MSPWorld 2013 Orlando: 5 Managed Services Provider Trends

MSPWorld 2013 Orlando: 5 Managed Services Provider Trends

The MSPAlliance's flagship conference, MSPWorld 2013, is this week in Orlando, Fla. Check the agenda and you'll see a range of business, technology and sales sessions designed for MSPs pushing into cloud services. Although I'll be on the other side of the country at CharTec's Service Operations Academy in California. But if you're an MSP (managed services provider) heading to MSPWorld, here are some of the items I'd keep in mind.

1. BYOD: It sounds like MSPAlliance President Charles Weaver has put together an executive panel to tackle this topic head-on. The technology side of the conversation somewhat interests me -- but I'm a bit overwhelmed by all the mobile device management (MDM) and mobile applications management (MAM) solutions in the market.

For me, the discussion is about business models. The vast majority of MSPs are doing some tablet and smartphone support -- but getting paid little or anything for the service. Once you've helped a customer to outline and roll-out BYOD policies, where are the financial opportunities?

2. Cloud: Expect lots of chatter about private, hybrid and public cloud services. Great to hear the conference will cover regulatory and compliance issues. As MSPs formulate their strategies I would consider this simple warning: Amazon has cut cloud pricing more than two dozen times. And each time Amazon cuts prices, Microsoft, Google and Rackspace are forced to respond. The long-term trend suggests there's no way MSPs should ever attempt to compete with Amazon on pricing. Instead, decide whether to build your cloud services atop Amazon -- or whether a third-party partner has an unbeatable secret sauce that Amazon will never attempt to match.

3. Sales, Marketing and Social Networking: I'm totally -- and I mean totally -- burned out on Facebook. I realize I'm in the minority. But for my money, I think social networking requires paid platforms to deliver big results. Names like Hubspot and Eloqua come to mind. I wonder what percentage of MSPs are dabbling in those platforms to bolster marketing and sales?

4. Partner Programs: Keep an eye on Logicalis, an MSPmentor 501 company that's further bolstering its market position. Also of note: Even before the event started, AVG CloudCare has announced new security solutions for its MSP dashboard; VirtualBridges has launched a new desktop as a service (DaaS) offering for MSPs; and Dell's partner program continues to serve MSPs in a range of ways through its PacketTrap business.

5. Big Data: I know. Big Data is generating lots of noise. I don't know how much of the conference will cover this topic. But I'm somewhat skeptical of Big Data in the IT channel. Here's why. Only a very small percentage of VARs and MSPs mastered business analytics. Even if you offer a generous estimate -- say, 10 percent of channel partners focusing on analytics -- I suspect the figure is significantly lower for Big Data. Yes, it's a fast-growth market. And companies like IBM want MSPs to focus on Big Data opportunities. But I don't know how many MSPs will heed the call.

For those attending the conference: Feel free to let me know what trends you explore, and where you think the marketing is heading next. I'd welcome the opportunity to compare notes amid my travels to the CharTec conference.

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