Top 3 Takeaways from CompTIA ChannelCon 2017

It’s been almost a month since CompTIA ChannelCon 2017 wrapped up, and I finally found some time to sit down and digest all of the great content, ideas and meetings that came out of this year’s event. There’s so much going on in the IT industry and a lot for us all to be excited about, but we’re also faced with a number of challenges that we need to plan for and adapt to ensure the continued success of this industry.

To that note, I’ve summarized my top three takeaways from this year’s event that we should all keep in mind as we move forward together.

1. Cybersecurity Is (by Far) the Hottest Topic Across the Industry

If there was one topic that seemed to come up in every session and every conversation I had at ChannelCon, it was cybersecurity. Everyone sees it as both a threat and an opportunity, and everyone seems to be looking for ways to offer comprehensive security services to their clients or channel partners.

At one of the breakout sessions, they asked the room how many solution providers were offering some sort of security service, and about half of the room raised their hands. They then asked how many considered themselves a Managed Security Services Provider (MSSP), and all of the hands went down. It’s clear that people are starting to venture into cybersecurity, but no one feels comfortable calling themselves a “security solutions provider” yet.

I also attended the Security Community meeting, where they discussed the difficulties in hiring security talent. Here are some stats that really jumped out to me:

  • 86 percent of people recognize that there’s a security talent gap
  • 92 percent expect difficulty in finding the right person
  • The average salary of a security analyst is $93k/year 

The high demand for security talent means a high price tag for MSPs. Additionally, many MSPs will make the mistake of adding every security certification they can think of to their job descriptions. However, this only further increases the price tag. To combat this, make sure you know exactly what skillsets and certifications you need before putting out a job description, because the more you add to the qualifications, the harder and more expensive it will be to find the right person. 

2. There's a Strong Focus on Company and Organizational Culture

Another topic that found its way into most presentations and breakout sessions was company culture. Here are some of the ways it showed up:

  • The Managed Services Community meeting featured a presentation titled The Unexpected Obstacle to Growth in an MSP – Hiring, which discussed organizational culture
  • The Future Leaders Community held a workshop to generate ideas for recruiting the next generation of talent to our industry
  • The Advancing Women in Technology community featured a session titled How Company Culture Impacts the Bottom Line
  • There was an additional breakout session titled Managing Talent as Your Company Evolves

Lots of companies, both vendors and channel providers, are looking closely at their company culture and searching for ways to enhance and define what it means to work there.

I think this new focus speaks to the talent shortage in IT. Everyone is competing for new talent and skillsets, and therefore, there’s a strong focus on developing and defining company culture to help differentiate their organization as a potential employer.

We all know that employee churn is a challenge for every business, but it’s hard to put a cost around replacing that talent. One statistic I learned during a breakout session is that the cost to replace an employee is about 150% of their salary. That’s a pretty staggering number! It’s more cost-effective to increase an employee’s salary by 25% than to let them leave your company, especially if you have no candidates identified to fill their role.

Hiring and retaining talent is a key focus for all companies in technology, and judging by the strong focus on company culture throughout ChannelCon, I’d say that the competition for talent is only picking up.

3. We Need More Diversity in the Tech Industry

One initiative that CompTIA is very focused on (and something I absolutely agree with) is that we need to attract more diversity to technology. This is evident by CompTIA launching the Advancing Diversity in Technology community last year, and in the ChannelCon 2017 keynote presentation given by CompTIA CEO, Todd Thibodeaux. During his keynote, Todd argued that there is a diversity gap in IT, and that as an industry, we must work hard to attract and retain more women and more minorities to our industry. He presented some very compelling statistics around this:

  • 94 percent of tech employees think their company does a good job with diversity, but only 19 percent think their company has an inclusive work environment
  • A 1 percentage point increase in company diversity results in a 3 percentage point increase in revenue
  • Companies in the top quartile of ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to be a top financial performer
  • African-Americans leave tech jobs 3.5 times faster than Caucasian men do

What struck me about this presentation is that there’s a tangible financial impact when companies increase diversity. Increased diversity is proven to help accelerate innovations, provide better customer insight, increase productivity and make it easier to raise capital.

Todd also argued that it’s not a skills gap that we’re challenged with, but a confidence gap. People can be trained, but many potential employees don’t think they have what it takes to make it in technology, and that’s what’s causing the lack of diversity and talent.

We need to do a better job of reaching out and demystifying technology to those who are not in the industry. Companies should prioritize diversity inclusion and start recruiting earlier with a focus on diversity. Additionally, be a mentor and connect with people outside of the industry. Diversifying your network and social media following will help open up new connections and tap into new demographics.

When you have people from different backgrounds, who have different perspectives and experiences, it helps fuel new ideas that can lead to breakthroughs, increased profitability and greater efficiency. We need more of this in technology if we want to ensure our industry continues to innovate and flourish.

Final Thoughts

This is the fourth ChannelCon that I’ve attended, and each year I find the conference more and more rewarding. CompTIA is a great organization that’s focuses on the right priorities for our industry, and I encourage all—no matter your company, your role, your years of experience or your background—to get involved, because it will only help us further ourselves, our companies and our industry.

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