Top Insights from 2017’s IT and Cybersecurity Conferences


Hello, welcome to the 2017 Conference Recap where I’ll review what I learned the last couple weeks. Tom McDonald at NSI, thanks for joining. I thought it would be a great idea. I go to these events and learn a lot of great things, you hear a lot of great speakers, you meet a lot of people. And generally what we'll do here is we'll come back and I'll bring these things into the office, I'll put together a little summary, we'll go over them in our weekly meeting. The more I thought about it, there's lots of information that would be great for our clients, so we wanted to share it with them, and then anybody who is trying to run a small business like what we're trying to do here. So put all the stuff together, we're gonna take you through it. There's some highlights. I think there's some value you're gonna get out of it, so let's jump in.

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This is the fourth series of our cybersecurity awareness training that we put together this year. There's a little bit of security sprinkled into this, so it still qualifies the agenda and what we're going to talk about, trends. A lot of great speakers, keynote speakers, people from different vendors. The two main events that I was at was the Ingram Micro ONE event in Dallas. Ingram's one of our most critical partners. We will talk about them when we get to this Business Model Canvas and how they integrate into our business, as well as Continuum which is another one. So if I had to pick two, those would be the top two and those were the events we were at. And a lot of great takeaways from executives that talk, people in the industry, peers that did member-to-member kind of presentations about what they're doing in their business. Lots of good things, so I condensed that down to a couple and we'll go through that.

Security, there's always stuff to talk about, go through a couple tidbits that we got out of that. Millennials, it seems to be a hot topic. I sat in a breakout session. I didn't plan on going to it, but I ended up there and it was interesting when they talked about the differences we have, or the people's perception of the millennials, but then really the struggles they have in the workforce that they're in. And what we're all working in, and how we support them, which I don't think we do a great job of it. It's not just them but it's anybody. Then I'm gonna take you through this Business Model Canvas, I've used it for a number of years. I don't think I really understood it. I sat through a four-hour learning session, really great. They broke it up into two over two days, a couple hours. A lot of good things that came out of that. Really opened my eyes on how to utilize it. If you have something that you do to do your strategy and your planning, I think this is a great thing to complement it and something you work with your teams. And if you don't, it's a good way to get started. And then we'll finish up with telling you how great we are and all the stuff we can do for you. So if you're not doing business with us yet, you can start to do now.

All right, trends. Let's jump right in. As a service is taking over hardware, software, infrastructure platform. XaaS, I didn't even know what that meant until I was in an event, and then I was reading an article when I got back. That's everything-as-a-service. We all know how this works. If you need something you can get it as a service instead of going out and writing a check for $15,000 to refresh the office. You can get desktops-as-a-service and you can get everybody brand new machines. You can get the operating system, you get everything you need built-in, you get the service, the warranty. You don't have to worry about a thing over a period of time. Then you pay a monthly, quarterly, or annual fee for it, and then you refresh it. You don't have to worry about it getting old or getting stale if it's as a service. You could do that with software.

We run a piece of software here. Well, the two core pieces of software we run are ConnectWise, which is our service automation system. It's a totally hosted as-a-service platform. We had the choice to buy it or to basically rent it, and when we rent it it's a better deal for us, no up-front cash. But more importantly, from an operational perspective, they're pushing the information, the updates to us. We cannot stay behind the curve, we have to move as they move. We don't have to have somebody internally here to help us with that application, they do that. If we have a question, we call them. And we only pay for what we need. We don't have to buy 15 users and then when we go to 10 we're stuck with 5 extra, or when we grow to 20 we just add them, so you pay as you go. I think it's a better way for us.

And then we use Office365 like lots of people do. It's a better way to get email, we don't have to have this exchange infrastructure internally in our business anymore. And we get this functionality, it's in the cloud, someone else is backing it up, someone else is worrying about that. And, you know, most importantly for us in our business, something happens to our office, everyone is stuck at home and we're in the winter now, snow day. We could still service our clients because our e-mail is still up and running. A couple of years ago we had a big snowstorms here. Power went out in our industrial park, and, you know, that was a real slow down for us, and we didn't wanna have to deal with it. So those are a couple examples.

Computing will become a utility. You'll think about it the way you think consume any kind of utility. You turn it on and off as you need it, and that's the way computing storage is today. You may initially sign up and get some servers in the cloud. You sign up for a Dropbox. If you need more, you can just give them a credit card and go from the free version to the paid version. If you need to add services to your Office365, you need encryption, you can turn it on. You need additional levels of threat management or security, you can turn it on as you would a utility. I think this is something that's here and just gonna grow, and grow, and grow.

