Day 2 of the conference.  

Half day of content today as the afternoon presents time for some downtime to enjoy the venue or attend one of the many excursions. 

Joe Whittinghill - Corporate Vice President, Talent, Learning and Insights at Microsoft. 

Leadership in the Age of AI 

Joe delivered a bit of a keynote masterclass last year and gave everyone an insight on Microsofts approach to people and learning. 


This years keynote focussed on the impact that AI will have on people and leadership.  The underlying undertone of the session centred on the level of disruption that AI will create and how we'll have to evolve as humans to accomodate the shift. 

Setting the scene, Joe gave us some statistics based upon a recent survey of 1000 businesses

  • 71% of organisations are already using AI at some level
  • 92% of deployed AI within a year and achieved an ROI after 14 months.
  • A survey of FD’s suggested an ROI of $3.5 for every $1 spent
  • 71% of organisations don’t see technology as the challenge to adoption, but see skills as the issue.


Joes presentation spoke about the requirement to have a mindset shift towards a growth mindset and emphasised the importance of strong organisation culture and a shared vision. I completely understood the principle of the Infinity loop that illustrates the tension and challenge between running the business and developing the business. It’s a problem I think every business (included our own faces).  Its also forms part of the business case to use MSP's to help clients focus on developing their business and not worrying about the IT.   But the point was stressed that businesses and their leaders, must change if they are to be successful in the long run.


The concept of 2 types of challenges were presented. The first being Technical Challenges, which are problems in front of you (tangible) the second being Adaptive Challenges, problems which are harder to solve, where a solution isnt immediately available and forces you to ask whether we are solving the right problems or taking the easy way out. Those companies that shift towards Adaptive Leadership and Growth Mindset, will win in the long-term, those that just focus on technical challenges will not.  AI is one of those Adaptive challenges and the danger is we dont take the time to understand it and how it applies to our businesess.  It is not a technical, easy problem. 


The second main takeaway was that AI will require a human evolution. Its not just a technology, its going to require us to change, reskill and rethink many if not all aspects of our life.  We should become learn it all organisations, not know it all organisations. 


One of the questions Joe fielded in the Q&A was what IT employment looks like in the age of AI. Joe outlined that more organisations will code themselves; whilst in the short-term software engineers will have a role to play, their advising their own software engineers to retrain and reskill with AI in mind.

Another question was around organisational culture and specifically the reluctance to retire legacy systems because it protects jobs. Joe was part of a study which supported the argument and said that in many instances organisations weren’t turning on products that they already owned. The advice given was that the approach shouldn’t be to attack these organisations, but to show them the way and help them unlock opportunities.

A privilege to listen to Joe and get his insight in this disruptive phase.

Jon Murchison - Founder & CEO - Blackpoint Cyber

If your business model is Jacked, Hackers Gonna Hack. 

Jon has one hell of a resume and in his first life was ethically hacking for Government Agencies, his keynote focussed on how the market is evolving and how the time is ripe for rightsized security services from both an MSP and end user perspective.  

The MSP market overall is growing at roughly 12%, which supports the demand for IT service providers. 


Security growth however is forecasted to grow as much as 32% year on year, and Jon encouraged all partners in the room to consider security as a principle part of go to market strategies in order to meet client demand. 

He also explained that private equity and prospective business buyers are looking for organisations with packaged service offerings, versus the bespoke services that so many MSP's end up offering but dont lend themselves well to scale or repeatability. 


MDR should be a focal point, with Cyber Insurance companies now demanding this as part of their pre-requisites.  He explained that the opportunity for partners with co-managed services was now as so many of the MSSP's in the market have bloated, expensive offerings, that are in fact not that effective. 


Blackpoint offer the opportunity to hit the sweet spot between basic and bloated offerings in a fully managed service.  Something that is attractive to partners with a wider set of specialisms. 


Its hard to disagree with Jon's outlook and we've definately seen an increase in the demand for advanced security services within the SMB space as Ransomware continues to plague businesses, phishing attacks are a daily occurance and supply chain attacks become more and more commonplace.  

Paz Maoz, Senior Program Manager - N-Able 

Paz made a couple of statements in his keynote which I fully support. 

  • The services we offer are valuable and we shouldnt be compromising on service or on cost for said services.  No one wins in the long run from a race to the bottom 
  • Its no longer about keeping the lights on, we as trusted partners need to add value to our clients and show them the way. 
  • As MSP's we need to look to differentiate if we are to compete in a saturated market place. 


The importance of data (a common theme throughout the conference) was highlighted, with RMM being a key toolset to aggregrate data in conjunction with tools such as Power BI. 


Whilst this conference is an opportunity to learn, its also nice to have your own assertions validated.  

Part of the differentiation strategy Paz put forward was to specialise to differentiate, with the wider service offerings "riding the coat tails.  IMG_2527 

To some extent whether it be by accident or on purpose, this is where we are today.  We've focused on AVD as a speciality, but have a broader range of M365 and Azure services which we see as best practice that we're deploying into our clients estates.  

Much of what Paz presented was music to my ears when it comes to the space we're in. 

That concluded day two of key notes, with one final day of the conference to go.  Day 2 once more centred around data and AI and how this will disrupt our space.  Even if you're not yet a specialist; you'll need to pivot to stay competitive.  


Mike Starnes

Mike has worked in the IT Industry for over 20 years. If he's not talking technology, he'll be reading, playing football or trying to embarrass his daughters.