Two decades ago, the term RMM or Remote Monitoring and Management was not in anyone’s IT vocabulary. Back then, Gavin Garbutt founded N-able Technologies in Ottawa and developed an RMM solution that fits well in the SMB market and created a new managed services economy for the channel.
Today, Garbutt is starting a new venture called Augmentt. Once again, creating a new channel of revenue for managed services providers (MSPs) with a Software-as-a-Service solution helps MSPs better understand their customers’ SaaS usage, apps, and the costs associated with those apps, identify shadow IT and enforce security policies.
According to Garbutt, Augmentt tries to solve the same problem that N-able tackled 20 years ago.
“The idea of N-able was started when I was at a cocktail party at Christmas time. I talked to a $5 million VAR (Value Added Reseller) and asked him if there was one thing, he could use that would propel his business forward from a profitability and operational perspective,” he said.
The business owner told Garbutt a remote monitoring tool that would inform him of issues ahead of time would be ideal. This type of tool could save the VAR precious time and money from dispatching a truck filled with technicians. This tool could also fix the issue remotely or pinpoint what equipment the technicians needed to bring for onsite remediation. Garbutt’s response to the VAR owner was solutions such as HP OpenView, CA Unicenter, and IBM Tivoli already existed for that. However, those solutions were all enterprise-grade and not well suited for small to medium-sized businesses.
“Eureka! Here’s an opportunity,” Garbutt said.
Fast forward 20 years and all those devices MSPs are handling have moved to the cloud, and the important part of IT is no longer monitoring the actual devices but the applications that run on them.
“So, my view is the next pivot is on cloud services and apps management. This is how MSPs can help customers improve their performance,” he said.
Garbutt does not consider himself to be a pioneer. Instead, he described himself as a person who worked to innovate industries. When starting N-able, he looked at the current landscape and saw the MSP model at 120 devices managed per technician and thought, how can I get that up to 1,000, while still improving service delivery?
“N-able started just after the Dot-Com bust. We tried to create technology to help VARs, at the time, move away from a reactive services model. Back then, their real value was to be inside the customer’s environment and work to fix things. We changed that with remote monitoring and management tools, which took those businesses to a new level. My aspiration was let us take the old model where we managed 120 devices per technician at $60 per month, per device and increase it to 800 or 1,000 per technician: still at $60 a device per month. That now increases your EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) profit by 20 to 30 percent.”
Garbutt’s approach to entrepreneurship is to “go big or go home” and to have the ambition that you can make a difference in a large industry or with a small business owner.
Also, during the interview, Garbutt talking about his experience starting a company during a worldwide pandemic. He also spoke about his leadership style in times of crisis and what the second “T” stands for in his new company Augmentt.
For Bill Brandel, the country chief executive of Ingram Micro Canada, acting fast to help the many thousands of channel partners that rely on Ingram Micro Canada for its supply of IT solutions became the priority for the long-time distribution executive.
Brandel has been the Ingram Micro Canada leader for just over four years. In that time, he has gained a great perspective in the marketplace because he deals with hundreds of vendor partners and thousands of channel partners. As Canadian business and society were heading into an unknown lockdown because of the massive spread of the Novel Coronavirus, Brandel understood that financing was going to be crucial if any of these businesses Ingram serves were going to survive.
He decided to explore corporate financing programs and found a U.S.-based plan called KickStart. Ingram’s normal course of action is to launch programs in the US and then bring them into other geographies such as Canada. Since Ingram Micro Canada is run autonomously, Brandel decided to take KickStart and Canadianize it immediately. Called Future Funds, it extends roughly $110 Million in additional credit to channel partners, while also waiving significant financial service fees. Future Funds also offers exclusive payment terms to solution providers who are members of Trust X Alliance and SMB Alliance communities.
“It was always important for us to get out of the gate with the COVID-19 lockdown. We could see right away that this was not going to be a quick thing that was going to pass through the market. We knew this was going to leave a long-lasting impact. The biggest challenge is managing working capital. Even without the pandemic, many companies were transitioning from a project-based business, which is a buy/sell relationship to an as-a-service or consumption-based model. Those models put a lot of strain on working capital as many companies have to purchase the hardware upfront to develop customer annuity buying programs,” Brandel said during the Jolera Interview Series program.
Brandel does see the light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel. “I am the eternal optimist, and I do see the light at the end of the tunnel as things are getting better in Quebec, for example. BC is getting back to normal, and in Ontario, while we are more conservative, I am encouraged that we’ll get back to normal based on the good feedback I received from Quebec,” he said.
