Our world is in the midst of being redefined. There’s a revolution afoot. A disruption that will affect every business in every industry.

It’s coming for the auto, trucking, and taxi industries.

It’s coming for the energy sector.

And it’s coming for managed services, says ConnectWise CEO Arnie Bellini.

The third major age of computing

I recently had the pleasure of hearing Arnie keynote an HTG event for service desk executives. He shared his views on the three major ages in the history of modern computing.

First was the age of smart businesses. Starting in the 1960s, computers became affordable enough that a few thousand businesses could buy them.

future of managed services smart businesses

Second was the age of smart people. It started with the boom in personal computers and has continued through smartphones and tablets.

future of managed services smart people

Now we’re at the start of the age of smart things. Anything and everything will be aware and online.

future of managed services smart things

Chuck Robbins, CEO of Cisco, describes the shift like this:

“We live in a world where everything is going to be connected. It’s happening. And … we’ve seen this movie before. We’ve connected disparate systems, we’ve connected disparate technologies, disparate protocols, and we’ve created greater value for our customers as a result of all of those connections and the value that we can create above it. And what’s going to happen now is it’s going to happen across every industry at once. Every industry is going to happen at the same time. So we’re literally going to go through the biggest technology transformation that we’ve seen in our lifetime.

Arnie related the tale of his dad, a salesman for IBM in the ‘50s and ‘60s. When personal computers started emerging, IBM’s official take was that there would never be much of a market for them.

That blindness to the change that was occurring left the door open for Microsoft and Apple to rise to prominence and steal IBM’s lunch.

Now, MSPs are in the midst of a similar change. Arnie said you can ignore it — like his dad and the others are IBM did until it was too late—or you can adapt.

Opportunity is calling

A look at the basic facts shows you the opportunity that exists.

  • The number of devices is skyrocketing
  • The number of apps, both broad and niche, is skyrocketing
  • The number of things being interconnected is skyrocketing
  • The amount of data being generated is truly staggering — and skyrocketing ever higher

overwhelmed businessman future of managed services

Your clients need you

The result is a bewildering set of choices and processes facing every business.

First, what combination and configuration of devices, apps, interconnections, and data will help them achieve a particular business goal? Multiply that by several goals.

Once they know what they want to set up, how will those devices, apps, and data be set up, configured, and connected? Who will do it?

And after a system is up and running, how will it be maintained? The technology of the future will break down, wear out, overload, overheat, throw errors, and just plain not work in the same way our current technology does. Somebody has to know how to fix it.

“If that doesn’t scream opportunity to you, nothing else will,” said Arnie. “The concept of trusted advisor is more relevant than ever and will continue to become more important as technology becomes all pervasive.”

The future of managed services: It’s do or die

The age of smart things has already begun and is advancing rapidly. Do you have five years to adapt your service provider business? Probably. Ten years? Almost certainly not.

David Cheriton, a computer science professor at Stanford, put it this way at a recent ONUG conference: “Automation or annihilation: Your choice!”

David Cheriton slide, ONUG16  talk

Photo: Alissa Irei on Twitter

Robbins says:

“This [revolution] is going to force all of us to move at a pace that is uncomfortable. And we’re going to have to make decisions sometimes when we have about 80 percent of the information that we’d like to have, and then we’re going to have to adjust. And if you wait until you have every ounce of information that you need to make a decision because you’re afraid to make a mistake, you will die.”

Recent CompTIA research indicates MSPs still have a lot of work to do to take advantage of new technologies — but the prospects are rosy.

“Many jobs were threatened by the technical advances of the Industrial Revolution, and those specific job categories saw reductions,” says Seth Robinson, CompTIA’s senior director of technology analysis. “However, entirely new categories were created, leading to a net gain in jobs and overall growth.”

“This is the shift that will dominate the future of IT services,” said Arnie. “It’s a gold mine, not a threat.”

His advice? You don’t need to radically transform your business right now. But start to pivot by adding new services and practice areas. Take your clients to the cloud. (“If you don’t, someone else will.”) Look into security services, business intelligence, automation, and bots.

And always remember the bedrock of managed services: great service. That’s one thing that will never change.