In this episode of The Download, Ronnie is joined by Matt Kaplan; Insentra’s new Head of Managed Services. Matt brings extensive experience in managing complex client Delivery programs and a passion for service excellence. Ronnie and Matthew will be covering Matt’s career journey, transitioning to the Australian way of life and his secrets to success in Managed Services.
TIMELINE / KEY POINTS:
[0:28] Get to know Matt Kaplan, Insentra’s new Head of Managed Services, as he shares a little bit about his background and the role he’s going to fulfill at Insentra.
[03:04] Matt shares why he chose to join Insentra over all of the other opportunities he had.
[03:08] Matt: I fell in love with the Insentra values and mission and vision.
[03:22] Matt: I’m very strong and passionate about integrity, honesty, accountability, ownership.
[07:17] Find out about Matt’s leadership style.
READ THE TRANSCRIPT
Ronnie Altit: I’m Ronnie Altit and welcome to The Download, our first episode for 2018. Today with me in The Download is Matt Kaplan. Matt, welcome to The Download.
Matt Kaplan: Thank you very much.
Ronnie: And welcome to Insentra.
Matt: Thank you.
Ronnie: Not even day one on the job yet, still coming in to say hello and get a feel and lay the landset, tell us, Matt, tell us a little bit about the background of Matt.
Matt: All right, great. Thanks very much for having me. From South Africa, been in Australia for five days only now, starting freshly at the end of January with Insentra, and very much looking forward to it. Been in professional services and managed services businesses, and internet service providers for twelve to fifteen years. Managed big teams, teams that have dealt with installations, support, professional services, managed services. Looking forward to getting involved with the team.
Ronnie: Tell us about the role that you’re going to fulfill here at Insentra?
Matt: I’m heading up the managed services team within Insentra. The team is ten strong, I believe. I haven’t got to meet all of the team yet, that’s happening in the end of next week. Looking forward to working with the team, get in front of the clients as soon as possible, understanding their business outcomes, their needs, their plans for 2018, and try then to marry what we can do from a competency point of view, and deliver against Insentra’s promise.
Ronnie: That’s great. Look, I think our partners are going to be very excited to have somebody in our team that’s full time focused on helping them build their managed services business as well, which is wonderful. You chose Australia out of South Africa, and I know a lot of people leave South Africa, but what made you choose Australia, what made you choose Sydney?
Matt: Been here before, came for about a month many years ago. Actually, at that time, I was about to immigrate. Went back to the UK, lived in the UK for four, five years. Went back to South Africa for about ten days before coming here, and made the fatal error of playing a lot of golf, having a lot of barbecues, spending some time with the family, and ended up staying. That was about fifteen to twenty years ago.
Recently, I’ve come for a few family holidays, and just love it. Very similar to home, outdoors, sunny, sporty, friendly people, good to young kids. Good opportunities for them to come to this country now and start a life together. We’re very much excited.
Ronnie: I think it’s, obviously, a much safer place for you to be raising children as well, right?
Matt: Yes, much safer. We have a beautiful country, but it has a lot of challenges back home. I think, from an opportunity point of view, my wife and I think it’s the best place for our young kids to start school. Our little boy will start kindy now in January, and our little girl will go to daycare for a few years. It’s a good time for them to simulate into their environment and grow up Australian.
Ronnie: Excellent. I think you look at that and I would say you keep coming to the country for all the right reasons, which is wonderful. Having come from a large integrator in South Africa, one of the largest telecommunications providers there too, tell us, in terms of moving to Australia when you started looking for a new job, what made you select Insentra versus any of the other opportunities, of which I know you had many.
Matt: It’s a great question. Not to be coy but I fell in love with the Insentra values and mission and vision.
Ronnie: That’s good because I love them too.
Matt: You probably came up with them so that’s good. The hit aces, it resonates a lot with me. I’m very strong and passionate about integrity, honesty, accountability, ownership. I take that very seriously in the work that I do and the work that my teams do, and the service that we provide clients. Above all, client centricity and client focus is of utmost importance in all the work that we do.
