Autotask Community Live: Top Eight Highlights, Monday

Monday at Autotask Community Live is now history. Here are eight quick highlights -- so far -- from the managed services conference held in Nashville, Tenn.:

8. Shaking Hands: As expected, Autotask and OnForce officially furthered their relationship. The idea is to ensure Autotask service providers and OnForce community members can coordinate workflows and service engagements. Stay tuned. Video interview featuring OnForce CEO Peter Cannone to follow this week.

7. Two Autotask Enhancements: We don't blog much about "products" on MSPmentor, but two Autotask enhancements generated buzz at the conference. First, an Outsource Management module allows service providers to assign service tickets to "litterally any partner with Internet access -- whether or not that partner uses Autotask." Second, the Taskfire co-managed service desk allows service providers and internal IT departments to share and escalate service tickets.

6. Harware as a Service (HaaS): During an MSP panel I moderated, HaaS was the surprise topic that triggered the most attendee questions. Many MSPs started taking notes when masterIT CEO Michael Drake described his company's HaaS strategy. We interviewed Drake in a follow-up video. Stay tuned.

5. Autotask vs. ConnectWise: At least one MSP here is an Autotask customer considering a move to ConnectWise because of alleged scalability issues. But guess what: During the Connectwise Partner Summit last summer, I heard from a few attendees who were mulling moves to Autotask. The Autotask-ConnectWise competition seems as fierce and healthy as ever -- which is good news, since competition drives innovation.

4. Dinner At BB Kings: Great food, great music, great conversation. Smart move by the Autotask team to take attendees "off site" for a few hours.

3. Did Somebody Say Google?: Yes, the Google Apps Reseller team ranks among the event sponsors. This is a coming out party of sorts for Google, which hasn't had a major presence at managed services events. Jeff Ragusa, a partner programs manager at Google, seems at ease. Most attendees know the basics of SaaS, so Ragusa can more easily point out Google's unique selling proposition for partners.

2. The Economy: No doubt, the economy is impacting MSPs. Autotask CEO Bob Godgart estimates that MSPs have cut about 3 percent of their staffs in recent months. And several MSPs told me their businesses slowed significantly in February 2009. Instead of bragging about business growth, some MSPs are asking me privately what I'm hearing about the overall market. That's a sign some attendees remain nervous about an MSP slowdown. One MSP mentioned to me that his credit line had been cut to $300,000 -- down from more than $1.5 million -- with no notice from his credit provider. Still, let's not press the panic button: Overall, I sense MSPs here are performing better than the broader IT channel.

1.  Bob's Fast Facts: According to Autotask CEO Bob Godgart, the company has grown its revenue every month for seven consecutive years. Also, 50 cents of every dollar Autotask makes gets reinvested in Autotask R&D. And roughly 98 percent of Autotask deployments involve SaaS rather than on-premise configurations.

Coming Tuesday: A recap of Autotask Chief Marketing Officer Bob Vogel's keynote, and plenty more.

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