And this is an interesting one, the internet is now electricity. People are connected to everything all the time. So if you think about it we always are connected, you know? We can't live without electricity. We walk in the house, you hit the light switch, you turn on the coffee maker, you turn on the stove. Whatever it may be, it's always getting turned on. So if you think about it, we have people now that are always connected, and it's not just your phone and your computer. You got a smart watch, okay? How many people have an Alexa? How about the fact that you have the monitoring? My father-in-law, he's constantly checking to see if a package has been delivered on his front step. You know, you got one of these video cameras, he gets it on his iPhone. There's not a thing that goes on at his house no matter where he is, and so he's always connected. Interesting that it's from not just the young but it's everybody.

Next one. The cloud has simplified business computing but not the management. It will require more attention and support. This is, you can imagine, would be a hot topic in our industry where we provide outsourced IT support to companies, that the worry is as people move to the cloud it's gonna become...the need for us is gonna become less and less. But the reality is you can now set up and get a business running. All you need is the internet, a cell phone, and a credit card. You can turn on whatever you need and you can be up and running in an hour, and you can have a whole business set up and going. Now, as that thing scales, as you grow, as you start adding in more applications and starting integrating things, and some of these other things I talked about of utility, or as-a-service, you're getting billed. You're trying to manage not only, you know, what you turn on, what you turn off, how it integrates, how you work with your partners, how you work with your customers, how you work with your vendors. It becomes a much more complex thing to manage and it's a different skill set. So, interesting to keep in mind it's gonna simplify business computing but it's not gonna make your business necessarily any simpler to run.

Executives expect the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence to bring about the biggest change. Seventy three percent say they are investing in IoT and 54% in AI, so it's here. If they're invest, 73%, that's a gigantic number. And the Internet of Things is in every business that we touch today, from the smallest manufacturing company that started a couple hundred years ago, you know? They've embedded devices in their production line, or their partners or vendors are pushing that down. AI, we're dealing with that all the time. You make a phone call, you call into your 401(k), you call to check on your health insurance benefits, you call to schedule a visit because you've got to get...something is not working with your cable, or your modem or your internet is not working at home. So these things are happening today and it's only gonna grow, and the more we can get in front of this or to understand that, and now we can leverage it into the business, the more benefit we're gonna have in delivering, and running our business, and delivering to our clients.

Trust and relationships are the new currency. So Seth Godin. So this is very interesting. I didn't see him speak. I have seen him speak before, but one of the presenters put this up and I thought it made a lot of sense, particularly in the business that we're in. Our relationships are all based initially on someone trusting that we're gonna be able to take care of them, and then over time we start to earn that trust, and they give us more, and more, and more. So a couple things that I think to think about, and things that are worth thinking about, in our business, do more people trust you today than they did six months ago? And how are you gonna grow that number? That's really the way this works, is the more people that trust you, the more business you're gonna get, particularly as a small business. And then the other thing to think about, or are you simply tolerated? Are your clients, are they tolerating you, or do they trust you? Good thing to test.

All right, security. Security is at front of everyone's mind and it will stay there. As they say, this is the tip of the iceberg. So lots of these speakers got up in front of us and they wanted to scare us. They say, "Hey, listen, this is just beginning. There's gonna be another thing coming, and another thing coming, and hey, it's gonna be good for your business." Now, the reality of that is I think that there is gonna be more and more things that are coming. The reason I put this slide up is I don't think we really understand the ramifications of how much of this stuff is and where it's gonna be coming. So, always good to keep in mind, and I think it ties into this next slide I have here, which is the threat surface on security has not been scratched. I can't remember who this was. It could have been somebody from Cisco, could have been somebody from Webroot, or one of these other security companies that were up there giving a presentation. There are 20 billion...I have million there, but there are 20 billion threats per day. In comparison, Google gets 3.5 billion Google searches per day. So just think about that. There are so many more...there's just a's so easy to do this that we're just getting to the beginning of this. We don't know where this is gonna end.

Well, and this one I thought was interesting that everything could be hacked. Take a quick inventory of all the stuff in your house that is connected and think about all the ways that potentially somebody could get into that stuff because you're connected. I have a scale at home that's connected to the internet, so that's an access point. Everyone has an Alexa now, you know? You have different accounts. If you have kids you're sharing different accounts, you're sharing your iTunes, you're sharing your Apple account. So there's a million ways, and anything that you have, your car is connected. So lots of things that they talked about are being aware of where all this stuff is. 

