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Drop term "managed services provider" says CEO

Get used to thinking of managed services providers as just technology providers, says one software entrepreneur. CEO Arnie Bellini (below) was speaking to IT Europa at ConnectWise’s first European IT Nation event for partners which saw some 350 packed into London’s Millennium Gloucester Hotel for two days of sessions on strategy and implementation. He pronounced himself very pleased with the event, which mirrors a long-running IT Nation in Florida which attracts thousands each year.

“We are growing very fast here; but we need to think about the future of the industry,” he tells IT Europa. “The vibe that we try to create is one of collaboration and sharing. This doesn’t come naturally, so we try to promote it. The user groups and now IT Nation build this. We are a community-driven software company that is dedicated to the success of our partners. We want them to sell more, faster and with more automation and better management.”

Customers include not just managed services companies, but audio/visual and print companies, he says, and he says: “I think we understand and appreciate the differences in Europe… and the differences with the old IT reseller model.”

And what are IT channels doing to change? “They are building business areas - we call them practice areas- they can be selling hardware, selling managed services – anytime you have new technology which managed services still is - you find people re-inventing how to be successful. All boats rise in the tide, so there is a spirit of collaboration. It is about building a longer-term relationship, so is less about competition on price.”

As the industry has grown, with companies like ConnectWise creating communities, so he is seeing a lot more collaboration. “We have a product – ConnectWise Network which is a way for any partner to share business with any other partner, around the world. They can share expertise and ideas and all their clients can benefit. This has not yet happened in Europe, but we do believe it will start.”

“I don’t believe anyone should call themselves a managed service provider any more – this is limiting, they may have a managed services practice, but they will all have to add a practice area for cloud services. The IT spend on on-premise is levelling off, and the growth is in the cloud. We will see the cloud services practice added to managed services, and perhaps a managed security area as well. It is the same as with the large management consultancies with their tax areas, technology and so on. MSPs should not label themselves as the name will change in future when they are doing other things.”

“Here in Europe we are probably still rising up the adoption curve; the US is into late majority adoption already; the UK is ahead of the rest of Europe. [There is] Still a lot of opportunity in Europe, more than in the US.”

Cloud services is the next and growing area, with managed security just starting; co-managed IT where smaller IT departments need external help is another coming opportunity.

“Cloud services and the growth there will mean a hybrid world with a mixture of on-premise and cloud, but people are somehow reluctant to believe that cloud is where the growth is. What is driving cloud more than anything is the fact that the Microsoft platform is moving from under the roof to the cloud – Office 365 and Azure – file servers, exchange servicer, databases and the entire app group around that, which are now going to the cloud.”

“Microsoft has set its pricing to boost cloud. The next time a partner supplies a quote for under the roof, they will find it way more expensive on premise than in the cloud. People are starting to realise this.  All the software companies in the world are creating cloud solutions – it is simply a better way to deliver solutions. We give people choices, but I think if you don’t have a cloud solution, you are missing out. But it is not a wholesale move to cloud – it will be one app at a time.”

The providers will find that the margins are better in the cloud, and by getting good at delivering productivity, they will do even better than before, and be stickier by adding both on premise and cloud, he says. But we have created a more complex world with cloud that needs even more management, he concludes. So ConnectWise is going to be there with its offerings, as will IT Nation Europe. 

[More interviews from IT Nation to follow]