Big software companies are always on the lookout for the next big thing.
At ConnectWise, overseeing delivery of those next big things is the responsibility of chief product officer Craig Fulton.
This week, Fulton sat down with Channel Futures during the annual IT Nation conference in Orlando, Fla., to shed some light on how the process works at the IT services toolset vendor and offer a glimpse of what’s on the drawing board.
“We’ve got some pretty cool little things were playing with,” Fulton said. “We’re just looking at what’s possible.”
The process at ConnectWise is geared to encourage the bubbling up of great ideas from any corner of the company.
“We have a unified development architecture team, like a matrix team, that we use to innovate and foster new ideas,” Fulton said. “We really want everyone to contribute.”
Once a winning idea is identified, the company has to decide whether to “build, buy or broker,” he explained.
The just-announced ConnectWise Developer Kit offers a currently relevant example.
Staff developers designed the tool, which is essentially a code generator that allows people without coding skills to develop products that can be unified with ConnectWise technologies.
The Developer Kit was used to create ConnectWise Unite – formerly known as ConnectWise Cloud Console – a portal for distribution of IT solutions from various vendors.
“We use it internally in our own development,” Fulton said of the Developer Kit. “With this, you don’t even have to be a developer; you will be able to create a new integration.”
Users will still need a basic understanding of how code works, and of concepts like API call functions.
“You’ll need someone who has experience working with computer systems,” he added. “You have to have some comprehension in how the systems work together.”
The Developer Kit aims to enable a new level of integration, going beyond APIs and SDKs, allowing vendors to literally design their software products to function as one with ConnectWise tools.
“Right now, we’re just passing data back and forth,” he said.
Fulton cited as an example the early versions of Apple iTunes, where a user needed to open different apps to buy music and to play that music.
More recent iterations allow for seamless purchase and play from the same user interface.
“Imagine now, being able to do everything in one screen,” he said. “This will be very UI driven.”
Thus far, the ConnectWise team has been working with developers from Webroot for early testing.
But the in-house product will be made available to additional vendor partners in beta, beginning in early 2018.
Companies interested in joining the pilot are asked to send an email to [email protected].
“We’ve already built the tool,” Fulton said. “When you develop something in a vacuum, you’re solving for your own challenges.
“Now, when we start to take it out, now we have to start getting feedback.”
Another major development endeavor is the transformation of the vendor’s remote monitoring and management (RMM) solution, ConnectWise Automate – formerly known as LabTech – into a web application that can be accessed from any device with a browser.
An enhanced computer remote management functionality and the ability to bring up an automated network mapping diagram will be available in Q1 of next year.
The rest of the RMM web tool is scheduled to be rolled out by the end of next year.
Longer term, Fulton “dreams” of being able to incorporate machine learning into ConnectWise products.
“When you’re using our platform, we’re seeing what you’re doing and helping you do it,” he said.
“It comes down to this: We are in the business of service; we just happen to be dealing with technology,” Fulton said, citing a quote from a ConnectWise partner. “There’s more of a focus now on the service part.”
“Machine learning would actually help that, so they can get better at the service delivery.”
He sees machine learning as a way to relieve IT providers of mundane tasks that currently require staff to accomplish.
“I’ve been a technician,” he said. “I just want ConnectWise to be the company that solves that and takes away the part that isn’t fun.
“Machine learning will solve a big problem with that.”
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