IT Nation 2014’s theme was Reinvent, and behind the scenes at professional services automation company ConnectWise over the last year, that’s just what the development teams have been doing. MSPmentor spoke with Jeannine Edwards, Director of the ConnectWise Platform, and Senior Product Manager Craig Fulton, who led much of the internal development of plug-in applications at ConnectWise for a status check. Here are the details on both internal and external development.
ConnectWise has relied upon the SOAP development architecture for APIs, which most developers today consider way past its prime. So the company has been working to build a RESTful API development framework, which is preferred by today’s developers, Edwards told me.
“This is a service-oriented architecture play,” Edwards said. “It allows us to move faster.” The new development framework has been available to a select few in a pilot program but will be generally available in Q1 2014.
Separately, MSPmentor spoke with one of those pilot developers who got early access to the RESTful APIs about the addition of the new development architecture. It’s a big deal, he told me. The previous SOAP APIs were really designed for a Windows-centric, LAN-based world. The new architecture is much more dynamic and designed for the web services world.
And they are something that ConnectWise’s own development team has been quick to make use of.
“RESTful makes things much faster for us,” Craig Fulton told me. His team, which is building new modules such as Chat Assist (released in September) and next year’s Cloud Migration Manager, has been pushing development of many of the APIs, he said. “We are forcing ourselves to become that platform for our own need.”
Fulton and ConnectWise CEO Arnie Bellini both told me that the company is now using the Agile development process to eliminate bottlenecks and get the “minimum viable product” out as fast as possible and then let users dictate what features need to be added. That’s the opposite of how technology used to be developed -- heavy planning, front end work and specs. Today Agile development spends much less time upfront and then builds to the features users say they want added to that minimum viable product. The approach speeds development and delivers what the customer wants.
Both Bellini and Fulton recommended the book The Lean Startup to me to learn more about Agile development. It’s among several new books downloaded to my Kindle this week. (I’ll provide a roundup of all the book recommendations I got this week from IT Nation and the HTG Peer Groups soon.)
More new SDKs to go with the new APIs
ConnectWise will also be introducing a tiered developers program that can provide ConnectWise certification to plugins or integrations. Developers participating in this program will receive exactly the same APIs and SDKs, Edwards assured me. But they will receive a greater level of assistance in terms of support, testing and awareness.
ConnectWise has more than 100 vendor integrators – companies that create integrations between their own technology software or services and the ConnectWise professional automation services (PSA) platform.
Partners leverage APIs, too
In addition, a number of partners have created their own plug-ins, for instance Bright Gauge and Stack Advisor.
“2015 is the year of the partner integrator,” Edwards told me. She expects many more partners to jump on this bandwagon. Some may be looking to add another revenue stream by charging other partners to use their plug-ins. Others may simply want to use the APIs to customize the ConnectWise platform for their own businesses’ needs.
The following is a list of new and existing APIs for development-minded IT service providers who use ConnectWise:
- generic billing
- managed device
- opportunity conversion
- service ticket