MSP, IT management, Content

Building ConnectWise 6.0: The Business Journey So Far

Jason Magee, CEO, ConnectWise
Jason Magee, CEO, ConnectWise

It's been nearly a year since ConnectWise acquired Continuum. Led by CEO Jason Magee and backed by private equity firm Thoma Bravo, ConnectWise remains one of the largest providers of IT management and business automation software designed for MSPs and technology solutions providers (TSPs).

Still, ConnectWise has also been evolving since Thoma Bravo acquired the company in February 2019. The CEO crown shifted from co-founder Arnie Bellini to Magee at the time of the M&A deal. Instead of emulating Bellini's flair for showmanship -- which led ConnectWise to prominence -- Magee has been heads-down executing on ConnectWise's long-term business strategy.

Magee's blueprint includes integrating multiple acquisitions (Continuum, IT Boost, and more), simplifying the software stack for easier partner consumption, and doubling down on the IT Nation community that has fueled so much of the company's success. Perhaps the most critical part of Magee's strategy involves delegation -- that is, depending on a c-suite of executives that blends familiar names with new arrivals.

ConnectWise Timeline: Past, Present, Future

To understand where Magee and the c-suite are striving to take ConnectWise, it's important to understand the company's business journey so far. In ChannelE2E's opinion, the journey has involved six stages so far:

  • ConnectWise 1.0 (1982): This involved the original ConnectWise IT services business. Arnie and brother David Bellini left their accounting careers to move into IT services.
  • ConnectWise 2.0 (1990s-2009): Here, Arnie and David began to build out a software company to help IT service providers automate their businesses.
  • ConnectWise 3.0 (2010-2015): Here, ConnectWise launched an investment arm and pumped money into LabTech (remote monitoring and management software), Quosal (quoting and sales proposal software) and ScreenConnect (remote control; this was a pure buyout). At the time, most of the moves represented software company investments rather than outright acquisitions.
  • ConnectWise 4.0 (2015-2017): By late 2015, ConnectWise reorganized into a single business and shifted to a democraship — the combination of a democracy and a dictatorship. Multiple executives and team members still have a voice at the table. It takes multiple people, of course, to percolate the best ideas. But then it takes a leader — Bellini — to affirm the strategy. At least, that’s how I saw it.
  • ConnectWise 5.0 (2017-2018): ConnectWise quietly got serious about exploring either an IPO or some sort of financial event. At the time, the journey involved adding former Tech Data CEO Steve Raymund and Grant Thornton veteran Stanley Levy to its board of directors.
  • ConnectWise 6.0 (2019-Present): Leadership transitioned from Bellini to Magee and the updated c-suite. Backed by Thoma Bravo, the company has worked to integrate multiple acquired products, harden its software to mitigate risk, simplify the company's software consumption model, and move beyond business software into security.

Admittedly, the business journey has occasionally involved some stumbles and missteps -- while also navigating the coronavirus pandemic. At times, ConnectWise's software and its MSPs have suffered from cybersecurity incidents. At other times, some MSPs have occasionally complained about lagging support levels. And yes, ConnectWise had some job cuts earlier this year -- though the cuts were highly targeted and overstated by some media.

Meanwhile, competition remains intense for all players in the market. Among the names we track:

  • Head-on Rivals: The MSP technology platform industry has largely consolidated around ConnectWise, Datto, Kaseya, and SolarWinds MSP -- though companies like Barracuda and NinjaRMM are also deeply entrenched in multiple MSP software sectors. Multiple financial moves are are likely on the horizon: Datto is pursuing a potential IPO, Kaseya is charting a potential path to IPO, and SolarWinds may spin off that MSP software business.
  • Potential Disruptors: Upstarts like Atera and Syncro have each gained momentum with integrated, cloud-based platforms that span RMM (remote monitoring and management), PSA (professional services automation) and more.
  • Enterprise Options: Plus, enterprise-class IT service management (ITSM) and monitoring tools -- names like ServiceNow, Datadog and dozens of cloud management tools -- have growing MSP adoption rates, especially in the midmarket and above.

ConnectWise Progress Report

Still, ConnectWise isn't standing still. During separate interviews with ChannelE2E over the past year, Magee and many of the c-suite team members described their combined efforts to propel ConnectWise and its partner community forward. Take a closer look and there are multiple signs of progress at the Tampa-based company.

The ChannelE2E meetings and briefings -- some on the record, some off -- included Magee, COO Geoffrey Willison, Chief Product Officer Jeff Bishop, SVP Scott Marshall, CTO Steve Cochran, and Chief Customer Officer Craig Fulton, among others.

Geoffrey Willison, COO, ConnectWise

COO Conversation: Our latest conversation -- with COO Geoffrey Willison -- occurred last week. Willison plays a particularly critical role at ConnectWise. Indeed, he is responsible for "the integration of the ConnectWise and Continuum platforms and for expanding the breadth of products and services available to partners in order to help them grow and fulfill business objectives."

During our conversation, Willison shared some key integration milestones that have already arrived, and some next steps that may surface around the time of the IT Nation Connect 2020 virtual conference in November. Note: We'll publish some specific details from that conversation in the days ahead. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, ConnectWise has taken multiple steps to further lock down its software -- from inception through live production. The latest step involves launching a bug bounty program -- something that the company has quietly worked on since early 2020.

Heading into the home stretch of 2020, Magee has penned a blog thanking partners for their ongoing support. Some of the themes in the blog reflect a conversation Magee and I had in January 2020. At the time, Magee mentioned his desire to get back to basics -- emphasizing that the past, present and future of the company depended on partner success.

ConnectWise: Next Moves

Fast forward to present day. The first IT Nation Secure virtual conference is set for October 14-15. And the IT Nation Connect 2020 virtual conference will surface in November.

Both events represent an opportunity for ConnectWise to share progress reports -- on the product integration front, the service and support front, and on the innovation front. With those areas in mind, ChannelE2E will share more perspectives from Willison and other ConnectWise executives in the days and weeks ahead. And of course, we'll be listening for MSP feedback.

Joe Panettieri

Joe Panettieri is co-founder & editorial director of MSSP Alert and ChannelE2E, the two leading news & analysis sites for managed service providers in the cybersecurity market.