Autotask Emulates NetSuite, Salesforce.com for Global SaaS

At Autotask Community Live, the SaaS company is barely mentioning traditional PSA (professional services automation) software. Instead, CEO Mark Cattini and other Autotask leaders have offered up a larger, global vision that parallels established cloud services and SaaS leaders like Salesforce.com and NetSuite. Indeed, roughly half of Autotask's new SaaS users are managed services providers (MSPs) outside of the United States. And Autotask has launched cloud data centers in Europe and China. So what's next?

Here are the answers based on interviews and casual conversations with:

  • Cattini
  • Pat Burns, VP of product management;
  • Kevin Donovan, senior VP, global sales;
  • Len DiCostanzo, senior VP, community and business development; and
  • Tom Osborne, VP of client services.
Over the past year, Cattini -- CEO for roughly 18 months now -- has focused Autotask on a global mission that includes localized SaaS versions for France, Germany, Italy, China and more.

Cattini's Vision

During a sit-down with Cattini we covered the following points...

1. Autotask's International Strategy: "It has performed been beyond our expectations. That's the only way I can explain it. It's a substantial part of our business now. We've got 30 people in the UK supporting French, Italian, German and more. It's like a league of nations. We have four people in Sydney. We're ppening an office in Germany. We've got a head of sales and three people in China. Our cloud data center in China is up and running. We're putting someone in Tokyo soon. The question is how much do we want to accelerate? I think we'll become a global standard. In each geography I think we're becoming the standard."

Cattini says half of Autotask's new monthly recurring revenues come from outside the United States. "We're killing it in the UK and we're finding 100 seat deployments internationally are nothing new for us. Our first customer in China was 100 seats."

Without mentioning rival ConnectWise by name, Cattini said: "The knock on use with our friends in Tampa was' you guys are distracted for international.' In reality we're scalable. We can support any language in two months. We've internationalized the product. We have a big army of developers and we're still focused on the U.S. market."

(Side note: In recent conversations with ConnectWise, CEO Arnie Bellini has reinforced his company's continued momentum. So perhaps there's more than one way to succeed in the MSP software market.)

2. On Cross-Platform Support:"It's essentially done. I use FireFox and Safari. I use Autotask on my Mac. For relatively marginal investment we're scaling the business."

3. On a December 2011 Decision to Raise $6 million In Funding: "We're ahead of plan right now on the top and bottom line [revenues and profits for 2012]. Our [customer] retention is getting better. Do we want to put the hammer down and go even bigger? The opportunity is so significant here in the US and international [raising more money] is an option. Capital won't be a constraint. We won't allow that."

4. On the Executive Team: "The last piece was [hiring] Tom Osborne. We took our time finding the right members. There are certain people who have customer service DNA. The team genuinely cares. If I had to summarize our focus, it's about innovation not stagnation. SMBs don't want to pay for SaaS stagnation."

The Executive Team's Execution Plan

So how has the executive implemented Autotask's global strategy?

"Fortunately we already had a world-class architecture and hosting platform," said Burns, an 18-year veteran of SaaS-oriented solutions. "We we really scaled was our global footprint with a localization focus. But it's one code base."

At the same time, Autotask has extended its SaaS software beyond Internet Explorer to support Chome, Safari and Firefox. Cattini, for instance, runs Autotask on a Mac and Firefox. Cattini indicated that all of the cross-platform browser would will be complete by Q3.

Meanwhile, Autotask has shifted away from commodity pricing discussions and exited the VARStreet business. The company used to offer two versions of Autotask -- Go (for starters) and Pro (for more advanced MSPs). These days, Autotask has focused entirely on Pro -- simply calling it Autotask worldwide. And VARStreet, a product sourcing system, was sold off in late 2011. "No doubt VARStreet was a bit of a diversion for us," said Burns. "It was a sound strategic move for us but [focusing on it] burned some calories so it's easier now to focus on one thing: Autotask globally."

Following the Salesforce.com Model

Burns notes that Salesforce.com "built up a book of business in Europe" before really investing in local compliance issues in each country. Autotask has taken a similar approach and now has a critical mass of customers in Europe, with proper security and compliance assurances in place.

Added Donovan: "Before, about 13 to 20 percent of our business was international. Now, it's roughly 50-plus percent of new sales. As we expand globally, it's really about taking the cash and pouring it back into the business" He hopes MSPs exit Autotask Community Live with three clear takeways:
  • Attendees feel Autotask understands the macro trends;
  • The company wants to turn trusted advisors into virtual CIOs and strategic business advisors.
  • "Hopefully people understand our integrity. If we say we're going to do something it's very metered and happens ontime."

New Consulting Certification

Meanwhile, Osborne is busy building out Autotask's new Certified Consulting Partner Program. The idea is to build out a community of deeply knowledgeable MSPs who can cross-train peer MSPs. Osborne is a MapInfo veteran -- like Cattini and several other company executives -- who has led professional services teams for more than a decade.

"The big priority for me is to deliver an exceptional experience for customers from initial training to use," said Osborne. Toward that end, Autotask is striving to enhance support in three areas: First response, phone support and ticket escalation. For instance, the company plans to slash phone support hold times from a current average of 10 minutes to a longer-term average of 5 minutes by the end of this year.

Also, Autotask is currently kicking around plans for a tiered support offering, while also offering dedicated support personnel to specific partners and customers. "We're gathering feedback on our tiered support ideas now," said Osborne.

Along the way, Osborne is working closely with Burns' and Donovans' product and sales organizations. "Sharing feedback from our customer base is really influential on product roadmap. And as Kevin [Donovan] builds out sales, we want to make sure we can deliver whatever is promised on sales."
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