Autotask is preparing to launch a so-called community marketplace. If the service works as promised, it could allow VARs and MSPs to more easily find a range of applications and integration code to further automate their businesses. Autotask CEO Bob Godgart and Executive Director of Community and Business Development Mark Crall shared some preliminary details during the CompTIA Breakaway conference. Here's a closer look at Autotask's marketplace strategy.
First up, Autotask is not looking to become an applications reseller. On the one hand, the forthcoming Autotask Community Marketplace will likely resemble Salesforce.com's AppExchange -- a cloud computing marketplace that allows customers and service providers to find solutions that plug into the Salesforce.com and Force.com platforms.
But instead of generating revenue from the marketplace, it sounds like Autotask will position it as a place where community members can quickly track down software and services for their businesses.
Godgart and Crall declined to discuss exactly when the Autotask Community Marketplace will debut, but my best guess is late 2010 or early 2011 -- certainly there should be some news before the Autotask Community Live 2011 conference (April 18-20, Miami, Fla.).
Next PSA MovesMeanwhile, Autotask is preparing the next major release of its hosted PSA (professional services automation) solution. The update will include survey software that allows VARs and MSPs to query their customers. Autotask will aggregate the data so that service providers can measure their performance vs. the broader Autotask user community.
Moreover, the survey engine will allow MSPs and VARs to automate customer communications based on survey responses. A prime example: If a customer gives the MSP low support scores, automated workflows can alert the MSP to dial the customer directly and discuss the customers' concerns. The survey engine and other Autotask enhancements are in beta test now and will ship within the next few weeks.
Godgart and Crall also shared some updates on VARStreet, a service that allows VARs and MSPs to source products from a range of distributors. (More on that later.)
Community MomentumCommunity-centric efforts are hardly new in the PSA and managed services markets. But strategies vary from company to company. While Autotask prepares to build a type of app marketplace, rival ConnectWise has been evangelizing code sharing and best practices sharing for quite some time.
During the ConnectWise Partner Summit 2009, CEO Arnie Bellini called on attendees to share their best practices within the ConnectWise Community. Jeannine Edwards, director of ConnectWise Community, has also been launching user groups worldwide, and several of the user group gatherings tend to attract 100 or more attendees. It's safe to expect more ConnectWise Community updates during ConnectWise IT Nation (Nov. 4-6, Orlando), the re-branded ConnectWise partner event.
MSPmentor will also be watching to see how Tigerpaw Software promotes community at its inaugural customer and partner event (Oct. 6-8, Dallas).
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