January 14, 2020
Matt Thode, Mindsight’s Director of Service Delivery, sat down with Siobhan Climer to discuss Mindsight’s engineering perspective, and how the team brings value to customers around technology and strategic business vision.
As a managed services provider (MSP), Mindsight centers its strategy on the expert-level-only engineers that deliver technology services to our clients. As Director of Service Delivery, Matt shares his perspective around reactive IT, proactive IT, how the evolving technology sector impacts our clients today, and what tomorrow might hold.
What Does The Director Of Service Delivery Role Entail?
SC: Tell me a little about how you ended up in your role today. What experiences as a child or young adult do you feel influenced your path?
MT: I’ve always been very interested in technology. I can’t really put a finger on exactly why that’s the case, but I remember when I was four years old my dad, who was an engineer at Motorola when it was still a really big company, would bring home his computer from work. And he’d let me tinker on it. Of course, back then, you couldn’t really break a whole lot.
In high school, I actually had a consulting business where I would help people with websites or technology – think like Geek Squad but just one guy. It was called ‘Matt the Geek’ and I still have business cards somewhere, because I ordered a thousand of them and only gave away three.
Unfortunately, I had this vision in my head of working in IT to be this boring job. You just had to show up and make sure the backups worked and helpdesk, and so, I decided that I did not want to study technology. The truth is, though, when kids are 16, 17, 18, to ask someone that age what they want to do with the rest of their life – that’s really tough!
I’d decided that I wanted to work for the State Department. I wanted to be a diplomat. So, I went to the University of Illinois for Political Science with the goal of going into the Foreign Service, which is like the Diplomat core, after I graduated.
The funny thing is the whole time I was in school, I couldn’t quite get out of that IT world. I actually had a part-time job, where I was the IT guy for a company in Downer’s Grove working remotely from my dorm room.
Then, I was fortunate enough to get an internship at the State Department in Washington D.C., and I moved out there for the program…and I hated it. I hated it. This was my dream for the last four years and I just did not like it in the least bit. But I was far enough along that I couldn’t reverse course. So, I decided to finish my degree and then move into technology.
I’ve been in technology services for 15 years, and sure, there is a lot of that day-in, day-out, keep-the-lights on stuff that’s boring, but you come to the point where you realize that’s table-stakes. Once you get that taken care of, there is so much more you can do to help advance our customers and advance their businesses.
SC: What is your typical day like? Tell me a little about your role. What do MSPs provide clients that they couldn’t get otherwise?
MT: There are two parts to the work we do. There is proactive work and reactive work. The reactive work is an issue happens with our customers. They have a problem and we react to it. It’s very difficult to plan out that type of work because the customers are going to call in when they have an issue. We can’t easily predict when they’re going to have an issue. We can monitor for them, we can alert when they happen – but there’s a certain aspect of not really knowing what’s going to happen from a day-to-day basis.
But then there is also a proactive component, and it’s the bread and butter of what we do. We make sure backups are working, everything looks green. We’re doing patching, we’re applying security updates, and that’s the stuff that customers rely on. Too often people tend to put out the fires first, and then try and make incremental improvements later; unfortunately, they just get stuck in the fire-fighting stage. So, a lot of what we do – very intentionally – is make those incremental improvements to make sure the client environment is running smoothly, so that they don’t have to fight fires all day.
Trends For MSPs And Business Leaders Around Technology
SC: What are the biggest technological challenges faced by our clients?
MT: Budget. Unfortunately, a lot of customers still see IT as a cost center instead of a business enabler. IT reports to Finance and these departments get squeezed every year because technology is seen as a necessary evil of doing business and companies – a lot of the time – want to spend as little money doing it as possible.
Instead of seeing IT as a cost center, businesses need to start thinking about how technology can turn you into a competitor, how you can use technology to get a leg up on your competition.
Technology leaders, for their part, can’t forget about the leadership part of their title. They need to be engrained in what’s happening in the company as a whole, where it’s going, what the three-year plan is, the five-year plan, what the company is trying to solve, what the pain points are – and only once you have that understanding can you tailor the IT strategy to meet the business goals.
Unfortunately, some IT leaders have difficulty setting a strategic vision for their team, and then they have difficulty communicating that vision upwards. Even if you have a really compelling vision, sometimes there are just budgetary constraints that exist.
We bring our customers value in one of two ways. We can either take care of the day-to-day items so they can focus on long-term strategy or we can help create that long-term strategy that helps advance the business.
SC: How do you see emerging technology affecting our clients?
