In this installment of our series examining vendor relations, a Youngstown, Ohio, managed services provider (MSP) expresses his frustration at what he sees as a lack of transparency by vendors when it comes to product roadmaps.
Following, the CEO of AVREM Technologies - an Autotask partner - explains his vendor pain points:
Robert Merva, CSCP, CEO
Pain Point No. 1
I think the single biggest issue we have with most vendors is their lack of transparency when it comes to providing a roadmap.
I keep telling people we’ve invested our entire business’ success with these companies, the least they can do is share their plans for the next year a little more willingly.
In the past, I’ve had to call my account reps and threaten to move products, just to get an idea of what’s coming down the pipe for various products we use.
Then they have to set up a conference call, I have to sign an NDA; it becomes this big whole process.
And even then, I see glimpses and screenshots and I’m told, “there are still no guarantees.”
How am I supposed to create a three-year plan if I don’t know what updates or features are being added to the software I use daily?
The argument for this is always “competition,” but I think that’s a false argument.
If Autotask, for example, is revamping their Client Access Portal (the thing my customers can log into to create tickets and such) here are the scenarios I can think of if word were to get out to competition before their launch date:
- ConnectWise (just as an example) already has the feature and their own roadmap for it.
- ConnectWise doesn¹t have the feature, but knowing a few months before Autotask releases their version isn’t going to give them much of a competitive advantage. It’s not like they can release a whole client portal within weeks. Plus they would have found out about it once AT releases it publicly anyway.
- No one is going to migrate away from their PSA for one specific feature. ConnectWise’s client portal isn’t enough to make me rethink my whole workflow. You either buy into a whole ecosystem or you don¹t.
A small side point from No. 3: I think these vendors know they have us stuck, and do what they want as a result.
I’m not talking Microsoft-level monopolization of a product, but Autotask probably knows it’d be really difficult to migrate away from a PSA I’ve used for almost nine years.
They know we’ll just deal with it.
However, by not making any progress on some of these issues at all, the inconvenience and “grass is greener” mindset is eventually going to lose them business.
If I don’t get some of the features I want soon with some of these products, I will eventually start migrating away from them and I’m actually purposefully building my office workflow in a slightly modular way to help facilitate changing out any one thing in the future (for example moving RMMs or PSAs).
I would also mention to these vendors that this is not only a good PR move, but a way to build more loyalty.
If I know my RMM is going to make device-level backup available from within the product, within the next three months, maybe I don’t go shopping around for either:
- Another RMM that already has it or,
- Form a relationship with a backup provider and build my whole stack around that methodology.
Because once I do that, I’m not about to flip all of my customers BACK over again when the RMM releases that backup feature.
I’m just going to stick with what I¹ve already built.
Pain Point No. 2
The other pet peeve I have is the lack of development on features the community deems important.
While I’m sure there are plenty of customers of these vendors who are completely unrealistic in their expectations, I am not one of them.
Some of the features I’ve been waiting for I consider to be basic features that are at the core of what these products are supposed to offer.
And some of them were promised years ago and have yet to be delivered on.
Autotask promised features at the beginning of last year that were going to be released soon and now, seven months into 2017, we’re just getting the 2017.1 update.
I understand dev schedules run over, but come on.
Additionally, if hundreds or thousands of users are asking for specific product improvements, I don’t feel any vendor has a right to just develop something else instead.
ITGlue is a great example of what I’m talking about.
Recently they gave a product roadmap webinar.
The features discussed, however, were lackluster at best.
No one I’ve talked to either on Discord, Reddit, or ITGlue's forums was particular impressed with the items ITGlue listed as “important” and slated to be released.
Yet if you look at their feature suggestion site, you’ll see hundreds of votes and comments for the same features that aren’t yet on the roadmap.
(MSPmentor has requested a comment from ITGlue and we’ll update when we hear back)
I think these two issues go hand in hand.
Let us know what you’re doing, let us provide feedback on it, listen to the feedback, make adjustments and if you can’t or don’t, provide some reasoning.
That’s all I ask.
I understand not everything happens overnight, and I also understand there may be small usability improvements that can be pushed out fast while you’re working on a plan for more complex features.
If you can give me a reason why some features were a higher priority than others, I’ll listen and respect the process.
About this series
In an effort to foster greater understanding about a critical dynamic in the IT services provider ecosystem, MSPmentor will be exploring the topic of vendor relations – and we want your help.
Whether you’re an MSP, a vendor or play some other role, Please send us your stories – either “on” or “off the record.”