During a quick phone chat Monday, Autotask Chief Marketing Officer Bob Vogel (pictured) caught my ear with the following statement: Autotask thinks of itself as the Salesforce.com and Facebook of managed services and IT services automation. It's a lofty statement. And I realize Autotask faces intense competition. But Vogel's statement got me thinking. Here's why.
First, all the usual disclaimers: I am not saying Autotask dominates its market. MSPs are fortunate because intense competition between Autotask, ConnectWise, Tigerpaw Software and other players drives continued innovation.
Drawing Some ParallelsNow, to Vogel's statement. Think about these two points:
- Salesforce.com has emerged as the poster child for Software as a Service (SaaS). Sure, Salesforce.com is proprietary and centralized. But customers value the fast set-up and predictable billing, and third-party software developers are writing applications that extend or integrate with Salesforce.com. (Check out the AppExchange for details.)
- On the flip side, FaceBook ranks among the most dominant social media brands. Love it or hate it, just about everyone you know is on FaceBook -- building (or destroying) their personal brands.
Similar Strategy, Different MarketsNow, let's jump back to Autotask. While many MSP software providers offer on-premise and hosted options, Autotask bet the farm (and its data center) on SaaS. The company is all SaaS, all the time -- the Salesforce.com model.
Now, shift to Autotask Community, the company's social network for customers. The community allows VARs and MSPs to communicate and collaborate. As we've pointed out, custom code development and code sharing are increasingly common within the Autotask Community. It's as if the spirit of open source collaboration (without the open source licensing model) has spilled over into Autotask's community.
Narrow and DeepAm I saying Autotask can be as large as Salesforce.com and Facebook? Absolutely not. But by combining SaaS with social networking, Autotask goes narrow and deep in the IT services automation market.
To be sure, Autotask rivals have online communities and SaaS strategies. But Vogel was the first guy to put a complex strategy in simple terms to me: For MSPs, Autotask thinks of itself as mashup of Salesforce.com and Facebook.
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