In this unprecedented time, the Buffalo-native has been amazed at the resilience of the entire Canadian IT community and how quickly they have responded to the pandemic and subsequent lockdown. “When you look at the impact this could have brought to channel partners, vendors and the supply chain… at one point it looked overwhelming, but this group has done an amazing job, and it speaks to the ingenuity of the customer base,” he said.
As a young adult, Ryan Narinesingh enjoyed taking things apart and figuring out how they worked. Building computer systems for small to medium-size businesses is how he got his start in the Canadian IT industry. It is this yearning to know and understand the inner workings of things that helped Narinesingh develop one of the more vibrant channel ecosystems for Veeam Canada, a backup solutions vendor that can deliver cloud data management.
The long-time channel leader for Veeam Canada embarks on a new challenge in his career, taking on the role of Area Sales Director for Veeam in Central & Atlantic Canada.
During an interview for the Jolera Interview Series program, Narinesingh said that his track record working with channel partners and building strong relationships would help him transition into the Eastern and Atlantic market, which has a unique set of challenges such as language and market size.
“I took on this new role because I want to get closer to the customer and see what challenges are out there. I want to find out what keeps these people up at night. We’ve been blessed at Veeam Canada to have more than 13,000 customers across the country, and many of these people chose Veeam. Some have said that Veeam solutions saved their jobs. I want to better understand why and help organizations who are struggling to succeed,” he said.
During his time building the channel for Veeam Canada, Narinesingh understood he was competing with several other backup vendors, but he credit’s Veeam’s three pillars – Growth, Technology and People along with a channel first strategy – that helped him gain a foothold with the channel community in Canada.
One of Narinesingh’s more audacious moves was developing a partnership with Jolera Inc., which enabled Veeam to go deeper into the as-a-service market.
He said that his lifelong drive to find out the inner working of things helped bring him to Jolera.
“I thought there were a lot of parallels with Veeam and Jolera. Both believe in partnership and leveraging the best of breed technology, tools, processes, and people to accomplish the end user’s goals. Today, customers are looking for that, and it’s inherent in the culture of Jolera. They are very familiar with the OPEX model and managing it all for the customer instead of just selling product X, and hopefully, it works out. They want to own the result and maintain strict SLAs; maintain uptimes for organizations, which’s a significant risk for an organization. Not all organizations what to take that on. Jolera was open and ready to take on this risk, and we have seen great results so far with the partnership,” he added.
Narinesingh believes these types of as-a-service partnerships will drive the market today and into the future. Recently, Veeam reported an annual recurring revenue increase of 20 percent year-over-year for the second quarter of 2020. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown, this was Veeam’s biggest second quarter in the company’s 14-year history.
During the interview, Narinesingh talked about Veeam’s go-to-market strategy, the challenges posed by COVID-19, the rise of the remote worker, mentoring, activities in the community and his leadership style in times of crisis.
In this digital rich world, it’s hard to believe that the majority of Canadian households – with at least one child under 18 – only have one Internet-enabled device available to them. Compounding the problem further is that 13.5 percent of this group relies on a mobile device for their Internet, according to Statistics Canada.
This shortage is creating a digital divide in Canada. If the IT industry does not act soon, it could lead to many young Canadians falling behind other countries and negatively impact digital transformation.
Lenovo Canada’s Executive Director and GM, Colin McIsaac has been running the subsidiary for the past seven years and in that time has successfully introduced many innovative products from the Yoga, the Tiny, the Twist, the X1 Carbon, and state-of-the-art workstations for the oil and gas sector that are also used to design cars for Austin Martin.
But despite the business achievements, conquering the digital divide in Canada has turned into a passion project for McIsaac. During an interview for the Jolera Interview Series program, McIsaac said the digital divide, specifically in the education sector, worries him because a lack of access to current technology can severely impact the quality of education a student receives. “This is sobering, and you compound that with the COVID-19 pandemic, and there’s a byproduct with schools not getting back to classrooms or staggering that experience and asking people to engage from home without a device or broadband or they are not comfortable with the environment, and this creates a much bigger gap between those that have and have not,” he said.
In comparison, McIsaac has more than 100 devices connected to the Internet in his home, and certainly, the narrative believed by most is that Canada is a totally connected community. But McIsaac believes there is a much more significant gap in Canada, and one of the pitfalls of the digital divide is the loss of potential.
“If someone is not able to learn properly, you can create a much bigger gap among the classes. Secondarily, we may miss out on some of the best ideas this generation has to offer because they don’t have access to technology. This is something we have to address, and, in my mind, it can’t happen fast enough,” McIsaac said.
