All our accolades to the development people in the Connectwise Team and the super beta users; after three months of development we’re happy to announce the Connectwise integration is live.
I know integration is a boring subject and I don’t intend to explain the details of the features here. But the development process and the results have been prompting many to wonder where the software industry and specifically the MSP servicing software industry is going.
Ours was not just a simple data based integration. Our tool is actually running inside Connectwise with customized screens. One doesn’t even need to log in to our native tool to use all the features inside Connectwise, like execute Account Management, vCIO activities and running discovery workshops with prospects.
The question I am raising is: are we actually heading to where we have only one application that runs our MSP, and all the vendors create “modules” for that application?
1. MSPs ultimate need
In an ideal world you as an MSP would use only one application to manage EVERY task in your organization. That’s an ultimate verticalized application taking care of everything and managing all modules.
The obvious limitation is that such a system requires you follow set processes for every single area of the business, which makes it hard to adopt. Thus the current model of having a base PSA and many integrated applications makes sense. The drawback is that these integrations are in all different shapes and sizes, the user interfaces are unique and most just give you the ability to transfer data across applications.
Clearly there’s a need for a faster learning curve, and more flexibility for IT managed services providers to adopt more and more tools to their stack.
Based on the technology available today we as a vendor community were able to create just such an ultimate solution.
2. Required Effort
Let’s first see the current reality. Creating integrations involves almost the same effort as creating the product itself, dealing with moving parts, planning, alignment, version control, testing in different environments and so on.
We used the fairly new Connectwise API feature to embed our application into theirs. We’re sending information back and forth, so we created special screens that show in their app. Our need to hide our client navigation requires additional screen designs too, so there’s been a lot of work in trying to match to their design and environment.
The same additional risks and effort had to be there when iOS moved from the old design to the new. All apps had to adopt the new iOS design to comply with Apple.
Surely the platform provider (now Connectwise) will see a need to give additional support to developers and act as a real platform to enable them.
3. Growth opportunities
For a small bootstrapped startup like many smaller MSP spin off vendors like us, there’s no bucks for promoting our products. We rely on the channel and try to piggyback on other well established vendors. The strategy makes sense involving more hard work than dollars.
That means if the platform is open and supportive and has all the processes to promote a niche solution to a larger audience, smaller companies have more options. They can choose to be a “module” only. They can do the integration selling to only one platform’s users, then later expand to become a stand-alone product. In this way the marketing, sales and promotion costs can be minimized.
Thus more and more startups can develop real solutions for the MSP community because the entry level is lower to start something. Can you count all the companies spun off from an MSP scratching their own itches? DeskDirector, IT Glue, Passportal, Brightgauge have all been able to grow and have a sustainable business model. Can you imagine running your business without those awesome solutions? How many others have died because they weren’t able to push it through?
However this puts a high risk in the startup’s business and changes to the platform can kill the initiative overnight. Certainly as an MSP you don’t want to invest to a product with no firm foundation.
That’s why the platform has to have policies to protect the integrators, and increase the overall value of the platform.
4. Conflicting strategies
The platform owner and the integrator can have overlapping functions, and conflicting strategies need to be addressed.
I’ve been watching the open conflict between Connectwise and Keseya. Both have PSAs and RMM solutions integrations back and forth. The goal of both parties is to be THE platform. The question is how it affects the user experience. Could there be any strategic limitations from companies on the integration side which hurt the user experience?
However this conflict can be smaller and more operational. Another example is when Autotask decided to put the “Dashboards” and “Metrics” to their strategic scope and developed features around that. Integrator partners like Brightgauge invested a lot to create integration and offer Dashboards to Autotask users. Brightgauge is a far superior tool for dashboarding but if the platform starts developing peripheral features for their product around the integrator’s core business that can lead to conflicts of interest and confusion for the clients. Shall I use Brightgauge or can I use Autotask for dashboards?
Our integration, moving our product into Connectwise, raised many strategic questions. It’s an interesting time to be in this industry. To provide a more integrated experience is a need from the managed services providers standpoint. To get integrated and give a better experience to managed services providers is the duty of the vendor community. Becoming a platform provider for the MSP industry is clearly a movement for major RMM/PSA players. It will be interesting to see how we can leverage the true opportunities to make the industry better for everyone.