ConnectWise software takes strides toward a unified suite

ConnectWise unveiled an integrated user interface, a software rebranding initiative and a number of new product features during its annual channel partner meeting, IT Nation.

ORLANDO, Fla. -- ConnectWise is well on its way to unifying what had been mostly separate systems for running a channel partner's business operations.

That was the message from company and partner executives discussing the vendor's product direction at IT Nation 2016, ConnectWise's annual conference for solutions providers. The ConnectWise software suite began with professional services automation (PSA). In 2010 and 2011, the company invested in LabTech for remote monitoring and management (RMM) and Quosal for quote and proposal automation. The company began integrating those offerings in 2013. Most recently, ConnectWise added remote control software to its lineup through its 2015 acquisition of ScreenConnect.

At IT Nation 2016, ConnectWise launched technology and branding moves that aimed to complete the unification of those components. The company took the wraps off of an integrated user interface and unveiled new names for its software components: ConnectWise Sell (formerly Quosal), ConnectWise Manage (the company's flagship PSA offering), ConnectWise Automate (formerly LabTech) and ConnectWise Control (formerly ScreenConnect).

ConnectWise software: Blurring the lines

Arnie Bellini, ConnectWise's CEO, said the company is "90% there" in its transition to the integrated UI. Sell, Manage and Control elements have already cut over to the new interface, while Automate still needs to move about 40% of its screens.

"We are really going to be blurring the lines," Bellini said. "The ConnectWise business suite will become one completely connected suite."

Jamison West, president of Arterian, a cloud solution provider and ConnectWise partner based in Seattle, said ConnectWise faced a big obstacle in pulling four disparate products together. But West, who participates in ConnectWise's advisory council, believes the company is succeeding from both a business and technology perspective.

They have done a tremendous job of aligning what used to be multiple companies into one company and bringing that vision together.
Jamison Westpresident, Arterian

"They have done a tremendous job of aligning what used to be multiple companies into one company and bringing that vision together," he said. "We have started to see what this is going to look like."

West described the common user interface as a brilliant move from a user experience perspective, although he said some partners may or may not like certain features.

Brett Cheloff, general manager of LabTech, alluded to the latter point. He summarized some partner feedback as "you have moved my cheese" with respect to the location of ConnectWise Automate features. But he added that the company provides monthly software updates that address UI questions.

Overall, however, a common user interface helps when training technicians and makes personnel more efficient when working with clients, West explained. Integration means "we don't have to learn different interfaces and we don't have to navigate to different applications," he said.

ConnectWise isn't the only partner business management vendor to pursue the software suite approach. At its annual partner meeting in September, Autotask Corp. discussed its unification strategy, adding automated file backup to an IT management product line that includes RMM, PSA and file sync and share.

Other software developments

Company officials discussed a number of other ConnectWise software developments in addition to the new UI at IT Nation 2016.

For example, ConnectWise revealed electronic ordering within Sell. Craig Fulton, ConnectWise's vice president of product, said partners ordering from distributors have had to work with many different teams -- separate distributor groups or marketplaces for hardware and software, for example. The new electronic ordering feature, however, combines those distinct teams into one interface, so when the partner hits "buy," the order goes to the appropriate parties.

Fulton said this feature is now in place for orders placed with Ingram Micro via ConnectWise. A similar capability is also available for Tech Data Corp. ordering, and the company plans to provide electronic ordering for SYNNEX Corp., as well.

"The procurement function … is cumbersome -- there are a lot of steps -- and we want to make it one button," Fulton said.

In addition, ConnectWise has added a "host pass" feature to Control. The host pass lets a technician bring in an expert from an outside organization to participate in a remote control session with a customer. While remote control software previously let more than one technician from the same partner company collaborate with a client, the host pass offers security features, such as the ability to control permissions that permit third-party participation.

And for what the company termed "weekend warrior techs," ConnectWise debuted ScreenConnect Free. This version of the company's remote control software is for personal, noncommercial use. 

Next Steps

Take a look back at IT Nation 2015

Learn more about the PSA software market

Read more about the user experience strategy behind ConnectWise software

Dig Deeper on MSP business strategy

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