SMARTER TECHNOLOGY FOR ALL
Lenovo operates with a guiding philosophy of “Smarter Technology for All”, and this viewpoint works to ensure that everyone can take advantage of technology. Under McIsaac’s leadership, Lenovo Canada is trying to provide a standardized technology experience for classrooms across Canada and in the home. Lenovo has already contributed more than $5 million in donations for Quebec’s back-to-school initiative, a co-sponsored plan with Best Buy to support the Boys and Girls Club of Canada. Most recently, the company made a significant Chromebooks donation to the Government of Alberta’s school initiative.
More needs to be done, according to McIsaac, from the government and the business community to address the digital divide in low-income areas of Canada since they have the highest percentage of mobile-only device usage.
“Technology has an impact on business, and you can draw parallels on the impact it has on consumers in their daily lives. If they do not have the opportunity to embrace technology’s competitive advantage, they will fall behind, and the longer they are unable to leverage technology, the worse it becomes. There are two ends of the spectrum here with people at one end engaging technology to their great benefit and learning experience and the other end, where people are not,” he added.
Watch the Jolera Interview Series featuring Lenovo Canada’s Colin McIsaac to learn more about how Lenovo deals with the digital divide along with its innovation strategy and how the company is embracing the as-a-service market.
Transforming a business at any stage is tremendously challenging and faced with the COVID-19 lockdown Toronto-based My Blue Umbrella (MBU) used this time as an opportunity to not only implement several business continuity measures but also push a new digital transformation plan that will support and empower its customers for the future.
Company founder and CEO Michael Contento did admit that this plan was “aggressive” but added that quick action was necessary because of the unique circumstances regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.
This new transformation plan was part of an overall umbrella strategy Contento called Triple S dot T (Survive, Stabilize, Strive, and Transform). This effort involved enabling MBU customers with new cloud-based infrastructure that supports collaborative business automations.
The major part of Contento’s transformation strategy had its own branding: WORKanyPLACE. This cloud-based solution features several artificial intelligence tools resulting in cost and time savings for the customer while significantly improving teamwork and collaboration. WORKanyPLACE is a home-grown offering from MBU that is essentially an Oﬃce-in-a-Cloud, backed by the company’s technical support resources.
More importantly, WORKanyPLACE delivers business outcomes, such as:
Access to ﬁles anywhere
The ability to create calendar invites on the fly that sync seamlessly with videoconferencing apps.
Sharing data becomes a frictionless experience with WORKanyPLACE since its available inside and outside the organization.
Finally, vital data is secure, and automatically backed up, while allowing users access at a moment’s notice.
To get to the transform stage, the team at MBU moved quickly through each stage of the Triple S dot T plan.
When the news broke that a lockdown was coming because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Contento’s only thought was: “How do I survive this?”
Stuck out of the country, Contento understood he needed to act fast. On his way back home, Contento – who has been running MBU for more than 25 years – began to analyze what the pandemic was doing to banks, governments and other entities and realized the exceptional situation he was now saddled with needed a unique solution.
In this short amount of time, Contento developed the “Triple S dot T” plan.
Launching the Triple S dot T plan required a quick but thorough review of available programs and funding.
“I was in Florida. It was March 20th, and my first instinct was to get into survival mode, and I began to talk to the bank for help; get my credit line extended, so MBU had a buffer. That got us some breathing room to build this kind of road map,” Contento said.
Then other issues need to be resolved, such as the best way to support the MBU staff, while setting up new security measures.
To stabilize MBU, Contento and his team enacted a work-from-home program, and the company launched its Business Continuity Program (BCP). MBU staff were equipped with access to data via VPN plus the necessary computer equipment and other tools to operate safely and productively.The company then added extra layers of security to ensure hackers would be blocked from stealing data.
Putting this in place enabled MBU to stabilize is operation. From there, Contento shifted to the Strive portion of the plan.
In Strive mode, the MBU team were empowered to go to a new level of performance in the face of the COVID-19 lockdown. Contento’s message was to not allow COVID-19 to prevent them from doing regular business duties. He asked his team to contact customers to find out if there was anything they can do to help immediately.
This stage saw the MBU team craft new product solutions and support methods for clients. One of the savvier moves MBU made was to resource computer equipment from Rent-to-Own operations.
“The key thing here is to train the staff to communicate in phases and talk in a way to learn how to assess customer needs quickly, provide support and understand the initial need because some may by thinking of how they make payments, while others are thinking about security,” he said.
