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CompTIA AMM 2017 Recap: 25 Interviews & Observations

The wall between IT professionals and channel partners continues to crumble. The two communities are marching forward — together — in a mad dash toward next-generation business models and technology careers.

Those themes and more surfaced this week at CompTIA Annual Member Meeting (AMM) in Chicago. Through more than 20 interviews, we captured the pulse of the industry — including conversations with CompTIA CEO Todd Thibodeaux, Executive VP Nancy Hammervik, Chairwoman Amy Kardel (each pictured above) and plenty more.

CompTIA is perhaps best known as an IT organization for channel partners. But take a closer look and you’ll find that the association has certified thousands of IT pros. Moreover, CompTIA has essentially acquired the Association of Information Technology Professionals (AITP), and is launching an IT professional organization to “help foster skilled workforce.” (Technically, “acquired” isn’t the accurate term since the deal involved non-profit associations — but you get the picture.)

So what happened during the CompTIA AMM sessions? I gotta concede: I spent most of my time in the lobby speaking with leaders, influencers, pundits and entrepreneurs from all walks of life. Here’s a minute-by-minute recap of my meetings — some planned, some impromptu — from Wednesday, March 22. Plus: My own views on the state of ‘partners’ at the end of this blog.



9:00 a.m.: Say Hello to CompTIA World & Tracy Pound

Tracy Pound

I land in Chicago and check my Facebook feed. Much of the CompTIA membership is buzzing about CompTIA World, a new magazine for the association’s membership. Skeptics may say magazines are dead. But I’m a believer. Much like an alumni magazine for a university, CompTIA World puts a face on the organization’s various members and influencers. The first cover story profiles Member of the Year Tracy Pound, founder and managing director of MaximITy, a technology training, consultancy and project management company based in Tamworth, England. The content — and the design — hit the mark.


10:30 a.m.: Managed Sales Pros & Tracie Orisko

Tracie Orisko

As I wait to check in at the hotel, Managed Sales Pro President Tracie Orisko and I make eye contact. It’s time to compare notes about the industry’s growth… but we’re both running to meetings. We promise to catch up later. But I drop the ball. Too bad, because Managed Sales Pros always has a good story to share.


11:00 a.m.: Hello Virtual Channel Chief

After checking into my room, I return to the conference level and run into Get Channeled Co-Founder Ted Roller. A veteran channel chief, Roller now offers virtual channel chief services to companies like Mailprotector. Roller is all smiles. That’s hardly surprising considering his channel strategy and execution helped Mailprotector to score some funding in recent weeks.

Ted Roller

Ted Roller

Now, Roller also is helping ConnectBooster with its partner program. ConnectBooster develops an automated payments processing solution for channel partners. The takeaway? Get Channeled’s Virtual Channel Chief model is now proven and the business has reached a tipping point, Roller asserts.

But enough of this business talk. Ask Roller about his kids and the guy really lights up… And yes, I can’t help but offer up some updates about my own kids.



11:30: Jay McBain Minus Social Media

Jay McBain

Former ChannelEyes CEO Jay McBain stops by. No form of social media is present. No signs of an Obama wiretap, either.

Jay exited ChannelEyes back in December and has been touring the world with his wife, Michelle Ragusa-McBain. Perhaps you’ve witnessed the travels on social media… …

Has Jay been on a long vacation? Not really. Quite a few technology companies have reached out to McBain for channel advice in recent months. The result involves long conversations in Australia, Europe and North America…

McBain deserves credit for sparking a healthy debate after CompTIA ChannelCon 2016. At the time, he described warning signs across the IT channel. Some of the conversation involved the gap between traditional partners and SaaS companies. But pick Jay’s brain and he’ll tell you far more…


11:45: Dave Sobel’s Search for Consumer Hardware…

Dave Sobel

Dave Sobel

I got into a lengthy conversation with SolarWinds MSP’s Dave Sobel. He’s begging the consumer hardware industry to introduce new innovations so that he can spend a ton of money and geek out on a fresh upgrade cycle. (Don’t tell his wife, Sharon)

But alas, Dave can’t find anything to buy. Among our conclusions:

  • To our horror: Apple has somehow transformed into a lame PC company — offering too many different PC variations without innovating. Remember the classic four quadrant model Steve Jobs used to use: (1) High End, (2) Low End, (3) Consumer, (4) Business. We’d like to see Apple return to that approach for its Macs — while introducing that approach for its watches and smartphones. Too many colors. Too many styles. Please — build ONE great device in each category then expand (ever so slightly) from there.
  •  Oh, and what about Apple Mac Minis — can we get that as a monthly HaaS subscription that Apple ACTUALLY upgrades every three years (or less) for us?

