Bob DeMarzo MES Fall 2018 stageMidmarket executives want a little inspiration to motivate them and their teams. Who will give it to them?

If you listen carefully to what midmarket leaders and don’t jump quickly to conclusions, you will gain an understanding of their needs as executives at the intersection of business and technology.

One of the best parts of my job is picking through all the great data points from our surveys of midmarket IT leaders. Throughout the year, we conduct dozens of surveys of CIOs and senior IT leaders to capture their thoughts on a wide range of issues including such topics as the top tech challenges, role evolution and the daily struggles of just keeping up with the pace of change.

Everyone talks about the importance of listening carefully to customers, so our survey data is a great way to hear what these individuals really have to say. You not only have to listen carefully but do some interpretation as well. No matter, all this great data puts me in the catbird seat when it comes to understanding what makes midmarket IT leaders tick. I compiled some interesting findings from the MES CIO survey that shed some light on this market.

  • Our top-rated speaker from the MES Fall 2018 conference was executive coach Bonnie Hagemann, who authored the book, “Leading With Vision.” She spoke to the audience about making the transition from CIO to CEO along with the reason why tech leaders are best positioned to lead the entire organization not just the tech piece. Hagemann’s point is that IT leaders must step up their leadership skills, especially those who are in the mid stages of their careers. It was an inspiring story, albeit one some audience members were reluctant to accept.
  • Looking over the results from several past MES Fall conferences found that our top-rated speakers were often those with compelling business stories. Those included Jason Allen Ashlock, who spoke on the art of storytelling; Ryan Estis, who addressed the next level of leadership; or the great sports agent J.B. Bernstein on perseverance from his book, “Million-Dollar Arm.” If you listen to these attendees, they are saying, “Help us become better managers or leaders.”
  • Senior IT leaders want to meet with peers more than anyone else. In examining nearly 100 comments from attendees, many expressed the feelings of one attendee who said, “The networking with peers is beyond helpful at the conference and afterwards.” Or this IT executive who said the MES conference “is the ideal way to meet and interact with CIOs that have the same issues and concerns that we have.” Depending on your point of view, those comments mean different things to those who sell IT software and hardware or those running events like us. If tech suppliers are listening carefully, it means they must engage customers based on the experiences or results other clients are having. It’s an important, yet subtle point. For us as event planners, it means providing more peer content along with ways for attendees to engage with one another to share best practices.
  • If you ask a bunch of IT executives what topics they would like to hear more about, you can only imagine how varied the answers. We collected hundreds of technology and business issues our attendees want to learn more about. Security topped the list representing today’s greatest challenge. AI, blockchain and emerging technologies have quickly grown in importance, but truly listening to these responses tells a whole other story. That is, there really is no one issue that dominates the thinking of today’s midmarket IT leaders. They are trying to keep up with everything from security to VoIP to DLP to Capex vs. Opex to analytics and hyperconvergence. It was amazing to hear the range of responses. Sure, there are some trend lines, but every midmarket customer is unique. As someone once said, there are a million different stories in the midmarket.

The point of this blog is to well, point out, that if you listen carefully to the midmarket customer and put aside preconceived notions or tech biases, you will truly hear an amazing story about what makes this market and the individuals in it such a special group. Maybe what these executives really want is little inspiration to motivate them and their teams.

One MES Fall attendee put it best when he said, “MES is a great event for gathering inspiration and seeing new products and services from vendors.” Simple yet succinct. Let’s hope he was also inspired to take on new challenges and rise up the leadership ranks.

Let me know your thoughts on the midmarket at rdemarzo@thechannelcompany.com.