Imagine a single IT services management platform that could seamlessly integrate the services of every vendor of relevance to managed services providers (MSP).
That’s the vision outlined today during IT Nation’s Day 2 keynote address by ConnectWise CEO Arnie Bellini, whose pioneering software company has long advocated its intent to connect the whole of the IT services industry.
After 35 years in the business, the ConnectWise founder introduced an assortment of new products aligned with his belief that the company is as close as ever to the lofty goal.
“Our objective is to connect the entire ecosystem,” he told the audience. “Our job is to connect to as many (solutions) as possible to give you as many choices as possible to meet your clients’ needs.”
A week after announcing a groundbreaking agreement with Cisco Systems to push delivery of managed IT services to the networking giant’s partner base, Bellini said ConnectWise would be rebranding its Cloud Console cloud services distribution software as ConnectWise Unite.
ConnectWise Unite is at the heart of a strategy that aims to bring together all of the disparate services that vendors offer to IT services firms, in hope of putting all of those products at the fingertips of MSPs within the ConnectWise toolset.
ConnectWise technology already integrates with upwards of 200 vendors.
Today, Bellini introduced the ConnectWise Developer Kit, to be launched sometime in Q2 of 2018, aimed at enabling software vendors to more easily and more robustly unify their products with ConnectWise.
Unlike the open API and SDKs that already allow for ubiquitous integration of software products with ConnectWise, the new Developer Kit seeks to drive actual unification of base code among technologies.
“Now we’ve got this new tool that can actually generate code; a code generator,” Bellini explained. “You can put the code into your application.”
The ConnectWise vision seeks a new, unprecedented level of integration that literally blurs the line between distinct software products of different vendors.
The as-yet-to-be-renamed ConnectWise Unite already supports tools from Cisco, Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure.
“We’re just getting started,” Bellini said. “We’re not done and we want to enlist the entire vendor community to help connect everything.”
To spur that innovation further and faster, ConnectWise today also announced the formation of a new angel investor-type fund – with an initial ConnectWise investment of $10 million – aimed at helping incubate technologies that would be connected to the ecosystem.
The hope is to eventually grow the investment fund – to be operated under the company’s venture capital arm known as ConnectWise Capital – to $25 million.
“Our idea is give us your idea,” Bellini said. “There’s a vetting process. You really need to think of this as an angel investment fund to help connect the ecosystem.”
“The idea is just to get things connected,” the CEO added. “We don’t necessarily want to take an equity stake…but we know that will probably happen.”
When ConnectWise held its inaugural IT Nation conference 12 years ago, the event drew 350 attendees to Tampa.
This week, the annual fall user conference that has become the largest gathering of IT services and solutions providers attracted more than 3,500 industry professionals to Orlando, Fla.
Besides being 10 times bigger, IT Nation has also grown in importance as a pilgrimage of sorts for those looking for the latest thought leadership about how to compete and win in the IT services and solutions delivery space.
In that regard, Bellini during his keynote address challenged attendees to rethink long-held ideas of what delivery of “managed services” really means.
“So often what we do is we get really excited about a solution but we’re not thinking about services,” he said. “Now it might work, but that’s not the right strategy.”
Instead, Bellini offered, IT product providers need to spend more time thinking about how to find the right mix of solutions to solve actual problems that their customers face.
He delineated a “technology canvas” of 14 technology areas that customers could potentially need, of which companies in different industries will definitely need some mix and number.
Those include: Copy/print, security, physical security, internet of things (IoT), audio/visual, collaboration, disaster recover, line of business applications, office applications, network infrastructure, onsite computing, cloud computing, application development and business intelligence.
IT solutions providers, Bellini said, need to identify which combination of those 14 technology areas they can build services around and enter only those areas in which they think they can build a service package of solutions with which they can “win.”
Each of the 14 areas provides six increasingly lucrative stages of engagement with the customer, from landing the deal, to installation, embedding, managing, renewal and expansion.
Making the broad spectrum of solutions conveniently available to IT services and solution providers is ConnectWise’s job, the CEO said.
“Start with the customer needs, start with your own capabilities and the services you think you can provide…and then decide what the proper solution set is going to be,” he said.
Many of the new ConnectWise products will be coming online during 2018.
Bellini suggested firms pay close attention to the quality of their service delivery, including arranging unique marketing campaigns for each solution set, and reiterated how ConnectWise tools could be customized to help each service team do its job.
Asked if he was worried about competing toolset vendors similarly expanding their offerings, Bellini said he rarely thinks about the competition.
“I don’t pay attention to the competition,” he said. “Paying attention to the competition is for losers. We have our own vision.”
“We have our own path and we’re running as fast as we can to get it up and running,” Bellini continued. “We’re going to do this regardless of where the competition is.
“When I look at the competition, they’re always in the rearview mirror and they’re always chasing us.”
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