Lessons learned from the crisis
The perception of MBU during this time of crisis was also very important to Contento.
“We did not want clients to think we were calling to grow our business; we wanted to stay relevant to them. Not sell something extra, but to service them by offering extended financing, cutting costs, help them migrate from on-premise to the cloud and if we had to take a hit and not get billed for 120 days, we would.”
COVID-19 has brought out the best in a lot of Canadians, according to Contento. He has been impressed by how Canadians have dedicated themselves to protecting their neighbour, collaborating with each other, and supporting each other.
“COVID-19 came in as a big negative, but it has pushed true camaraderie…and we need that now. Sometimes our patriotism is questioned in Canada, and I think with COVID-19 it has elevated it a bit.”
Another change caused by COVID-19 has been the reality check to business leaders.
“Business can be quite simple. There is revenue and cost and the difference could be making you a profit or putting you in trouble. What COVID-19 has done is take the complexity out of business. Business leaders are running at 100-miles an hour, and COVID-19 has come in, and it has stopped giants in this industry and forced everyone to do the math really quickly. We are now month-to-month, and it has made people dumb down their math to see if their business expenses make sense and look at how healthy the profit is. Is the revenue sustainable down the road, or do I need to recalibrate it? This has forced everyone to go back to basics,” he added.
As crises go, COVID-19 draws a fine line between personal and business, and it has made decision making much harder for Contento.
“The decisions I make during this crisis have tripled in terms of impact because families are dealing not just with their finances but their health with this virus. It’s not just about the financials, but life and death and in a roundabout way, leaders have been forced to look at not just the math, which is what we would normally do, but the health perspective too”.
John Dathan, the senior vice president and general manager of Insight Canada, admitted that as the COVID-19 outbreak was occurring in China, he didn’t fathom at the time it would lead to a global lockdown and the rise of the remote worker. But as he and his team began to deal with this unique challenge, Dathan switched gears in their approach to the marketplace.
Dathan has been involved in the IT industry for over three decades, most recently as the vice president and general manager for Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Canada. He used this invaluable experience to guide his team at Insight Canada to serve customers as opposed to selling to them. Dathan got to work quickly to build a communication and marketing plan that would embrace Serve over Sell.
“Leaders have to be calm and collected to deliver the right intent. In my message to the team, I talked about Insight values of hunger, heart, harmony and of how. The operation has not changed, but we needed to go back to simple values. If you have that in place, people will make the right decisions. ‘Serve not Sell’ then becomes another layer to your value system,” he said. And, that is precisely what the Insight Canada team has done.
Recently, the Insight Canada team deployed an app for all teammates that remotely connects them to nurses and doctors. It has already paid some key dividends as the app was able to connect concerned parents of a newborn who was suddenly feeling sick to consult with the right doctor and nurse via open video chat. They were able to resolve the issue instead of risking the child going to the Emergency Room. The nurse then followed up with the parents the next day. This app provided peace of mind to the parents of this child, Dathan said.
The COVID-19 lockdown has led to many things, Dathan added. For one, he has spent more time in one place then he is ever had in his 30-year career. His desire to help the business community has gone to a new level, and he believes that the only way for the economy to rebound from this massive hit is by working together.
“To me, it’s interesting when people start to talk about ‘back to normal,’ and you need to put air-quotes when you say that. This is the new normal. Or it is going to become the new normal. People have been working from home for about 60 to 70 days now. The way video (conferencing) has played a role is fascinating. You can undoubtedly work wherever you are. The adoption of video in the last couple of months is the new norm. It has become truly collaborative with team huddles, social events and the ability to connect with people on a regular basis,” he said. He anticipates that traditional work hours of 9 to 5 or 8 to 4 will make way to a single stream of activity. “It’s going to be hard for someone to say ‘its 5 P.M.; I’m done for the day.'” On the flip say it will also be OK to inform co-workers and whomever you report to that you will not be available between 10 A.M. to 2 P.M., for example. Dathan believes there will be trust between staff and management and that companies will empower people to embrace this new working philosophy. “People are going to become comfortable with this, and there will be no more need to apologize because you have to take your kid to a pre-school ceremony,” Dathan added.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging for Dathan, but he would not say it the biggest challenge he has faced during his career. That would be the decline of Nortel. “I found that to be personally harder. In many ways, this feels to be a positive (from an Insight Canada perspective as no one has contracted the virus in Canada.) This has been more of a rally with the team to work together to deal with issues and solve problems. To serve our clients while protecting our teammates. I would describe this as more complex, but not as more difficult.”