Thu, 17 July 2014
With close links to some of the worlds most prestigeous IT vendors, the Network Group has been able to leverage its buying power to benefit its members - IT businesses - and their clients.
In this interview Richard talks with Phylip Morgan, Managing Director of the Network Group and discusses its origins, its membership and its goals for the future.
Details of the Network Group can be found at http://www.nbg.co.uk
Fri, 11 July 2014
Richard gives his thoughts on all the news from Autotask Community Live 2014 in Miami and interviews 3 of the top MSP tool Vendors at #ACL2014
Interview with Phill Claxton of Desk Director
Richard Tubb: I’m here with Phill Claxton, the co-founder of Desk Director. How are you doing Phil?
Phill Claxton: Very good thank you very good. It’s nice to be talking with you.
Richard: You’re welcome. What does Desk Director do and how do they help the IT businesses?
Phill: It serves as a client experience platform. Really what that is, is a client portal. A portal for your clients to use to be able to view and access tickets. Really it’s been designed as a way to help you differentiate yourself in the marketplace by making it very easy to communicate with clients and deliver services that they value. Make it very easy to work with you.
Also we have a staff heads up display which is somewhat similar in its concept but it’s all about bringing all the information, your team together into one place where they can effectively work while they’re working a ticket. They can access other information at the time, speed up their process.
The two would harmoniously allowing things like presence. Your team while they’re making working a ticket would know whether the client is out of the desk at the moment obviously has benefits of knowing particularly if that ticket requires them to work with them or give them a call whatever. It’s going to be very handy to know that they’re actually sitting on their desk.
Predominantly and squarely around the client experience that’s a big place for us. We think not enough service providers focus on improving the client experience. Very operationally focused and that’s a big trend we’re seeing.
Richard: I’d have to agree with you so the clients that you’ve got using Desk Director at the moment what type of MSPs or what type of IT solution providers are they?
Phill: They’re predominantly what you would call MSPs and they range really anywhere from one to two men shops if you’d like right up to our largest of up to 250 staff. So really the whole gamete of what you would call MSPs, traditionally MSPs they’re providing outsourced IT service to their clients and using Desk Director as a way to differentiate that and make it easier for their clients to work with them.
Richard: The feedback you’re getting from MSPs that have implemented Desk Director, what impact has it had on their business and their relationship with their clients?
Phill: Sure absolutely. The feedback really is in line with what we were hoping. I’m supposed it’s worth mentioning that we are an MSP as well. It was born out of a need so we developed Desk Director for our own purposes and taking to market. The feedbacks from their clients at least is that it’s something that they kind of have been hoping for, for awhile.
They’re also seeing it’s just a nice, elegant way for them to be able to communicate and work with the MSP. And deliver a level of value what they’re seeing from that. A lot of our clients use it in new business work as well.
In fact that’s one of the big growth areas that they’ll use it while they’re out talking to perspective clients and present this at the way that they’re different. Something that you will get as a by-product of working with them as a provider. And something that they can use to better communicate with them but also provide them training, and learning and that sort of thing.
Which is a different kind of conversation from what we traditionally see.
Richard: So you’re saying Desk Director gives MSPs a competitive advantage over-
Phill: Absolutely. A big part of our decision internally when we originally wanted to crate Desk Director for our own purposes was about that we kind of set back and analyzed what we were doing and very critically realized we really didn’t present all that different to other providers in our marketplace.
We weren’t exactly making it very easy for our clients to decide on which provider they would go with. And notably our clients are getting more savvy as time goes on but they still don’t always understand what an IT service provider does for them.
We as an MSP present often this flat fee, this fixed fee to manage their IT environment but they don’t always understand what value they get from it. So we were looking for something that they could see, touch, and feel. That’s quantifiable with the value that they would get. That’s where it comes from.
Richard: Until that point, practically what does it look like for an MSP to deploy this and how do end users what do you they see?
Phill: Sure. The product is an application that they deploy. That brings itself some benefits but it deploys using the RMM products they have so an MSP would brand it for a start and then deploy it after their clients using RMMs like Continuum and [0:04:36] and the like.
Then it would appear on the client’s machine, runs in the system tray, it appears branded. The important thing is we want to make a tool that they can present as theirs. And so then when the client wants to access tickets, training material, quotes, all those sorts of thing that we deliver, they just simply get a tray. Easy to use application that’s set on their machine.