MT: One of the most impactful technologies that people overlook is SDWAN. In my experience, the biggest pain points I’ve ever had to deal with from an operations perspective were around dealing with telco carriers and dealing with private circuits. They’re a nightmare to deal with; the service you get is overpriced by a factor of 10, and it’s not nearly as reliable as you think it should be, especially given geographic locations. Generally speaking, a company who is stuck in the old model of using point-to-point circuits – let’s call it old networking technologies – is probably paying 2-3 times for that as they really need to. I think SDWAN is going to drive a lot of efficiencies and service improvements.
Why aren’t companies adopting it? Here’s an analogy. My grandma, who passed away six years ago, was paying rent to AT&T for a rotary phone in her kitchen. And she’d been paying $5 in rent a month for the past 50 years. For a rotary phone. She’d paid for that phone a hundred times over. But she was comfortable with it.
For a lot of companies, it’s a bit of that same complacency and comfort. The devil you know versus the devil you don’t. Plus, when people start thinking SDWAN, it’s kind of a black box to them. Their data kind of goes into this black box, and they can’t really see how it works, there’s a loss of control.
Companies need to embrace the unknown. Honestly, a lot of those fears can be assuaged by looking at how much money can be saved. We’re dealing with this right now with a customer we’re onboarding. They’ve got a private circuit going to their office. It’s 10 mb/sec, which is like a tenth of what you get at home with Comcast – and they’re paying $1200/month for it.
You owe yourself to look into it and see from a cost-savings perspective what it can do for you. Your competitors are looking at it. If you’re a medium-sized company with 10 locations and you can shave $1000/month at each of those locations by going from an AT&T circuit to an SDWAN – that’s a significant amount of money.
SC: What industries are most impacted by the pace of technological change? How can we help them?
MT: Manufacturing is getting hit hard with change, and not everyone realizes it. There are some manufacturing companies – this goes back to the dichotomy as IT as a cost center versus IT as an enabler – that are aware. A number of manufacturers are embracing technology. They’re embracing Internet of Things (IoT), especially as it pertains to their manufacturing equipment. A lot of the manufacturing equipment: it’s web-enabled, it can feed data back to central systems, it can be all remotely controlled, it integrates with their ERP systems. And there are some customers that are on top of that, and they are doing really well.
Others, where IT is seen as more of a cost center, they are going to be negatively impacted by the pace of change. Eventually, their competitors are going to adopt IoT, adopt big data, more automation, and pretty soon we’re going to start to see a chasm form between the manufacturers that are willing to embrace that type of technological change in manufacturing, and those that are stuck in their old ways.
Meet Mindsight: Through The Eyes of Matt Thode, Director of Service Delivery
SC: What is the most rewarding part of your work at Mindsight?
MT: Without a doubt the team that I work with. We have a great team. Everyone is hard-working, and incredibly smart. They are willing to step outside of the box to help someone else, and they are just fun to work with. You know, IT is a very stressful area, especially with the day-to-day incidents, and we just have to laugh. My team makes Mindsight a rewarding place to work.
SC: What are you interested in learning more about?
MT: I just finished my master’s degree in business from Northwestern University in June. I’m very excited about that, and I’m interested in learning more about Sales. I’ve never been in Sales, but I figure if I want to be a well-rounded business person, I need to understand more about what goes on over there. Plus, in my experience, IT people tend to be very black and white. Either all the settings are right and it’s working, or something is broken and you have to fix it.
Sales is more gray – you may have to tweak a deal a certain way for a customer to sign off on it, which then impacts the people on the service delivery side. Sometimes these trade-offs happen, and I want to better understand what those trade-offs are and when we have to go outside the box for a customer, understand how to bring it in, to understand how to bring it in so we can execute successfully, that’s important to me.
So, I’ve been shadowing the Sales team, and I’ve been doing some reading. One of my friends recommended a really good book, it’s called The Challenger Sale – the Challenger is your customer, and you’re not just going along with what they say, but you’re challenging them to push them towards a better solution. So, nothing super serious, but I’ve been trying to be a little more open-minded, so I can better inform my team and Mindsight as a whole.
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About The Author
Siobhan Climer, Science and Technology Writer for Mindsight, writes about technology trends in education, healthcare, and business. She writes extensively about cybersecurity, disaster recovery, cloud services, backups, data storage, network infrastructure, and the contact center. When she’s not writing tech, she’s reading and writing fantasy, gardening, and exploring the world with her twin daughters. Find her on twitter @techtalksio.