In discussions with you and the rest of your executive team, and the rest of your team in the interview process, they really landed with me. A company that’s true to its values, partner obsessed. It’s not just written on boards and marking material, it looks like it’s pumping through the veins of the people that are here. That’s very exciting for me.
Ronnie: That’s excellent. We all bleed orange blood here, if you haven’t sort of worked out that orange is prolific. You’re right, it is truly part of who we are. Matt, having been an integrator and having experienced all the challenges that all of our partners experienced, and now you know that about Insentra, and now you know that we exist, and you know that we’ve got a series of offerings, how would you have leveraged us in your previous role?
Matt: Knowing the availability of an Insentra, definitely, it would answer a lot of the challenges that we were faced. Things like staff shortages, staff attrition, not having the right skills onboard at that time. I’m preparing for future governance and regulations that were coming down, things like ITIL. It’s in having those disciplines built within your own environment.
You can leverage off a partner like Insentra, who’s got that skills and got that development inhouse and got that knowledge. Being able to tap into that, it would definitely serve as the market from a cutting edge and a bleeding edge point of view from being on the front of technology, having to know I don’t have to invest in that right now. It might be too expensive, it might be a different technology that’s not on my back end environment.
If we can come with a mode of services and a mode of service offerings, competencies and those skills, certifications, governance and standards, things like ITIL and eTOM, and all those good things. I think that’s a definite service offering that our partners will be happy to leverage off.
Ronnie: In your previous life, did you run into scenarios where you’d have a bid that you needed to do, and you could do 85% of it but the 15% was going to be a real struggle? Would that happen happen to you guys?
Matt: Yes, we would leverage off other providers to do, maybe, the LAN component, or a licensing component, or possibly an out of country component because this is a multinational discipline. Where we had that we leverage off a key group of partners and collaborated well with them, and then form that partner network which is very powerful when you get it right.
Ronnie: It certainly can be. I think that’s something that we see with our partners when they try to bring us into managed services, is leveraging us to plug that gap that they can’t do. Often, we find that partners don’t even want to invest in that space, which is what you were saying as well. They just don’t want to put their money where their mouth is right now because it’s a high cost of investment to get involved into.
You don’t just wake up one morning and say, “Oh, I’m going to be a managed services provider and I’m going to do it in these six technologies.” It requires a whole stack of investment and time, and effort, and people, et cetera. That’s where we’re finding that our partners are leveraging us the most, is when they just don’t have that capability, but recognize that if they do partner with us, then they’ll do so without the risk that we’re going to take, the risk to the account. More importantly than we plug the gap and stop other people from potentially who could do the whole lot doing it.
Matt: Agreed. I think it gives Insentra the flexibility and the agility to focus on a niche product or service, and then build the competency in that at our expense and our investment, and then allow our partners to leverage off that from a skill perspective.
Ronnie: That is absolutely right. You’ve got a very interesting background in terms of this, what’s your leadership style? How would you define your leadership style?
Matt: I think it’s engaging, I think it’s collaborative. I certainly love to get stuck in on the ground and understand what the clients are experiencing and what their pain points are. I’m very much focused on growth and development of our team, and people that I work with in my particular crew environment. Very focused on attracting the right people into the team, developing them when they’re here for certifications, personal development, et cetera, retaining them, clearly, and then rewarding them.
It’s a four-pronged attack when managing people. Open to clearly sharing and working with other teams and working alongside other teams, and providing good, good collaboration as a team going forward.
Ronnie: Tell me, what would you consider the biggest success of your career today?
Matt: I think the biggest success would probably be an environment which I set up in South Africa sometime ago. It was in a previously disadvantaged community that had never had access to the internet before. We collaborated and kicked off a project where we provided internet access to the whole community through tablets and wireless hotspots and connectivity. We really raised the standard from an education perspective within maths and literacy through the technology we provided.
