Solutions providers, IT professionals, vendors, and distributors withstood the 100-degree temperatures to converge on the JW Marriott in Austin, Texas, for CompTIA’s ChannelCon 2017, the association's annual meeting of IT professionals, solutions providers, and vendors and distributors. The three-day event, which ran from July 31 to Aug. 2, featured a number of lectures, networking events and a vendor fair. BPO Media proudly sponsors this event every year and this year was no exception.
After an Austin-style breakfast (they have a taco for every occasion), CompTIA CEO Todd Thibodeaux welcomed us to the event, and spoke briefly about the need for more diversity in tech — a major theme that was present throughout the gathering. During his 45-minute speech, he rattled off some disturbing statistics about tech workforce demographics. For starters, he noted that women are underrepresented by a margin of 1 million, or 20 percent of all the currently existing tech jobs, when compared to census data. He also said that only a fraction of black men and Hispanics who hold computer science degrees actually work in IT, and that people of color leave the tech industry 3.5 times more often than to their white peers. He closed out his speech with a few recommendations for fixing tech’s diversity problem, calling for businesses to strive to be more diverse and eliminate subconscious biases.
Next, Thibodeaux welcomed to the stage the event’s keynote speaker, author, entrepreneur and investor Scott Belsky, “The jack of all trades” took us to school on creativity, organization and getting things done. He mentioned that most ideas never happened and explained that people and businesses get “excited” about new ideas, but they soon run out of gas and hit the “project plateau“ when they try to apply it. Instead of sticking to their idea, he says, they just come up with a new one and pursue that. He proposed that we focus more of our energy on organization with a slant toward taking action.
Belsky was surprisingly pro-adversarial, recommending that we not be shy about viewing our peers in other companies as competition and that sometimes you’ll have to spar with team members as well in order to make progress. He also criticizes something we all dread: pointless meetings. He told us to test meetings to determine if they are indeed a waste of time or not, and that “if you leave a meeting with nothing actionable, then it shouldn’t have been a meeting at all.” He also encouraged us to speak up at meetings. A key takeaway was Belsky telling us that we should find confidence in doubt, and we shouldn’t be afraid to speak out because we think an idea is silly.
The Vendor Fair
Walking the floor at the vendor fair, I ran into a number of interesting companies. While many were selling security in one form of another, it was evident that many software developers are becoming incredibly specialized. The fair represented a broad range of the tech sector, but here are three exhibitors that might be a little off the beaten path:
The “as a service” model has really taken off. I met the folks from Compliancy Group, a Compliance-as-a-Service (CaaS) provider. The company aims to keep small and medium business HIPAA compliant with “The Guard.” They told me that their solution, which was developed by former auditors and compliance experts, will help their clients address the spectrum of HIPAA regulation, while empowering healthcare professionals through education and guidance.
I was intrigued when I came across Sellr’s booth. The solution, which primarily targets liquor stores, enables retailers to handle their website, social media, digital signage, and customer engagement with a single platform. Sellr offers a huge curated library of product UPCs, including images, descriptions and other details, and integrates with many product promotion platforms. The solution also comes with an analytics component the help retailers can see if their social media, website, and product promotion efforts are paying off.
IT Glue had a solution to streamline help desk operations. Gone are the days when help desk workers found themselves asking Google or a network of peers for a quick fix. Instead of elevating tickets, help desk personnel can find a speedy fix to the problems they are working on. The solution aggregates manuals and articles on a wide range of subject matter, which can be easily queried using simple language. For instance, if a user needed to know how to sort cells by color in Excel, your help desk staff could simply type in “how do I sort cells by color in Excel?”
Between walking the floor and speaking to vendors, and sitting in on lectures with industry experts, there was a lot to take in. Much was said about the disruptive technology of today, and speculation on where it will take us. And while many talks zeroed in on different spaces in the tech universe, quite a few panels diverted the conversation to the cloud, IoT, BI/analytics, and AI/machine learning, and the security problems they will ultimately pose, at one point or another. Sure, these technologies will give us everything from automated business processes and better insights into our businesses, to automated cars and smart cities, but it won’t go off without a hitch. Security is, and will continue to be even more of a concern for businesses, and you should start taking measures now.