The event that has become the industry’s foremost networking opportunity took place once again in Scottsdale, Arizona, Jan. 14-17. The Executive Connection Summit (ECS) is one of the industry’s must-attend events, and its immense growth this year necessitated a move from its beloved original venue, the Hotel Valley Ho. With more than 300 registrants, ECS has finally outgrown the Ho and moved on up to the Scottsdale Resort and Spa — which turned out to be a pretty great location in its own right.

Logistics aside, what really makes ECS is the people and the information — so let’s get right to our recap.

The event kicked off on Sunday with a media event in which vendors were able to make press announcements — you can read most of them in our News section. Following that was the welcome reception, which was a great opportunity to connect before the official start of sessions the next day.

Stramaglio
Time to get started! Mike Stramaglio kicks things off.

The main stage opened up on Monday morning, with kickoffs from event founder and host Mike Stramaglio, Bob Goldberg, and Datamax’s Barry Simon. Then it was time for the keynote — “Innovation with Impact: How Managed Services Can Transform Your Business” from the Impact Networking team. In a multipart presentation, Impact’s Frank Cucco and team shared success stories about all aspects of their business that other organizations could take notes from and emulate.

Frank Cucco and team set the vision and the tone for the event. (thanks Andy!)

Next up was the AI panel, moderated by Michael Cozzens and including West McDonald of GoWest.ai, Jim George of DME, Keven Ellison of AIS, Anthony Sci of Keypoint Intelligence, Laura Blackmer of KMBS USA, Joseph Brunsman of Brunsman Advisory, Peter Kujawa of Service Leadership (ConnectWise), and David Tan of CrushBank. Cozzens and McDonald introduced the presentation by talking about putting AI to work and offering facts, figures and demos. The rest of the panel joined in and shared diverse views, insights and experiences regarding AI in the workplace, as well as cautions (in the case of Brunsman, who is a cybersecurity insurance guy and is probably worth listening to!).

The AI panel takes questions from the audience.

In the lucky post-lunch spot was Sharp’s Mike Marusic, who kept us out of a food coma with “Cabinets to Cloud: Information is More Portable Than Ever.” “There is no lack of information or data being generated,” said Marusic, and so “if we view our business as managing information, there will never be a lack of opportunity.”

The production print panel followed, and Frank Mallozzi, Ken Hanulec of EFI, John Henze of Fiery, Dan Johansen of Roland and Keypoint’s Sci discussed profit clarity and opportunities in the production print space.

The production print panel explores opportunities.

Rounding out the day was a fireside chat with Medal of Honor recipient Dakota Meyer. Stramaglio and Goldberg sat down with Meyer, who recounted the harrowing experience during the Battle of Ganjgal in Afghanistan that led to his being the first Marine in 38 years to be honored with the medal. His brand, “Own the Dash,” is based around the concept that on your tombstone are the day you were born and the day you pass on — the only two days you don’t control. “Owning the dash is about taking control of the days in between: that dash between the day you’re born and the day you die,” he quotes.

Mike Stramaglio and Bob Goldberg chat with Dakota Meyer.

Dinner that evening was a hosted event that included some special recognitions: Ben Ragusa of Applied Business Concepts and Rick Bastinelli of Centric Business Systems, Wes McArtor, Bob Goldberg, and last but certainly not least, Hiro Ueda, whose tireless work, dedication and willingness to take Mike Stramaglio’s calls at all hours of the night make the Summit possible.

Morning always comes early after a night of celebration, and Tuesday morning was no exception. Fortunately, Tuesday kicked off with John Hey of Strategic Business Associates, who presented a keynote titled “An SOB Who Was Least Likely to Succeed.” (SOB, by the way, stands for son of boss. What were you thinking?) Hey gave an energetic and entertaining accounting of his history in the business, but even more interesting were some of the data points he shared from his company’s survey of 124 dealers. Imaging still makes up 80% of all growth for dealers, he shared, with 80% of imaging growth coming from the traditional MFP business and just under 20% coming from managed print services (MPS). Another 15% of overall growth is from managed network services. “If you haven’t maximized business in MPS (which we think should be 30% of imaging revenue but isn’t), a business you know a lot about,” he asked, “why are you moving into MNS, which you don’t know anything about?”

“Raise your hand if you’re an SOB!” John Hey explains “SOB” stands for “son of boss.”

Following that food for thought was another great presentation from Kirk Offel of Overwatch, who talked about the data center gold rush and how it relates to technologies like AI, the fifth industrial revolution, which is a chance for society to rebalance, and the power demands put upon data centers by things like AI and quantum computing. “Solving the power problem will enable the full potential of AI to be unleashed,” he said, addressing broader societal issues like climate change and community impact. A Navy veteran with a nuclear submarine background, Offel presented nuclear energy as a potential solution.

