ConnectWise’s Next ScreenConnect Moves

Jeff Bishop
Jeff Bishop

Next month marks one year since ConnectWise acquired ScreenConnect, a remote control solution for IT services providers and IT professionals. The first priority since the deal was integrating ScreenConnect into LabTech -- ConnectWise's remote monitoring and management platform. But where is the remote control platform heading next? ChannelE2E gained some insights from GM Jeff Bishop.

First, the big picture: ConnectWise since about 2010 has incrementally acquired and reorganized several IT automation brands to fit under one corporate umbrella. They include:

  • ScreenConnect (based in Raleigh, N.C.)
  • LabTech Software (essentially relocated to ConnectWise's Tampa, Fla., headquarters); and
  • Quosal (based in Seattle, Wash.).

All of the products specifically target IT services providers -- which ConnectWise dubs the IT Nation.

But if you take a closer look, you'll find the ScreenConnect and Quosal brands have upside opportunity in additional vertical markets -- perhaps even outside the traditional IT services markets. The key challenge and opportunity: Focusing on IT service providers first, while potentially exploring blue ocean opportunities elsewhere.

The Start of Something Bigger?

Kent McNall

Just last week, Quosal GM Kent McNall told ChannelE2E about several key forthcoming enhancements to that bolster the quoting and sales proposal software with business intelligence capabilities. And Quosal is navigating growing communities like NetSuite's partner base -- especially amid potential competition vs's newly acquired SteelBrick platform.

In some ways, ScreenConnect is on a similar journey -- striving to align tightly with the overall ConnectWise Business Suite for IT service providers before potentially testing the waters in additional markets.

The ScreenConnect-LabTech integration has been ScreenConnect's "first and foremost" priority -- even before the ScreenConnect team started to identify potential integrations across Quosal, ConnectWise and ChatAssist. By IT Nation 2015 in November, the LabTech integration was in beta test and it's now pushing wide availability. The key goal: Make sure MSPs that run LabTech can fire up a ScreenConnect session and link to a user within two seconds, he says.

By late Q4 2015, ScreenConnect was in good position to really study how to scale its offering while leveraging ConnectWise's resources -- marketing, sales and more.While ScreenConnect development and management essentially remain in Raleigh, the company's marketing and sales resources have grown at ConnectWise's Tampa-based headquarters.

"We started to re-evaluate how we had done things in the past based on a small team of resources," says Bishop. "Of course we'll focus first and foremost on the IT services provider opportunity. But perhaps next we want to put home automation on the table for a look. Actually, nothing was off the table during some meetings in December."

The result? ConnectWise has hired a market strategy company to look at additional market segments that ScreenConnect, for instance, could potentially target. Of course, corporate IT professionals -- long-time consumers of remote control tools -- are potential targets. As is the education market, for instance. "But we're also looking at emerging markets," says Bishop, without revealing what they may entail.

Partners First

ConnectWise Arnie Bellini

The biggest priority for 2016, he adds, involves more polish for the the core IT service provider market. "We are going to sit down with the ConnectWise family and the customer base to really probe and ask: What do you need from us?" says Bishop. He sees the opportunity for LabTech and ScreenConnect to increasingly automate and simplify how service providers deal with backups, passwords, security, HIPAA and PCI compliance, and plenty more.

That journey toward more integration involves a pressing mandate from ConnectWise CEO Arnie Bellini. "The message from Arnie is 'How are we going to make life easier?' That's the point he drove home during our meetings in December."

As part of that journey, ScreenConnect is accelerating its R&D and release cycle. The cycle, Bishop concedes, slowed down a  bit during the M&A process but then got into a real rhythm during Q3 and Q4. Watch for new enhancements to debut about the time of LabTech's Automation Nation 2016 conference as well as ConnectWise's IT Nation 2016 event, he adds.

To drive effective software development, ScreenConnect leverages Agile-based best practices along with Kanban -- a method for managing knowledge work that depends heavily on just-in-time software delivery.

In addition to surfacing at Automation Nation and IT Nation, watch for ScreenConnect to have a presence at other types of conferences -- perhaps security, the Internet of Things, accounting and more. "We'll dabble to see what we can learn in each of those communities. But we won't take our eyes of ConnectWise's core customers," says Bishop.

Indeed, ScreenConnect has upside opportunity in both the IT services and IT Professional markets. But it also faces big, entrenched rivals like Bomgar and LogMeIn in multiple markets. Focus, focus, focus.

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.