ConnectWise swallows up HTG

IT Culture
14 Comments

Congrats to Arnie and the team for taking over HTG Partner Groups; Yeah, yeah, strategic partnership sounds better in a press release but when you force software and invoices down the entire organization it’s pretty obvious what happened. You can read about it here (Peer Power), and listen to Arnie and Arlin here (MSP Mentor). 

Moves like this, that close doors to the competition and force solutions, are almost exclusively bad. However, to those of us familiar with the HTG process and mission, this makes a lot of sense on a lot of levels. Arlin has blogged recently about the change over at HTG and how important it will be to have the process implementation shared between peers so that metrics and best practices can be shared and implemented – getting the same reports and intelligence can expose problems and present opportunities much faster. Doing so with a single PSA, that has a significant revenue number on the line in pleasing it’s members, creates a nice VIP role.

Two big questions remain to be answered and I think only the time will tell:

1) Now that ConnectWise controls the PSA solution behind the HTG peer members, what incentive does ConnectWise have to improve and compete on price and features? Given the ConnectWise community commitment they have made as of late with their user groups, it should be interesting to see the features that come out of it tailored specifically for the peer environments.

2) What happens to the people using Autotask and other PSA solutions? That seems to be pretty clear. Make no mistake, there is a significant business behind the membership dues, sponsors, events and so on – so any bets on how quickly we’ll see someone seize the opportunity to launch a peer group organization based on Autotask as the core?

Next year is going to be very interesting indeed. What this move makes painfully clear is that the wave of consolidation is about to hit the IT Solution Provider space very quickly as margins get pressed and big players enter the market (Dell, HP, Microsoft & Co.) The smaller players in the field seem to have no other choice than to look much bigger than they really are through resource / peer groups and networks in order to compete. Having a software capable of supporting and facilitating this networking is pretty much critical.

Disclosure: My employer (Own Web Now / ExchangeDefender) sponsors HTG, ConnectWise and Autotask.

14 Responses to ConnectWise swallows up HTG

  1. Hi Vlad,

    First off…thanks for everything you have done to support HTG and the entire partner community. Your openness in ensuring the IT world knows what is happening is very valuable. Thanks to Google Alerts I can watch what happens…

    You pretty much nailed it when it comes to the IT world today, this year will be interesting to say the least. Many smaller IT partners need to link up with peers – this is no longer an option it is a must in order to survive. This is something that I have been stating for many of years. Even when I started my first IT business, partners were going to allow us to look bigger than we were. I still remember doing press releases every time we brought on another partner. I was a great time.

    Platform tools like ConnectWise and Autotask are now requirements for us who want to take our business to the next level. Autotask has theirs with Larry Schultz – http://www.mspmentor.net/2009/06/19/autotask-launches-managed-services-peer-groups/

    I can only speak on HTG since it is the one that I belong to and for full disclosure, I sit on the advisory board. Having strategic partners like Ingram, MSPU, Service Leadership and now Connectwise allow us to really focus on our business success, especially in today’s world. It is critical to everyone’s success. Also having a common language that we can speak is critical. The ConnectWise platform allows this to occur.

    It is critical as you said in order to compete in the market today.

    It is great to have a partner like ConnectWise working with HTG. HTG is a separate organization and will remain that way. So swallowing is perhaps not the right word to us.

    Thanks for your support of HTG Vlad, I know the members appreciate it.

    Stuart Crawford
    Bulletproof InfoTech
    Calgary, AB
    http://www.bulletproofIT.ca

  2. Kate Bamberg says:

    Vlad – I agree that it is a very strong recommendation statement for HTG to partner exclusively with ConnectWise. We are still in the process of implementing CW -and to date we have contridicting feelings about the software.

    While it is very sophisticated in the front end capabilities. It falls short in how it pushes data to back end acctg (in our case QuickBooks). Just had a conference call with our facilitator who indicated that while revenue is brought over to GL in line item by line item fashion – cost is not.

    The most important thing in running a service business is understanding / controlling / capturing / reporting on – etc – your cost.

    There is some growing up to do – I hope that this move does not stagnate the journey of CW to becoming a “big boy” tool that established service organizations can count on.