Taylor Swift is responsible for a lot of data.

More AI followed Offel’s presentation as Jay Ryerse and Peter Kujawa of ConnectWise presented “AI: Lead or be Led: Boosting Productivity, Ensuring Security and Impacting Your Bottom Line.” Ryerse demonstrated some real-world examples of AI usage in hacking and security, while Kujawa shared ways to leverage automation to boost productivity in IT services and hyperautomation, which is the term ConnectWise has coined for AI, robotic process automation and other efficiency-boosting technologies. 

Jay Ryerse explains the dangers of AI, proving Jeff Goldblum is always relevant.

Switching things up for the next session, GreatAmerica’s Jennie Fisher moderated a panel of “next-generation” leaders. Jenna Stramaglio of ConnectWise, Lauren Hanna of Blue Technologies, Aubri Akervik of Marco, Sarah Custer of Distribution Management and Greg Goldberg with the BTA discussed changing outlooks as millennials and Gen Z come into the workplace and begin to take on leadership roles. Their insights included some fun messages as they discussed following their fathers into their businesses, and it offered some interesting perspectives for anyone working with younger generations (and that includes millennials working with Gen Z, as demonstrated by Akervik, the lone Gen Zer on the panel).

The kids are alright, as Jennie Fisher demonstrates in this panel of next-gen leaders.

The afternoon of the second day started with a keynote panel hosted by Mike Stramaglio with Steven Sauer and Bill Melo of Toshiba America Business Solutions titled “Chat TOS.” Sauer and Melo discussed industry developments and the Ricoh/Toshiba integration. There was an interesting discussion about managed print services and the growth they are still seeing in that area. Toshiba believes this “OG” solution still has a lot of game left in it, and it remains a focus while they continue to invest in new technologies. Toshiba has invested heavily in cloud-delivered services like Elevate Sky and cloud-enabled service maintenance, including an AI component for diagnosis and predictive analytics. Subscription services are another major focal point of investment.

Bill Melo talks opportunities, old and new.

Following that was “The Future of Embedded Technology” from David Pohlman and Tawnya Stone of GreatAmerica Financial Services. Their discussion of how digital-enabled market offerings can transform equipment sales and customer loyalty included background on Pohlman’s history as a DJ and an appearance from Marco’s Trevor Akervik (father of Gen Z panelist Aubri), who talked about ways Marco is embedding technology into their processes.

David Pohlman is available for all your financing and entertaining needs.

Kate Kingston introduced the Consortium University, an open collaborative platform that will provide educational seminars, webinars, training and consultation for the channel curated to  show how to use digital transformation to control the future outcome of success. 

Wrapping up the program was a panel on hiring veterans: “Duty, Honor and Country.” This tied in with the launch of the Heroes in Transition (H.I.T.) veteran hiring program announced by Stramaglio at the start of the event. Hosted by Chris Johnson of Sharp and consisting of Joseph Pinzon and Tiffany Kovaleski of Overwatch, Kendra Bitner of Impact Networking, Jim Hawkins of Toshiba America Business Solutions and Kimber Hill of VirtForce, the panel discussed the many benefits of hiring veterans.

Before dinner, Impact Networking held three simultaneous roundtable discussions, enabling attendees to dive deeper into some of the specialties introduced in the first day’s keynote address.

Andy Slawetsky is highly amused by Laura Blackmer and Dino Pagliarello.

Day three consisted of a half day of panels. It kicked off with a keynote panel from Konica Minolta, hosted by Andy Slawetsky and featuring KM’s Laura Blackmer and Dino Pagliarello. AI was once again front and center as the execs talked about the technology’s use in their products and how they are deploying it to help dealers. Following that was a workplace service provider strategy panel featuring Anthony Bobos of Vitalant and Rudy Parga, Mark Lasinis and Christy Gallegos of Imagine Technology Group. Wrapping things up was Joe Contreras of Epson and Travis Sheffield of UBEO on a panel hosted by Bob Goldberg and entitled “Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot — Now What?”

“Now what?” asks Bob Goldberg.

“Now what?” is the perfect note to end on, as the sessions adjourned and attendees headed off to play golf. Firmly established as a leading industry event and cementing its place as a venue for discussion of ideas, new technologies and the future of the industry, ECS will return again. Meanwhile, attendees had plenty of insights and takeaways from the event to tide them over until the next time.

is editorial director of BPO Media’s publications Workflow and The Imaging Channel, and senior analyst for BPO Research. As a professional writer and editor, she has specialized in the office technology industry for the last 20 years. Prior to that she worked in public relations and has a master's degree in communication arts.