We have integration with active directory so the big drive for us also is to make it much easier for them to get into it. To help you drive adoption, the important thing to make it easy for the clients to use.
They’ll deploy it that way, it’s very simple to install and can be deployed on mass very fast. Similar thing on the MSP side the heads up display is an application as well. We purposely built it as an application because as an application we are a lot more aware of what we call context.
We can make the MSP aware of things like the machine the person sat at which with a web page is never going to be able to do. Equally we can integrate with active directory a web page can’t easily do.
Richard: There’s been a lot of announcements from vendors recently. A lot of interesting news going on in the MSP market. What’s new in Desk Director?
Phill: The newest thing at Desk Director for us we’ve built an integration with an online form provider called Wufoo. What that means for our MSP clients is that they can now present their client’s forms. What that really means is that a common challenge that we were hearing a lot from your partners is that it was great that the clients could much easily log tickets.
The challenge was they often had things like new user requests, change requests. Often the information they got back from a client wasn’t enough for them to effectively solve the problem or effectively make the change. Now with forms it means that you can present kind of a form for them to populate, very easy for them to work through.
You as the service provider can collect all the information that you need to effectively solve the problem. So really decreasing the back and forth that often happened. We’re seeing our partners use it for those purposes. Other ways to really innovate in the service delivery they’ll use it for things like on boarding.
New client comes on board they need to collect pieces of information from them during that on boarding process a form is a perfect way to do it. And by delivering it through Desk Director that’s a pretty easy thing for them to do. We’re iterating in the area of our learning center and making it easy to integrate with other products has been some of the key areas that have changed for us recently. Kind of a pretty active roadmap into the next six to 12 months.
Particularly driven around things like mobile, Mac, areas that a lot of things are coming back from feedback from our partners that they’d love to see in the product.
Richard: You mentioned some integrations earlier on with RMM tools and active directory which PSA do you integrate with?
Phill: Well currently we’re actually excited to announce that we now integrate with Auto task. Previously we connect wise only so very happy to be in the auto task community now. It’s connect wise and auto task for the moment at least.
With a desire going forward to look at others but very, very happy to be focused on those two communities.
Richard: Thanks for your time today Phill. I really appreacite it. If anybody listening to this wants to reach out to Desk Director how do you go about it?
Phill: Well certainly website’s a key place to go deskdirector.com. They’re welcome to email me individually as well I’m email@example.com. I’m more than happy to take emails from them, very happy to share information around Desk Director and happy to get on a call and do a demonstration if they want to know more.
Richard: Wonderful. Phill thanks for your time.
Phill: Thank you.
Interview with Dima Kumets of OpenDNS
Richard: So I’m here with Dima Kumets, you are the Senior Product Manager at OpenDNS. What does OpenDNS and how do they help IT companies?
Dima: Great talking to you Richard. OpenDNS is a cloud security provider. What that means is that we really rely on big data threat intelligence looking at the internet as a whole. For managed service providers we’re able to provide an additional layer of protection to catch all of the zero data threats, all the margining threats and all the other things that you really can’t get with signature based protection such as antivirus and firewall.
We’re really the guys trying to predict the threats and block them before they become a problem.
Richard: And what does that look like in practice for an IT company? How do they utilize OpenDNS to help keep their clients safe?
Dima: Excellent question. In terms of practitioner really we focus on user experience and making it seamless and easy. The deployment is as simple as pointing DNS to us and giving stuff like IP or deploying an agent. From that point it’s very simple controls so our standard security policy is the one that’s typically in use.
Block drive by downloads, advanced threats, bottom that’s all of those things. Really then manage the customization of the service such as making the block gauge well to your users. Putting your logo up making sure that the end user understands that this isn’t just something random on the web. That this is their IT provider saying whoa, you’ve just gone to a bad site on the internet and I’m protecting you.
This is for your own good and here’s how you tell me if you want to challenge that. I’m working with you as opposed to against you.
Richard: Got it. What type of impact does your service have for MSPs who are looking to increase their recurring revenue? Is this a service that they sell to clients or is it for them to reduce the cost of their support?
