Autotask Community Live Preview: 10 Themes Worth Tracking

More than 700 people -- mostly managed services providers and VARs -- are registered to attend next week's Autotask Community Live conference (May 22-24, Miami, Fla.). There will be a flood of news announcements. But what's really going on behind the curtains? And what key questions should attendees be asking? Here are 10 trends, themes and potential news nuggets that MSPmentor will pursue at the conference.

10. Equal Time: QuoteWerks develops sales proposal software for VARs and MSPs. In recent weeks QuoteWerks has been overshadowed a bit because ConnectWise Capital invested in Quosal -- a QuoteWerks rival. But in recent days a few MSPmentor readers have called me to say QuoteWerks remains their preferred solution because of top-notch phone support and a solid code base -- though some readers say the user interface needs refreshing. Either way I'll be seeking an update from QuoteWerks President John C. Lewe IV.

9. MSP Middleware?: Back in January 2010 I mentioned that there was an emerging market for MSP middleware -- a coding community that connects the dots between PSA platforms and other managed services tools. But so far I've only seen a few examples come to life -- including MSPintegrations.com and JoomConnect. But perhaps PerformanceIT can jump-start the managed services middleware conversation at the conference...

8. Managed Services Accreditation: Apparently, CompTIA will "announce a new accreditation, called MSP Trustmark," at the conference, according to Autotask. There's some interesting history in the managed services accreditation market:

7. Community: Autotask Senior VPs Jay McBain and Len DiCostanzo essentially lead Autotask's community efforts. McBain is researching potential vertical market moves while DiCostanzo leads business development, industry alliances and education. I'll ask both them for their key 2011 priorities.

6. Growing the Market?: So, how are MSPs performing so far this year? Also, how does that performance vary across North America, Europe and Australia? MSPmentor will surely find some answers at the conference.

5. Got Cloud?: I suspect the Microsoft Office 365 cloud platform will launch in time for Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in July. And Google plans to launch Chromebooks for Business -- which combines SaaS with hardware as a service -- on June 15. I believe Google SMB Channel Lead Jeff Ragusa plans to attend Autotask Community Live. To get a feel for channel partner opportunities be sure to ask him about the Google Appsperience initiative for VARs and MSPs.

4. The Corner Office: It has been about five months since Mark Cattini arrived as CEO, shifting Bob Godgart to the chief visionary officer role. So, how is Cattini settling into the job and how exactly is the CVO role shaping up for Godgart? The keynotes will provide some clues... but I hope interviews will offer deeper insights.

3. Money Matters: As I mentioned a bit this past weekend, I think Autotask has two primary outside investors: FA Technology Ventures (FATV) and JMI Equity. A Series A investment arrived in 2004 and Series C investment arrived in 2006. I don’t have any details about the Series B round. I don't know if FATV and JMI have an exit strategy or a specific time horizon for their Autotask engagement. But now that equity markets are improving a bit and IPOs are resuming on Wall Street I'll ask Cattini for his short- and long-term views on remaining private, going public or some other strategy. Side note: New Autotask CFO Vince Zumbo has IPO and M&A experience.

2. VARStreet Revisited: When Autotask acquired VARStreet in early 2010, I understood the deal's vision but I also knewVARStreet would require some polish. Fast forward to the present: Will Autotask unveil some VARStreet surprises at the conference? The safe bet is yes.

1. Social Business Management: Rewind to May 2009. At the time, Autotask's Bob Vogel mentioned the company wanted to blend FaceBook and SalesForce.com-type capabilities into a single platform for VARs and MSPs. I don't think Autotask has quite fulfilled that vision yet. But I've got an educated hunch we'll get a significant update at Autotask Community Live.

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