Noon: TeamLogic IT Revenues Accelerate

Chuck Lennon

Chuck Lennon

TeamLogic IT now has about 95 IT franchise owners across roughly 120 locations. And those businesses are performing strongly, according to President Chuck Lennon. Year-over-year revenues for existing locations rose roughly 25 percent in 2016 vs. 2015.

Lennon and I discuss some key franchising strategies, milestones and next-moves for both him and the various franchise owners. ChannelE2E Senior Contributing Blogger Ty Trumbull is set to follow-up on several fronts.


12:20: Addressing Workforce Diversity

Todd Thibodeaux

CompTIA CEO Todd Thibodeaux exits a session and grabs some time with me and Lennon in the hall. We discuss the converging worlds of IT pros and channel partners. And Todd touches on a few of the initiatives here at the event — particularly a workforce diversity push.

When it comes to diversity, CompTIA’s focus areas have included Creating IT Futures, Advancing Women in IT and Future Leaders. Next up: The advancement of African-Americans and Hispanics/Latinos within the Technology Industry.



12:30: Global Managed Services…

Amy Luby

Amy Luby

Chris Siakos

Amy Luby, head of U.S. sales at Sinefa, stops by and introduces me to Chris Siakos — one of the company founders. They ask how Amy Katz and I came up with the original MSPmentor 250 list back when we co-owned that site (we sold in 2011 and exited in 2014). I think we still have the plan — which truly was written on the back of a cocktail napkin in Silicon Valley sometime around September 2007 or so. Has it been that long?

Sinefa is an interesting MSP play. The company specializes in traffic visibility — particularly over wide area networks and the Internet. It’s a multi-tenant platform that had about 175 partners onboard as of late 2016. Luby joined to drive U.S. expansion…


12:50: After the Exit, Part I

Leonard DiMiceli

Leonard DiMiceli

I ran into Leonard DiMiceli at some point during the day. For the sake of my coverage lets plug him in here. DiMiceli pioneered the early MSP security market. Indeed, he helped to build SpamSoap and then transformed that company into Nuvotera. Fast forward to 2015 and Nuvotera had a successful sale and exit. After some yada, yada, yada, DiMiceli emerged as VP of channel sales at MyDigitalShield in August 2016. Instead of seeking headlines, DiMiceli and the team have quietly been building something bigger over at MyDigitalShield.

Hmmm… Let’s cut a deal, Len: Tell me what you’re up to, and I’ll tell you what ChannelE2E is up to… Off the record, of course.


12:55: After the Exit, Part II

MJ Shoer

Hey, there’s MJ Shoer looking remarkably relaxed. It’s been more than a year since Shoer sold his MSP to Internet & Telephone. Instead of heading off into the sunset, Shoer stuck around to help further accelerate I&T’s business. So how is the business performing — and how is life after you take off the CEO hat? Shoer smiled and waved as the escalator whisked him away… onward and upward to his next meeting. But we expect to connect in the days ahead to discuss the entrepreneur to exit (E2E) journey — along with his current encore at I&T.


1:00 p.m.: Managed Security Services Trends

Scott Barlow

Scott Barlow

I grab some time with Scott Barlow, VP of Global MSP for Sophos. Sure, just about every security company is jumping into the MSP market with point solutions. But Barlow insists Sophos has end-to-end solutions backed by machine learning. Moreover, the Sophos MSP Connect Partner Program features the Sophos Central management dashboard — a single pane of glass for managed security services.