Although I’m an IT guy, and I’ve been in IT for twenty odd years, and I’ve been in the service provider game and security game, and managed services and professional services, I see the business outcome at the end is what excites me. I see how our clients and how their clients, and how the ultimate end user, it might be government, it might be community, it might be a business user, ultimately use that technology. That’s what excites me, that’s what encourages me, and that’s what I get highly passionate about.
Ronnie: It sounds like it was a really interesting project. Particularly, when you’re starting to work with underprivileged people, you tend to get more intense to get a deeper sense of satisfaction out of it. That sounds like a great project. Matt, in the new world of the Cloud, and there’s hybrid Cloud, and there’s public Cloud, private Cloud, all of those things, but in that new world, things are different.
Organizations aren’t just buying infrastructure, building, chucking it in and managing it. It’s a whole different world now. What do you think the future of the managed services provider is in that new construct?
Matt: Those things aren’t going to go away. Infrastructure as a service, platform as a service, those are there. I think the challenge from having the relevant skill set to deliver against those, up-to-date skill set from a certification perspective and having the guys that are skilled and certified to deliver against that is definitely a requirement, and a concern to remain relevant.
I think from a hybrid Cloud journey perspective, at every step of that way, partners need to understand what they can put in the Cloud and which workloads they can put in the Cloud, and where they can guide their clients on that particular journey. If I was to think about the service wrapping around that and the service layers around that, I’d be very concerned about things like security, governance, standards. I’d be very concerned about things like application development and how agile from a change management perspective. I think we could add a lot of value in that space.
Ronnie: Matt, our partners are working with end user customers who are all moving to the Cloud in some way, shape or form. Some of those partners are managed services providers, some of them are co-integrators with managed services at Insentra. If you’re a managed services partner today and you’re delivering services, what are the top three things that you would be concerned about and that you would be focusing on immediately to ensure that you remain relevant to your clients?
Matt: Number one would be, do I have the right skills inhouse? Do I need to invest in those skills or can I leverage on someone else to have them? Number two would be, do I have the right partner relationships and vendor relationships, and licensee relationships? Am I strong enough there?
Ronnie: Why is that relevant?
Matt: It’s relevant when I need to pick up a phone and have a conversation with someone about a problem, or I need some guidance, or advice, or some consultancy. Do I have a strong relationship with them? Will they take the call or am I just a number in the queue? That’s important for me. Then, thirdly, am I thinking beyond 2018 and beyond 2019 where big things like data analytics is coming, cryptocurrencies, items like that. Am I thinking along those ideas of innovation? Those are things I would be focusing on.
Ronnie: On that last one, are you sort of suggesting that the MSP of the future needs to be considering how to build services around cryptocurrency?
Matt: Yes, I don’t think why we shouldn’t be doing it. Most definitely. I think we should be definitely looking at environments like that, but envts where it’s difficult to choose a stable cryptocurrency right now. There’s many that are popping up, and there’s some of it that are going down. I think it’s a market that’s being watched from the side with a bit of trepidation to invest upfront. Are we agile, are we flexible, are we wanting to invest in that? Yes, we are. I think that would be a good thing to do.
Ronnie: As a managed services provider, that’s great, but that’s real distant stuff as far as my view is to your point that currencies up and down. I just picked on that one example that you chose. What about security in the Cloud and securing in a hybrid world? If you’re an MSP, are you thinking about that?
Matt: Yes, I think you have to be thinking about that. You have to remain relevant. There’s so many different security technologies, so you’d choose one. If you choose a few, do you leverage off a partner that has skills across a number of them or do you focus on one particular one? I think from a virtualization perspective, the ten has gone now. You don’t have to put a device in any auto secure. You can get a virtualization application that will represent a firewall. Those technologies, you have to remain close to it and relevant, and see who are the market leaders. Definitely, security is one of the huge focus areas.
Ronnie: As we start to think about the future in a future state, what do you see as the biggest issues that managed services providers are facing?
