ConnectWise CEO: Managed Security Increasing Focus for Company

ConnectWise’s customer base is the channel.

Edward Gately, Senior News Editor

June 20, 2018

9 Min Read
Focus on managed security

With the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) now in force and similar regulations likely to follow, MSPs will need all the help they can get in providing their customers with sufficient security to ensure compliance.

That’s according to Arnie Bellini, ConnectWise’s CEO. The company’s Automation Nation 2018 conference is taking place this week and includes 1,300 attendees.

ConnectWise’s customer base is the channel.


ConnectWise’s Arnie Bellini

ConnectWise’s solutions are used by more than 22,000 partners in more than 70 countries. Billings increased 22.5 percent in North America and 32.1 percent internationally year over year.

Craig Fulton, ConnectWise’s chief product officer, said his company has been focused on backup and disaster recovery and now “we want to get focused on that security stack.”

“We want to deliver a dashboard for them where they can see all the layers of security in one place,” he said. “There’s all these layers to security and it usually requires multiple solutions to pull that off, and so in ConnectWise Unite, we’re working on a single dashboard that will bring all of those solutions into one place for them. That’s our big push right now. And our ecosystem strategy is to provide one security dashboard.”

In a Q&A with Channel Partners, Bellini talks about his company’s increasing emphasis on security and its increasing investment in innovation.

Channel Partners: What’s the theme or focus of this conference, and how does it differ from previous conferences?

Arnie Bellini: Open ecosystem is a big message for us. We’re creating a framework that allows the entire ecosystem to plug into technology teams and where technology teams are doing their job; they’re doing it in Manage and they’re doing it in Automate. We’re promoting a very open ecosystem and open API set, to the point where we’re actually funding it. We announced (last November) a $10 million fund to fund innovation for interconnectivity of our ecosystem. The Tech Tank (innovation competition) was a pretty cool thing for us … we found three solutions out of a group of people who entered it who came up with great ideas and innovations, things that fit gaps in our ecosystem. We’re excited about that because we didn’t know where that was going to go, but it turned out great; these solutions they came up with are fantastic. It’s nice to see people tackling some problems in our industry and integrating it to the ConnectWise platform. We’re doing a great job of …

… slowly integrating our own product line and creating more seamless experiences — just sort of blurring the lines between our entire platform. We’re constantly innovating at the same time. It’s about opening up and connecting the ecosystem.

CP: What’s driving your company’s growth and what role are partners playing in that growth?

AB: In North America we’re growing at 22 percent and we’re growing a little faster internationally, at 32 percent. We continue to see very strong growth in managed services, but we see that market really maturing. We’re seeing MSPs being on the hook for security and not being fully equipped with solutions to meet the cyberattacks where they live and with digital against digital. The cyber guys are all coming in with everything possible — bots, programs, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, spoofing, you name it. They’re brilliant at it, that’s what they do, and in the security world, MSPs are on the hook for all of that now.

There is no great solution out there for that yet. What we’re seeing is the need for a solution in the security area; we’re seeing a major demand for the services and you’re seeing it happen through regulation. We have Payment Card Industry (security standards) compliance, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) compliance and General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) over in Europe. And we’re just getting started with the regulation of the information technology industry. Data has become that important and that much more valuable for the bad guys to get. We’re going to be playing this sort of spy-versus-spy game in the security world and it’s going to be up to the MSPs to mature to be able to offer those services as well. The ones who have are doing fantastically well, but there’s not enough of them jumping into the security space. But they’re liable for it because they’re managing infrastructure. It’s a very interesting scenario. I’ve been really passionate about trying to fix this security thing and helping everyone move from not only managed services, but managed security services. That’s the big, new frontier.

CP: Is ConnectWise able to play a big role in those MSPs transitioning to MSSPs?

AB: We are. We’re taking a leadership role in that area. We have our very first product where we’ve got Cisco as a platform. Cisco has a security suite that doesn’t connect, and we’ve been working together with Cisco and we’ve interconnected their security suite, which is Meraki firewall protection with AMP endpoint security, with Stealthwatch Cloud and with Cisco Umbrella outbound DNS security. So it’s a nice security suite. We’ve put all that together for them, and there’s a lot of partners that are very interested in that. But what we’re interested in is doing that and then also adding additional solutions in there to give people choices for security. But we’re providing the framework and the connectivity, and to plug the plug-ins for it; that’s what we mean when we say connect with the ecosystem. So in the world of security, we think that we’re absolutely going to be able to, with our solution partners …  provide an answer for the …

… MSPs transitioning over to security. We hope to show a lot of that at IT Nation in November.

