In the past year, KPM Technology has increased by 25 clients to 173. How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected the demand for information technology services?
Most of our clients, in fact 73%, were considered essential workers, which was good for us and good for them. In early March, we had a flurry of activity with many of our clients wanting to go remote. Our employees were able to set up at home. Our Voice over (Internet Protocol) system worked like a champ. They were able to use all of our cloud-based and remote working tools. We didn’t miss a beat. We set up, I would say, 60% of our clients with remote workforce and telehealth. After that flurry of a few weeks, it got really quiet with all the businesses locked down; however (accounts receivable) stayed good. Our clients paid. I have formed some strategic alliances with other IT vendors that don’t compete in my space. We refer to each other and that has been key to growth for KPM Technology. TierOne Solutions, they are a (VoIP) and bandwidth vendor, and Paladin Managed Solutions, they are business machines, copiers [and] managed print services.
After 20 years with KPM Technology, how have the demands and the complexities of IT needs shifted?
We had a laptop and a desk phone, barely a cellphone at that point in time, and you would wait for the phone to ring for somebody to have a problem. You’d either try to help them over the phone with no real powerful tools to remote into their machines or you’d drive over and fix it. Ninety percent of the work we did last year was remote. With so many remote tools, so many security tools, we have clients that work from home and securely (use a virtual private network) back to their office and use remote desktop services. We have clients that use third-party software to use their home PC to control their work PC over military grade encrypted tunnels. What I think happened was people’s eyes were opened. They didn’t realize we can work from home. But also that comes with challenges, too, because you have to somehow hold your employees accountable when they work. There’s been technologies that have been developed to help companies keep their employees accountable whenever they do work from home. That’s a shift that I’ve seen.
A report from the Identity Theft Resource Center found data breaches fell 19% in 2020 compared with the year before because of an increase in people adopting ransomware software. Does that connect with what you’ve been seeing?
Yes, it does. The individual attacks, trying to mine databases for people’s Social Security numbers or credit card numbers, it’s shifting from that. It’s nothing less than organized crime, but those hackers are now targeting different sectors of the market. To be honest with you, it’s scary. I’m glad to have a good (chief technology officer) in Richard Mizer because if you heard lately, SolarWinds, a managed service provider, was compromised. These hackers are not just going for the individual users anymore and trying to either ransom them or steal their identity, they’re trying to get the keys to the kingdom. If they were to be able to hack a managed service provider account, then every customer that managed service provider services would be in jeopardy. It’s worked in several cases. We’ve picked up two different clients this year because their managed service provider wasn’t running a secure shop.
What is the biggest industry trend you’re watching?
Talent. This pandemic and the remote workforce that it’s caused has honestly leveled the playing field all across the country for not only employers, but employees. I was at a conference in Las Vegas a couple of years ago and I was talking to some guys out there that own IT companies similar to mine. Out there, a help desk technician, which is an entry-level position, they told me that they can’t hire one for less than $150,000 a year. That San Francisco IT company now can reach into Springfield, Missouri, and find good talent and pay them more than they would make from a company in Springfield, but a lot less than $150,000 a year. That’s going to require Springfield companies to have to increase their salaries for their people to keep good talent or reach out to other states and hire talent outside of this area. What I focus on in Springfield is finding smart people and training them and investing in them. I find that makes them loyal.
Wayne Dipper can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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