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Q&A: CEO Arnie Bellini and an Evolving ConnectWise

ConnectWise Automation Nation 2017

ConnectWise CEO Arnie Bellini is riding the next wave of technology, and from where he sits, at the helm of the almost 35-year-old company, it’s exciting.

For the first time, the company held an IT Nation Europe event in London in April. And at this year’s Automation Nation 2017, there are more than 800 attendees, the most for any spring event. Additionally, newcomers are flocking. About two-thirds of attendees at the tech-oriented conference are first-timers.

ConnectWise's Arnie Bellini

ConnectWise’s Arnie Bellini

We caught up with Bellini at Automation Nation 2017 this week in Orlando. He outlined the company’s strategic vision.

Channel Partners: The company’s focus on MSPs seems to be changing, or expanding to other partner types. This sounds like a new business strategy road map for ConnectWise.

Arnie Bellini: ConnectWise has always been about serving technology solution providers (TSAs). Managed services were just this new technological opportunity wave, if you will, that hit the shores about 12 years ago. So yes, we aggressively embraced that, because it represented an opportunity for our partners to be able to shift their revenue from project revenue to recurring revenue. It required new technologies and us [making] sure that we were providing the solutions that our partners need to become managed service providers.

Our focus has always been on identifying those waves of technology that are hitting the shore, and trying to identify them two and three years out. So our philosophy and our strategy has never changed. It just so happens that the craze has been managed services.

What’s hitting the shores now is providing cloud services. … ConnectWise making a strong investment in research and development has created a product called CloudConsole that allows any technology solution provider to be a very effective cloud services provider (CSP), or in other words, open a practice area or team or division — people call it different things.

Cloud services is that big practice area that is coming out and that’s the wave of technology hitting the shores today.

There’s another wave that’s hitting the shore soon and its security.

CP: Let’s talk about the security wave.

AB: Security is the number one discussion in the boardrooms all around the world today. So you’re going to see ConnectWise address this, and you already see us addressing this … and it’s allowing technology solution providers to be able to open up a division or practice area for managed security service providers, or MSSPs. An MSSP practice is the next thing that you’re going to see, so we’re working on putting all of that together so partners can easily open up a security division of their company and use the ConnectWise solution to accomplish that.

So, to get back to your original question, we don’t move away from anything, we move forward and keep adding and that’s what you see with these technology companies, they keep adding practice areas.

CP: It’s tough for partners to open up new practice areas, especially around security given the level of expertise required. How will you help partner firms expand to become MSSPs?

AB: The way we look at managed security is a little bit different. We focus on specific concepts at ConnectWise. We have certain belief systems, and one of our belief systems is rooted in Michael E. Gerber’s book, “The E Myth.” His concept is: You want to have expert systems; you don’t want to have expert people. If you’re going to build your business with expert people then you’re going to pay a lot for them and they’re not redundant and you have no backup plan for that, and it’s going to be expensive. If you build an expert system, you can plug ordinary people into that expert system. So what we’re going to do is create that expert system and we’re going to plug in ordinary people.

That’s the only way, in my opinion, that we’ll be able to bring managed security to the masses. Every partner should be able to have a managed security services practice. Very similar to what we did with managed services — ConnectWise was very instrumental in making sure that managed services didn’t require you to have a fantastic guru expert. We wanted to bring that to all technology solution providers.

We will create an expert system for managed-security services with amazing tools connected to it so that system is the expert and we can plug in ordinary people.

If you look at managed security, there [are] like eight components to it and every technology service provider and every managed service provider [is] doing the top three … the bottom rungs of it. [For example, 90 percent of ConnectWise TSPs deliver endpoint security – the bottom rung – to their customers. They may also offer DNS, MDM, managed firewall, disc encryption, advanced threat and password management, etc.]

But then you have to move up the pyramid, so what we’re going to be doing is plugging in all the types of [security solution] choices for them because we’re a wide-open ecosystem with APIs. So with our suite, we’re orchestrating a managed security practice inside of there.

CP: What timeframe are you talking about?

AB: Our work is underway right now and you’ll see the first parts of our work as soon as IT Nation in November. At that time, we’ll be talking about what we’re doing and we’ll be making an announcement about a managed security services practice inside the ConnectWise suite..

I have to use the entire ConnectWise suite to pull off any of these new waves that hit. They’ll have five major touch points with every customer — creating awareness, evaluation, implementation, support and invoicing.

So, CloudConsole is our answer for cloud. For MSSP, you’ll get an announcement on that … and all of those things continue to grow. So, for example, with CloudConsole we solved the problem for Microsoft Office 365 monitoring, management and billing, and we added Azure to that, so then what you’re saying is the entire Microsoft stack that most small businesses have is in the cloud or it can be.

CP: Looking ahead, what about IoT?

AB: We’ll be all over things. Things represent additional opportunities for our partners and they are being commercialized. Things will also create a blurred line between technology companies and non-technology companies; Gartner is right when they say every company is an IT company. Every company will employ all kinds of technology, which is the only way to gain higher productivity in the workforce and in business. So, to bring a bigger bottom line is to automate, be proactive and create expert systems that we can plug ordinary people into.

Our partners are great at technology, but with 3 percent unemployment in the technology field, that’s a problem … so what can you do to fix that? If you didn’t know that was a problem, the next time you try to hire someone, it’s going to cost a lot more, and the next time you lose someone, you may find out that they’re actually getting paid more.

So, you want to have a great culture. We’re going to a holistic approach with technology solution providers, meaning that we want to help them with every aspect of their business, not just our software. It’s not just about software with us. We’re about best practices, having them driving success into their business from any angle necessary.

We need to give everything, yes, great software, yes, looking out into the future and solving those problems today, but how about helping you retain your employees today? How about creating a workplace where everybody wants to be? These are ultimately the things that will drive success for our partners.


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