CP: Is GDPR impacting your international and domestic business?

AB: Absolutely. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you are. As a business, you could be located in North America, but if you have any clients that are under the GDPR rules, then you are as well. When you dial back and look at today … there’s no regulation in our industry, for good or for bad, probably for good up until this point. Lots of innovation (and) no regulation, but GDPR is … the first sort of regulation that’s been cast out over a large, large population of the technology industry. We just got back from IT Nation Europe a couple of months ago, and while we were there we talked with the Information Commissioner’s Office — that’s the group in the United Kingdom that’s charged with the enforcement of the GDPR — and they had some interesting things to say. They said yes, this is huge for us, this is a mammoth task for a 200-person organization. We’ve got to grow and what we’re going to focus on first is the biggest companies … and major, flagrant violations, but as we get our systems and processes down, this regulation will slowly get more and more teeth, and require more and more compliances. You’re just seeing the very beginnings of it. And I think you’re going to see a lot of interesting legislation around the world come out regarding it. So the whole notion of the wild, wild West and wide open internet and that world is going to slowly change to a much more secure world, because it has to be.

CP: Is security an increasing part or focus of your company?

AB: It has to be, because our pledge to the industry and our ecosystem is we’re looking out two, three years from now, identifying the problems you’re going to face and solving for them today. Security is freaking me out because it’s moving so fast now and the need to actually solve the problem is right here, right now, and there still aren’t enough tools and I don’t think anyone’s addressing it quite the right way. And so ConnectWise with our open-ecosystem, plug-in approach, feel like we will be able to close the gap and provide the ability for us and our solution partners to close that gap very quickly.

CP: M&A is constant in the channel. Are we likely to see M&A in ConnectWise’s future?

AB: M&A is rampant in our industry, meaning MSPs are being bought up into bigger MSPs. All technology teams are being acquired … you’re seeing a rollup in our industry. We see a lot of our partners merging with each other or buying companies and then merging them. We’re seeing a lot of that activity.

We have a whole series of webinars going on about mergers and acquisitions, because it’s such a hot topic, with Paul Dippell of Service Leadership, who actually does mergers and acquisitions. We’re putting him forth and saying if you’re interested, here’s the process, here’s how you would go about preparing yourself to even think about …

… either acquiring or merging with someone. There are a lot of steps that people need to understand. What’s cool, too, is we’re doing these webinars and then we’re putting the training up on our university so people can learn this and be tested to be merger certified. We have a degree for it, so we know it’s an important thing. We don’t know where we’ll play in it yet, but we figure we’ll start with education and then see where that leads us.

CP: In the coming years, what do you think your company’s channel strategy, product suite and overall business strategy will look like?

AB: We are transparent with our strategy. In fact, you can walk into our offices and it’s on posters all around the offices. Providing a framework that allows the ecosystem to connect to where people do their jobs every day is the ConnectWise platform and strategy. It’s a big, long-term strategy. Our strategy is to connect everything and to get rid of the friction in our industry, to reduce clicks and to just make it so that our platform does it all, from letting your customers know about your service offering, making them aware of it, all the way to helping them evaluate whether they need it or should get it, then buying it and implementing it, to supporting it, maintaining it and billing it. It’s about staying focused on that one very specific thing and then letting people, clever and innovative people, sort of fill in the gaps, because we’ve already got a big platform and we want to be focused on doing that better than anyone else. We’re really putting a lot of focus on our core products right now and really putting a lot of focus on additional integrations to that core product.

We’re doing Tech Tank again at IT Nation, probably take it up a notch there, and then we’re looking at other investments to make. We’re actively looking, always looking at investments to make. We’re almost done – I hope we’re almost done – with an acquisition in India, and then we’re actually looking at another acquisition in Tampa Bay as well. We’re always looking for great, ideas, solutions or teams to join ConnectWise.

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About the Author(s)

Edward Gately

Senior News Editor, Channel Futures

As news editor, Edward Gately covers cybersecurity, new channel programs and program changes, M&A and other IT channel trends. Prior to Informa, he spent 26 years as a newspaper journalist in Texas, Louisiana and Arizona.

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