Can MSPs Work Closely With Corporate IT Departments?

Instead of competing with corporate IT departments, a healthy number of managed services providers (MSPs) cooperate with corporate IT managers -- creating a virtual bridge between MSP and corporate IT. Tools like ConnectWise StreamlineIT and Autotask Taskfire can help the process. But the effort also takes serious commitment from MSPs. Here's the update, including a FastChat Video conversation with ConnectWise CEO Arnie Bellini.

First, the news angle: Back in November 2010 at the ConnectWise IT Nation conference in Orlando,  Fla., CEO Arnie Bellini hinted that ConnectWise was preparing to re-brand and enhance a tool called Downstream IT. Fast forward to the present, and ConnectWise today launched StreamlineIT -- which essentially allows ConnectWise to run within a corporate IT department. The net result: MSPs and IT managers together can monitor and troubleshoot technology operations more rapidly. Bellini offers more perspective:

Bigger Trend

StreamlineIT (and its predecessor, Downstream IT) are part of a larger trend within the managed services market. While some MSPs certainly compete with corporate IT departments, anecdotal evidence suggests some MSPs prefer to partner up with their corporate IT counterparts.

Two other prime examples: Autotask offers TaskFire, a tool that also connects the dots between IT service providers and corporate IT. Plus, N-able Technologies -- an RMM (remote monitoring and management) software company -- has partnered up with MSPs to sell RMM software into mid-market corporate IT departments.

Notes Autotask Chief Marketing Officer Bob Vogel: "In a nutshell, Taskfire allows service providers who run their businesses on Autotask to deploy a robust hosted service desk solution to their clients to use for internal IT. While the Taskfire solution can be used as a stand-alone internal IT solution, it is tethered directly to the solution providers' Autotask service desk and the systems share a common workflow automation engine that can seamlessly route tickets between the internal and external resources."

Check in with VARs and MSPs running Autotask, and you'll discover that 75 percent of that community has at least one customer that employs internal IT staff. So, connecting the dots between IT service providers and those corporate IT departments is a natural opportunity, Vogel says. He says TaskFire also provides corporate IT departments with "an outlet [to IT services providers] to handle peak loads, special projects, and resource back-up when internal IT staff are off on vacation, get sick, or quit."

Meanwhile, N-able in 2010 spent considerable time routing mid-market corporate IT leads to VARs and MSPs. On the one hand, MSPs can use N-able's software to remotely monitor and manage SMB customer networks. But on the other hand, MSPs can work more closely with mid-market corporate IT departments that also deploy N-able's software.

Reality Check

Of course, some MSPs have no plans to work with corporate IT departments. In fact, some MSPs decline potential customer meetings if corporate IT staff members are involved in the process.

Still, there seems to be a growing trend toward co-managed IT, as the examples from Autotask, ConnectWise and N-able show.

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Discuss this Video 4

David Powell (not verified)
on Jan 26, 2011
Good work Arnie! Some really smart and prescient guy gave a talk at IT Nation on Co-Managed Managed Services. Who was that guy?? Oh :) This is absolutely on track. Instead of Mgd Svcs being an "either/or" proposition with corporate IT, we are seeing it much more as "and/both". They keep parts and we take parts. The services really become very sticky that way too as you intertwine your staff and services with the customer's team.
Lane Smith (not verified)
on Jan 26, 2011
I have to say I am a bit baffled that the PSA tools are just now offering this type of functionality. This is something we have offered our channel partners since we launched our program in 2005. Having the ability to truly be a seamless extension of your customers IT department is critical to success as an MSP. Also to those MSPs that avoid meetings with customers that have an internal IT resource, what are you thinking? There is a reason we are called Managed Service Providers and not Outsource Providers. While the services we provide can certainly replace an internal IT person in certain cases that is not our primary function. In fact more often than not I find that the internal IT become our biggest proponent in the sales process. We find that they are understaffed and often not able to get any real work done as they are busy putting out fires. We can put out the fires for them and they can focus on much more exciting IT projects than patching their servers or helping someone with their Word document. When it comes down to it though I believe there are two types of IT people, the ones you are going to replace and the ones that are going to be your biggest advocate. So when given a chance to meet with a company that has an IT staff you can either have 0% chance by not even going or a 50% chance if you at least take the meeting. If it turns out you are talking to the person you are going to replace, then politely finish up the meeting and then come back and talk to the executive team. Odds are if that IT person is threatened by you there is a reason for it and if you don't replace him/her someone else will. Lane Smith Do IT Smarter
Jeannine :) (not verified)
on Jan 26, 2011
@Lane, hey there Lane, we actually launched the capability in 2008 :), we're just putting some marketing feet under it and refreshing the brand a bit, complete with selling tools.
Jeannine :) (not verified)
on Jan 26, 2011
(from ConnectWise ;))
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