But enough about products. What trends does Barlow see? Most MSPs won’t transform into true MSSPs (managed security services providers), he suspects. Instead, those MSPs will plug into Master MSPs that offer complete security services. But the definitions vary by region. We agree to regroup on this topic at some later time, perhaps over a cold meatball sandwich in a hot hotel lobby at 2:00 a.m.


1:40 p.m.: Nice Penmanship, And Datto Partner Momentum

Rob Rae

Rob Rae

Datto VP of Business Development Rob Rae texts me. He needs 30 seconds of my time. For what? It’s a long story. Somehow, we get sidetracked talking about our kids and high school parties. Yada, yada, yada. Weren’t they all just in grammar school a year or two ago?

Alas, Rae and I don’t get too bogged down in Datto talk. After all, the Datto business strategy is clear: Total data protection. The effort started with backup and disaster recovery. But the company more recently has expanded to networking, WiFi and unified threat management. Expect the bigger story at DattoCon 2017



2:00 p.m.: Pax8 and Cloud-based Distribution

Don Jeter

I’ve met with the Pax8 team multiple times over the past year. Anecdotal evidence suggests their cloud distribution business is accelerating rapidly. Consider this: The company has about 80 employees today, up from about 40 in November 2016. Plus, headcount should reach about 120 by the end of this year.

Plenty of Pax8 folks are at the table for this discussion. Among the new names I get to know: Director of Channel Marketing Don Jeter. He’s the name behind Pax8’s popular Cloud Wingman marketing and education strategy…

Continue to page two for ChannelE2E’s additional CompTIA AMM 2017 meetings from Wednesday, March 22.

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11 Comments

Comments

    Ted Roller:

    Wow. I think Joe just managed to capture what I have always found so hard to communicate; why CompTIA AMM is such an important part of what happens every year in the channel. Amazing use of a keyboard, Joe!

      Joe Panettieri:

      Hey Ted: Thanks for the updates at AMM, and thanks for reading ChannelE2E. Great to connect. Onward. Upward.
      -jp

    Chris Phillips:

    Great recap Joe! Love to see all the connections that can happen at AMM! See you soon!

      Joe Panettieri:

      Thanks Chris: I’ll be in touch (like… today) about CompTIA Future Leaders. Stay tuned.
      -jp

    Urvish Badiani:

    I’d like to see blog about the conversations from 12am to 3am at the lobby bar! 🙂

      Joe Panettieri:

      Urvish: That blog is written but safely tucked away until 2035 and the release of my memoir.
      -jp

    Michelle Ragusa-McBain:

    Great wrap up, of some truly incredible industry thought leaders and friends. While I am extremely proud to be Jay McBain’s wife, and co-world traveler (as well as my beloved “day job” of 12 years + at Cisco- There’s never been a better time to do something Amazing http://www.cisco.com ), I am equally proud to serve as Chair of CompTIA’s Advancing Women in Technology Community as well! 🙂 We had a fantastic meeting and are working on a ton of great new initiatives including the creation of a Partner Alliance Director, Speakers Forum of Women, and many other great tactics to help encourage women and girls to pursue a career in Technology; as well as help companies create cultures that retains women/and diverse employees. Would love to tell you and Amy more about all of the amazing initiatives we are working on when you have time. In the mean time I encourage you and your readers to check us out on Social at Facebook: Advancing Women in Technology, Twitter @CompTIA_AWIT #DreamAWIT, and LinkedIn- CompTIA Advancing Women In Technology Community. We are running some great stuff in the spirit of Women’s History month! Thanks, and keep up the great investigative reporting! 🙂

      Joe Panettieri:

      Hey Michelle: Thanks for background on those CompTIA community efforts. Please feel free to send me updates re: Women’s History Month-related updates, etc. Joe [at] AfterNines [dot] com.

      Safe travels.
      -jp

    Chuck Lennon:

    Hey, Joe… great write-up of AMM and it was great to visit with you this week. Let’s continue the conversation.

    Best –
    CRL

      Joe Panettieri:

      Chuck: It was a pleasure to see you. Congrats on TeamLogic IT’s continued nationwide growth. We look forward to generating some follow-up coverage soon.

      Best,
      -jp

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