This one, I think, is the most important for the clients that we call on, which is no one is too small to be a target. And this is the number one objection I get when talking with small businesses. They're like, "Tom, why would anybody want to come into XYZ? Why does anybody wanna come into my small insurance company? Why does anybody wanna come into my small distribution company? It doesn't make any sense." Well, the reality is they may not want you, but they may want someone that you're connected to, or they may want entry into something that you have. So everybody is a target. And, again, it's the simple analogy. If your neighbor's door is locked, they're gonna move to yours, and if yours isn't, in they come.

All right, millennials. Let's talk about these guys. Five generations in today's workforce. I didn't know this. I didn't even know the names of these things. The Silent Generation, baby boomers, Gen Xers, millennials, Generation Z. So think about that there. We got five different generations all co-existing in today's workforce. So what's a millennial? Nineteen eighty to 1995, 22 to 37, so that's a big stretch. My oldest is just under the millennial tag, and we have quite a few millennials that work with us. Let's talk a little bit about some of the stuff I learned about them and kind of how they categorize them. And so 80 million millennials in the U.S., the largest generation in this workforce, they're gonna grow significantly. You know, in less than 10 years, they're gonna make up 75% of the workforce, so we're either gonna be working for them, or they're gonna be surrounding us. Highly motivated, ambitious, socially conscious, lots of conviction, right? They wanna make a meaningful difference in the world, and they'll take a pay cut to do that. So all positive things. And so they're very educated, tech savvy. They've grown up being connected the whole time. They can collaborate, they're diversified. Most of them have an entrepreneurial streak. You know, there are opportunities they have that we never had from, you know, you wanna go drive an Uber car on the weekends and make a couple extra bucks, it's a simple as signing up. So it's easier to do that and a lot of them take advantage of it. But the thing that's, I think, was very interesting is it's the first generation that's got a chance to have a better life than their parents, and, you know, debt and low job security, I think, are gonna be something that they have to deal with, things that we didn't have to deal with.

So, what's the problem? Times are different, and this is the reality, I think. This is the thing I took away from these meetings. We're not prepared to support them. So if you think about business today, few mentors, we have no training budget. It's nonexistent, right? We depended on bigger companies when we started to train people and then we hired them. But now bigger companies don't even do that much training, or they come here and they start right away, and we don't really have a budget to train them, it's ad hoc. People work remotely, so there's virtual workplaces. It means people are isolated and they don't have people to work with or role models to emulate. And then career development programs are significantly weak. So, you know, if you think about these and you put all this stuff together, it causes us an issue on how to support them. So I threw this stuff in here. I thought it was of interest. This gives you something to think about, that people are complaining about, "Ah, millennials are the worst." But the reality is that they're not the worst. They're gonna be the majority of the workforce. We gotta do a better job of how to manage them. And if you just look at this slide, you know, there's work we have to do. We can't just keep thinking to pass this off and it's not gonna affect us down the road, so something to think about.

All right, let's talk about this Business Model Canvas, and what is it? So the Business Model Canvas is a tool that you can use to help you map, design, and discuss your business, particularly with a team in your organization. So you could do it on your own. You could sit there and put this pen to paper and you can create this. Or you can get it, put it on a wall, and get a big printout of it, and work together with your team, not only in your existing business, maybe you got a new business model that you're planning to do, or you're thinking about rolling a new offering out and you wanna test that out.
So, nine segments here. And what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna take you through this quickly from right to left. All you have to do is Google this. If there is more interest that you have in it, there's videos out there, there's books, there's classes, there's all kinds of resources you can go through to take a look at this. I have to give you a very quick two-minute version of this, and if anybody had any questions or you wanna go through this, I'd be happy to talk to you about it, share with you what we're doing, how we use it, and what we use it for.

