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MSP 501 Executive of the Year: Ensono CEO Jeff VonDeylen

MSP 501 Executive of the Year Jeff VonDeylen

Wish you could press “pause” for just a few minutes to catch your breath, and your balance, before diving back into the madcap business of managing the world’s digital transformation?

Sorry, change isn’t going to stop coming for us. So many seismic shifts are happening in business and technology right now that a state of upheaval is beginning to feel almost normal — and the risk of feeling overwhelmed or disconnected is sky-high. So what’s the answer?

Jeff VonDeylen, CEO of Ensono, says there’s one characteristic essential to surviving disruption, and what it is it might surprise you: empathy.

VonDeylen, our 2018 recipient of the Channel Futures MSP 501 Executive of the Year Award, has learned that understanding the moods and motivations of his team is critical to successfully leading an organization. That goes double in times of great change, which almost always breed apprehension. He should know: In 2016, VonDeylen took the helm at Ensono, which had just spun off from parent company and database marketing provider Axciom. He came in with a vision of a new kind of IT services company, one he wanted to help create.

That vision, it turns out, wasn’t quite as solid as he hoped.

“We came into the business three years ago,” said VonDeylen. “We didn’t know a lot about this, and we’ve had to adjust, modify, really sharpen our focus and our efforts along the way.”

In 2015, what was then Axciom IT existed to provide IT infrastructure management to one of the largest commercial databases of consumer data in the world. When that division broke free, rebranding itself as Ensono in January 2016, it brought with it a deep understanding of mainframe support and a solid client roster. It also had ambitions to become a big player in marketing and cloud technologies. As you can imagine, the company’s expertise and its vision didn’t quite go hand in hand.

VonDeylen found himself leading a company with an identity in flux during a time of upheaval in the IT industry. What’s more, there was a general downtrodden spirit among Ensono’s people, who for years had felt undervalued at Axciom and excluded from the digital marketing company’s grand vision of the future. Perhaps because it was so eager to harness that particular brand of energy, which seems to buoy so many cloud-based digital services providers like Axciom, Ensono was, in the beginning, focused on modernization and cloud enablement. Its deep expertise in legacy applications seemed like old news. Weren’t clients just going to migrate off of mainframe servers next week, anyway?

“There is a lot of modernization going on, and innovation, and that’s typically happening in and distributed in public cloud,” said VonDeylen. “But what we’re seeing is that there are many of these legacy applications that our clients have no stated objective to migrate off. They need help in providing that capability.”

That was a big lesson in business empathy. Ensono took a step back, listened to the market and tried to understand what it needed. Today, VonDeylen says the company has married its mainframe and modernization expertise to create a truly differentiated space for itself. There are some young, exciting companies out there that are only thinking about public cloud. As great as they are, those companies are not Ensono’s target clients. Rather, VonDeylen and his team want the long-established organizations with …

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