In an attempt to further raise its visibility and drive collaboration between 28,000 users, Tigerpaw Software says it will launch an interactive Tigerpaw Community at the end of August 2010. It's a smart move, but I'll be curious to see how Tigerpaw's efforts stack up against PSA rivals like ConnectWise (perhaps the most aggressive and successful community organizer) and Autotask (which has built a successful face-to-face conference to echo its online community). Here's a closer look at the various vendor-led community strategies serving VARs, MSPs and IT service providers.

First, the story at Tigerpaw. The company says:
"The Tigerpaw Community was designed to bring the Tigerpaw network of over 28,000 users together for the purpose of assisting users in sharing specific tips and tricks related to the software, their business practices, and the roles of individual users.  Tigerpaw plans to expand its community to enable members to submit support requests and feature requests, and to vote on feature requests of other users."
The effort sounds a bit like Dell's IdeaStorm, a wildly successful destination where customers can make recommendations and vote on ideas submitted to Dell. I think other MSP-centric software companies have since adopted the feature-voting mechanism.

Also of note: The Tigerpaw Community will have forums, where members can "choose from a Telecom, IT, Audio-Visual, Point-of-Sale and Security and Alarm forums, among many others. These forums are run by peer moderators and provide a place for questions, suggestions, best practices, and product related conversation."

Not by coincidence, the Tigerpaw Community is set to launch only a few weeks before Tigerpaw's first user conference (Oct. 6-8, Dallas).

This Sounds Familiar...

Building communities is nothing new in the managed services market, especially when you consider all the activity involving PSA (professional services automation) and RMM (remote monitoring and management) software providers.

A few examples...

1. ConnectWise: ConnectWise set the early pace in the market, launching a partner summit six years ago, and the company continues to accelerate its community efforts. This year's ConnectWise IT Nation event, scheduled for Nov. 4-6 in Orlando, is expected to attract more than 1,000 attendees. In a strategic win, ConnectWise also built a strong ongoing relationship with HTG Peer Groups, which represents dozens of VARs and MSPs across North America, and emerging groups in Europe and Australia. An annual HTG meeting is held in Orlando days before the ConnectWise event, so that HTG members can attend both conferences.

ConnectWise has also launched user groups across the globe. As a whole, the user groups bring together more than 1,000 partners per quarter, ConnectWise says. ConnectWise also continues to build and expand its online community efforts, led by ConnectWise Community Director Jeannine Edwards.

2. Autotask: Autotask built its online community first before moving into face-to-face events and user groups. In early 2009, Chief Marketing Officer Bob Vogel described the Autotask online strategy as one that melds FaceBook- with Salesforce.com-like capabilities. Also in 2009, Autotask held its first Autotask Community Live conference, and a third-annual event is scheduled April 18-20, 2011, in Miami, Fla.

Also of note: Autotask has been launching user groups, under the direction of Executive Director of Business and Community Development Mark Crall.

3. Kaseya: Kaseya hosts an annual user conference but the company continues to launch and expand its online community efforts. The name to watch is Brendan Cosgrove, director of social media and community at Kaseya. I hear Kaseya is building out a range of online community enhancements and forums.

Multiple Communities

I know I'm leaving out numerous RMM and MSP industry companies that host user conferences and have online communities. Gatherings like N-able Partner Summit, Nimsoft N-fluence and Ingram Micro Seismic Partner Summit come to mind, and there are plenty of others. (Who did I miss? Instead of flaming me, cut a busy blogger some slack and post a comment.)

But when it comes to banging the drum loudest and most consistently for community members, ConnectWise set the pace early and continues to march forward with user groups that seem very engaged.

Nevertheless, it's good to see Tigerpaw getting into the community game. As you may recall, Tigerpaw promoted James Foxall into the president position in April 2010. Not by coincidence, Tigerpaw since that time seems to have made a strong commitment to community building.

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