InfoTrends at MSPWorld 2016

Brendan Morse
Apr 7, 2016

On April 4, 2016, David Ramos and I presented for the first time at MSPWorld. The three day conference was held in Orlando, and is one of the biannual shows managed by MSPAlliance. MSPAlliance is a MSP trade association founded in 2000 with 25,000 members globally. The conference is marketed as the “only event in the managed services industry brought to you by MSPs, for MSPs. MSPWorld is driven by those that have had actual real-world experiences and successes in the managed services industry AS a managed service provider.” Conference organizers went with the theme of “MSPStrong,” and divided the show into four educational tracks for business, sales and marketing, service operations, and technical.

MSPWorld Sponsors

MSPWorld Sponsors

 

Security Steals the Show, But Sales and Marketing Was All the Talk
While the stated theme of the conference was MSPStrong, I think it is safe to say the unofficial theme was IT security. While the conference agenda and speakers plainly listed security-related sessions, this topic seemed to bleed into many other sessions. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Taken in totality, the show did a good job covering such a complex and sweeping topic. Based on my count, over one-quarter of the sponsors were vendors exclusively focused on one security segment or another. As a market analyst, the big trend was a shifting paradigm about how to sell security. Security has been an important component of any MSP business and value proposition, but the ways in which it is being sold is changing. Instead of an add-on or upsell, MSPs will be increasingly leading with the security value proposition.

The managed services market is growing quite strongly (as we’ll show in forthcoming market forecasts), but the market is saturated with service providers. This saturation was reflected in the tone I heard from the MSPs at MSPWorld. Most were generally optimistic about 2016 and beyond, but they recognized that the sheer number of competitors makes growing their business difficult. This would be especially challenging given the problems around sales and marketing which seemed to be the number one problem in my conversations with attendees. These are experienced, savvy entrepreneurs but they were simply flummoxed by the issue. Moreover, this is not a new problem for many of them rather it’s been a challenge for years and no matter what they have tried just could not seem to permanently, if at all, resolve their problems. Many speakers talked about, and I am firm believer in, service portfolio expansion (mobile, cloud, security, IoT). But talking to the MSPs made me believe that marketing and selling their core managed IT services should be their first priority before significant efforts are put into diversification.

Our Session
InfoTrends’ presentation, Your New Competition: Print and Imaging OEMs and Office Equipment Dealers, fell into the business category. In it we presented a variety of research around the entry and growth of OEMs and dealers into the managed IT and cloud services space.

Preso pic

Based on our conversations at the show and during the session, our presentation could not have been timelier. The audience for our session was particularly engaged in the topic—with much of the time being used was attendees discussing amongst themselves how they were experiencing this trend in the market. Here are just a few examples of the impact I heard at the conferences about the convergence of print and imaging and IT services:
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  • A long established Mid-Atlantic located MSP had tried to partner with different OE dealers in the past but the relationship had fizzled for lack of clear mutual objectives—he told us he planned on restarting those relationships back up after hearing the presentation.
  • A Southeast located MSP just started a partnership with an OE dealer and was excited about the opportunity.
  •  A leader from the MSP division of a very large dealer is a MSPAlliance board member and was a speaker on a keynote panel. He several great insights at our session about the challenges dealers have in getting into managed IT.
  • A marketing vendor sponsoring the event started out as a MSP who was acquired by a dealer; subsequently they left and started their own marketing company targeting MSPs and MPS providers because they felt there is a massive unmet need among these channels for marketing assistance.
  • An East Coast MSP had just lost a major account to mindSHIFT because they had national presence and strong sales presentation.
  •  A smaller Midwest MSP that had just won against mindSHIFT, had just sold his first (incidental) copier sale at a 50% margin and was interested in learning more about the opportunities around document imaging sales.

These are just the stories of a few MSPs that we happened to speak to at a conference, I am sure there are many thousands of similar stories from across the country out there. Even among those who were aware of this trend, many still found it surprising how many dealers were in the market and see how formidable OE dealers’ business cash flow and business acumen is generally. Additionally, the attendees didn’t realize how large All Covered and mindSHIFT had become geographically and in terms of revenue since they were acquired.
Our Opinion
The convergence of the office equipment industry and IT services business was certainly evident at MSPWorld. We were glad to bring our in depth research and knowledge of the subject to the show. While the idea of document technology and IT as entirely disparate markets has always been a bit exaggerated, at this date in time, it has reached the point of simply becoming untrue entirely. InfoTrends has evolved with this market and has grown from simply covering the convergence of these two markets to the launch of a full-fledged Managed Services Advisory Area just over a year ago. Combining this with our longstanding strength in the channel, InfoTrends is becoming an authority in the wider managed and cloud services space. So, expect to see more event coverage and market research around managed services coming from InfoTrends. For more information, please contact your account manager and/or Scott Phinney at scott.phinney@infotrends.com.

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