We recently sat down with Mike Fuhrman – who joined Omega Systems as its CEO earlier in 2023 – who shared his perspective on the changing needs of Omega’s customers as well as his advice for business leaders evaluating the role of generative AI, cybersecurity, and hybrid technology implementations in 2024 and beyond.
Q: You’ve worked for a number of technology companies throughout your career. What specifically drew you to the managed service provider (MSP) industry?
MF: As an MSP, we get to see the tangible outcomes of our work every single day. Sometimes it’s the little things, like troubleshooting an unknown error. And other times – when we’re remediating a sophisticated cyber threat or preventing one before it ever causes harm – being able to help customers stay protected and achieve their business outcomes…it’s satisfying to be able to deliver on a promise that not every person or company can.
Customers come to us looking for IT expertise and a level of service or support that they either can’t attain themselves or that they haven’t been able to realize with another provider. We take that responsibility seriously and strive to do more than solve their technology problems, but help them achieve their business objectives – and that’s a really satisfying job.
Q: Let’s talk about some anticipated business and technology trends for 2024. We’d be remiss if we didn’t talk about artificial intelligence. What’s your take on AI and how do you see mid-market companies, as an example, being able to leverage AI and machine learning capabilities to enable their businesses?
MF: There’s no question that AI is the biggest technology discussion topic heading into 2024. And if all you do is read industry news or headlines, you probably feel like you’re missing out on something. But for small and medium-sized businesses that are worried they’re already behind, I don’t think they need to be. The reality is only the largest enterprises out there have the dollars and the resources to start testing and manipulating AI capabilities. For everyone else, they should focus on learning and understanding – both what it is capable of and, perhaps more importantly, what it isn’t. There’s clearly a lot of potential for how AI tools can help businesses accelerate, innovate and become more efficient. Here at Omega, we’re spending our time identifying and studying the tools that we believe can help us achieve better outcomes – such as ways to build automation into our 24×7 IT support desk that ultimately bring more efficiency and a better experience to our employees and our customers.
Q: Let’s talk about security. Staying on top of changing cyber threats has become more than just an IT problem; it’s really a problem for the entire organization, and it starts from the top down. How would you advise executives to look at cybersecurity and what role do you think they play in shaping an effective risk management program?
MF: Well unfortunately, there’s still a lot of complacency and frankly, ignorance, in certain board rooms and corner offices when it comes to cybersecurity threats. Too many executives still want to believe it won’t happen to them, that security protections are a nuisance, that they’re a drain on the budget, etc. But we’ve seen too many times the damage that can be done.
Executives clearly need to put cybersecurity at the forefront of their leadership discussions and prioritize not only the technical defense mechanisms that are required for their protection, but how to address attacks when they inevitably do occur. That means a thorough response plan that includes internal communications, customer communications, a PR strategy. Otherwise you risk making a bad situation worse, and those are the types of scenarios that businesses can’t come back from.
The harsh reality is, there’s no time in the future when this gets better. Every new hacking strategy will continue to be met with an appropriate defense and so on and so forth. So as much as someone might want to, you can’t afford to ignore this stuff.
Q: The economy has been a hot topic for businesses trying to combat rising inflation and interest rates; there are large-scale international wars in both Israel and Ukraine; we have a U.S. presidential election year coming. There’s a lot of uncertainty that lies ahead. How do you see these economic circumstances impacting the technology industry and the day-to-day needs of Omega’s customers?
MF: It certainly feels like a roller coaster ride lately, and with all the concerns you just mentioned – the cost of debt, inflation, global geopolitical issues, macroeconomic issues – it’s really clear to me that if you’re making plans for 2024, we just don’t know a lot yet about how things are going to turn out. What I’d say to our customers and the broader market is that this is when you should be laser-focused on what’s core to your business. Whether you’re in finance or healthcare or food service, block out the distractions and focus on your core objectives and your customers. IT – for most of our customers – is not a core skillset, so we want them to take advantage of our resources, our infrastructure, our experts and give them that time back to service their people and their priorities. Right now, I think that’s the best we can do in these uncertain times.
Q: With economic pressures on the rise, one way to leverage some cost flexibility and potential savings is with migration to the cloud or at the very least a hybrid implementation. What’s your view on hybrid technology solutions and the future role they can play in helping business operations?
MF: It’s exciting to think about how far we’ve come, from the days when all IT infrastructure sat within four walls, to the rise of SaaS, workloads starting to use the public cloud. The theory was that eventually we’d see everything move into the public cloud, but over the last few years, there’s been a growing realization that that may not be the case, and a hybrid world is much more realistic. For a lot of businesses, there’s going to be a mix of assets that make sense to stay on-premise or in a highly-regulated private data center while other software and applications live in the cloud. It doesn’t have to be one-size-fits-all.
There are a lot of potential benefits to your budget and to your effectiveness, but it does introduce another level of IT complexity trying to figure out what goes best where, so that’s where having a trusted advisor to help you align with your business strategy and maximize the benefits is going to really play a critical role.
Q: When you think about Omega Systems as an MSP heading into 2024, is there one area of differentiation that stands out or one area where you think customers and prospective customers are going to see the most value from your team and services next year?
MF: I’m going to say the quiet part out loud, and that’s that the MSP industry is a commoditized marketplace to a certain extent. Every vendor will hang their hat on white-glove service, so it’s not a real differentiator if we’re all talking about it – at least on the surface.
But there’s a difference between saying you’re different and actually doing something different. As my mother always said, actions speak louder than words and so at Omega, we try to say what we’re going to do and then meet or exceed that standard and then do it again and again and again. That’s how we continue to build trust with our customers, and that’s what ultimately is going to set us apart in the industry.
Omega Systems is a multi-award winning MSP and MSSP with more than two decades of experience helping businesses navigate IT complexities and leverage technology as a competitive differentiator. Contact our sales team to learn more about how we can support your business in 2024 and beyond.