Can ConnectWise IT Nation 2011 Attract 2,000 Attendees?

The recent IT Nation conference in Orlando attracted roughly 1,400 attendees, the vast majority of which were managed services providers. So what will ConnectWise, the event organizer, do for an encore? The answer: Potentially grow the conference to 2,000 or more attendees in 2011. That effort will require a careful balancing act. Here's the update.

On November 16, ConnectWise issued a press release recapping the IT Nation 2010 conference -- noting that more than 1,400 attendees gathered for the conference. The conference also include a solutions pavilion with over 50 vendors. Dig a little deeper and you'll find the following line at the end of the press release:

"Approximately 2,000 attendees are expected to attend next year's IT Nation Summit November 9-11 [2011] at the Hilton Bonnet Creek hotel in Orlando, Fla."
Admittedly bigger isn't always better. But generally speaking, attendees told me they considered the IT Nation 2010 conference a success because the event was loaded with business-centric content -- everything from sales and marketing tips to search engine optimization discussions. Many of the session conversations spilled over into hundreds of side meetings that stretched on into the evenings.

IT Nation also provides a stage for vendor- and peer-centric content. In the recap press release, ConnectWise was quick to put the spotlight on its technology partners, stating:
"Attendees also found value in other not-to-miss events that were held before the official start of IT Nation 2010, including CharTec's Unherd of Conference, LabTech's Automation Nation, the annual HTG Peer Group Summit, Level Platforms' Next Level Summit, Quosal Workflow Boot Camp, and TruMethod's Schnizz Rally, creating an entire series of collaborative and educational opportunities for the IT Nation."
And therein resides the challenge. Even as ConnectWise Capital maintains investments in CharTec and LabTech Software, the IT Nation provided a stage for a large Level Platforms-hosted partner gathering. That's an important point since LabTech and Level Platforms compete on some fronts.

Cooperating and Competing

I'm not naive. Behind the curtains I realize the ConnectWise Capital investments have generated some angst among some of ConnectWise's technology partners. But I also realize the following reality: In every maturing software market partners sometimes wind up competing. It's called coopetition and it's unavoidable. As long as APIs (applications programming interfaces) remain open and products integrate with one another, MSPs can potentially benefit from the coopetition -- which generates new innovations and software price competition.

All that said, ConnectWise will need to maintain a careful balancing act as it ramps up for IT Nation 2011. To date, IT Nation's success has been based on the fact that (A) business-centric discussions drive the content and (B) ConnectWise balances its own interests (PSA, CharTec, LabTech) with third-party interests (Level Platforms, etc.).

It's not an easy balancing act. But I've seen it succeed before. Consider the situation at Oracle and Microsoft. On the one hand, Oracle and Microsoft compete fiercely in the database market. At times that competition can turn ugly and bloody. But Microsoft's Windows Server team still manages to work closely with the Oracle database team because customers demand Oracle-on-Windows.

The situation is similar in the managed services market, where LabTech will compete with most of the major RMM players -- even as ConnectWise strives to integrate with the RMM software ecosystem. Coopetition will surely intensify in the MSP software market. Down the road MSPmentor will be watching closely to see how the IT Nation 2011 content shapes up. And we'll be curious to see how the event potentially scales up to 2,000 attendees.

Get Out Of Your Office

And don't forget: Most of the major PSA (professional services automation) and RMM (remote monitoring and management) software providers host MSP-centric customer and partner conferences. Admittedly, more and more conversations and education has shifted to online forums. But MSPmentor still finds face-to-face events invaluable. Indeed, face-to-face conferences remain one of the fastest ways for MSPmentor to spot industry trends before they go mainstream.

We look forward to seeing you again on the road really soon.

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