Archive for September, 2011
It seems to be fashionable these days to write “open letters” to corporations–and since I would like to feel that I am “à la mode”, I’ve decided to write one to you, my good friends at Autotask.
First, let’s start with the positive aspects so as not to look like I’m flaming you folks or anything. I am very grateful to Autotask for quite a few things. FAR has been a faithful Autotask-based organization for well over six years and I am thankful for the incredible offering you folks have built and continue to improve upon with each and every release. As a cloud-based professional services automation solution, you were “cloud” before it was cool. The vision that Bob Godgart and his team had from day one–and the passion in sticking to the plan–has paid back dividends to the company, it’s investors and, most importantly (from my perspective), to its customers. I am also thankful for receiving the Autotask MVP designation. It is nice to be recognized and, yes the “bling” on the awards’ mantle makes for a great discussion.
So now that we’ve gotten the positive points out of the way, here’s the issue I really want to bring up with you: with Jay McBain leaving Autotask, who is my LEADER? A bit of context to this question is definitely necessary. When Bob Godgart resigned from active duties as CEO of Autotask, he did a fantastic job transitioning day-to-day functions to his replacement, Mark Cattini. He also passed the torch of the Community leadership, the “partner face” of Autotask to Jay McBain. Bob said that he actively pursued Jay to take over this function to energize the Autotask CommunITy; to be our tribal leader. That collaborative group is a very active one–any doubts can be quickly dispelled by logging on to the site and seeing the number of contributing members and the quantity of threads/discussions taking place each day. We are energetic, vocal, knowledgeable and critical to the success of Autotask–not just because we pay a monthly fee, but because the members feed your product funnel. The Autotask CommunITy finds the bugs and makes feature requests, providing the gravel and sandstone for your roadmap.
Right now, we’re leaderless. The concern isn’t so much about being left without a “go-to guy,”, but the personal disappointment about how this entire situation came about. How did the Autotask MVPs, group leaders, and all your other clients find out about Jay’s departure? From a leaked internal memo, published by the MSPmentor editor Joe Panettieri. What followed after that was an absolute social media feeding frenzy, with everyone and their uncle (including myself obviously) writing blogs, news articles, tweets, and other commentary.–All are speculating about what seems to be the most important thing on people’s minds right now: WHERE IS JAY GOING? Of course, being a master of social media manipulation, Jay has been stoking the fire by re-tweeting posting quotes and Facebooking anything and everything that mentions Jay McBain. Considering where Jay IS going (and yes I do know where he is going), I am impressed with the ingenious use of social media to make sure that his name stays top of mind. He’s going to need us.
Enough about Jay–back to the real point of this post–and that is, why have we, the Autotask CommunITy been left with a leadership vacuum, a tribe of energized and active customers with no chief, to stoke the fire and keep it crackling? Why was the On Tour series created, booked and advertised; only to have the real driver of these events not show up? Jay asked me to provide the customer presentation for the Toronto event but, when I recently messaged him to ask if he was still planning on attending the event, his response was “no.” That does not paint a good picture pertaining to leadership continuity or commitment to the Autotask CommunITy that you so carefully and painstakingly cultivated from scratch. Its one thing to build a 30,000+ strong customer base, but it’s another thing to build and maintain an active ecosystem of customers.
Unlike most open letters that just whine and complain, allow me to offer a few suggestions that might help improve the situation and make us all feel that you are truly committed to the success of the Autotask CommunITy.
Empower and nurture your group leaders
You have a number of dynamic, entrepreneurial and energized group leaders that take time out of their busy schedules—and most importantly, time from running their BUSINESS—to plan, coordinate, and execute group meeting in their respective areas. Why don’t you empower them even further within the Autotask CommunITy ecosystem? Give them the ability to lead their respective groups, both at meetings and online. Compensate them for the time they will have to spend encouraging, coaching and mentoring their micro-tribe. Spread out the responsibility of energizing and mobilizing the 30,000+ customers and maintaining the stickiness.
Invest and capitalize on your MVPs
So you gave us a nice trophy, fired off a press release, and gave us reserved front row seats at Autotask CommunITy Live 2011. Thank you–that was a nice gesture. Now, turn around and make us sweat to keep the title. Empower us so the MVP status actually means something. Use our creative and leadership qualities to drive the company and customer experience to new heights. Make it worth our time and effort—there’s nothing illicit or sleazy about that. Inviting us all to Las Vegas is nice, giving us a preview of the roadmap is great, but that’s not a deep enough commitment; not for us or for Autotask.
