Six-time Channel Chief reflects on changes in the IT channel

AwardsSix years can go by pretty quickly. Just ask Neal Bradbury. Neal, senior director of business development at Barracuda MSP, has once again been recognized by CRN on its list of 2018 Channel Chiefs. This is the sixth year in a row Neal has been named to the list, a fact that surprised him when we sat down to talk.

A lot has changed since Neal was first recognized as a Channel Chief in 2013. For starters, Neal, who co-founded Intronis in 2003, helped successfully sell the business to Barracuda in 2015 and transition the organization to what it is today: Barracuda MSP, the MSP-dedicated business unit here at Barracuda.

Even more has changed across the IT channel over the past six years, so I asked Neal to share his thoughts on what’s changed — and what’s stayed the same.

Q&A with Channel Chief Neal Bradbury

What are the most important changes you’ve seen in the channel since you first became a Channel Chief six years ago?

One thing that stands out to me is how automation has improved. MSPs’ toolsets have gotten better, and MSPs have gotten more efficient. As a result, we’re seeing more integrations because more vendors are realizing they need to plug into the tools MSPs are already using.

Security has also been a game-changer. With more regulations, more privacy concerns, and the sheer number of threats that businesses of all sizes are facing today, the opportunity for MSPs is changing in a good way. Back in 2013, NOC, helpdesk, and data protection were the big opportunities for MSPs. Those services are still a staple for MSPs, but security services and protecting data is becoming more important.

The cloud is also transforming the competitive landscape for service providers. The barriers to entry have decreased. You used to have people building their own data centers, which took time, and now new MSPs can start their business in an afternoon using cloud services. This has put established players in the channel on notice because new competition is being born every day.

What’s stayed the same?

Through all the changes, I’ve noticed that MSPs still have the same passion for helping their clients. At the core of everything they do, MSPs want to help their clients succeed, and that’s still true today, even if services and solutions have evolved over the years.

Something else that has stayed the same is the fact that too many MSPs still aren’t doing enough in terms of sales and marketing. More vendors provide enablement tools now than they did six years ago. For example, Barracuda MSP partners get access to our Partner Toolkit, which includes a library of rebrandable sales and marketing materials, such as email templates, pre-built presentations, e-books, and sales training cheat sheets. But you still find MSPs that aren’t doing the sales and marketing they need to do to sustain and grow their business, even though they have more options for help.

What lessons have you learned over the past six years?

One lesson that’s stuck with me is something I learned when I worked with Rick Faulk, who was CEO of Intronis. Rick used to say, “Be first or be different.” I’ve used that advice myself, and I’ve preached it to many of our MSPs partners over the past six years. It’s something that’s just as true for us as a vendor partner as it is for an MSP trying to get ahead of their competition.

Another lesson that stands out for me is that you can’t improve what you don’t measure.  You need to make sure you’re tracking the right things and that you’re paying attention to those numbers. You won’t be able to figure out how to improve your business if you don’t understand how you’re doing.

One of my other favorites is that backup is the gateway to managed services. Even with all the changes we’ve seen in the channel in the past few years, that’s still true.

Who has taught you the most?

Since I started working in the IT channel, I’ve learned the most for our MSP partners. They educate me regularly on what’s happening in the market, what opportunities they see for their business, and the challenges they’re facing. What I’ve learned from them has helped me guide Barracuda MSP so we can provide the most value to our partners and help them overcome challenges and succeed.

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