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Continuum Navigate 2019 Live Blog: Day Two

The first of two Continuum Navigate 2019 conferences continues today (October 2) in Pittsburgh before playing an encore in Las Vegas (October 15-16). The events arrive at a key time for Continuum and the overall managed IT services provider (MSP) industry.

Continuum CEO Michael George

Continuum, led by CEO Michael George, offers an MSP automation and management platform that spans NOC (network operations center), SOC (security operations center), help desk, RMM (remote monitoring and management), BDR (backup and disaster recovery) and MSP business intelligence services.

Instead of selling just software, Continuum is more of a master MSP and master MSSP that manages and automates tasks for its customers. The customers — namely, MSPs — are typically freed up to focus more on sales and marketing activities. Roughly 6,000 MSPs have embraced the strategy.

Still, the quest for more partners and add-on services remains intense. Private equity firms — including Continuum parent Thoma Bravo — have been scouring the market for additional acquisitions, investments and potential business combinations. For its part, Continuum has been striving to grow both organically and through M&A deals.

Continuum Navigate 2019 Pittsburgh: Day Two Recap

13. October 2 Updates: Stay tuned. This blog will have multiple updates throughout Wednesday.

12. Emerging MSP Security Dashboard: Continuum’s buyout of BrightGauge is proving far more strategic than some observers may have expected. Among the major use cases: BrightGauge is emerging as a unified security dashboard for Continuum and its MSP partners. We’ll share more details soon.

11. IT Service Management Overhaul: Continuum spent recent months migrating to a new ITSM platform from Cherwell. Company executives applaud the platform because it will help Continuum scale its overall business along with partner interactions. But the deployment also triggered some help desk speed bumps for MSP partners. Continuum apologized for the temporary challenges (see item 9 below).

Continuum Navigate 2019 Pittsburgh: Day One and Pre-Event Recap

Continuum VP Fielder Hiss

Continuum’s Tasos Tsolakis

Continuum’s Bob Kocis

10. Keynote Recaps: Continuum CEO Michael George alongside VP of Product Fielder Hiss and SVP of Service Delivery Tasos Tsolakis offered keynotes, strategy and industry updates on Tuesday (October 1). Snapshot details are below.

9. Michael George’s keynote points:

  • Help Desk Services – Migration Recap: George apologized for some recent turbulence with Continuum’s help desk services. But he explained that Continuum has spent $20 million to modernize the platform. That said, the modernization journey created some stress on the service delivery, he conceded.
  • Cybersecurity – Pandemic Crisis: George described the increasing sophistication of cyberattacks, and the lack of preparedness within small business staffs. Sounds like he’s hinting some new automation and cyber awareness training services could be on the way…
  • Cybersecurity Training: Roughly 109 attendees completed ContiuumCertify training on Monday, September 30, according to George and Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) Robert Kocis. The goal: Make Continuum the leader in cybersecurity serving the MSP community.
  • 2015 Planning: The executive team brainstormed potential MSP market disruptions, then embarked on a plan to be the market disrupter. The team ultimately focused on World War II as the transformative event of the 20th century, and then applied key lessons to the MSP market. Post WW II, success involved building the highest quality products at the lowest cost. That set the stage for automation and robotics. Japan — which was decimated by WW II — embraced that mindset, based on thoughts from Dr. Edward Deming, and disrupted the automotive company. The result: Toyota skyrocketed onto the global scene and become dominant.
  • MSP Automation, Artificial Intelligence and Digital Disruption: George extended the automation example from the automobile industry into the MSP industry. We predicted these Continuum-AI theme back in April 2019. And George previewed the digital disruption theme for MSPs in this July 2019 blog. Building on the theme, George described how AI programs rose to defeat humans in such games as Chess and Go.
  • Time for Computers to Repair Computers: Michael George predicted that the marriage of Continuum’s cloud, remote monitoring, machine learning and business intelligence technologies will usher in the age of autonomic computing for MSPs. George’s key point: MSPs that hold fast to their own NOCs, SOCs and help desks will get disrupted by autonomic platforms.

8. Fielder Hiss Keynote Takeaways: He pointed to Continuum’s heritage as a cloud-based vendor, while many rivals started as on-premises solutions. The result is continuous learning, continuous improvement and a faster road to autonomous computing. An example: Continuum managed 21.9 million alerts in 2019, auto resolved 19.3 million of them (88 percent) and only 213,000 were escalated back to an MSP partner as a ticket. That’s the economic gain of being a Continuum partner, he asserts.

