PSA Showdown: Vendors Pursue IT Franchises, MSP Peer Groups

PSA Showdown: Vendors Pursue IT Franchises, MSP Peer Groups

psaAutotask announced a major IT services franchise win yesterday. But there's a bigger story here: A silent PSA (professional services automation) war between ConnectWise and Autotask has escalated. Instead of evangelizing and selling software to one MSP at a time, PSA software companies are striving to get entire IT franchise organizations and peer groups to standardize on their wares.

The latest example: Autotask says Computer Troubleshooters (CT) Global, LLC, is standardizing more than 475 IT services franchises on Autotask's IT Services Management Software. The agreement takes effect immediately and involves a specialized version of Autotask Go (though CT franchises can upgrade to Autotask Pro), according to an Autotask press release.

Meanwhile, Autotask has also inked a partnership with Taylor Business Group -- which runs Business Improvement Groups to make IT solutions providers more profitable. Details of the Autotask-Taylor Business Group relationship have yet to be announced, but Autotask's Twitter feed hinted news is coming. Note: Taylor Business Group already has a relationship in place with ConnectWise.

Where the Battle Started: HTG

Autotask's recent moves accelerate some PSA trends that emerged at the HTG Peer Group summit in April 2009. During the HTG event -- where dozens of MSPs sat down in Dallas to compare business models and financial results -- a silent war essentially started (or escalated) between ConnectWise and Autotask.

Peer groups such as HTG are valuable audiences. The reason: their members typically rank among the most profitable, fastest-moving managed service providers. Software vendors that gain mind share and market share in an MSP peer group can potentially convert the scores of MSPs over to their software platform.

During the HTG Peer Group Summit, HTG essentially endorsed ConnectWise by announcing plans to coordinate future HTG events with the annual ConnectWise Partner Summit, arguably the largest annual event in the MSP industry. Also, HTG strongly suggested that its peer group members need to standardize on ConnectWise's software.

According to HTG Peer Group Founder Arlin Sorensen:
"We are aligning our future education strategy with a focus on helping members get the most out of the ConnectWise platform. Requirement is probably a bit strong, but the reality is that members not on the platform will receive much less value from being involved because our focus will be around ConnectWise as the platform since that is where business really happens."

Custom Configuration

Much in the way that Autotask is making a specialized configuration for the Computer Troubleshooters IT franchises, HTG members will be able to leverage some specialized ConnectWise-oriented tools.

Notes HTG's Sorensen:
"We will be releasing tools to members to make the preparation for meetings simpler for those on the ConnectWise platform. Our focus will be toward more peer board review, with detailed planning and preparation for the "board report" rather than continual best practice sharing.  Best practices are great for building community, but as we head into HTG3.0 -- our focus is about driving growth and that means stepping things up a level and doing deep peer reviews...There is also a tie between Service Leadership, our benchmarking tool, and ConnectWise, so we will be leveraging that as well."
Of course, HTG is only one of many MSP-focused peer organizations. As ConnectWise and Autotask battle one another, it's safe to expect both companies to pursue additional MSP peer organization and IT franchise relationships.

Next up: I'm curious to hear more about the forthcoming Autotask-Taylor Business Group relationship, and whether it differs from some existing ConnectWise-Taylor Business Group efforts.

Stay tuned.

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