todd-thibodeauxCompTIA CEO Todd Thibodeaux (pictured) is calling for 'coopetition' in the managed services education market. Even as CompTIA acquires MSP Partners today, the organization plans to continue working closely with MSP University, MSP Services Network and other industry leaders. Plus, Thibodeaux says he'll continue to "extend a hand" to the MSPAlliance to seek out common ground for potential work together. Here are more thoughts from Thibodeaux plus observations from industry executives.

The CompTIA-MSP Partners combination has implications for a range of audiences. But what ultimately is Thibodeaux's strategy for MSP Partners? And where is CompTIA heading in the managed services market? Here are some highlights from our conversation (all paraphrased for the sake of rapid blogging). Plus, some thoughts from Nimsoft CEO Gary Read, N-able CEO Gavin Garbutt and Ingram Micro Seismic VP Justin Crotty. You'll understand why I reached out to Garbutt, Read and Crotty in a minute.

CompTIA's Thoughts

According to Thibodeaux, discussions between CompTIA and MSP Partners had been under way for quite some time. Just a few months after Thibodeaux was named CompTIA CEO in mid-2008, the potential opportunity to acquire MSP Partners surfaced.

Going forward CompTIA will:
  • Work to partner with a range of organizations -- such as the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society -- to help promote security, managed services, managed print and a range of other services into end-user audiences. End-user awareness, in turn, should create more market pull for managed services.
  • Continue to partner up with MSP University and other third-party MSP educators. CompTIA hasn't contacted MSPAlliance about the CompTIA-MSP Partners deal (because of industry non-disclosure agreements), but Thibodeaux says: "I've extended a hand to the MSPAlliance in the past and will do so going forward."
  • Offer "member kits" to help transition MSP Partners members into the CompTIA family. Also, CompTIA representatives will place a personal phone call to all MSP Partners alumni and members.
  • Push for cross pollination opportunities, offering MSPs opportunities to participate in other CompTIA communities.

Industry Reaction

I've reached out to MSPAlliance President Charles Weaver for his comment on the CompTIA-MSP Partners deal. (Update: Here are Weaver's thoughts.) In the meantime, I've spoken with the following executives for the following reasons to gather their perspectives.
  • Executive: Nimsoft CEO Gary Read
  • Why I contacted him: Nimsoft has been active with the MSPAlliance but non-active with MSP Partners, because MSP Partners was ultimately owned by Level Platforms (a potential Nimsoft competitor).
  • Read's Thoughts: "MSPAlliance, CompTIA and MSP Partners quite frankly are all quite valuable. I always thought MSP Partners was a great idea that was well-executed and hats off to Level Platforms for that. I think MSP Partners strengthens CompTIA's position. Clearly there are now two industry organizations [MSPAlliance and CompTIA] for managed services providers" rather than three. Read sounds curious about CompTIA's strategy, but he credited MSPAlliance's work with MSPs multiple times during our call.
  • Executive: N-able CEO Gary Garbutt
  • Why I contacted him: Although Garbutt hasn't stated it publicly, I sense N-able's stance is similar to that of Nimsoft's -- work with MSPAlliance but not really engage with MSP Partners because of potential competitive issues involving Level Platforms.
  • Garbutt's Thoughts: "I'm just a huge advocate for advancing the channel. As long as they [CompTIA and MSP Partners] focus on MSP advancement and education rather than a venue for vendors to market to the channel, then that's to me what it should be about."
  • Executive: Ingram Micro Seismic VP Justin Crotty
  • Why I contacted him: Crotty was part of the early conversations about launching MSP Partners in 2007.
  • Crotty's Thoughts: "This was the plan when the original founding vendors (LPI, Ingram, Cisco, etc.) put MSP Partners together -- that eventually it would be handed to CompTIA and that CompTIA was the organization best positioned to serve the MSP Partners cause: education, training, certification, MSP business knowledge, etc.  But CompTIA was not moving fast enough to take advantage of the managed services market, so MSP Partners was launched to fill the gap." Looking ahead, the CompTIA-MSP Partners deal is a "good fit, good strategy, the right decision for all involved."
Bottom line: There won't be some sort of "mass exodus" from MSPAlliance to CompTIA-MSP Partners or vice-versa. But there will be healthy competition. And plenty of people will be watching as CompTIA attempts to take the MSP Partners community in new directions.

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