Can MSPs Work Closely With Corporate IT Departments?

Instead of competing with corporate IT departments, a healthy number of managed services providers (MSPs) cooperate with corporate IT managers -- creating a virtual bridge between MSP and corporate IT. Tools like ConnectWise StreamlineIT and Autotask Taskfire can help the process. But the effort also takes serious commitment from MSPs. Here's the update, including a FastChat Video conversation with ConnectWise CEO Arnie Bellini.

First, the news angle: Back in November 2010 at the ConnectWise IT Nation conference in Orlando,  Fla., CEO Arnie Bellini hinted that ConnectWise was preparing to re-brand and enhance a tool called Downstream IT. Fast forward to the present, and ConnectWise today launched StreamlineIT -- which essentially allows ConnectWise to run within a corporate IT department. The net result: MSPs and IT managers together can monitor and troubleshoot technology operations more rapidly. Bellini offers more perspective:

Bigger Trend

StreamlineIT (and its predecessor, Downstream IT) are part of a larger trend within the managed services market. While some MSPs certainly compete with corporate IT departments, anecdotal evidence suggests some MSPs prefer to partner up with their corporate IT counterparts.

Two other prime examples: Autotask offers TaskFire, a tool that also connects the dots between IT service providers and corporate IT. Plus, N-able Technologies -- an RMM (remote monitoring and management) software company -- has partnered up with MSPs to sell RMM software into mid-market corporate IT departments.

Notes Autotask Chief Marketing Officer Bob Vogel: "In a nutshell, Taskfire allows service providers who run their businesses on Autotask to deploy a robust hosted service desk solution to their clients to use for internal IT. While the Taskfire solution can be used as a stand-alone internal IT solution, it is tethered directly to the solution providers' Autotask service desk and the systems share a common workflow automation engine that can seamlessly route tickets between the internal and external resources."

Check in with VARs and MSPs running Autotask, and you'll discover that 75 percent of that community has at least one customer that employs internal IT staff. So, connecting the dots between IT service providers and those corporate IT departments is a natural opportunity, Vogel says. He says TaskFire also provides corporate IT departments with "an outlet [to IT services providers] to handle peak loads, special projects, and resource back-up when internal IT staff are off on vacation, get sick, or quit."

Meanwhile, N-able in 2010 spent considerable time routing mid-market corporate IT leads to VARs and MSPs. On the one hand, MSPs can use N-able's software to remotely monitor and manage SMB customer networks. But on the other hand, MSPs can work more closely with mid-market corporate IT departments that also deploy N-able's software.

Reality Check

Of course, some MSPs have no plans to work with corporate IT departments. In fact, some MSPs decline potential customer meetings if corporate IT staff members are involved in the process.

Still, there seems to be a growing trend toward co-managed IT, as the examples from Autotask, ConnectWise and N-able show.

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