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ConnectWise 5.0 And Five IT Nation 2017 Surprises

David Bellini
David Bellini
ConnectWise CEO Arnie Bellini

As ConnectWise prepares to kick off IT Nation 2017 on Wednesday, it's time to pull back the curtain just a little bit and predict what the business management software company has in store for IT solutions providers and MSPs.

Before I get into the predictions, it's important to understand how ConnectWise's business has evolved over the years. From my vantage point, the company stages or "versions" have included:

  • ConnectWise 1.0 (1982): This involved the original ConnectWise IT services business launched more than three decades ago. 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). While the suite concept was powerful, I sense that ConnectWise and its sister companies acted much like a democracy during this stage of the far-flung organizations. Multiple executives were at the table, sometimes debating like Congress about where to head next. At times, I suspect building consensus was challenging.
  • ConnectWise 4.0 (2015): 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 and Beyond): Arnie and David Bellini still run the company. But some faces around them have changed. Former executive team members like Matt Nachtrab and Adam Slutskin have moved on to eFolder's c-suite. There have also been some gradual changes on ConnectWise's community and financial teams. But let's not get overly dramatic. People come and go in all companies. The moves I'm watching most closely involve ConnectWise's board -- where two company outsiders now have influential seats at the table. Indeed, the company recently added former Tech Data CEO Steve Raymund and Grant Thornton veteran Stanley Levy to its board of directors.

IT Nation 2017: Five Predictions

Now that you're caught up here are five predictions for this year's conference...

ConnectWise Board Member Steve Raymund

1. ConnectWise will announce an IPO or private equity deal: Actually, I'm just kidding on both items. Here's why: ConnectWise generates $1 million in free cash flow per month. Heck, there's even a rumor that the IRS owes ConnectWise some money following a recent audit. Poke around the financials and the company can afford to do tuck-in acquisitions on its own. CEO Arnie Bellini is leaning toward organic R&D these days, most of the chatter suggests. But if something truly intriguing comes along on the acquisition front, ConnectWise has "speed dial" access to a range of financial resources that could help line up financing for a larger M&A deal. Just to reiterate: I'm not suggesting a large deal is coming. But tuck-ins? Certainly possible.

Patrick Lencioni
ConnectWise VP Arlin Sorensen

2. Big Themes -- Teams and Team Building: I'm obsessed with the entrepreneur's journey. It's the reason we launched ChannelE2E. I tend to focus on the five stages of business. Industry peers like HTG's Arlin Sorensen boil it down to four stages of business.

Amid that journey, many entrepreneurs get caught up in a "do it all myself" mindset. Arnie Bellini wants to inspire an industry reset. True IT solutions provider success, he asserts, requires repeatable and scalable team building. Keynote speaker Patrick Lencioni, founder and president of The Table Group, will drive home that teamwork theme during his Nov. 10th keynote.

2. ConnectWise Will Go Deeper Into Security: This one I can essentially guarantee. Already, Arctic Wolf Networks has integrated its Security Operations Center (SOC) platform with ConnectWise. And earlier, ChannelE2E outlined more security-related ConnectWise moves in May 2017. And we should see some clear milestones and relationships at IT Nation 2017. I'm not sure if or when it will arrive, but keep an eye on ConnectWise CloudConsole's potential role in the security market.

3. Big Vendors Will Get Involved: Enterprise-class IT vendors often overlook the MSP-centric SMB market. But some giants will be on hand at IT Nation. For instance, Cisco Systems, IBM and Microsoft each will have a major presence at the event, the conference site confirms. In some ways, these relationships aren't new. Rewind to September 2016. At the time, ConnectWise was opening its arms to Cisco VARs. Fast forward to last week's Cisco Partner Summit 2017 in Dallas, and the ConnectWise Unite with Cisco console for MSPs emerged...

4. Bigger Things in Smaller Packages: Let's face it. Business management software from any company can get complex. But take a look at ConnectWise CloudConsole Standalone for some clues on how the company is evolving its software development strategy. Micro... serv...

Gary Pica, CEO, TruMethods
Service Leadership Inc. CEO Paul Dippell

5. Profitable Talk: More than anything else, IT Nation attracts a crowd because of networking and business development opportunities. Attendees are obsessed with sessions about profit margins, EBITDA targets, and MSP pricing. Familiar names like Service Leadership's Paul Dippell and TruMethods' Gary Pica will attract their usual crowds. Their practical advice on profit building is impossible to ignore.

6. Oh and One More Thing: Of course, we expect plenty of surprises at the conference. Mum's the word for now. If you've got news to share please email me: [email protected].

See you at the show.

PS: This blog was first published in October 2017 and updated on November 7 with the latest conference preview information.

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.