Dima: You know it varies, it really does. What I’ve seen from our top performing partners is they basically include the security aspect of the service to reduce their ongoing cost. And looking at the service boards and the hours logged by our partners we see 50 to 80% drop off, sometimes 90% drop off in terms of the number of hours they spend remediating. Whether it’s formatting or trying to restore systems from back up, or simply hunting down that piece of malware that keeps popping up.
The way that they can make money is with our service is very simple in terms of licensing. We include everything for our partners so they can add on granular web filtering by granular I mean the CEO gets to go wherever they want and the rank and file are restricted.
Or what’s becoming more common in this day is a co-branded reporting dashboard that they can expose to their end customers so they can monitor what employees are doign without actually doing filtering. The power of that is everybody has got a smart phone in their pocket with a 4G connection, you want to make sure your employees are productive by management as opposed to trying to solve everything through technology.
Richard: Got it. We’re here in beautiful Miami at the Auto Task community live it’s very hot for a Brit like me at the moment. But there’s lots of vendor announcements going on in the conference. What’s new at OpenDNS?
Dima; Well I’m very excited to announce our auto task integration at this conference and what better place to do it right. The auto product management which means I talk to our partners constantly, I’m looking for how do we make their experience with our product better.
The thing they’ve always said to me is I want tickets within my PSA. I don’t want to have to look in your system for alerts. Earlier I mentioned prevention and containment. If we’ve just done our job and prevented an infection taking place we’ll log that and then install that in product in auto task now so you can talk to customers and show value.
On the other hand if we’re containing something. Say crypto locker comes in via an email or some other way, we’re containing it so it can’t get the encryption key. But the IT professional, the service provider still has to do something. We’ll create the ticket and what’s elegant about this is rather than bombarding them with alerts we’ll just continue to update the ticket if the infection persists or if they continue to need to get additional data.
Richard: Got it, cool. Well thanks for your time today Dima. I appreciate it. If anybody listening wants to find out more about OpenDNS and get in touch with you how would they go about it?
Dima: Thank you so much Richard, if you want to find out more go to OpenDNS.com or feel free to me firstname.lastname@example.org
Richard: Wonderful Dima, thanks for your time.
Dima: Thank you Richard.
Interview with Eric Dosal of BrightGauge
Richard: I’m here with Eric Dosal who is the CEO and co-founder for BrightGauge how are you doing Eric?
Eric: I’m doing very well, happy to be here.
Richard: You’re welcome. So for those listeners who don’t know what BrightGauge do, who are BrightGauge and how do they help IT businesses?
Eric: BrightGauge is a business intelligence platform and we cater 100% to the managed service and IT service market. We help our customers visualize their data, bringing it in from different data sources that our typical IT service provider uses and just makes sense of their data so they can make better business decisions a lot faster.
Richard: What does the tool look like in practice? How is it deployed, what does it integrate?
Eric: There’s a couple of key areas that we’d like to talk to our customers about, number one is being able to pull in your data which a lot of our customers have a struggle with. The data’s in different silos how do I bring it into one location? Then to be able to customize it, and then to be able to consume it.
And the entire process is all web based so we’re a hosted solution. We pull in your data and it gives you the ability to really customize how you want to see it, and then you can consume it whether it’s on a report or if you want to consume it on a dashboard to us it doesn’t matter. It’s your data however you want to do it.
Richard: So where would that data be pulled from? RMM tools, PSA tools what types of areas?
Eric: Right now our focus is on RMM and PSA tools. Later on this year we’ll be announcing new integrations of financial packages. In August of 2014 we’re actually going to do a release where any single database you can pull in that data. We’re really just opening up so you can pull in whatever you want to see, however you want to see it, whenever you want.
Richard: Now I’ve seen a lot of the dashboards, they’re not static dashboards are they? A lot of them you can click on and drill into things.
Eric: So dashboards is really hot right now. Everybody’s talking about them, all the vendors are deploying them. We see them as great for us for awareness building. The dashboard, ours, allow you to bring in multiple data sources but then you can put them up on a TV screen, they refresh pretty rapidly so you get a lot more flexibility and customabilty.
Again you pull it into one location so it’s not just an in app view it’s all your data. Then you can see it on whatever device you want.
Richard; Give me some examples of some of the data that BrightGauge customers display on their dashboards?
Eric: Majority of the customers we work with are all around service related metrics. How can they improve their efficiency? At the end of the day if you’re looking at your PNL the largest cost is associated with your people.
