Channel Marker

Mar 19 2010   9:32PM GMT

Have you automated your professional services biz yet?

Heather Clancy Heather Clancy Profile: Heather Clancy

Is it me or is there a heck of a lot of activity going around in the professional services automation (PSA) world right now? I’ve always been intrigued by these applications, because of the discipline and process that they can bring to a solution providers day-to-day operations.

Right now, I’m watching two of the platform vendors in particular: Autotask and ConnectWise.

To me, it’s really interesting that two of the most important partner service alliance networks in the industry today – the HTG Peer Groups, small groups representing 260 technology solution providers focused on improving operational excellence,  and 1nService, a network of technology integrators that represents roughly $1.5 billion in revenue — have placed big bets on this technology. Here are just a couple of recent examples:

1. Back toward the end of 2009, 1nService announced it will work with Autotask to create a new centralized engagement desk and system to manage opportunities that are flowing back and forth between the member companies. The two organizations describe the relationship as the “foundation for 1nService’s collaborative community.”

The platform is being integrated with a new knowledge search engine, built on technology created by Neuron Global, called 411nService, that lets 1nService members identify members within the network who might be able to handle certain services needs. When I spoke with 1nService CEO Paul Cronin about the search engine a few weeks back, he said it was scheduled to go live in April. Here’s what he had to say:

“Because we are rapidly expanding our presence throughout the globe, and adding new members 1nService continues to build on the process, tools and people to facilitate commerce quickly and with trust.”

Fact is, as 1nService gets bigger it’s impossible to know EVERYONE, so tools like this can save a lot of wasted time.

The other thing that makes this even more interesting is Autotask’s acquisition this week of VARStreet, which powers various electronic catalog tools on behalf of IT solution providers, including Emtec, Pomeroy IT and Zebra Technologies. Its e-commerce module should be embedded into Autotask’s platform by late April, according to a press release issued about the acquisition. You’ll be able to build an e-storefront for $299 per month.

2. The ConnectWise relationship with HTG Groups is equally compelling. Most recently, the two announced that they are building a bridge between the HTG content management system and the ConnectWise PSA platform. Although this particular effort is mainly an administrative one — meant to better synchronize member information between HTG Peer Groups and ConnectWise — it is noteworthy because ConnectWise has become a platform widely used used by HTG Peer Group members. ConnectWise was originally developed by a VAR seeking to bring better operational excellence to its business, and many of its evolving new features, applications and templates are being contributed by members of the solution provider community.

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