Meet the ‘New’ Face of ConnectWise LabTech

Brett Cheloff, ConnectWise
Brett Cheloff

When ConnectWise ultimately reorganized its software investments into a single business, the shift moved Brett Cheloff into the driver's seat at LabTech -- the company's RMM (remote monitoring and management) software division.

Cheloff was one of the original LabTech Software developers when that business launched in 2004. He and LabTech co-founder Matt Nachtrab have worked side by side for more than a decade. The RMM business was born from Nemsys, an IT service provider in Ohio. When Nemsys couldn't find the right mix of monitoring tools the company launched LabTech. By 2010, ConnectWise CEO Arnie Bellini arrived to make an investment. And the rest, as they say, is history.

MSP Software's Yin and Yang

Matt Nachtrab

For most of that history, co-founder Matt Nachtrab typically has been the public face of LabTech. The symbiotic relationship between Nachtrab and Cheloff was clear -- and somewhat similar to the classic Steve Jobs-Steve Wozniak relationship. "Matt had the vision, and I had the demos," quips Cheloff, describing their on-stage appearances together at conferences.

Still, I suspect that working relationship has evolved a bit in recent months. Amid the ConnectWise reorganization, Nachtrab moved on from LabTech to focus on ConnectWise's day-to-day operations, and more recently Nachtrab shifted much of his focus to ScreenConnect -- the remote control platform that ConnectWise acquired in February 2015.

Meanwhile, Cheloff has settled into the GM seat at LabTech -- as have the other GMs that now run ConnectWise's various software businesses (ConnectWise, Quosal and ScreenConnect). Cheloff describes each ConnectWise product platform as one lane on a larger highway. Together, the lanes create a highway called ConnectWise Business Suite. "We have to be best of breed in each lane, and the suite has to be the best highway," he says.

The Evolving MSP Software Landscape

Aligning the highways isn't always easy, as portions of the MSP market have discovered. A few examples: Autotask was set to deliver a deeply integrated PSA-RMM platform in February 2016, but it's been delayed until the spring, ChannelE2E has heard. Also, Kaseya quietly spent a year evaluating a potential move beyond RMM into the PSA market before finally unveiling work with Vorex in February 2016. And SolarWinds N-able acquired a small business to gain PSA-oriented capabilities -- more than a decade after N-able first mulled a PSA move involving SugarCRM (which never materialized).

Back at ConnectWise, the GM's for each product meet regularly as a group to "assure everything will align for our partners," says Cheloff. In terms of running the LabTech product line, "It was a pretty easy adjustment for me. And the roadmaps really come together during our GM meetings. LabTech focuses on what we ned to solve in the RMM market, and then we make sure it aligns with the other products."

LabTech has been shifting from a "waterfall" development model to a continuous delivery model. Rivals such as Continuum have long leveraged that continuous monthly approach to new enhancements. But LabTech's shift to continuous delivery required a bit of time because ConnectWise has been piecing together and aligning multiple acquisitions since about 2010. "All of our products are now aligning to an agile software development process," says Cheloff.

ConnectWise LabTech 2016 Priorities

For 2016, ConnectWise is putting a heavy emphasis on core LabTech product enhancements. The efforts involve simplifying the application experience, rewriting the user interface -- and gradually aligning the user interfaces across ConnectWise's products.

"We want to make it easy for technicians to adopt and build expert systems," says Cheloff. "We want to help partners achieve faster speed to resolution and improve the quality of their responses. Most importantly, we want no support defects older than 90 days in our product."

ConnectWise is also watching the IoT (Internet of Things) wave, but trying not to buy into the hype. "This might be controversial but the IoT movement reminds me of the MDM movement." Indeed, mobile device management (MDM) was supposed to be the "next big thing" for MSPs around the 2012 timeframe. But a lot of customers never adopted it.

Still, "IoT intrigues me deeply," says Cheloff. "Anything on the network -- we should be aware of it to monitor and manage it. But we constantly ask ourself, 'Does an MSP need to manage that yet?' We haven't run into MSPs that have run into IoT devices yet. But I can see managing camera systems. Like I said, if it's on the network then RMM needs to be aware of the device."

The ultimate goal? "Now that's pretty clear," says Cheloff. "It's like Arnie always says. We're here to  enable the success for our partners. We want them to consume more of LabTech so that they can make more money. We care so much about their success."

Cheloff will drive home that point during ConnectWise's LabTech Automation Nation 2016 conference in June. As my business partner Amy Katz recently mentioned to me: Cheloff -- rather than Nachtrab -- is set to keynote the conference. More proof that Cheloff is in the driver' seat at LabTech.

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.