How do I make them more efficient? Typical information they’re looking for is my team billable or not and what percentage is that? How can I improve that?
The tickets that my customers are bringing in like they talk about it like today about the customer experience being very important are we responding fast enough? How are we doing with our customer satisfaction surveys? Those tend to be the highest on the PSA side.
On the RMM it’s really just the monetary. Any server is down, when was the last time the server was down, patch management. High level things that could potentially cause an issue for your customers and then that just requires you to spend more time servicing them versus keeping it more simple.
Richard: What does a typical BrightGauge client look like in terms of an MSP? My gut feeling is only MSPs of a certain outlook who start to actually drill into figures and manage based on metrics.
Eric: The typical MSP that we work with I would say the makeup is 10 employees on the low end, and it will go up to several 100 employees. What we’re refining is the smaller MSPs, the single digits: three, four, five employees.
They’re saying we’re running around kind of like a chicken with their head cut off either they read something that I need to start looking at my data. I started putting up regular PNLs I’m trying to improved things. We’re starting to get more interest.
We’ve put together the packages for those companies to try to help them so that it’s not just hey it’s too expensive I’ll get to you when I get to a certain size. The majority of the folks we deal with tend to be service related or owners.
A lot of owners for a typical MSP owner is a technical person so they like the fact that they can get customized with their data. The biggest bang again is really around the service metrics. We’ve released about three months ago sales metrics and those are taking a little bit longer to kind of get adopted because the sales team isn’t used to using those techie tools.
The owners are more technical focused so they want service operations. We’re starting to see some traction in that area as well.
Richard: What does the implementation of BrightGauge look like? Obviously it’s very, very powerful but most of us myself included when we look at dashboards with figures it’s like okay this looks pretty bar, you haven’t got an idea where to start. What does an implementation look like?
Eric: Implementation actually is quite easy and that’s one of our kind of differentiators from some of the larger players. What it basically takes is if you’re connected to a hosted solution it’s put in the API credentials. If you’re on non premise load an agent that reads the data that we need.
Everything communicates to our data center, we crunch the numbers for you, we publish them out to you. The nice thing is, is we give you a jumpstart with about 10 to 15 template reports and about 50 to 70 depending on the integration, gauges, which are those visuals that you look at so you can kind of get started with them.
Use our templates or you can just clone, tweak the ones you want. We also have a team that’s dedicated to implementation and that gives them the opportunity to really help our customers.
Richard: Cool. Now we’re in beautiful Miami at the moment it’s very hot for a Brit like me. There’s been lots of enhancement from vendors over the last couple of days at Auto Task Community live. What’s new in the BrightGauge world?
Eric: What’s new in BrightGauge is really specifically around the auto task and comm live world is we release a bunch of new auto task gauges and visuals. Several of them around auto task sales where people are looking at hey what is my pipeline? I want to start planning resources those types of things.
We’re also talking with a lot of our customers, our community because we’re just a couple of weeks away from our next release which is our 4.0 which will include being able to connect to any sequel agent, any single database. Being able to do CSV, or excel uploads.
That’s really been kind of the focus that we’ve been talking to our partners. The other thing about our next release is we’re introducing the ability to do advanced calculations and layering. If I want to see utilization, or I want to see company and revenue, as well as tickets together you can very easily do that with our next release.
Richard: And for those listeners who don’t know who Eric Dosal is, what is your background and what was the motivation for building BrightGauge in the first place?
Eric: I started an MSP out of our family business in 2004 along with my brother who is the c-founder of BrightGauge. We ran that up until 2012 which when we sold the company to Konica Minolta.
But in 2010 what w were finding is we couldn’t do reporting for our customers so Frankie started to solve our own internal, kind of scratching our own itch. We had data in silos, we needed to report to the customers, everyone’s listening to this has probably dealt with it.
I got PDFs, I got excel files, how do I put it together to make it pretty? We built the software for ourselves internally to just integrate with two softwares and we able to send out the report to our customers. That we showed to our peer group, they liked it, we commercialized it and from there we kind of launched it.
We’ve been in the MSP industry since ’04. My father started a technology company in 1980 so technology is kind of in our blood and we love this industry.
Richard: Thanks for your time today Eric. If anybody listening wants to get in touch with you or find out more about BrightGauge where would they go?
Richard: Fantastic, thanks for your time Eric.
Eric: Thank you.