(Pictured above: The Executive EcoSystem Panel on the second day of the Continuum Navigate conference was one of the conference’s highlights.)
The Continuum Navigate conference at The Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas, Oct. 14-16 was an informative event for anyone interested in learning more about the IT services world. This was the second of two Navigate conferences in the U.S. The previous was held two weeks before in Pittsburgh.
The two-day event is aimed at Managed Services Providers (MSPs), and although some content is best understood by those deeply embedded in the MSP profession, I still gleaned plenty of useful information from the two General Sessions as well as in the breakout sessions, and by speaking with Continuum executives.
Let’s be clear, this is not an office technology dealer conference. The target audience is MSPs, and some attendees are employed by office technology dealerships.
Continuum packs plenty of information and education into the two-day event. The General Sessions were informative. The breakout sessions address a wide range of topics, from sales and marketing strategies to security, to best practices, to support. Some of these sessions were more in the wheelhouse of experienced MSPs while others met the needs of the novice to the experienced MSP.
This was the second time I attended a Continuum Navigate conference. My first was 2017 in Boston. I felt totally out of my element at that event while this time I was more comfortable with most of the program content even though some was still over my head. But you need to start your education somewhere and I anticipate I’ll have a better understanding of this space and the content the next time I attend a Navigate conference.
Now, let’s look at what surprised me most about the Continuum Navigate conference.
- There’s a lot to learn about Managed Services – This is what it feels like to travel to a foreign country with only a basic understanding of the language. At least I had a basic knowledge of the MSP world thanks to having interviewed managed services professionals within the office technology dealer channel for articles in The Cannata Report. The technology partner exhibit area was mostly populated with companies I didn’t know. Yes, I was familiar with ConnectWise and Webroot, and it was a surprise to see Wells Fargo exhibiting, but that was about it among the 20-24 technology partners exhibiting. Surprisingly, some exhibitors were Continuum competitors. With some 27 breakout sessions to choose from in seven different time slots, it had to be difficult for MSPs to narrow down their selections as to which session to attend. I gravitated towards the sessions I felt I would get the most out of from a beginner’s perspective and I left Las Vegas feeling much more informed about issues facing MSPs than I was when I arrived.
- You can never talk too much about security – Okay, maybe it wasn’t surprising that security was a hot topic of conversation during the General Sessions or in the breakout sessions. It was also the focus of many of the technology partners showcasing at the event. However, the biggest surprise for me was during a panel discussion in the General Session where representatives from IT services companies emphasized that fear is not the best way to sell security. Rather the emphasis should be on showing customers where the vulnerabilities are within their organizations, what an attack looks like, and how to protect themselves against hackers rather than scaring them with stories of security breaches.
- Continuum’s reach extends well beyond our office technology dealer space – Most attendees were MSPs and very few were from the office technology dealer channel. According to John Schweizer, Continuum’s vice president of office technology, Continuum has more than 6,000 partners worldwide with only about 165 of those partners from the office technology space. Approximately 145 of those are based in the U.S. Although I did not see any familiar faces from the dealer channel in attendance as most attendees were from those organization’s Managed Services divisions, some of the dealerships attending the conference were Gordon Flesch Company, ImageNet Consulting, and Les Olson Company.
- The concerns of MSPs aren’t much different from those running office technology dealerships – My favorite breakout session was The MSP of Tomorrow facilitated by Lauren Looney, channel development manager with datto, a provider of IT solutions delivered by MSPs, and based in my hometown of Norwalk, CT. She provided findings from a datto survey of MSPs. The top five concerns of MSPs included marketing/sales, work/life balance, revenue growth, ransomware/cybersecurity, and hiring good people. Two of those concerns—revenue growth and hiring—were among the top dealer concerns in our latest survey. This session was also valuable for better understanding the mindset of the SMB Managed Services customer. Here we learned about what SMBs care about, how SMBs find a Managed Services provider, reasons for outsourcing IT, and the challenges these customers are facing.
- Promoting diversity – Continuum’s efforts to promote the hiring of veterans within the IT services space is well known and that was underscored during the panel discussion with IT services providers as well as with a video about its initiatives in hiring veterans during the General Session. I wasn’t surprised to hear that message, but what surprised me was the emphasis on diversity in filling IT positions. During the Executive Ecosystem Panel discussion, panelists recommended reaching out to students at universities and community colleges, in particular, recruiting more women into the profession.
- Continuum’s Partner of the Year – When checking into the hotel on Monday evening I ran into Sharp President & CEO Mike Marusic who was attending the conference along with Bob Madaio, vice president marketing. According to Marusic, Sharp does some $20 million a year in business with Continuum, which was why Sharp was honored as Continuum’s Partner of the Year during the awards presentation on the last day of the show.
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