The last three days have been a bit of a blur. Much of the daytime has been spent watching experts make other experts more informed and better equipped to work in the IT field as Small and Medium Business (SMB) consultants. SMB consultants have been gathering here in New Orleans under the heading of the IT Pro 2008 Conference invented and piloted by IT guru Jeff Middleton. Middleton's SBSmigration.com website (http://www.sbsmigration.com) has all of the information about this year's conference, so I won't bore you with all of the details. However, it has been an eye-opening experience. One of the biggest topics is on "managed services," an all-encompassing opportunity for IT professionals to offer their abilities to monitor businesses and do preventive maintenance through a full spectrum of services and products. Small IT firms and sole proprietors have different concepts about how many managed services they should offer or even if they should offer any. The most productive IT consultants have been raising the ante in terms of minimal requirements for SMB clients. It is not unusual for them to turn down business from small offices with only five or fewer clients in a peer-to-peer system. Some of them will require at least one server or a minimum of 10 clients. Whatever criteria they use -- whether it's retainers or service contracts -- these IT firms are exploring new ways to increase their profitability and extend their productivity all the while while learning the best practices in an industry that is constantly reinventing itself with new products from Microsoft and other industry giants. These are some of the best and brightest minds in IT who are down in New Orleans to enjoy themselves, but to roll up their sleeves and learn what others are doing in other parts of the country and the world to hold onto their present clients, gain more clients, and to become more productive and profitable in the computer consulting field. In the end building customer trust is of paramount concern to all of them, but how to do that is the big question. Does learning a new skill set like that required for deployment of Windows SBS Server 2008 (due out in release in the fall) guarantee that these IT firms will be a leg up on their competition? Is virtualization, which allows for legacy applications to work on new operating system platforms, the future of the industry for SMB consulting? Where are the tools and technologies that exist today that will help IT professionals make their businesses stronger and increase trust among their clients? While many of these questions have been answered throughout the conference, there are nearly as many questions that continue to be raised on other items of interest. It is a process and IT professionals are continually asking themselves are they where they should be every few years as technology changes explode exponentially. So in a nutshell, the future is here and success is looming if only these IT professionals can take advantage of what is available. For three days we have all been in learning mode. The good news is that we have all benefited from this conference and I plan to be back here again next year.