We were meeting for breakfast, but Autotask CEO Bob Godgart wasn't ready to pick up his fork. Instead, he opened his HP notebook and walked me through his vision for multi-partner customer engagements. Everyone from ConnectWise to OnForce (and soon, Partnerpedia) has communities to help VARs and managed service providers outsource work to one another. But I could tell Godgart has something different in mind. So we pushed aside breakfast, and dove into conversation.
You know about customer relationship management and project management. Now, asserts Godgart, the IT services market is ready for outsourcing management. Within the next month or so, Godgart says, Autotask Pro and Autotask Go will include a new outsourcing tool that will allow MSPs to coordinate projects with one another.
Now here's the big twist: The tool can share tickets with third-party professional services automation (PSA) platforms, including ConnectWise. The system will also connect with OnForce members. What about VARs that don't have MSP or PSA platforms? Those companies can use a forthcoming outsourcing portal to participate in partner engagements, Godgart says.
Bob Vogel, Autotask's chief marketing officer, described the outsourcing management tool in a comment he recently posted on MSPmentor. During breakfast with me earlier today, Godgart pulled back the curtains a bit further, and showed me some screen shots to walk me through the system design and goals.
Some Initial ThoughtsI have to be careful with my comments here: I'm not an MSP, and I'm not running a PSA platform. Nor do I know if Autotask's outsourcing management system will work as advertised.
However, I strongly advocate "open" approaches to software development, collaboration and networking. It sounds like Autotask is building for MSPs a partner engagement and revenue generation network that has windows and doorways to the outside world.
Yes, you still need Autotask's Go or Pro platforms to coordinate these multi-partner engagements. But the ability to reach third-party PSA systems (i.e., ConnectWise), networks (OnForce) and even traditional VARs (via the outsourcing portal) sounds compelling, assuming the system works as advertised.
The Autotask system could also help MSPs to identify trustworthy partners that may ultimately become acquisition targets.
Rival OptionsOf course, Autotask isn't the only game in town for coordinating partner engagements.
OnForce has successfully expanded into Canada and is now moving into Europe. OnForce's community members, in theory, will soon be able to coordinate customer engagements across the big pond.
Also of note: DirectPointe, the top-ranked MSP on our MSPmentor 100 list, has inked a partnership with OnForce that provides DirectForce with access to the OnForce community of technicians across the U.S. and Canada.
Plus, ConnectWise CEO Arnie Bellini spoke about his company's partner community during the Kaseya User Conference. And Kaseya hinted that they were working on a similar partner-to-partner engagement system.
The developments don't end there. I'm hearing rumblings about yet another partner network -- known as Partnerpedia -- set to launch this summer.
Now, the big question: Do partners actually want to outsource work to one another?