Last week was a busy week for me and a few thousand other professionals who use professional services automation, remote monitoring and management, remote control and quoting software from ConnectWise. For the past 12 years, early November has become synonymous with IT Nation, what used to be known as the ConnectWise Partner Conference.
After staying up past 2 AM on election night, I called jetBlue and changed my flight to the 6 AM out of Boston and headed off for my trusty C&J ride to Logan Airport for the flight to Orlando. A quick Uber over the Hyatt Regency and the first order of business was the noon ConnectWise Advisory Council meeting where we meet with senior leaders of the company and learn about what’s taken place since our last meeting, what’s coming and to provide our input on various ideas or initiatives. That evening, the conference officially kicked off, though Wednesday was full of pre-conference learning sessions. Needless to say, I did not stay up too late after essentially catching a little more than two hours sleep (maybe) the night before.
Thursday was the first full day of the conference and it kicked off, as it has for the last 12 years, with a thought provoking keynote from Arnie Bellini, CEO of ConnectWise. I bought ConnectWise from Arnie back in 2004. He’s done an impressive job building a company that has an undeniable influence on our industry. I have a lot of respect for where ConnectWise has come from and where it is going. This conference is a great example of the incredible Community that has been built around that original piece of software known as ConnectWise PSA.
One of the major announcements this year is the rebranding of all the component products under the ConnectWise umbrella. PSA is now Manage, LabTech is now Automate, ScreenConnect is now Connect and Quosal is now Sell. It’s a natural evolution that makes sense and keeps things clear. The software has matured quite impressively and the company continues to show it is responsive to the needs of the industry, most notably the ConnectWise partners who have and continue to fuel the success of the company.
For me, this event is about keeping a strong connection with a company that provides core line of business software that we use to drive our business. It’s also an annual opportunity to reconnect with many good friends that have been made over the years. These are professional colleagues who have truly become friends and who I stay in touch with throughout the year, electronically, on the phone and in person whenever the opportunity presents itself. Many of us help each other with all manner of things throughout the year.
This years keynote was a visionary look to the future, as one might expect. Security was a hot topic and one that resonated strongly with me as I work on I&T’s new portfolio of security services that we are offering to our customer base. It was also an opportunity for other leaders within the company to showcase some of the most significant enhancement that have been made to the software or will be released over the next year.
Friday morning was another keynote, this one by author Keith McFarland, a visionary in his own right. This keynote had a focus on strategy and how to challenge our businesses to be better and more insightful in our work. In keeping with the recently completed election season, there was also an interesting commentary on democracies versus dictatorships. McFarland contends that democracies are great at generating ideas and terrible and getting things done. By contrast, he contends that dictatorships are great at getting things done but have terrible ideas. Democraships get great ideas done according to McFarland. It’s a very thought provoking idea, it not just a timely one.
Between the excellent keynotes where no less than 200 educational sessions geared for new users of the software to advanced users. There were sessions about business strategy, emerging and established technologies and product sessions allowing you the opportunity to meet with executives and explore their products more deeply. There was also a vendor hall, or solutions pavilion, with nearly 100 different companies represented. The range of companies was from staffing to security, backup to hardware and everything else you might expect to find at a technology conference.
Like most conferences, there were also social events in the evening, to wind down from the day, network with peers and just kick back and have a good time. After a couple of intense days of learning and exploring, it’s a nice way to wrap up a very intense couple of days that help us drive our business strategy for the coming year.
For me, this was also a bit of a milestone event. Every year before this, I attended as the sole representative of my former company, Jenaly Technology Group. Last year at this event, I met with my now CEO and COO, poolside one day as we finalized the plans to merge Jenaly into Internet & Telephone. We signed the papers the following week and announced the acquisition on December 1, 2015. This year, we returned to our spot, to strategize our goals for the event and our top takeaways and strategies to bring back with us. Here’s a picture of Paul Cissel, our CEO, me, our now CTO and Doug Smith, our COO. It’s been a great year and we have some great initiatives we are working on for the year ahead!