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10 PSA (Professional Services Automation) Software Predictions, Trends for 2017

The world of professional services automation (PSA) is getting bigger — and smaller. Plenty of vendors. Plenty of new features. But MSPs (managed services providers) want a push toward simplicity. Here’s a closer look at the overall PSA software market and 10 potential trends and predictions for 2017.

10. PSA Gets Sticky: As more MSPs standardize on suites that contain PSA software, the temptation to “rip-and-replace” offerings will decrease. Much in the way that companies standardized on a database and associated application stacks (say, Oracle with Oracle Financials or Microsoft SQL Server with Exchange), MSPs will get off the platform-switch merry-go-round and stick with what they’ve got. That’s why seemingly niche players like Tigerpaw Software continue to enjoy growing installed bases.

9. Integration vs. Unification: Multiple PSA providers will continue to promote integration — the linking of apps into PSA. But watch for the key PSA platform owners to evangelize unification — the way their suite-oriented toolsets are designed to deliver a unified user experience. Is unification truly better than integration? Hmmm…

8. Potential Midmarket Disrupter, Part I: Oracle acquired NetSuite and the associated OpenAir PSA platform last month, and OpenAir has a midmarket focus. Plenty of IT consulting firms have embraced OpenAir PSA. What about MSPs? It’s still early…

7. Potential Midmarket Disrupter, Part II: Keep an eye on Kimble PSA, one of the 50 fastest growing technology companies in the UK, according to Deloitte. Kimble recently won a big deployment with a top 10 IT consulting firm in North America, with actual details expected around Q1 2017. The company has also integrated with Salesforce Lightning, a major development push from the cloud giant.

6. Speaking of Salesforce: Quite a few MSPs are seeking PSA-oriented solutions that are built to work with Salesforce. Among the early market winners: FinancialForce — which has extended from PSA to talent management. Key adopters: HP Enterprise’s IT services team.

5. Potential SMB Disrupters: Names like Atera come to mind. The company has built an integrated RMM, PSA and remote access suite up in the cloud…

4. Sort of Pregnant: Platforms like ServiceNow, Zendesk and Atlassian JIRA Service Desk will catch on with some MSPs. But to truly gain momentum, each of those offerings will require more MSP-centric features and associated community support.

3. PSA for VARs: The myth that PSA was only developed for MSPs finally ends. Thousands of VARs will discover that PSA vastly improves IT project management and other business processes. In other words, PSA isn’t just for recurring revenue engagements.

2. PSA and Private Equity Ownership: Autotask, Kaseya and SolarWinds MSP have private equity ownership. SolarWinds, which was acquired and taken private in 2016, likely has the longest runway ahead of it in terms of current ownership. Autotask, acquired in 2014, could remain with the current owners for another three years or so but I wouldn’t be surprised if a suitor came knocking sooner than that. Kaseya, acquired in 2013, is the wildcard. Bookings apparently improved dramatically this year, but does that mean the company’s current owners want to hang on to the asset for the long haul? We’ll be watching…

1. The Big Five: Of the five major software companies that promote SMB business management tools to MSPs, four (Autotask, ConnectWise, Kaseya and SolarWinds) own some form of PSA platform. One (Continuum) does not. Here’s what I expect…

  • Autotask: Will extend more of its file sync and sharing capabilities (Autotask Workplace) into the PSA platform. CEO Mark Cattini will double-down on European growth while also potentially turning an eye to Asia… The big continued theme: A unified platform that provides the brain, central nervous system and organs that an MSP needs to build and run a business.
  • ConnectWise: Yes, new user interfaces are on the way for ConnectWise Manage (the PSA offering) and other tools in the suite. As a privately held company with no outside funding, ConnectWise controls its fate and can pivot without private equity firms influencing internal decisions. But that also means ConnectWise’s cash flow is the company’s war chest. No doubt, CEO Arnie Bellini could tap into financial markets if he saw a unique opportunity for ConnectWise to do so…
  • Continuum: I don’t expect Continuum to buy a PSA platform. Instead, I think the company will continue to integrate with third-party offerings while pushing into new markets like SOC (security operations center) services for MSPs. CEO Michael George has been studying MSP security opportunities over the past year and a plan is coming into the place. You know Continuum already has a NOC (network operations center). Stay tuned for the MSP-friendly SOC.
  • Kaseya: CEO Fred Voccola and his management team have jumpstarted bookings at the MSP software provider. A free PSA migration tool sounds tempting, but I think Kaseya’s best shot in the PSA market will involve MSPs that haven’t standardized on a ticketing system just yet.
  • SolarWinds MSP: Yes, the company has a ticketing system (MSP Manager) that offers some PSA functions. More enhancements are coming but I suspect the bigger near-term opportunity for SolarWinds MSP involves the integration and cross-selling of RMM and BDR (backup and disaster recovery) capabilities.

Bonus — PSA Market Growth: Think the PSA market is saturated or slowing down? I suspect some sectors are now mature but the overall market is still growing rapidly. In fact, the PSA sector should double in size from 2014 through 2022, according to Grand View Research. Perhaps that’s why more than 20 PSA vendors compete in the market…

Note: ChannelE2E is running 2017 technology predictions throughout the month of December 2016. Submit predictions for consideration to Joe@AfterNines.com. Read all daily predictions here.

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