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It was Autotask’s latest European Community Live! Event this month. What was on the agenda?
One of the things that differentiates Autotask is our commitment to Europe. We have opened three offices in the last 12 months in Amsterdam, Manchester is Copenhagen. We think we’re mission-critical for our customers – that’s what they tell us, and being on the ground, not just with sales and marketing, but professional services, account management and consulting is key.
The biggest object of the conference is to help our customers to get continued value and return on investment (RoI) from their investment in Autotask. Our approach in the past has been more technical, more product-focused but if you look at the agenda this time, it’s more about helping you succeed as a managed service provider. Obviously, Autotask is an important part of that as a core part of running their business, but this goes beyond that.
We’re talking about M&A, and how to grow your managed services, so it’s more of a business-building approach than in the past.
One of the things you announced was Workplace Server – what is the thinking behind that?
[Workplace Server is an add on to Workplace, Autotask’s file sync and share solution, that allows service providers to set up a shared drive that doesn’t require storage on a device’s hard drive.]
Workplace Server talks to the bigger point of collaboration. What’s really important to MSPs? I think the number two issue is collaboration, after how to win new customers.
You have these dispersed organisations, multiple people trying to access data from multiple places and devices, and making sure they have the latest version and they’re not over-writing somebody else’s work – so workforce collaboration is an important part of what MSPs have to deliver. It’s a really interesting revenue opportunity for our customers.
A theme of the Autotask Community Live event in September 2016 was unifying your platform. Is that something that will continue in 2017?
Yes, it is. It’s the cornerstone of our corporate strategy. We re-purposed the entire PSA (Professional Services Automation platform), which was no mean task, that’s was step one. Step two was Autotask Endpoint Management with the RMM (Remote Monitoring and Management software). The distinction between unification and integration is unification is source-code level integration; we’re talking about not having to leave the Autotask UI to resolve problems. There is no-one else who has done that, aside from the fact it’s quite difficult and a major engineering project. We’ve taken that platform and delivering endpoint backup and Autotask Workplace (AWP) and recurring revenue-generating services. If you don’t have that automation, you’re burning your margins.
Was that the thinking behind your recent announcement of an Endpoint Backup Partner Programme, too?
It is. Again, we now have that unified platform that allows you to deliver profitably these recurring revenue services. We’ve been really pleased with the response to the programme from partners – there’s a portal, marketing, templates – that has been widely received. We are a hundred percent channel, and this is about making our customers successful running their business on the platform and giving them the opportunity to provide much-need services to their customers.
We had already solved the provisioning, the automation, the billing and the analytics issues from a technology perspective. What we didn’t solve was how we went to market. We had one pricing model, which was a little complicated for our partners, so there was too much friction in that model. So, we announced a fixed price with unlimited storage, so we’ve rolled this out to our sales organisation and the response has been dramatic already.
You talk about Autotask’s commitment to local market, and you’ve opened a Northern UK office now, in Manchester. What is the UK market like right now?
We don’t give numbers out but I will say that the UK market is on fire. We just had another remarkable quarter. That Manchester office, there are already 12 or 13 people in that office. We have three offices in UK now. You can’t have serious conversation with an MSP if you’re not on the ground supporting them. You’ll see us continue to open more offices as our customers demand it.
When we spoke last September, you said it was too early to tell what effect Brexit might have on your UK business – what are your thoughts now?
I know the impact that it did have. It created the £ to $ exchange rate – what that means is we bill in UK£, and that translates to fewer US$. That’s really the only impact we’ve had.
A couple of MSPs have asked about data sovereignty, but I still think it’s too early. No-one has any real answers and we’re still a way off from it. But I haven’t felt it, or seen it or heard much.
The MSP software space is a competitive market. What differentiates Autotask from its competition?
It’s a couple of things; it’s the quality of our software. Again, we completely re-engineered what the PSA was. That’s a differentiator. With software, it’s really easy to add features but it’s different when you re-think an entire way of working. The way a PSA platform usually works is a service desk, billing, contract, opportunity pipeline, quotes, but that’s not how users think. A CEO of an MSP just wants to understand if they have the right resources in terms of how the business is growing, and understand which projects, products and customers are most successful. Whereas the technician wants a view of the tickets, the sales guy wants to be revising pipelines and looking at growth in customers. Analytically, we have a dashboard-driven, powerful platform designed at the user-level, and not at the architectural level.
Also, one of the things we’re doing very well is time to value. We’re purpose-built for MSPs and we know how to get a customer up and running really quickly. We have a new VP of customer service we’ve brought in in a group called Customer Success, which manages you through the journey with Autotask. We launched that at the beginning of this year.
Finally, you’ve made strategic acquisitions in recent years. Are there any other areas you’ve identified which might be a good fit for Autotask?
We’re always looking and there are some areas that we address more than others. It really has to be a differentiated value proposition.