April 6, 2009
Talk about going to extremes. MSPmentor started last week at the Autotask Community Live conference, and we ended the week touring ConnectWise, and participating in a ConnectWise TV segment recording. Publicly, Autotask and ConnectWise are fierce rivals and extreme opposites in the professional services automation (PSA) market. But privately, there are actually some similarities between the two companies. Skeptical? Read on.
ConnectWise CEO Arnie Bellini (photo, right) has vowed to shape ConnectWise TV in the mold of several ESPN broadcasts. Amy Katz (my business partner) and I participated in three separate ConnectWise TV recording sessions on Friday. During the sessions, ConnectWise Chief Operating Officer Santo Cannone quizzed us about:
MSP industry trends and best practices.
MSP and SaaS long-term predictions.
our broader strategy at Nine Lives Media Inc., parent of MSPmentor.
While I did not “endorse” ConnectWise during the recordings, I do think ConnectWise and Zenith Infotech are wise to be pushing into video. And in both cases, the companies have invested in full-blown studio rooms featuring high-def recording and video equipment, lighting and staging. Plus, the “production” teams at both companies seem well-versed in producing video content.
Translation: ConnectWise and Zenith Infotech aren’t “dabbling” in video. This is serious business for them. Both companies are stockpiling customer case studies and other video content that helps speed MSP platform decisions. I’ll let you know if/when I spot our time with ConnectWise in video segments on the Web.
ConnectWise vs. Autotask
Now, let’s shift the discussion to ongoing competition between Autotask and ConnectWise.
As I mentioned, Amy and I started the week at Autotask Community Live — the company’s first customer conference, held in Nashville, Tenn. (here’s our complete coverage).
More than 300 MSPs attended the event and most of them expressed optimism about their ongoing business performance. The vast majority of attendees seemed extremely loyal to both Autotask and its management team’s customer-centric culture.
Now for the twist: ConnectWise is far more aggressive than Autotask when it comes to head-to-head company statements and behind-the-scenes marketing. For instance:
ConnectWise advertised on a Nashville, Tenn., airport billboard — to capture the eyeballs of Autotask customers arriving for the conference. That type of marketing is standard in the world of enterprise software (here’s an example of Novell vs. Red Hat marketing), but generally rare in the MSP world.
The ConnectWise user community spent portions of last week alleging that Autotask’s software doesn’t scale. The allegation was based on a single customer comment in an otherwise upbeat MSPmentor story about Autotask. Since that time, I’ve received more than 50 unsolicited emails from Autotask customers who all say Autotask’s software does scale.
You can see I’m walking a tightrope here. We want to offer balanced coverage of both companies, and at the end of the day, MSPs need to make informed PSA platform decisions based on their own test deployments and experiences.
Generally speaking, Autotask CEO Bob Godgart (photo, right) doesn’t take public shots at ConnectWise, and prefers to let Autotask’s success — seven years of sequential monthly growth — speak for itself. Meanwhile, ConnectWise CEO Arnie Bellini isn’t shy about taking a few competitive shots — direct or indirect — at Autotask.
Ironically, both CEO approaches work. Whether you attend the Autotask or ConnectWise conferences, you’ll generally find fiercely loyal customer bases.
Different, But Similar?
Now here’s the biggest irony of all. Publicly, Autotask and ConnectWise seem to have completely different cultures. But privately — when you walk the halls of Autotask and ConnectWise — the companies do have a few things in common.
For instance, when Autotask moved into a new headquarters near Albany, N.Y., CEO Godgart made sure that the office space had a massive kitchen/gathering space to drive collaboration and a relaxed atmosphere in the company.
Shift your attention to ConnectWise’s offices in Tampa, and you’ll discover that CEO Bellini designed the company’s offices around a large kitchen area to help employees gather, relax and collaborate. And each day, ConnectWise brings in lunch for the entire company.
Media: Taking Sides?
Generally speaking, the IT media spends too much time predicting “winner take all” scenarios between two platforms (Mac vs. Windows, HP vs. IBM, and so on).
But that’s flawed logic. Sometimes, markets are big enough to have multiple winners. And so far, there are multiple winners in the PSA software space.
That could change. If the MSP industry begins to experience slowing growth, the PSA industry could become nothing more than a war for market share. Also, potential mergers and acquisitions could drastically change the PSA software landscape.
In the meantime, Autotask and ConnectWise continue to grow — though their respective methods for growth certainly vary.
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