IT Glue GlueCon: 10 Trends, Developments MSPs Should Track

Major portions of the MSP industry are gathering this week for two key conferences in Arizona. First up is IT Glue’s GlueCon 2018 (Sept. 16-18) followed by SolarWinds MSP’s latest Empower MSP (Sept. 18-19) gathering. ChannelE2E will be on-hand for both events.

So what should managed services providers (MSPs) expect? Here are 10 key themes and trends that will likely emerge at GlueCon. (We’ll be back with a separate SolarWinds MSP conference preview soon.)

1. Transforming Into a Platform

IT Glue VP Luis Giraldo

IT Glue CEO Chris Day

IT Glue is best-known as a documentation software provider for MSPs. But the company continues to round-out its offerings — extending into feature areas like checklists; categories like password management and plenty more. Explore the feature lineup and IT Glue now resembles a platform.

Where is the company’s R&D heading next? Keynotes from CEO Chris Day (Monday) and VP Product Luis Giraldo (Tuesday) will reveal the answers. We’ll be blogging live from the sessions.

2. The Titan’s Actually Talk to One Another

IT Glue CEO Chris Day has pulled together quite the panel for Monday. It features Day and such market “Titans” as:

I’m set to moderate — and perhaps even referee the session.

Kidding aside, I expect a cordial but witty discussion. The Titans have never been in the same room together (at least not all at once). Despite the Cold War between each vendor, the executives have quietly developed hotlines between each other. And from time to time, the Titans even compare industry notes with one another. It’s a healthy development. A thawing of sorts, though the competition remains fierce.

Panel Focus – Teaser Alert: So what will we cover on the panel? I suspect we may touch on the following:

  • The MSP Software Ecosystem.
  • MSP Business Models, Profit Models and the Role of Automation.
  • Tomorrow’s MSPs: What Will They Look Like?

Of course, the bullet points above are subject to change — dramatic change. Why? Put six strong personalities on a stage, give them open microphones, and audibles are bound to happen .

3. MSP Valuations and Exit Strategies

Service Leadership’s Steve Lewis

You know ChannelE2E covers M&A deals, valuations and exit strategies non-stop. And increasingly, MSP-centric conferences include sessions on those topics. Here at GlueCon, sessions in those areas will include:

  • Scaling Up: How a Few Companies Make It… and Why the Rest Don’t (Verne Harnish)
  • Pivotal learnings from growing a $100 million MSP (Steve Lewis, an M&A expert from Service Leadership)
  • Scaling Your MSP Business: The 5 Big Levers (TruMethods CEO Gary Pica)
  • MSP of the Future (Datto VP Rob Rae)
  • Buying or Selling an MSP (Service Leadership’s Lewis takes an encore)

We expect to attend each of those sessions, and we’ll weave together some valuation & exit coverage.

In the meantime, it’s safe to say MSP valuations have been rising. What about the classic 5X to 7X EBITDA valuation? Frankly, it sounds a bit low in the current market. We’ve heard of some deals in the 8X to 10X EBITDA range — particularly for MSPs that are large, platform plays or IP (intellectual property) owners.

4. Listen More, Talk Less, Ask Questions

That’s my advice to men in the room who attend the ‘Amazons’ session featuring:

  • Christine Gassman, director of global channel engagement at Datto
  • Jacqui Murphy, VP of marketing at Auvik Networks
  • Jennifer Bodell, VP of channel at Pax8
  • Dana Liedholm, chief marketing officer at ID Agent
  • Holly Pateman, VP of marketing at IT Glue, moderating

The panel’s premise: Companies with strong female leadership see a 36% higher return on equity than those without, yet only 3.6% of organizations in the channel are spearheaded by women.

I’ve seen and explored ways to correct similar shortcomings in other sectors. For instance, in 2015 I joined Golden Seeds — an angel group that only invests in female-owned startup businesses. And in our own business, the best person to lead our company isn’t me. It’s my business partner Amy Katz. In fact, Amy was my boss for a couple years when we sold our previous company to a big media firm.

It’s been a great working relationship. But I do stumble from my own unconscious biases from time to time. For instance, I’ve sat down for a meeting with a male and female business team, assumed the woman reported to the man, and discovered that the opposite was true. It’s one small example of where I can improve my own thinking in terms of diversity, empowerment, and avoiding assumptions. And yes, I know I likely have additional blind spots on this topic.

I look forward to hearing where Gassman, Murphy, Bodell, Liedholm, and Pateman take their panel discussion.

5. Managed Security Services

Every MSP will become an MSSP… Or not. That’s likely one piece of the larger security discussion I expect to heat at GlueCon.

Frankly, I tread carefully on this topic. I believe every MSP will need to move deeper into the security market. As Continuum’s George and ConnectWise’s Bellini will tell you: Every SMB customer expects their MSP to handle security.

Still, I don’t think every MSP will earn the MSSP moniker. Instead, MSPs need to start with the basics:

Webroot CTO Hal Lonas

  • Practice better overall IT hygiene
  • Focus on endpoint security
  • Address business continuity
  • Master patch management

What about building a SOC, mastering SIEM, offering penetration testing, moving into threat hunting and more? Don’t get ahead of yourself. In those cases, I believe most small MSPs will need to partner for MSSP-class services. (Hence, ChannelE2E’s sister website, MSSP Alert.)

Here at GlueCon, I look forward to catching up privately with each of the Titan panel members for their thoughts. Also, I’ll check in with Webroot CTO Hal Lonas, who’s on-hand to discuss threat intelligence for SMBs and MSPs.

Continue to page two of two for a look at items 6 to 10 that MSPs should track at GlueCon.

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