Autotask Community Live: 13 Final Observations

As the second-annual Autotask Community Live conference wraps up in Miami, here are 13 observations and takeaways for managed services providers (MSPs) and VARs. Among the highlights on my mind...

1.  Try and Try Again: During a hallway discussion with my business partner (Amy Katz) and me, Autotask Board Member George McNamee shared some spirited stories about various investments he's made. Among his biggest hits: Pumping money into iRobot Corp., which develops government and industrial robots, and robots for the home (including the famed robotic vacuum cleaner).

McNamee said iRobot suffered 12 various failures and setbacks before becoming a success. Why did McNamee stick with iRobot through all of those failures? McNamee believed in iRobot's intellectual property. Plus, various companies -- such as a toy maker -- helped to focus iRobot's R&D. A focus group ultimately helped iRobot to spot the home vacuum market opportunity.

iRobot represents an important lesson for MSPs: If you're building intellectual property and assets, it may be worth sticking around until you find your niche. Also, instead of trying to apply a technology to a specific problem, host a focus group to hear what problems customers potentially want solved.

2. Dell Was In the House: Yesterday I openly wondered if Dell's Managed Services team had skipped the Autotask event. But Tim Banigan, an account executive on  Dell's MSP Managed Services Sales team, caught my ear earlier today at the conference.

I've openly criticized Dell in recent months for going so silent in the managed services market. But there's anecdotal evidence that Dell continues to quietly work with a range of MSPs. Plus, Dell seems to be preparing a managed print services strategy. Another source says Dell's managed services software will soon integrate with Autotask.

3. Re-connecting with Intronis: Quite a few attendees were disappointed to hear Intronis VP Eric Webster didn't attend the event because he's making the leap to a new technology company. During a phone call earlier today, Intronis CEO Sam Gutmann reiterated the online backup company's commitment to channel partners. Gutmann also said the Intronis partner program has delivered record results for the company in recent months. Gutmann said he wishes Webster well, and the search for his replacement is under way.

4. Medical Marvel?: gloStream Chief Operating Officer Kirk Aubry says 30 percent to 40 percent of electronic medical record (EMR) projects fail. But gloStream's solution mitigates all that risk while helping VARs and MSPs target the health care industry. It almost sounds too good to be true... but judge for yourself and let me know if you embrace gloStream's health care IT strategy.

5. In A Buying Mood: Jason Caras, co-CEO of IT Authorities, says the Tampa, Fla.-based MSP plans to make multiple acquisitions this year. Miami is one target market, but Caras is looking across the U.S. for potential buyouts of small MSPs and VARs. Caras isn't alone. Additional M&A examples at the event:

  • It sounds like Dan Wilson, president of Waypoint Solutions Group, isn't done with M&A activity.
  • Mike Cooch, CEO of Everon Technology Services, confirms that his company made an acquisition last week.
  • VaultLogix, an online storage company, is seeking to make a few acquisitions. Target companies have to have a core focus in online storage. Zak Karsan, VP of business development, is handling the effort.
6. Hardware as a Service: It sounds like MSP on Demand is working on a few more strategic moves. I'll be listening closely for details in the days and weeks ahead. On a slightly different topic, Zenith Infotech is promoting Vu Telepresence with a pay-as-you-go model -- though Zenith didn't use the HaaS term when I spoke with their team. I suspect Vu Telepresence will share more news at Interop, which starts April 25 in Las Vegas.

7. An MSP Server?: Lenovo has launched a so-called MSP server that's specifically designed for MSPs to remotely managed. Jay McBain, director of SMB for Lenovo, shared the details during a FastChat video interview earlier today. I hope to have the video online by April 21.

8. Products and Services: That was the key theme of the entire event... showing VARs and MSPs how to successfully sell a blended mix of products and services. Not by coincidence, Autotask promoted its PSA software (Autotask Go and Pro) and VARStreet (for products) as a one-two punch that address the services and products mix.

9. Goodbye Recession, Hello Recovery?: Now that I think of it, there was very little recession talk at the conference. Many of the MSPs said there's "no shortage" of customer opportunities to pursue. The real challenge seems to be focus.

10. More Distributor Moves: Kirk Nesbit, VP of design and support services at Synnex, says the distributor's NOC (network operation center) and help desk services are catching on with VARs and MSPs. Nesbit also hinted that Synnex will continue to strengthen its relationship with itControl Solutions, which makes the itControl Suite remote management platform. I continue to hear that former MSP Services Network CEO Amy Luby is assisting Synnex and itControl Suite, but I haven't nailed down exact details.

Synnex rival Ingram Micro was also at Autotask Community Live. But I expect a more detailed update on the Ingram Micro Seismic managed services strategy during the Ingram Micro VTN event scheduled for later this week in Hollywood, Fla.

11. Open Source Niches: Travis Austin, founder of Rezitech -- an MSP -- is quietly using Ubuntu Linux in his data center and also as a platform for many of the MSP software integrations his company is writing. Also, Rezitech is leveraging Asterisk -- the open source IP PBX -- within its business and sees it as a potential VoIP revenue opportunity. Austin described his Ubuntu and Asterisk strategies to me in a FastChat video that I hope to post by April 21.

12. Cloud: Funny, but there wasn't much cloud hype at the event. Sure, Autotask says it's the top hosted PSA software provider -- though NetSuite seems to be making similar claims with OpenAir lately. But discussions at the Autotask conference were mostly about business strategies rather than cloud and SaaS hype. That was refreshing.

13. Next Stops: MSPmentor's road trip doesn't end at Autotask Community Live. We remain on the road for Ingram Micro VTN (Hollywood, Fla.), HP Americas Partner Conference (Las Vegas), Cisco Partner Summit (San Francisco) and SMB Nation (New Jersey).

Want to potentially meet? Send me email (joe [at] NineLivesMediaInc.com).

I apologize if our team missed you at Autotask Community Live. But we look forward to continuing the dialog online and at a lengthy list of upcoming events.

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