  3. Rick Bahl says:

    Vlad,
    Decisions like this are never easy, for those that make them, or those that have to live by them. I am a fairly new HTG member/Facilitator who happens to run AutoTask as my PSA. Having said that, I fully support the decision that Arlin and the HTG Advisory Board have made. I think that It is entirely consistent with the Mission of HTG.

    Will it have impact on the members and the SMB IT community? Absolutely! In the end, I think that the good will outweigh the bad, but only time will tell.

    Rick Bahl
    Quality Systems Solutions, Inc.
    Microsoft SBSC Advisory Board
    SBSC PAL
    http://sbsc.qsslabs.com

  4. Mytech - Lyf says:

    Vald – Thanks for your insight on the HTG\CW patnership.

    I assume your title of the post was to provoke conversation. As a long time member of HTG and an HTG Advisory Member, I want to state this is truly a partnership – Not Connectwise Swallowing up HTG. There are lot of changes happening in HTG, all with the goal of raising the bar for membership, but Connectwise “taking over the HTG Peer Groups” in not one of them.

    Good title to the post though…. I am sure you will see your blog heat up a bit in the next couple of days.

    As a business owner that is always looking for meaningful ways to improve my business, employees jobs and course my bottom line; the HTG\CW partnership is exciting for Mytech. This is an opportunity for us to have more meaningful discussions with our peers during our group meetings which will surely impact my business.

    The time and commitment it takes to participate in HTG in no joke. Knowing that both HTG and Connectwise are going to put a lot of resources behind the single most important piece of technology I run my business on is very comforting.

    I think the questions you posed are good and need to be considered.

    Although CW has nearly 90% adoption in HTG, this is very small percentage of the VAR\MSP providers in the US\World. If one were to think CW will rest on it laurels based HTG’s decision to standardize on CW, then they do not know Arnie. I count on the fact that Arnie wants to conquer the world and won’t be statified until he does. I know the product will keep moving forward because of CW’s tenacity to be the best PSA. I also look at this as opportunity where HTG members will have a voice to help drive the direction of the CW product\roadmap they would not have alone. CW is not perfect…. but pretty damn good (if not the best) and getting better with each release.

    I think your question about what happens to those in HTG not using CW is very important. In my group (HTG2) we have a few members not using CW. This is going to be a difficult decision for those members and maybe the group. They contribute a lot to the group and it will be a hit to our group if they were not there. That being said there have been numerous discussions where those same members expressed frustrations that they could not do things that the rest of the CW users could do as a standard practice. I hope they implent CW in the next year or so. Like it or not CW is the Gold Standard in our industry and HTG has made the desision to align with that standard to bring more value to its membership.

    HTG will start providing real world CW content in the meetings that will further expose the value to those members, which IMO will be what ultimately compels them to adopt CW. Having a standardized PSA will allow us to adopt new and successful practices faster allowing us to focus on the business not the software. Connectwise is a powerful and adpative tool, which can be configured many different ways based on the business requirements. Most companies are utilizing a fraction of the tools available in thier PSA’s, and sometimes developing their process on the fly. Mytech has worked with several companies during the early months of their CW rollouts, we have shared our real world experience and help them avoid some pitfalls. Sharing those best practices and having revelant content in our meeting with regards to CW is where the true benefits will come from the HTG\CW partnership.

    From my view point this is consistent with HTG’s message about raising the bar. HTG is striving to have the cream of the crop in our industry. If we achieve this everyone benefits.

    Thanks for the post, it is great to see discussion on this topic.

  5. Andy Trish says:

    not being a member of HTG in the UK but using connectwise I thought this conversation is very interesting.