7. Tasos Tsolakis Keynote Takeaways: He demonstrated how Continuum will both automate as well as document processes that ensure tight communications across NOC, SOC and help desk services to safeguard MSP and end-customer systems. The example described how Continuum will communicate with MSPs to mitigate an attack and/or restore an end-customer.

6. Continuum and Fortinet Partner: Continuum has integrated Fortinet managed detection and response (MDR) capabilities into its Fortify cybersecurity solution, the companies disclosed September 30. Here are deeper details on Continuum-Fortinet relationship.

5. Managed Security Services: Continuum was one of the first MSP platform providers to go all-in on security. The company unveiled various SOC-related services at the Navigate conference in 2017. Close cybersecurity relationships with Netsurion, SentinelOne and Webroot have also been in place. A tuck-in SOC acquisition, involving CARVIR, arrived in 2018. An expanded cybersecurity portfolio for MSPs arrived in February 2019. And in recent weeks, Continuum unveiled an expanded SOC in Pittsburgh.

Still, many MSPs have struggled to sell and monetize security. Moreover, numerous MSPs across the globe have suffered ransomware attacks along with breaches that disable backup software systems.

For Continuum CEO Michael George and the executive team, the Navigate conferences may provide a key opportunity for an MSP industry reset. Instead of trying to sell security, perhaps it’s time for MSPs to practice proper security — particularly within their own networks. Continuum is in touch with multiple MSP vendors about industry best practices, standards and other steps that can further safeguard the industry. We’ll be watching for signs of progress at the conference.

Time permitting, we also plan to tour the Continuum SOC in Pittsburgh. Perhaps that SOC will show MSPs just how much it costs to build out a proper 24x7x365 cyber staff and associated infrastructure. That, in turn, could be a healthy reminder for smaller MSPs to partner up in the cybersecurity sector.

4. MSP Business Intelligence and Artificial Intelligence: Continuum acquired BrightGauge, a business intelligence platform that roughly 1,800 MSPs (managed services providers) leverage in January 2019.

At first glance, it was a tuck-in acquisition that allows MSPs to more effectively analyze their business performance. But take a closer look and it’s a safe bet that Continuum has far more planed for BrightGauge.

Think of it this way: Continuum’s NOC and RMM tools have been gathering MSP data and storing it in the Continuum cloud for perhaps a decade or more. Now, marry all that back-end data with the BrightGauge front-end, and perhaps there’s a way to bring machine learning, artificial intelligence and big data to the MSP industry — especially when it comes to cybersecurity.

3. Continuum Positioning: Continuum rebranded its various tools, technologies and services in early 2019. The newly branded Continuum lineup — positioned as “the platform for what’s next”  — includes:

  • Continuum Fortify (formerly Continuum Security);
  • Continuum Command (formerly Continuum RMM);
  • Continuum Recover (formerly Continuum BDR);
  • Continuum Assist — a rollup that leverages Continuum’s NOC, SOC and help desk services; and
  • Continuum Enable for MSP training, certification and sales coaching.

The rebrand effort somewhat resembles a similar effort from rival ConnectWise that surfaced in 2016. The similar product branding could be purely coincidental, but we’ve also openly wondered if ConnectWise and Continuum will eventually merge. ConnectWise dismissed that possibility in early 2019 during a conversation with ChannelE2E (see item 5 here). But now that Thoma Bravo has some ownership history with both businesses, we continue to watch for a potential company combination.

We’re also curious to see if any giant office equipment dealers make a bid for the company. Sharp Business Systems, for one, has leveraged Continuum’s platform since 2014. We sometimes wonder if the customer relationship could potentially shift into an owner relationship. But I concede: That’s purely speculation on my part.

Why am I constantly poking and prodding about M&A? The short answer: Rumors about a potential Continuum company sale surfaced in June 2019. We occasionally hear additional background chatter about potential buyers but so far the chatter hasn’t delivered any actual deal. We’ll keep listening for potential clues.

2. MSP Market Health: During his keynote at Continuum Navigate, CEO Michael George typically signals a rally cry — key messages, data points and anecdotes that mobilize MSPs for the next technology waves. His earlier keynotes focused heavily on cloud and security services.

This time around, it’s a safe bet George will focus at least in part on the digital disruption of MSPs — and a clear focus on what comes next for those MSPs.

1. Meet ChannelE2E: If you’re on-hand at the Pittsburgh event and would like to potentially meet then please email me (Joe@AfterNines.com). Also, keep checking this blog entry for more updates before, during and after the Continuum Navigate 2019 conferences in Pittsburgh and Las Vegas.

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