ConnectWise Partner Summit: Five Trends Worth Watching

ConnectWise Partner Summit: Five Trends Worth Watching

ConnectWise Partner Summit for Managed Service ProvidersWhen the ConnectWise Partner Summit kicks off this week in Orlando, Fla., I'll be sitting down with managed service providers and vendors to gather their observations. Roughly 700 MSPs are expected to attend the event. Here are five key trends I expect to track at the conference.

1. Remote Management and Monitoring Tools vs. Professional Services Automation Tools: Who sits at the center of the managed services universe? Companies like ConnectWise and Autotask offer professional services automation (PSA) tools. Another camp of companies (Kaseya, Level Platforms, N-able, and many others) offers remote management and monitoring tools.

The big question: Which type of tool will sit at the center of the MSP universe? Thanks to application programming interfaces (APIs), RMM tools can plug into PSA systems. And PSA systems can also plug into RMM tools. Short term, that's a win-win for MSPs.

But over the next few years, I suspect we'll see "coopetition" between the RMM  and PSA tools. They will continue to integrate with one another, but ultimately each MSP software vendor wants to be the "dominant" user interface into the managed services market. Note: This is going to be similar to the old Windows vs. Netscape Navigator user interface wars.

2. Software Vendors as Master MSPs: Quite a few independent companies now host managed services platforms for VARs. Examples of these so-called Master MSPs include Brookland Computer Services, Do IT Smarter and Ingram Micro Seismic. However, more and more MSP platform providers (i.e., the software providers) are now hosting managed services platforms as well. The big question: Should MSPs build their own NOCs (network operation centers) or simply turn to their software provider for hosting services?

3. Connecting All Those Clouds: So you're an MSP that wants to work with multiple platforms and back-end services. A prime example: Maybe you want ConnectWise for PSA, a separate RMM tool, and archiving capabilities from Amazon.com's Simple Storage Service (S3). It's not too difficult for a managed service provider to plug into one back-end cloud service. But plugging into multiple clouds -- and integrating those clouds into a perfect storm of sorts -- will be the big challenge.

4. Partnering for Global Reach?: The MSP trend has pushed far beyond US borders. Markets are growing fast in Europe, Australia and many other regions. As MSPs work with larger and larger customers, I wonder if individual MSPs will start working with one another to increase their international footprint.

5. Money Matters: Generally speaking, MSPs are putting a very positive spin on this week's horrific financial news from AIG, Merrill Lynch and Lehman Brothers. Optimists say a mixed or weak economy will force more and more small and midsize businesses to outsource IT as a means for cost-cutting. But pesimists note: Small businesses that don't have access to loans, lines of credit and other financial resources could wind up collapsing.

I don't want to be Mr. Doom and Gloom. By most acounts, MSPs tell me their businesses continue to grow. But if the US financial crisis grows deeper, the small business belt tightening will eventually impact managed service providers.

We will discuss these and other trends during an MSPmentor 100 luncheon at the ConnectWise Partner Summit. If you anticipate other trends worth discussing, please let me know.

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