The top topic covered during IBM's (NYSE: IBM) managed services provider (MSP) panel at PartnerWorld 2013 was not surprising:  Big data. But more of the discussion was geared toward MSPs connecting with partners, finding vendors, and maturing as service providers. The panel consisted of Phil Simon, author of The Age of the Platform; IBM Global Midmarket General Manager Andy Monshaw; Waka Digital President and COO Jacob Braun; and Charles Weaver, co-founder and CEO of MSPAlliance. We'll reveal which key points you should you take away from the conversation.

One of the large talking (or selling) points during the conference as a whole was big data, but more importantly, what MSPs should do with data once it has been gathered, emphasizing analytics, along with others areas: cloud, mobile, and social business. Each session, whether it was general or private, directed the conversation to these four talking points. The panel wasn't any different.

Among the key points I heard:

Phil Simon, Author of The Age of the Platform
  • Very few organizations are doing anything with big data.
  • Having the most data does not necessarily mean that you're going to win. Being able to transform that data into something larger is the key to success.
Andy Monshaw, General Manager, Global Midmarket, IBM
  • MSPs are facing commoditization of basic services.
  • More MSPs are asking for speed to revenue.
  • MSPs are constantly asking how they can create higher value.
Jacob Braun, President & COO, Waka Digital
  • Clients have a lot of unstructured data. They are looking for a partner to organize that data. They understand that they have a lot of data, and they want to know how they can do this effectively in a cost effective manner.
  • Choosing a vendor is more like choosing a partner with a cohesive solution.
  • "Our clients are asking for more flexibility. They’re looking for a shorter time to implementation and a shorter time on value. We are looking for a vendor that can help us apply those goals."
  • We need to be proactive about industry trends and where our business needs to go within 5 years.
Charles Weaver, Co-founder & CEO, MSPAlliance
  • MSPs are seeking to mature as businesses, offering higher-value solutions and services to their clientele.
  • MSPs cannot mature as businesses on their own without the help of sophisticated, proven technology partners. Weaver pointed to IBM as an example of just such a partner.
  • MSPs and cloud have proliferated.
  • Weavers' closing comment was a fitting one: "Support your local MSP," he said, while pointing to fellow panelist Braun.
Editorial Director Joe Panettieri provided his analysis on the panel earlier.