Image Above: Greg VanDeWalker (Sr. Vice President of IT Channel & Services at GreatAmerica and Collabrance), Jake Wagner (Strategic Business Advisor) and Taylor McDonough (Sales Development Representative) attend IT Nation in Orlando, FL.
Do you all love the fast paced nature of our great industry? I know I do.
The IT channel, and more specifically the MSP space within the channel is very fluid. Last week at the IT Nation Connect event, Jason Magee announced a very large merge between ConnectWise and Continuum.
First, on a personal note, I want to congratulate Jason. He and I first met in his LabTech days when we both participated in the HTG Peer Group back-in-the-day. His laid-back style and direct communication made it a pleasure to work together in that peer group.
I am very happy for him and his team on what they continue to build and contribute to the managed services industry.
On a personal note, I am a bit mixed about the merger. I have the rare (fun) opportunity to work for two companies at the same time. I oversee the Connected Technology Group at GreatAmerica Financial Services. This group works with MSPs to offer leasing, financing, Hardware-as-a-Rental (HaaR®) and a number of other products and services. I also work with Collabrance, which is a wholly owned subsidiary IT company of GreatAmerica. Collabrance is a Master Managed Service Provider as well as a Master Security Service Provider (MSSP).
When I put on my GreatAmerica hat, I am thrilled with the ConnectWise and Continuum merge. We have a very good relationship with ConnectWise and custom integrations with their Manage and Sell platforms. The more companies in the ConnectWise ecosystem, the better opportunity it is for us.
When I put on my Collabrance hat, I am indifferent about the merger. Continuum has been a good competitor of ours for a long time. Even though our business models are slightly different, we have successfully competed against them. In fact, one of the quotes we keep top of mind is “May our competitors have 20 years of great success.”
Image Above: 8th Floor at GreatAmerica Financial Services Building located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
I don’t think anything is changing in the near term. However, eventually, Continuum will need to decide which RMM platform will survive and shift all customers. Until that time, I view the short term as no major change.
It's probably likely that not many people care about my perspective of the merger. However, here is a perspective that does matter, the MSP's. ConnectWise’s stated goal is to help the channel. I totally get the unified technology stack and how that will help the partners. They want to help make it easier for MSPs to run their business because there is the one magical pane of glass to do all things the MSP needs.
So I get the one pane of glass, but they are now entering into the labor game. At IT Nation, Michael George spoke passionately about A.I. and machine learning (M.L.), and yes those things are important and we are ALL working on those initiatives. However, ConnectWise will now be in the service desk business. Every MSP knows what it like is to try and staff a service desk:
Service desks are the first thing YOUR customers experience when they have an IT problem. A.I. and M.L. will not eliminate the need for humans anytime soon.
Last I knew, Continuum has service desk team members in Pittsburgh and the Philippines. With the kind of bandwidth and sales force horsepower ConnectWise has, how will they be able to keep up with the growth? At Collabrance, our NOC and service desk is located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and we hire ahead of the growth so we can maintain the high expectations we have for customer satisfaction. In case you are wondering, we are currently running at 96% with no voicemail and no auto attendant from 7AM – 7PM Central Time.
I am really struggling to see how they will maintain the level of customer service demanded by the channel with the pressure of the merger.
To further make my point, Michael George, now the former CEO of Continuum, recently was publicly apologizing for Continuum’s poor service to their partners. Not a great spot to be in when you just sold to a sales machine in ConnectWise.
Managed Services is a great channel to be in, I love it. There is plenty of business for all of us, so I genuinely wish all parties much success. The competition makes us all better which eventually helps the channel. I fear the more we as vendors are looking for pay days, buy outs, roll ups of our companies, we lose sight of what we are really trying to do and that is helping our MSP customers achieve greater success.
Learn why Collabrance chooses to remain a privately-held company.
Greg VanDeWalker, Senior Vice President of IT Channel and Services, is responsible for the strategic vision and performance of Collabrance and the GreatAmerica IT and Unified Communication Financing business units. Greg has consistently been recognized for his leadership in the IT channel. Most recently, he was named a ENX Difference Maker 2017. He was also honored by CRN in 2016-2018 as Channel Chief, and was named on the "100 People You Don't Know But Should" list in 2015. Greg has also served as Chair of the inaugural Managed Print Services Community of CompTIA, and has helped various advisory boards in the IT, Telephony and Office Equipment channels.