Turn the lights back on
If the lights stay out much longer, people are going to look for other sources of illumination. Right now, we’re all in the dark; reading rumours, tidbits, tweets and blogs. By now they’re pretty much just regurgitating the little that we already know. Come out and officially tell us a few things like who’s taking over for Jay, who will lead the On Tour campaign and, most importantly, where Autotask CommunITy Live 2012 will be held! Your executive team needs to step up and communicate with the CommunITy at large, and with the group leaders and MVPs in particular. Don’t let the rumour mill be the source of this kind of information. It’s time to turn on the lights and make things clear and transparent.
In summary, let me once again thank Autotask for the excellent solution you’ve given us. You’re system is the nuts and bolts of my business, and I am committed to continuing to use it and support your growth as much as I can. If I didn’t care, I wouldn’t have bothered writing this long letter and expressing the concerns many of your other customers are experiencing.
No business owner wants to be considered “average.” At least you shouldn’t want to be paying an “average” company to provide products or services to your organization. Just like your business, making continual improvements and challenging your team to perform at the top of their skill set is crucial to keeping pace with competitors. Those tasks are also important to ensure your company’s success, both from a short and long-term aspect.
That philosophy is no different when it comes to IT services. What customer would willingly trust their crucial business systems to an organization that wasn’t continually improving their performance—especially when they would pay the same amount to contract with a competitor that was?
At FAR, we work hard to stay ahead of the curve, creating innovative solutions for our clients and focusing on ways to improve our customer service. Our comprehensive portfolio includes the latest technologies to help you address all your business needs, including unified communications and innovative backup/disaster recovery solutions. While the research and development (as well as the extensive training) required to introduce a new service can be challenging, the result is well worth the effort.
But what does “service” really mean? The term is much too vague. Just check the Merriam-Webster dictionary definition, which describes service as “useful labour that does not produce a tangible commodity.” This rather vague portrayal does not distinguish a hard-working (though minimally trained) teen raking leaves from the highly skilled and certified professional who manages complex IT systems. Few seem to understand the level of commitment, education and preparation required to support some of the most advance systems used in today’s business. That’s not to disparage the hard work provided by those in other industries, but to emphasize the differences in the term.
With that in mind, FAR is about to change the definition of “service”– at least from an IT managed services perspective. Today (September 1, 2011) we are proud to announce our partnership with Live Virtual Help Desk (LiveVHD) to expand our customer support capabilities. The Victoria, BC-based IT help desk organization will become an extension of FAR, allowing us to expand the services we offer.
What additional cost will our customers pay for this enhancement? ZERO. That’s correct–more support capabilities with no increased cost! What a concept.
What does the LiveVHD relationship allow FAR to do for our clients? The all Canada-based IT experts will handle our technical support calls and tickets, manning the controls 24 hours a day 365 days a year. Our support staff will be monitor systems and take care of your onsite needs, connected to LiveVHD through a professional services automation system called Autotask. This will give the FAR team the time and manpower to enhance the other services we provide our customers, ensuring we continue our reputation as THE premier Managed Services Provider in Ottawa.
How does this relationship help our business clients? It will allow us to provide instantaneous access to a technical resource, someone who fully understands corporate, technology systems, and other specific needs. LiveVHD can resolve most issues remotely and can escalate a service ticket to our team anytime an on-site visit is needed–a seamless, behind the scenes process that ensures full business continuity.
The end result is we get to spend more QUALITY time with our clients. We’ll focus on current business systems, ensuring that superior performance is maintained at all times, and meet with each customer to discuss how we can improve to help them achieve long-term organizational goals. We’ll spend even more time researching new technologies, uncovering issues and opportunities facing the industries we support, and understanding how it will impact our clients.
FAR can help YOU design a winning game plan and brainstorm ideas to help improve your company’s competitive position. We’re raising the bar in managed services and our clients will benefit from this new relationship.
As of September 1, 2011, service has been redefined. Give us a call and you’ll find out how IT managed services are our focus and we’re ready (more than ever) to assist you.