Incoming Autotask Senior VP Jay McBain: Why He Made the Move

After three days of speculation, Lenovo SMB channel veteran Jay McBain today confirmed he has joined Autotask, the PSA (professional services automation) specialist. McBain signs on as senior VP, strategy and market development. He joins the company as Autotask expands its executive team, shifts CEO responsibilities, and seeks to push beyond MSP communities for future SaaS growth. Here's the update, including an MSPmentor FastChat Video with McBain.

At Autotask, McBain arrives amid multiple executive changes: Mark Cattini has joined as CEO, founder Bob Godgart has shifted to a chief visionary officer position, Senior VP of Global Sales Kevin Donovan joined around September, and a CFO should be in place within the next few weeks or so, MSPmentor has heard.

McBain arrives to Autotask with a valuable Rolodex. Over the past decade, he's built ongoing relationships with key channel leaders like Cisco Small Business VP Andrew Sage, Trend Micro Channel Chief Stephen Mungall, Dell Channel Chief Greg Davis and Hewlett-Packard Channel Chief Stephen DiFranco. Like McBain, both DiFranco and Mungall are Lenovo veterans. So you can bet McBain is brainstorming ways in which Autotask can potentially work with larger IT software and hardware companies -- not only in the PSA market, but also on the VARStreet front.

At first glance, McBain will be active within Autotask user groups and traditional channel communities, working with Mark Crall, Autotask's executive director of business and community development. Some pundits may think McBain will try to counter Jeannine Edwards, director of community at ConnectWise (Autotask's chief rival). No doubt, ConnectWise has built a massive following across multiple user groups and the annual ConnectWise IT Nation conference -- even as Autotask and rival  Tigerpaw Software have built their own user conferences.

Reality Check

Take a closer look and I don't expect a real (or imagined) showdown between McBain and Edwards. Just an educated guess: Instead of building user groups, I suspect McBain will try to infiltrate new and emerging markets where Autotask has yet to make its mark. Think of it this way: I think McBain will help Autotask to try and find new audiences for its SaaS software, while peer Mark Crall focuses on retaining existing Autotask users and building affinity within the Autotask customer base.

Generally speaking, I think both ConnectWise and Autotask are trying to address the same challenge but in a different manner. The challenge: A healthy number of MSPs are familiar with PSA software, but thousands of traditional VARs and resellers have yet to give PSA a look.

How can PSA software companies potentially solve that issue? ConnectWise Capital has invested in CharTec and Labtech Software, creating more opportunities to engage the IT channel. On the flip side, Autotask has acquired VARStreet -- which helps channel partners to source IT products. Like I said, the companies are moving in different directions to engage the broader IT channel.

FastChat Video: McBain's Role at Autotask



Listen closely to McBain in the FastChat video, and he certainly mentions user groups and community. But here's the twist: He hasn't built user groups before. Instead, he infiltrates established user groups -- attending multiple conferences, taking notes, then developing business strategies to engage those existing communities.

McBain's approach helped Lenovo to quietly develop an MSP server strategy before rival hardware companies had engaged the MSP community. Going forward, I'd watch for McBain to spend some time at MSP conferences but more interestingly, I think he'll surface at vertical market conferences, small business events, SaaS and cloud gatherings -- locations outside of the traditional MSP realm. In those new settings, Autotask can potentially pursue blue ocean opportunities. Again, just a guess on my part.

Meanwhile, plenty of media outlets have been tracking McBain's departure from Lenovo this week. McBain disclosed his Lenovo departure on December 19 without mentioning his destination. By December 20, SMBNation speculated that McBain was heading to Autotask. Harry B was right... but I remained mum until now because some of the paperwork in the process was still pending. Earlier today, McBain officially confirmed that the paperwork had been completed. He's already walking the halls of Autotask.

Looking Into 2011

Of course, PSA vendors remain committed to the managed services market -- which continues to grow. In recent months, it seems like each of the major PSA players -- Autotask, ConnectWise and Tigerpaw Software -- has been speaking less about industry rivals and focusing more on blue ocean opportunities.

MSPmentor will continue to cover competition between PSA software providers, but I think it's safe to say we'll evolve our approach a bit. Admittedly, we do spend a lot of time describing competitive showdowns. But in 2011, we'll also spend more time describing what makes each company unique. Having visited Autotask last week, I'm getting a feel for what makes new CEO Mark Cattini tick. In the weeks and months ahead, we'll strive to plan dedicated visits to ConnectWise, Tigerpaw and a range of MSP industry software companies -- in hopes of discovering what makes each company unique within this highly competitive market.

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