Partner reaction to ConnectWise's acquisition has been broadly positive. At IT Nation 2019 in Orlando, FL last week we met with a number of long-standing ConnectWise partners to get their take on the deal.
From security to ROI to 800-pound gorillas, here's what they told us.
Cautious and excited
As ConnectWise starts to integrate Continuum's business into its own, there are myriad factors to be considered: technology, people, leadership, products and so on. Partners told us that they're keen to see how this is going to unfold and how it might impact their business as the merger starts to take hold.
"I'm cautious and excited, probably in that order," Karl Bickmore, CEO of Arizona-based MSP Snap Tech IT, told CPI. "ConnectWise is now instantly a much, much bigger organization, and so my caution is that I'm worried how it's going to filter out on the dev team. I'm worried about potential changes in leadership. And I'm worried what pains we're going to have to go through as things become assimilated."
Bickmore isn't the only one to note the size ConnectWise will become as the merger takes hold.
"ConnectWise has a lot of great things going for them, but they're often seen as though they're becoming more and more that 800-pound gorilla, and while I find that very exciting…their flexibility is becoming less and less," Jake Spanberger, president at Fort Myers, FL-based Entech told CPI.
For partners who may not be so flexible themselves, this may be problematic, Spanberger said, noting that it's not a problem for Entech.
"What does it matter? It's going to happen anyway - whether it's ConnectWise and Continuum or Kaseya and Autotask or whatever the case may be, consolidation is happening and you can either pout about it or you can see it as an advantage and use it to your advantage."
Acquisition chatter has been heavily focused on the security angle Continuum brings to ConnectWise's portfolio, and partners are no exception to that chatter. Angela Butler, manager of professional service operations at San Francisco, CA-based Abacus Group, told CPI that she's keen to watch the security aspect of the acquisition unfold.
"ConnectWise…listens to their partners and what their needs are and based on those needs, they've made business decisions. And one of the business decisions revolves around Continuum, because [ConnectWise] heard their partners say that they needed more of a SOC and more around security. We've been discussing security at the last three ConnectWise IT Nations and, as a partner, I knew something was coming because of the emphasis that they've made on security. And this purchase shows that they're dedicated to the partners and listening to what their needs are," she said.
Raj Goel, CTO of New York City-based Brainlink, is hoping for even more when it comes to ConnectWise's security future.
"With the latest Thoma Bravo offer for Sophos, there's hope that too will be merged into ConnectWise at a later date and ConnectWise will be able to offer a complete stack within the portfolio companies and integration with other vendors," he said.
Butler, like all ConnectWise and Continuum partners no doubt, is "really curious" to see what's going to happen with the products, given the obvious overlaps in some of the technologies.
"It's interesting - because of the different purchases they've made, there are different overlaps in multiple areas, so I'm curious to see how that is going to end. It's going to be really interesting to see what their business plan will look like and the direction they're going to go in. They have a lot of decisions to make based on what products are going to be highlighted and where they're going to put their development money," she said.
Goel is hoping for a merger of "the best of Automate - scripting and Screenconnect - with the best of Continuum - NOC, ATS and so on", as well as ConnectWise Manage being made a premier PSA partner for Continuum.
Bickmore, meanwhile, told CPI that he is thinking about the assimilation of the development that will now "have to happen" and how that will affect product releases.
"I'm wondering about product releases and also how this is going to impact the timing and the feature enhancements in the security fixes that need to be an ongoing, regular thing… That's one of my big concerns - that we will have development malaise as things are being inserted," he said.
Concerns and challenges
Obviously an acquisition of this size brings with it challenges. Partners expressed a variety of concerns to CPI, including financial, practical, personal and philosophical ones.
"It's weird for me to now think of using some of [Continuum's] technology where I've been on the other side of the fence for so long, and so I'm still getting used to the idea that I am going to see Continuum things inside my ConnectWise world," Bickmore told CPI.
The concerns about change are echoed throughout the partner community, with Butler noting that the practical challenges of change will obviously have an effect on ConnectWise's partners.
"It's going to push that change into our environment where we have to make decisions around do we stay as we are? Do we make certain changes? And change is always hard for some people, especially when you've invested in certain products - you've invested your money, your time, your people - and to make that business decision to make that change, is huge," she said.
And while Goel is enthusiastic about the tie-up, which offers strengths to both players where they had been perceived as weaker, he offers concerns about whether partners will ultimately benefit financially from the move.
"I've always felt that ConnectWise's RMM capabilities were a weaker player and ConnectWise never had a real NOC or SOC offering, [so] I think this is a very positive move for the community. ConnectWise has a proven track record in building and improving an amazing set of products and services for the MSP community. What I'm afraid of is the Thoma Bravo enforced rate increases without concomitant increase in ROI for us."
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