As the Autotask Community Live conference approaches (May 22-24, Miami), there are clear signs new CEO Mark Cattini (pictured) is putting his own stamp of leadership on the company. A quick look at the agenda shows continued synergies between CEO Cattini and Chief Visionary Officer Bob Godgart. But a deeper dive also reveals how Autotask and its community leadership team may evolve under Cattini.
No doubt, Autotask remains firmly committed to VARs and MSPs seeking to automate their businesses. But it's clear that Autotask is rethinking its approach to community building. The latest indicator: Mark Crall, executive director of business and community development, has left Autotask, the company has confirmed. Crall, recently named a channel chief by CRN, is an experienced solutions provider who had been helping Autotask to build user groups. But generally speaking, I haven't heard much from Autotask about how those user groups have performed. Meanwhile, rival ConnectWise has built 100+ person user groups that meet quarterly in North America, Europe and Australia.
Agenda CluesA look at the Autotask Community Live agenda, which apparently will attract more than 700 attendees, provides some clues about how Autotask may evolve its community efforts.
First, CEO Cattini will deliver an opening keynote on May 23. I'll be curious to hear how he connects the dots between Autotask's traditional PSA (professional services automation) business, VARStreet (which Autotask acquired in 2010), and emerging opportunities for attendees. Autotask has been mostly quiet about VARStreet, applying polish to the product sourcing and quoting system over the past year.
Chief Visionary Officer Bob Godgart will step to the podium after Cattini, apparently describing what's next for Autotask. I'm not sure what Godgart has planned. But perhaps there's a clue in what Autotask told MSPmentor back in May 2009: The company wants to mix the best of Salesforce.com and Facebook into a SaaS solution/community for the channel.
Having Cattini and Godgart keynote back-to-back was a wise move. It signals potential synergies between the two executives. Godgart is a familiar face to the Autotask community. Cattini is a new face. Having them on the same stage, back to back, signals unity following Godgart's recent transition from the CEO slot to the Chief Visionary Officer role.
Recent Recruit and the CompTIA ConnectionAfter the keynotes, new Autotask Senior VP Jay McBain will lead a panel discussion to help IT services providers expand into emerging technologies. McBain joined Autotask from Lenovo in December 2010. Just a hunch, but I think McBain is helping Autotask to explore emerging community opportunities -- such as solutions providers in health care. And watch for Len DiCostanzo, dean of Autotask Academy, to host a session that connects the dots between products (VARStreet) and service (Autotask) catalogs.
Also of note: CompTIA -- the association for VARs and MSPs -- is all over the Autotask Community Live agenda. Godgart was recently named Chairman of CompTIA, which set the stage for Autotask to more closely engage the association for this year's Autotask Community Live conference.
I also spotted Larry Kesslin on the agenda. As president of 4 Profit, Kesslin and his team coach sophisticated VARs and MSPs, many of whom are larger Cisco channel partners. Kesslin's ongoing relationship with Autotask could allow the software company to increase its appeal to larger VARs and MSPs. Generally speaking, I think many of Autotask's MSPs are smaller solutions providers. I'll ask Autotask for a market segment breakdown during the conference.
Evolving CompetitionIn many ways the PSA software market remains a three-horse race between Autotask, ConnectWise and Tigerpaw Software. I don't expect the intense competition to dissipate anytime soon. But I am curious to see if Cattini shifts Autotask into new markets where traditional rivalries may not apply.
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