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Q&A Mark Banfield

Technology Reseller discusses market developments, including a certain acquisition, with Mark Banfield, Senior Vice President & General Manager International at Autotask

Mark Banfield
Mark Banfield

Last month, private equity firm Vista Equity acquired data protection solutions provider Datto and merged it with Autotask, the cloud-based IT business management platform provider. Following the announcement, James Goulding spoke to Mark Banfield, Autotask’s Senior Vice President & General Manager International, about developments in the IT and managed services space and what the Datto acquisition means for Autotask and its customers.

Technology Reseller (TR): Before we talk about the Datto acquisition specifically, please could you tell our readers a little about Autotask and its offering for managed service providers (MSPs) and IT service providers (ITSPs).

Mark Banfield (MB): Of course. Autotask provides a suite of technology solutions into the IT services/managed services space, with the objective of enhancing efficiency, improving productivity and creating greater business intelligence to help customers grow their managed services business.

The core of the proposition is what we call PSA (professional services automation), a full-fledged business management platform that an IT services provider would use to run their business.

As IT service providers grow, they tend to implement different technologies to run their business – CRM, service desk ticketing, time tracking, billing, accounting etc.. Using multiple, disparate systems to keep track of what’s happening in a business is cumbersome and particularly challenging for managed service providers that have to track everything they do, for every customer.

The Autotask PSA platform allows them to transform the way they run their business, to become more efficient, to be more productive and to revolutionise the experience and the service they provide to their customers.

Underpinning the platform is the concept of contract management – the billing relationship MSPs have with their customers. When an MSP sets up service agreements, they typically include and exclude certain assets. For example, they might choose to provide support to desktops and servers, but not printers.

What happens then is that, because these systems are immature, when a customer calls in, the service provider ends up providing proactive support on every item the customer might have, because the system can’t tell whether it should be within contract or outside contract. With our system, when a customer calls in, the service desk system knows exactly what’s included or excluded and charges the right amount of money accordingly. That’s one small example of how Autotask revolutionises the experience.

The second thing is that our platform is effectively a single pane of glass for what we call RMM, a remote monitoring and management tool that the IT solution provider would use to manage their customers’ computing estate – to run diagnostics, to remote control devices, to do patch management and software deployment. You can’t be a managed service provider if you don’t have this type of technology in place.

About three years ago, we took the decision to acquire our own RMM technology by buying a UK business called CentraStage and integrating it into the PSA system. Now, instead of using two different systems to provide proactive support, the ITSP can use one system and have a single pane of glass through which they can manage the customer remotely, do remote control and access asset information. That’s been very, very successful for us.

Then, about two years ago we acquired a company called Soonr. It came with two technologies; one was file sync and share, being able to share your documents easily and securely in the cloud; and the other was an endpoint backup solution for backing up your files and folders from the desktop, from the endpoint or from the fileserver to the cloud.

In this way, we have created a unified platform for managed services, offering the business management and service management you need to run your business operations day-to-day; proactive endpoint management, which due to the proliferation of endpoints that need managing and servicing, is an exploding area for MSPs; and managed service opportunities like fle sync and share that our customers can take to their customers and provision, manage and bill from within the actual PSA platform.

Now, Vista has acquired Datto and merged Datto and Autotask. This is a really strong proposition for our customer base because the two companies are incredibly complementary to one another and there’s practically no crossover. Datto is the most successful business continuity backup disaster recovery (BDR) provider to MSPs, bar none. And, for business management RMM, we are the most successful, so that’s a very nice combination. In the context of enabling MSPs to launch, manage and provision managed services quicker, integrating Autotask technology with Datto’s will make a really compelling proposition.

TR: You say there’s very little overlap in products offered by Autotask and Datto. Is there much overlap in the channel partners you sell to?

MB: We’ve collaborated very well in a lot of instances, but within our base of customers we can already see there’s a huge amount of white space where we can target our customers with the Datto proposition and vice versa. They have many customers that are not using Autotask, so the frst thing to do is build a really compelling integration. Even so, we have no interest in forcing customers to use one product or the other, and both Datto and Autotask will continue to integrate with other providers. That said, our objective now that we are one company is to build an integrated solution so that it becomes obvious for MSPs to use it.

