Should managed services providers (MSP) pay more to license a professional services automation (PSA) solution loaded with every feature needed to run a company, or pay as little as possible for a simpler tool that allows for quick and cost-effective selling of managed services?
In recent months, top officials at ConnectWise and Kaseya traded words and more than a few barbs while debating which vendor’s PSA-remote monitoring and management (RMM) software is best for today’s MSPs.
The companies’ respective software designs are a study in contrasting philosophies about the requirements of technology solution providers.
But which company’s product is superior?
As one might expect, the answer depends largely on which MSP you ask and upon that provider’s particular needs at a given stage in the business’ development.
“I don’t want to spend more than I need to run my business,” said John Morris, founder and CEO of Spark Alliance, and a customer of Kaseya’s software-as-a-service (SaaS) Business Management Solution (BMS). “There’s 3 to 5 percent of current customers who would use all of the features that exist today.”
Morris launched the Modesto, Calif.-based MSP in Nov. 2012 but didn’t dedicate himself to the business full-time until March of 2014.
From the start, he set out to create an “MSP 2.0,” focusing on both IT consulting and managed services.
At this point in the lifecycle of his young firm, Morris said he wanted a partner relationship with a vendor that would provide him personalized attention and swift problem solving.
He conceded that the BMS - technology that Kaseya acquired when it purchased Vorex earlier this year - occasionally leaves him wanting for additional functionality.
But Morris said he’s confident that his wish list will be fulfilled through Kaseya’s product development road map before his MSP matures to the point where he really needs the advanced features.
“Anyone that is in my position today, you’re going to grow with the product,” he said.
“You can kind of get lost in all of the dazzle and the bling,” Morris explained. “There are lots of features out there that you can spend a lot of time developing, but really don’t bring a lot of value to the customer.”
Similar arguments were at the heart of multiple spirited exchanges between ConnectWise CEO Arnie Bellini and Kaseya CEO Fred Voccola during a series of media interviews, written statements and open letters.
“The customer needs a platform to run their entire business, and (Voccola will) find that out,” Bellini told MSPmentor in June. “Kaseya has bought a very light professional service automation solution and, of course, he’s going to position it such that it is all that anybody needs; but it’s not.”
Voccola defended Kaseya’s market strategy.
“The PSA is an internally facing system that is used to administer various parts of your business,” he said.
“No customer of an MSP pays them a single penny for a managed service based on a PSA product,” Voccola continued. “…We just don’t believe that that should be the primary investment of an MSP because it doesn’t generate revenue.”
Voccola contrasted the pricing with ConnectWise, which he said charges about $100 per month.
But cost isn’t the primary consideration for many sophisticated MSPs, said Jamison West, president of Arterian, a Seattle-area cloud solutions provider that uses the SaaS-delivered ConnectWise Business Suite.
“I’m a big believer in operational maturity,” he said. “We need a robust tool and would spend even more, if necessary, if we needed a more robust tool to increase our operational maturity level.”
Arterian was recently acquired by Aldridge IT, an MSP of about 100 employees. Both firms have long relied on the ConnectWise Business Suite for PSA and RMM.
The companies share the same ConnectWise instance for legal and accounting customers, to handle support tickets and for a range of other tasks.
“We need to manage procurement, we need to manage projects; It’s absolutely critical for us,” said West, who now runs the nine-year-old Arterian as a subsidiary of Aldridge. “We can’t have our PSA solution be a variety of disconnected tools.”
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