    Arlin has an ideal as do many members and all the reports I get from everyone in HTG is good. HTG grows from strength to strength. Connectwise I would say has dramatically increased our ability as a service provider and is a very good product constantly improving though I find the marketing tool very poor.

    should they be an alliance? in my opinion that depends on what you want the outcome to be. it can work out very good for both groups but does that mean all members of HTG not only have to pay the annual fee but also have to buy, train on and utilise Connectwise? what happened to choice? are no Macs allowed to be sold or you have to wear blue shirts and red socks? what I’m getting at is if I was to consider joining HTG I would like to have the option to run my business as I see fit and if Autotask or any other software was my choice I wouldn’t particular like to spend my airfare and accomodation having to sit through connectwise seminars at HTG user groups.

    having one way to move forward is good, it allows a consolidated effort with one focus, but it doesn’t allow for choice or independancy. we dont want a dictatorship, it is our businesses we run. I know and like all the people in HTG, I know and use and like Connectwise but an alliance is wrong, it doesnt give me choice it alienates people such as autotask and autotask users.

    let HTG grow and rule
    let Connectwise grow and rule
    do it together – not in my opinion.

  6. Dave Sobel says:

    As always, sparking conversation.

    As a long time HTG member, facilitator, and advocate, I’m encouraged by the HTG mantra to continue to push my business, HTG, and the industry to the next level.

    I think there’s a subtlety to this that is lost. There are two choices: the choice is participation in HTG, and then within, the choice to maximize your investment by embracing the tool of choice, or not. There are many selections you make by being an HTG member, and you can maximize your investment in HTG, which is not a small one, by embracing as many of them as you can.

    While I understand the idea of “wanting choice”, you do have choice. If you believe HTG is the choice, you will maximize your selection by using the HTG program, including Service Leadership, Ingram Micro, and ConnectWise, to it’s fullest.

    You do have the option to run your business as you see fit. You make selections every day that drive other decisions. For me, and for Evolve, aligning with HTG accelerates my business. At the end of the day, business success is not measured by which tool you run, but with metrics like “Profit”.

    I choose to maximize this number.

  7. Mike Clemmons says:

    I was seriously considering joining HTG but since I use Autotask, I guess that is no longer an option. I do see Autotask as the better product and would not want to switch applications just to join HTG. I have invested heavily (in time) configuring Autotask to work with my business.

    I am not sure why HTG couldn’t setup Autotask only groups or connectwise only groups instead of excluding some. But that is their right.

    Are they going to require everyone use the same financial system too? How about the same monitoring tools? Where does it end?

  8. Vlad Mazek says:

    Mike,

    I think that Dave pretty much nailed it on the head, you can use anything you want but if you want to be in the “peer” group you have to use what your peers use to get the same advantage.

    And I think only the time will tell. If Autotask is indeed superior then ConnectWise decision is one that cripples HTG members and then you’re in the debate on just how critical a PSA is to a firms overall success.

    -Vlad

  9. Andy Trish says:

    Wow Dave I can honestly say that last post of yours really put me off and I would reconsider how you put HTG across to potential members.

    to me that sounded like our way or the highway and I’m not in business to please HTG or anyone else and I can seriously say since starting my business 5 years ago and growing to 22 staff I have made plenty of profit year on year without being dictated to and being told use this supplier or else.

    I happen to never buy from Ingram, I’ve found the account management in the UK to be pushy and their goods more expensive than other much better distributors.

    I have promoted HTG to others, I see the good it does other people and I think Arlin has done an amazing job to get it this far and potentially much further and wish him all the success in the world but please dont make me read any more posts about your choice is HTG and all it embraces or else because I’m sure the Hitler foundation tried something similiar.

    You are right to defend your organisation, it has done you and your business a lot of good. Vlad is just as right to put his opinion on his blog and I don’t think he ever intended to hurt HTG by doing so but I will say I think your post hurt HTG even more, as I say, it really put me off.

  10. Dave Sobel says:

    Andy:

    I certainly don’t mean “our way or the highway”. There are many, many ways to the end. There is no “or else” in my message. If you read that in it, I apologize for that. It’s not at all intentional, nor my point.

    If someone has chosen to join HTG, they see value in a certain way of doing things that links their success to the success of others in a different way than simply a user group or a conference meeting or the like. By joining HTG, I’ve linked the success of my business to the success of the other 11 people in my peer group, and in doing so, there is a need for a common language. That language started as best practices, added Service Leadership Indexing, and now has added ConnectWise as a common platform. In order to really collaborate across businesses, HTG members have determined that “best practices” sharing just isn’t enough.

