If you want perspective on how the channel is evolving, you could do worse than talk to someone who engages with it every day.

This week, I had a chance to speak to Autotask CEO Mark Cattini, whose company provides PSA and RMM technology to partners worldwide. Based in East Greenbush, N.Y., Autotask does business in more than 90 countries and translates its software tools into seven languages.

Cattini joined Autotask in 2010 after a long career in technology both here and in the UK. He has worked at Lotus Development, Awareness Inc., Pitney Bowes and MapInfo, where he served as CEO. While at MapInfo, he got to know one of the board members who was also a director at Autotask. It was that board member who helped to recruit Cattini to Autotask.

Cattini describes the mission of Autotask like this: “Our goal is to become the world’s leading provider of mission-critical technology for solutions providers and managed service providers.”

It’s a tall order considering the number of strong competitors that Autotask competes with in the PSA and RMM market. They include ConnectWise, Kaseya, SolarWinds, Tigerpaw and more.

Autotask executives believe their company has a distinct advantage because they own the source code to both their PSA and RMM platform. This gives Autotask an opportunity to go beyond integration; it allows them to unify its platforms in a very deep way.

So how does this translate into a benefit to you? With Autotask, Cattini says, you don’t have to log-in and log-out of a multiple services to effectively manage, monitor and defend your customers infrastructures, applications and data. This is because the company spent 27 months building a unified PSA platform from the ground up. For more on this, you can watch this FastChat video between me and Autotask Senior Vice President of Business Development Len DiCostanzo.  

As interesting as it was to talk about the PSA market, I found Cattini’s views on the state of the MSP market more compelling. Here’s a sampling on his perspectives, which, full disclosure, were captured when I sat down with Cattini for a sponsored, three-minute FastChat for MSPmentor. Rather than let the industry perspectives end up on “the cutting room floor,” I thought I would share them here.

The Doyle Report: What’re the trends impacting partners today?

Cattini: There are a few things. The biggest single thing that I hear from customers is “security.” It’s both a digital and global macro trend. It’s the reason we are excited about Autotask Endpoint Management. But I’m also seeing a lot more around specialization. Around vertical markets. And around products. I think gone are the days where you can have a massive catalogue and be an expert in every single one of the products in it. And you cannot be an expert in every vertical market. Managed service providers are moving from just providing infrastructure to providing vertical and horizontal business applications across multiple aspects of a company.

Mark Cattini, CEO, Autotask

The Doyle Report: What about the landscape…?

Cattini: The landscape looks good. We see that Gartner estimates that hardware will be outspent by software for the first time since I’ve been in this industry, which is now more than 30 years. I never would have believed that. But managed service providers are demonstrating the opportunity to show customers how transformative software can be. On industries. On devices. One user experiences…. Software has essentially transformed the world. I think our MSPs will start transforming their customers’ businesses with more focus on vertical and horizontal software.

The Doyle Report: How does that play out?

Cattini: One of the things we have seen over the last years is the change in really big hardware players, like Cisco Gold Partners. We’ve heard really big companies with 500 or more employees tell us “our revenues are growing but we cannot [improve] our EBITDA. There aren’t enough margins anymore in just providing hardware and vanilla services.” So they want to move to managed services, which makes us more relevant to them. As these guys look to become MSPs, that says something. I think we are at a tipping point. Others have come and gone. BYOD? That’s done. Cloud is done. Now, the vast majority of IT resellers have at least some services that are managed services. And more to come.

The Doyle Report: Do partners today have to move up the stack, say into business applications? In other words, do they need to continue offer greater value to customers to help distinguish themselves in the marketplace and buttress themselves against commoditization.

Cattini: Everything becomes commoditized over time. Now, you can have a very healthy business selling commoditized services but you have to do it better than the other guy. It’s a good business model if that’s what you want to do. But I do see more and more value around business applications and orchestration of services. I was talking to a business customer of ours the other day. They were talking about how they rethought their model. They don’t just look at a customer who needs CRM and think “Salesforce.” They don’t think “oh you are doing some financial planning so we will sell you a financial planning tool.” They look across an entire business processes [and look to ways to automate it end-to-end.] One example they gave was onboarding a new employee. When you onboard a new employee, it’s everything about the recruiting process to reference checking to the explanation of benefits to IT equipment rollout to badging, security, training and more. There are a lot of steps to that. Even an SMB customer wants to do that in a professional way. So this partner described how they use different pieces of technology and processes and orchestrates them into a service to deliver that. This is much more than delivering an automation tool; it’s reinventing a business process and making it better.