Three major managed services conferences are set to kick off next week. They include the Kaseya Connect User Conference (May 1-3, Las Vegas), HTG Dallas (May 2-5) and the Global Managed Print Services Conference (May 2-4, Orlando, Fla). MSPmentor will be on hand for all three gatherings. What do we expect to see and hear? Glad you asked. Here are 15 trends and themes we'll be exploring at each MSP conference.

First, the bigger picture. May is a particularly busy month for MSP, VAR and channel gatherings. You can track channel conference schedules and locations using our Top 100 Channel Events list and calendar, posted on The VAR Guy. The week of May 1 is particularly busy...

Kaseya Connect: Deeper MSP Connections?

At Kaseya Connect, a few hundred MSPs will gather to explore Kaseya's next moves in the MSP, cloud and IT automation markets. Among the themes to explore:

1. An Olive Branch: Some MSPs think Kaseya spent a bit too much time focused on enterprise customers and too little time focused on MSPs in 2010. But that seemed to change in 2011. Amid heightened competition, Kaseya's R&D delivered several new products -- such as Service Billing 1.0 and Service Desk 1.3 -- and the company reached out to some MSPs that were considering alternative platforms to measure their satisfaction.

2. Mobility and Portability: For the past two or three years, Kaseya has spent time at the annual conference promoting software support for iPhone, Android, Linux and other platforms. But I have to concede: I don't have a feel for what's real, what's delivered and what's still in beta/under development. I'll push for a reality check.


3. Mergers and Acquisitions: Kaseya in 2010 acquired ObjtAcct, a financial software platform. CEO Gerald Blackie says the acquired software will eventually provide the "financial spine" of Kaseya's software going forward. Of course, that's a bit cryptic so I'll be digging around for more details and potential implications for MSPs.

4. Kaseya and the Cloud: Kaseya spent major portions of 2010 promoting SaaS tools to MSPs. Many of the SaaS efforts include distribution and partner agreements with associations, Master MSPs and traditional distributors. So...
  • What percentage of Kaseya's new software sales involve the cloud?
  • What additional cloud-based tools will Kaseya promote to MSPs?
  • What's the early response of MSPs to the cloud tools?
5. Private or Public?: Blackie has told me multiple times that Kaseya is roughly a $100 million company with $1 billion ambitions. Some critics note that Blackie had a disagreement with the SEC while running a previous company. As a result, it's safe to say Blackie himself doesn't have IPO ambitions. But do other Kaseya insiders want to ever kick around the IPO idea?

I'll ask Blackie and other Kaseya leaders that question, yet again. I know it's a tiresome question -- sort of like asking a politician 100 times whether they intend to run for president. Ninety-nine of the replies will be "no." But you never know when that one person will answer "yes."

HTG: MSP Peer Groups Gather

At HTG Dallas, watch for scores of MSPs to gather and break off into peer groups -- discussing business (finance, sales, marketing) and life-work balance. Among the trends worth noting.

1. Giving Back: It sounds like HTG will set up an emergency fund to help member companies in times of crisis. For instance, if a hurricane knocks an MSP and its customers offline, the HTG emergency fund would help peer MSPs to get the disabled MSP -- and its customers -- back on its feet.

2. Life-Work Balance: Founder Arlin Sorensen spends considerable time describing life-work balance and legacy planning. When you're pushing up daisies, what's your legacy? Few channel-centric organizations take the time to tackle this type of stuff. I'm an observer rather than an HTG member, but I can say the life-work balance and legacy discussions have helped me to rethink my personal priorities (it's a work in progress, folks).

3. Reduced to Cloud Agents?: A few HTG members tell me they're beta testing Office 365, Microsoft's all-in cloud suite. But those MSPs aren't exactly jumping for joy since Microsoft's strategy doesn't permit partners to manage end-customer cloud billing. I'll pursue a reality check at the conference to learn exactly how the HTG community feels about Microsoft's efforts.

4. Economic Reality Check: Sorensen has previously mentioned to me that he thinks the U.S. east and west coasts saw an economic uptick before mid-western states started seeing a recovery. I hear less and less about economic hardships from MSPs, but I'll try to determine which regions are really in recovery mode and which ones are limping along.

5. Global Footprint: HTG has launched user groups in Europe and Australia. Generally speaking, I hear about strong managed services momentum from MSPs in Australia, with mixed feedback in Europe. I'll poke around to see if HTG members can give me a better feel for the global trends they're seeing.

Global MPS Conference: Printing Ink?

At the Global MPS Conference...

1. What's the Holdup?: Only about 20 percent of MSPmentor 100 companies promote managed print services. Our key question: Why aren't more MSPs embracing the trend?

2. Truly Partnering?: Very often, printer makers celebrate managed print services wins that involve direct sales to customers. So, which printer makers are truly interested in the MSP ecosystem and channel partnerships? We'll dig for a reality check.

3. What's the Model?: So, MPS can generate recurring revenues from managed print services. But what are the margins, what's the sales process, and how much long-term support do MSPs need to offer their customers?

4. Going Cloud: How can MSPs connect the dots between managed print services and cloud-oriented document management and content management systems?

5. Big Winners: Let's conclude with a simple goal. We're determined to find five MSPs that are generating big profits through managed print services.

That's all for now. MSPmentor looks forward to reporting live from each conference.

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