So, customer segments, so right to left. Who are the people, the companies, the organizations you're creating value for? That's who goes into this customer segment side. Next, channels. Well, let's go from the customer segments. Now let's go look at...go from here. Let's look at value proposition. So, the customers, who are the people or companies organizations? Who are you selling all this stuff? What are you creating value for? And they're here. Now, the value proposition. What are you selling? What are you offering to them? Is it a product? Is it a promise? Is it a service? That's what goes in here. This is really the core of this. I tell you, this is where you wanna spend the most time. And once you put this in there, you wanna keep asking yourself, "So what?" Because let's find out, does this really matter? Is this of importance? Then look at channels. How do you get the stuff here to your customers over here? So, how do you get that stuff to them? You have a direct channel? Is it indirect? You rely on partners, you rely on sales force. So you list all that right here. And then this square here with a little heart, your relationships. What kind of relationships do you have with them? I like to list this by segment. How are you touching these? How are you touching everybody that you're doing business with here?

Well, let me go through this. So customer segments. Give you a quick thing for us, right? It's a small business in Connecticut. We're looking for manufacturing, not-for-profit, state and local government, K through 12, service distribution 15 to 100 users, progressive owner, values technology, and we want this to be a finance decision. Our channels are, you know, customers, partners, relationships. We are inbound. We create content, that's how we get to them. Value proposition, we prevent, we respond, we're inclusive, we're a fixed fee, we control costs, we eliminate problems. I tell you, this is where you wanna spend a lot of time on, and we're constantly looking on how we can refine this. And then our relationships. How do we have relationships with our customers? We have relationships with them through our help desk, through our field staff, through our technical account manager, through me, through a service manager. It can be through the shipping and receiving person that talks to the UPS guy every day, right? Those are kind of relationships there, okay?

Now, revenue streams. How do you get paid? How are you capturing the values? Make sure it's clear. You have agreements, projects, projects, resale. That goes down here, all right? Now over to the left-hand inside. Key resources. What's the infrastructure you need to create and deliver? What is it that you do, you sell, you make? What is it that you need to be able to make that happen? Key activities. What do you really need to perform to be able to have your business? So, key activities for lots of people would be you have to sell something, may have to service something, may have to build or make something. No matter what you do you've gotta invoice your customer, you've gotta pay. You know, so there's all these kind of activities. These are costs associated with delivering the value to your customer. And then, who are your key partners? I mean, who do you need help from? We don't all do it alone. You're gonna have a vendor, or a distributor, or a partner, or a manufacturer. You may be a franchise. Who do you leverage to help you run your business?

And then finally, your cost structure. Once you know all the above, then you really wanna align your cost structure to your revenue streams. So down here is where you wanna look at, "Hey, where am I losing money?" So what I tell you is this is a great exercise to do, and if you get the chance to take advantage of it and get someone to show you how this really works, I highly recommend it. So this is the website, Strategyzer is the company. I don't know if they created it but they've put the books and you can get these templates and everything you need right there. So I tell you, hey, go spend a few minutes, go check out this website. It's well worth it. If you got any questions about it, give me a call. And like I said, we use Gazelles. We used a one-page business plans, so Rockefeller Habits. But I think this is a great piece that complements that. It's more visual piece, makes it easier for us to work with the people in these organization or a group, or if we're just trying to spin off a new offering to really test it out. Big fan.

All right, so that's it. What do you think? I hope that was helpful. A little different than doing some of these other security presentations we've done in the past, and just a quick look at some of the things that are going on. Here's our commercial about us. We help you make more money, spend less money, reduce the risk of losing that money and we want you to stay compliant and secure. The unique genius, these are all things that we use the One Page Plan and the Business Model Canvas to help. We answer now with real people locally staffed. We solve your issue today, fixed price, standardized solution, and we force you to be compliant.

What do we do? IT support, this is virtual CIO service. So if you need just come in and chat with you about technology and how it integrates into your business, that's that. Monitor and manage all of your equipment. Cybersecurity, we all know what that is, and we help you with backup and disaster recovery. We're very horizontally focused, not vertically focused, but we have expertise because we have...if you have more than one or two clients in any one of these, then you're vertically aligned. So we've got quite a few manufacturing customers, quite a few in not-for-profits, government, education. If you're in any one of these businesses or if you're in our GO, please reach out to us. Hey, we can help you with a network assessment, we get you a price quote. You can call us, you can reach out to us, all those things.

So back to the stuff we're talking about around security. Be safe, practice safe computing, start now, put together a plan. This is around security. If you need any help, certainly give us a call, and at the end of the presentation there will be a call-to-action for us. So thank you very much. We really appreciate you giving us a couple minutes, and let me know if this was valuable to you. And if there's any questions you have that we can answer for you, please let us know. Thanks.

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About The Author

President of NSI, Tom has been helping small and medium businesses succeed in Connecticut for over 25 years.