TR: What’s the first thing your customers will notice as a result of this acquisition?

MB: Right now, not a huge amount changes. We are having conversations about how we are going to combine the organisations and we are looking at how we can continue to provide the best level of service and the best level of experience to our customers.

TR: But ultimately, they can look forward to neater integration between the companies products.

MB: Yes, and that generates value. Cutting down manual processes in your business, improving the service to your customers, enhancing the customer experience, all have a massive knock-on effect. It increases your revenue; it reduces your cost to serve, which makes you more profitable; and, most importantly, it reduces your churn. If you can offer new managed services to your customers, they become more sticky and are less likely to turn away from you.

TR: Are there other software companies owned by Vista that you could integrate to provide MSPs and ITSPs with additional services to take to their customers?

MB: Not so much within Vista, but there’s obviously other managed services opportunities we could bring into the platform. Security would be one. We partner with many security vendors today and have a strong integration with Webroot for endpoint protection and antivirus. We now have a full platform offering business management, remote monitoring management and BDR from Datto. Over time, we will partner more and more with companies that are complementary to us – security is one area that springs to mind.

TR: What sort of growth have you experienced since Autotask was acquired by Vista and do you see that continuing?

MB: I joined the company nearly seven years ago. Then, in June 2014, Autotask was acquired by Vista Equity Partners, an extremely successful private equity firm that focuses entirely on IT technology and software and has $30 billion worth of cumulative capital invested. Since they acquired us three and a half years ago, we’ve trebled in size.

International sales have been a substantial part of that growth. When I joined the business, international accounted for less than 5% of turnover; now, it’s 50%. We sell in 90 countries around the world and about one quarter of the company’s business is in the UK where we have 120 people in three offices in Richmond, Amersham and Manchester.

In the UK, our potential market keeps growing as more and more VARs and resellers move into managed services: a) because their customers are demanding it, with more and more end user businesses outsourcing their IT to service providers; and b) because they are having to diversify to generate different forms of income.

Cloud makes IT easy to adopt, easy to deploy and end-user businesses are looking more and more to the channel to provide those services, which absolutely talks to our value proposition. Those IT service providers are also servicing enterprise businesses, supporting and managing parts of an IT infrastructure for a larger corporate or enterprise.

TR: Are you just winning business from people moving into managed services or are you also switching existing MSPs from competitor solutions?

MB: We have 1,500 customers in the UK and we are winning business from our competition. For a couple of reasons. One is the strength of the technology: we are purely cloud software-as-a-service and that’s very attractive to many people – it’s easy to deploy, has a low total cost of ownership and we manage everything. It’s also a compelling solution in terms of the user experience. We have invested heavily in the look and feel of the platform over the last couple of years and now have a very new-age, dynamic user interface that allows you to build various dashboards into the product. That’s one of the reasons we’re winning over our competition.

TR: Presumably your competitors will be following a similar strategy. Is this the case and, if so, what gives you an advantage?

MB: Yes they are. We’ve already seen it to some extent. Kaseya is a competitor on the RMM side and they acquired a company called Vorex that do PSA, business management stuff, so they’re moving in that direction. Solarwinds acquired N-able, a well known RMM tool and then they acquired a company called LOGICnow, another RMM tool that also had a light PSA product. So they, too, are moving in that direction.

Why I think we have a strong opportunity is that the PSA is the foundation a lot of MSPs use to run their business. If you walk into one of our customers, every single screen has Autotask up all day long; it is the absolute backbone of their business, it runs their business, it’s the way they provide service, it’s the way they do quoting for their customers, it’s the way they do their account management, it’s the way they do their invoice and billing, it’s the way they run reports to identify what’s happening in their business. Autotask has been around since 2001 and is used by 9,000 MSPs globally so it’s harder for other people to move into that space than it is for us to move the other way.

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