year old “Curse of the Bambino”. With his leadership, the Sox were able to transform their management and their roster to win the World Series in 2004 and break an 86 year old curse.
Most people know this story, but Lucchino shared some of the inside stories and secrets of the Red Sox transformation. Obviously, baseball and managed IT services are very different, but there are a number of similarities and key lessons learned from transforming an organization. Lucchino shared some of these lessons and answered questions from the audience.
Paul Chisholm Keynote
The audience could not get enough of the morning keynote by Former CEO of mindSHIFT Technologies and industry luminary, Paul Chisholm. Through a thick New England accent, Chisholm first discussed the current environment of the new IT channel. Compared to the early 2000s, MSPs are working in an interconnected market characterized by multiple devices, margin squeezes, security risks, cloud computing, and a remote service model, to name a few. One of the main takeaways from Chisholm's keynote was a simple formula: Maintain Staus Quo = Defeat. MSPs have to adapt to not only survive, but thrive.
Chisholm then dove into the rules of engagement, sharing business fundamentals and tips for differentiating managed services businesses in an increasingly competitive climate. To be a successful CEO, you have to have a robust, but flexible plan with a focused mission, built around a key differentiator. Having a plan itself is not enough. You have to execute it, and then track your progress. Simply put, "what gets measured gets managed."
The culture you set is the foundation of your organization. This company culture should include excellent people & products, cooperation & team work, and of course, the prioritization of your customers' needs. The CEO sets this culture - your employees take cues from you!
How exactly do you differentiate your business? Target and promote your strengths! How else? Build an accountable account management team, offer superior service delivery, integrate public & private clouds, and enhance security offerings.
"There is always a place among the giants for those who excute," announced Chisholm in his closing remarks. While the environment and business models will continue to change, those MSPs who evolve and keep customers top-of-mind, will remain the standard.
Len DiCostanzo Keynote
After Chisholm's keynote, Len DiCostanzo, SVP of Community & Business Development at Autotask echoed the partner first approach by teaching the audience how to "Enhance Customer Experience with a Smart IT Approach to Service Delivery."
Are you thinking strategically? To retain lifelong customers, you have to deliver superior customer experience (CX) throughout Sales & Account Management, Solutions, Managed Services & Support, and your Trusted Advisor/IT Department. Lifelong partners mean higher profit margins so it's important to optimize CX everywhere you can. DiCostanzo then turned to customer retention data, citing that only 55% of IT Service Provider Benchmarking Study respondents retain 90% of their clients. When you enhance CX, you differentiate your services, deliver against expectations, increase opportunity for add on sales, gain referrals, and bolster customer loyalty.
You know why you should enhance CX, but how do you go about offering superior customer service? Through Smart IT! DiCostanzo outlined the three keys to Smart IT: Efficiency, Accountability, and Intelligence. Achieve efficiency through automation and outsourcing, and you'll reduce costs, better allocate your IT technicians' talents, and remain competitive.
Accountability is obtained by setting goals, measuring results, and implementing better processes for areas in which you fail to deliver. This, in turn, increases your efficiency. By managing client expectations, Service Level Agreements (SLAs) can make make or break an MSP business. Shockingly, 70% of survey respondents are NOT meeting SLAs! DiCostanzo also advocated conducting customer surveys to get customer service feedback.
Lastly, intelligent, data-driven decisions will differentiate your managed IT services practice. Are you tracking client goals and satisfaction levels against industry benchmarks? Track business KPIs to continually improve your service offering.
As our platinum sponsor, Autotask understands how to enhance CX. Their leading Professional Services Automation (PSA) platform offers customer surveys, client access portals, client-facing dashboards, SLA management, workflow automation, and much more!
Tony Scott Keynote
Our final keynote was delivered by Tony Scott, SVP & CIO of VMware and former Microsoft executive. Scott stressed that we live in an increasingly liquid world, with old rigid structures melting away into new business processes. Now, competition is unpredictable, assets are shared, app deployment is instant, and innovation must be executed on rapidly. Organizations are now "built to change."
It's a brave new world, and IT leaders must be equally brave, but you face a major barrier. Too many of you are stuck in silos! You have to embrace the power of "AND." For example, safe, secure, and compliant solutions must also be instant, elastic, and self-service. Ultimately, there's been a shift. You, as brave IT leaders, have to be proactive and lead your business. And you have to do it at a much quicker pace! This timeliness was highlighted in Scott's IT executive mandate, which also included enabling your business to take first-mover advantage, implementing efficient and agile IT operations, and continuing to delight customers daily. When this is executed, "IT becomes an innovation center, not a roadblock."
Last, but certainly not least...
Continuum Veteran's Foundation
The Continuum Veteran's Foundation (CVF) presentation was perhaps the most inspirational. At the end of the conference, our CEO, Michael George, stepped out on stage to remind everyone of our mission to honor those who've served by getting them back to work! Currently, 8% of all Continuum Service Desk Revenue goes to CVF, and more than 20% of Service Desk Employees are veterans themselves! As George shares in the video below, "now it's our turn to help them succeed." After donating $50,000 to the nonprofit organization, Hire Heroes USA, with the goal of placing 50 veterans in civilian jobs in 2014, Hire Heroes USA has confirmed that 96 veterans have been hired so far this year as a result of CVF's efforts! After the video, George addressed the audience, asking members to stand up if they had ever served in the armed forces. The room burst into applause as we saluted our IT service providers' service to our country.
We've come a long way together, and now we take it to the moon! See you at Navigate 2015 in Las Vegas!
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By Meaghan Moraes
By Meaghan Moraes