ConnectWise PSA beefs up reporting, UI

ConnectWise says its new professional services automation platform adds better reporting and user interface for MSPs.

ConnectWise, founded by a former VAR seeking a more disciplined way to manage his business, is preparing a major new version of its "business operating system" and wants more VARs, resellers and channel organizations to join its collaborative partner network.

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The ConnectWise platform falls in the professional services automation (PSA) category along with offerings from Autotask Corp. It handles the usual PSA chores -- time and billing, etc. -- but also has a CRM module. Its financial functions aim to help managed services providers (MSPs) and other IT solution providers manage project resources, customer support and other services on behalf of their customers. It promises a disciplined approach for VARs to get a better handle on their financial performance and resource utilization.

Speaking at the recent ConnectWise Partner Summit in Orlando, Fla., ConnectWise CEO Arnie Bellini said the ConnectWise 2010 update, due in December, will have user interface improvements, overhauled reporting capabilities, applets that allow users to upload best practices and business process templates. Marketing enhancements will allow IT solution providers manage Google ad campaigns from directly within the business management platform. The new version will also support access via an Apple iPhone and, later, new Android devices.

Jay Tipton, CEO and owner of Technology Specialists in Fort Wayne, Ind., said the new reporting engine will allow his team to use ConnectWise to dig more deeply into his company's performance, utilization and financial data. He also welcomes the integration with Google, which will benefit his marketing activities.

"We are starting to use personal URLs (in our marketing), but the new features will integrate all of this information along with tying Google AdWords with ConnectWise to give us a ROI on our advertising," Tipton said.

M.J. Shoer, president and virtual chief technology officer of Jenaly Technology Group Inc., said the reporting and template overhauls will be especially valuable, as are the platform CRM enhancements.

"There is a wealth of data within ConnectWise and the ability to more flexibly access and interpret that data, based on how you are running your business, will be very beneficial," Shoer said. "It's nice to see ConnectWise continue to keep the heat on themselves to continually improve the product based on partner feedback."

Bellini also urged summit attendees to begin using ConnectWise Network 2.0, an updated edition of the company's collaboration platform, in order to create more power as a collective "IT Nation" rather than going it alone. "You're getting ready to compete with a lot of large companies that are taking things into the cloud," Bellini told the 900-plus partners at the summit. "The math says you are not really competing with each other, so you should work more closely together."

Bellini estimates that roughly 25% of ConnectWise solution providers currently use the ConnectWise Network to pull other partners into projects or customer delivery. ConnectWise facilitates this by providing common tools for service ticketing and time/expense tracking. The update enhances up-levels the matchmaking capabilities: Solution providers can search on more detailed profiles that include certifications, training and other metrics, and they can also flag preferred partners.

Arlin Sorenson, CEO of Heartland Technology Solutions and founder of the HTG Peer Groups in Harlan, Iowa, said the ConnectWise Network has enabled some of the roughly 229 companies in the HTG Peer Groups community to use partners to support deals they would not otherwise have been able to handle.

HTG Peer Groups member companies will be able to use their HTG flag as a badge of trust on their ConnectWise profile, he said. Roughly 95% of HTG Peer Groups companies use the ConnectWise PSA platform, which has a better foundation for benchmarking data, he said.

Shoer said the process of partnering with other solution providers via ConnectWise Network has been "very straightforward and allowed for very efficient servicing of the need as well as the backend billing and accountability."

Approximately 38% of ConnectWise's customers hail from the managed IT services segment, while another 24% are focused on break/fix activities, according to the results of a customer survey discussed by Bellini during his conference keynote address. Approximately 32% of the solution providers using the ConnectWise platform expect growth of 5% or more in the next 12 months, he said.

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