Matt: The future being tomorrow, or in the next minutes or two, is right here. It’s not something in a long distance. I think we must keep the focus that the future is not something far and distant but something really relevant right now that we must be working on. Are we hiring for the future? Are we hiring skill set possibly aren’t relevant right now but are going to pop up in six months or a year, and add immediate value at that stage, and not have to hit the ground and take two to three months to add a bit of value.
I think some of the challenges and obstacles that they’re facing right now are those things of remaining relevant, of deciding which technologies to focus on, which partners and which vendors to get close to, which are relevant which are not? Are there pop-ups that are disappearing? The longer ones like in IBM and HP, are those the ones that you want to entrench yourselves into? That would be a big obstacle, I think, right now.
Ronnie: I think you raise a valid point in terms of the future’s actually now. It’s happening so very quickly. Managed services providers, and we have been guilty of the same here at Insentra, you spend a lot of time chasing the future but you’re not doing it until the future’s almost at your doorstep. You don’t create a managed service for a service that nobody’s buying yet, but you need to create that managed service in advance of them buying it, which is what you’re saying. Is that right?
Matt: Hundred percent. In order to do that, you have to remain close to your partners. I think that we need to understand our partners’ business outcomes, and their business strategies, and their deliverables for 2018, 2019, 2020 and beyond. Together, then go along this journey of delivering packaged relevant services to them that’s going to add value on to their clients. That’s critical to us.
Ronnie: Whenever I’m doing these Download discussions with people, Matt, I know you’ve watched a few of them, I always try to throw a curly question at the end. I’m going to actually throw you two.
Matt: Okay, go for it.
Ronnie: The reason I’m going to throw you two is because of where you’ve come from. I’d like to know you’re most amazing game reserve experience, that’s the first thing, and then I’ll hit you a with the second one later.
Matt: My most amazing game reserve experience would be– in some of the lodgers back home, you have some cameras that are on those waterholes at night. You can tune your television in your hotel room to the waterhole. They call them hide, go underground into the hide. When you see an animal come to the hide, you can look at on the television or you can quick, make haste and run to the hide and watch the animal.
Recently, I was with my family. We were watching it ten, eleven at night, and noticed a rhino come to the hide water. Literally, eleven at night, all in our pajamas, we ran through the hotel underneath into the hide, and were joined by like six or seven other families. It was a crazy experience just running through the hotel all in your PJs to see an animal. Opened the door, got there, and the thing had left. It wasn’t great.
Ronnie: [laughs] That’s not good. Makes me think, in South Africa, you don’t just want to be running around in any hotel in your pajamas.
Matt: Not at all.
Ronnie: Then you didn’t even get the whole outcome.
Ronnie: All right, so that was the first thing. The second one, tell us your favorite joke.
Matt: Favorite joke? [whispers] How do you call a deaf cat?
Matt: [shouts] Here, pussy, pussy.
Ronnie: [laughs] That’s very good. Matt Kaplan, it’s been a pleasure to have you here at the Download.
Matt: Thanks so much, Ronnie.
Ronnie: I’m excited to have you join us in the company.
Matt: Thank you very much.
Ronnie: Excited for you to go and meet some of our partners.
Matt: Very much looking forward to working with everyone.
Ronnie: It’ll be great to have you here, Matt.
Matt: Thank you.
Ronnie: Welcome to Australia.
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ABOUT MATT KAPLAN
Head Of Managed Services at Insentra
Engaging, decisive and supportive, client engagement executive and service improvements manager, with more than 15 years’ experience in service delivery management, solutions implementation and client experience strategy development – mapping the customer journey and touch points. Manages a complex client delivery program of works, experienced in management of end-to-end transformation and delivery for clients to meet contractual requirements and SLAs; Provides vision, planning and guidance to help clients realise their digital and technology transformation goals. With excellent communication and presentation skills, has demonstrated capacity to engage with executive-level stakeholders. Highly motivated with a desire to lead by example and drive a passion for technology among both internal and external stakeholders.