Autotask’s European Move: A Sign of Things to Come?
Some key names and faces have changed at Autotask this year. But CEO Mark Cattini seems to be executing on an International and cross-platform browser strategy he described in May 2011. The latest example: Autotask has opened its first European office in London, and I sense that more international moves could be coming. But I must concede: I don’t have a “feel” for Autotask’s overall business performance this year, and I’m curious to learn how Cattini feels the company is performing.
No doubt, Autotask has been a company in transition. Cattini arrived as CEO in December 2010. By May 2011, he promised that Autotask would focus its efforts on an open back-end, open front-end strategy. On the back-end, Cattini is promoting SaaS and open APIs for software partners. On the front end, Cattini accelerated Autotask’s cross-platform browser strategy, which seemed to be lingering until 2011.
During Autotask Community Live in May 2011, Cattini told me he’d be careful not to over-accelerate Autotask’s international moves. But he indicated that new international offices were coming. The new UK office, for one, is led by Mark Banfield, managing director – international. Banfield is a veteran of MapInfo — the company Cattini previously ran.
Autotask says the London office is staffed with engineering, support, implementation and sales personnel. Also, Autotask opened a data center in Europe earlier this year. In a prepared statement, Cattini said more than 25 percent of Autotask users are located outside North America, “and that number continues to increase rapidly.”
Cattini is nearing his first anniversary as CEO of Autotask. How is the company performing under Cattini? It’s difficult for me to pinpoint exact performance figures since Autotask is privately held. But I think everyone would agree that Cattini has made some key decisions to emphasize Autotask’s cloud-centric messaging rather than head-on PSA competition with such companies as ConnectWise.
During Cattini’s time as CEO, Autotask has undergone strategic and personnel changes. Long-time Autotask leaders like founder Bob Godgart and former Chief Marketing Officer Bob Vogel left the company earlier this year. (Godgart remains chairman.) More recently, Senior VP Jay McBain’s day to-day role ended at the company and there are no plans to fill his position. Instead, McBain’s responsibilities will be distributed to multiple Autotask managers.
I think McBain’s departure is symbolic of Autotask’s direction. For many years, Autotask tried to figure out how to “build community” with VARs and MSPs. McBain certainly has talents in those areas, particularly when it comes to whipping up social media conversations. But ultimately, building community can be very expensive and time consuming.
I believe rival ConnectWise spends about $600,000 or so on its annual user group engagements, which occur in North America, Europe and Australia. Plus, ConnectWise Director of Community Jeannine Edwards and her team live on the road — which requires deep commitments from staff and executive leadership. I believe the community efforts are part of the reason ConnectWise landed on the annual Inc. 5000 list, which tracks the fastest-growing privately held U.S. companies. In short, ConnectWise believes it sees a connection between community, partner loyalty and business growth.
Shifting the Discussion
Back at Autotask, I think Cattini is committed to growing the company but he wants to do it on his terms, and with his own playbook. Part of that playbook involves technology independence — allowing VARs and MSPs to choose any front-end browser to reach the back-end Autotask services, from anywhere. For instance, many (though not all) Autotask modules now support Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome and Safari.
Another part of the strategy involves feet on the street in Europe. Cattini has deep knowledge of the European market; he was managing director of MapInfo’s UK operations before stepping up to that company’s CEO post. And now, he’s busy helping Autotask push deeper into Europe. I think it’s the first of multiple international moves.
Still, questions remain. I don’t have a feel for Autoatask’s growth rates, nor do I know how the company’s installed base has evolved over the past year. And I haven’t heard anything about VARStreet since the Autotask Community Live conference back in May 2011. (Autotask acquired VARStreet in an effort to help VARs and MSPs source IT products.)
Remember: There were clear reasons why Cattini succeeded Godgart as CEO in December 2010. Godgart built Autotask into a $20 million company (rough estimate, according to an interview with an Albany, N.Y., newspaper). That’s an impressive figure considering how difficult the IT market has been in recent years. But I believe Godgart himself and Autotask’s investors were looking for a next-generation stage 2 growth plan, which is why Cattini arrived. How is Autotask executing against that long-term plan? I hope to offer readers more updates as Cattini’s first anniversary as CEO approaches.