    You run a highly successful business, and have chosen a different path for that than I have. You’re right to be proud of that, and I am not saying any level of “my way or the highway”. There are many, many highly successful businesses out there in our industry that have taken all different paths to that success, and that is to be celebrated. Every time someone gets an established business running well, that’s to be congratulated! It’s hard out there, and you’re to be congratulated for choosing your path and making it work!

    My point was that success was not measured by which tool we use, what approach we take, what alliances we have, but at the end of the day by profitability and business metrics.

    For HTG, to be able to communicate on those, we have reached a point of needing a common language beyond “best practices”.

    I did not say “or else”, and the tone of my post is not “or else” and I don’t believe that at all. I wouldn’t be an active community member on all levels if I believed there was only one way to do it. I actually believe strongly in the power of peers — with the commitment I put into it at all levels.

    Again, I apologize if you read that — I don’t mean “or else”, and wouldn’t ever say that.

  11. vlad says:

    Andy,

    First off, you gotta grade Dave on a curve when it comes to HTG, it’s a cultish thing for him 😉 I’ve heard him pitch it live to vendors and every time I hear it a chill runs down my back.

    That said, I’m not against this alliance, I just think it creates a lot of interesting scenarios that affect the channel in general beyond HTG. Accepting a standard third party tool in my mind takes away from the the peer group concept and makes this look like a franchise with the same cash register. From the mindset concept too – same best practices, same processes, same controls, SWAT analysis – these are the major concepts behind successful franchises which perform the same types of processes to keep their independently owned branches profitable.

    Is this franchise thing necessarily a bad thing for SMB solution providers? Well, there is another SMB peer group out there which operates as more of a Costco/co-op and negotiates better pricing for it’s members – yet by all of my accounts it’s pretty much been a failure as none of it’s members have elevated their game significantly.

    I just think this generates a lot of questions and “what if” statements that nobody really has an answer for and it’s something only time will tell. You can be hopeful or dislike it (as you can see here by the comments) but truth be told none of us really know because this really seems to be the first and creates an interesting scenario for vendors and sponsors looking from the sidelines.

    -Vlad

  12. Andy Trish says:

    Dave, Vlad, thank you. I don’t want to dominate this thread at all and it’s obvious this did get my back up so apologise myself if I concluded on something that wasn’t intended.

    like I said earlier I have recommended HTG to other now existing members and will recommend it in the future but I think you need to consider the message you are putting out there.

    it makes sense that working in one forward path as a team allows for greater success but I still doubt this is the right way. out of interest HTG has chosen Connectwise as a strategic partner, how much input does this give HTG at the upcoming Connectwise conference? I havent heard Ingram once mention to me they they strategically partner with you but I see it the other way around. I’m wondering how one sided this really is and if its going to continue with other strategic partners i.e when you join HTG to get the most of it you need to use the 30 or so strategic partner products that will make our industry better – it will make joining really expensive. And for those that dont embrace those partnerships what will they really get out of joining HTG?

    I also know Connectwise offer a significant referral model to its users, is this maybe also a driving force to sell it to your own members? this isnt an accusation its simply a question that needs answering.

    Over in the UK I work with lots of other partners to collaborate, they run their businesses as they please yet we still help each other and it works well. I thought that was HTG only with the added attraction of business mentoring, the way you put it Dave (rightly or wrongly) is that it is but by embracing the partnerships HTG has chosen the members will get the advantage of a common platform. that rules out competition and in my opinion that is very unfair. I use Connectwise, I really like it and I can say it has changed our business structure for the better but its not cheap and not for the smaller businesses who dont have time to learn and configure it. This is a bit like sitting in a roundtable saying dont use the guy sitting next to me because “the group” havent approved him.

    I’m happy to take this discussion offline and catch up with you at WPC, I’m no longer confused Dave, you and Vlad have kindly responded in a fashion fitting great business people – thank you.

  13. Dave Sobel says:

    Very much looking forward to WPC and a chance for more talking and information sharing!

  14. Vlad,

    Are you aware that Autotask has teamed with Taylor Business Group?

    Read more here: http://autotask.com/press/news_and_press_releases/061809.htm

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