ChannelEyes: Will It Transform the Channel?

By Pedro Pereira  |  Print this article Print

If the 2000 decade was about automation for the IT services channel, the current decade could well be about social media. At least that's what former Autotask CEO and industry visionary Bob Godgart believes. Here's why

If the 2000 decade was about automation for the IT services channel, the current decade could well be about social media.

For many out there, the jury is still out on the effectiveness of social media in a business context. But now that the channel is about to get a dedicated social networking service, some holdouts might have a change of heart.

The service is called ChannelEyes, expected to go live in February. And here’s why I think it has every chance of succeeding:

The man behind ChannelEyes already has helped transformed the channel, so he certainly understands the business.

Like it or not, social media has become fundamental to how we communicate.

Let’s expound on that first reason. The IT channel transformed itself over the past decade into a primarily services-based business, paying far more attention to long-term customer engagements than the deal of the day.

Central to that transformation were two technology advances that allowed IT service providers to engage more tightly with clients and improve service delivery. Those advances were remote monitoring and management (RMM) and professional services automation (PSA), which combined laid the foundation for the emergence of the managed services provider (MSP).

At the genesis of this new era of channel services were several key pioneers, Bob Godgart among them. Formerly the CEO of PSA vendor Autotask, Godgart was one of the visionaries who identified a critical need in the IT channel – automation.

Godgart was fond of using the cobbler’s children analogy: So busy is the cobbler making shoes for everybody else that he never finds the time to make them for his kids.

He rightly saw that solution providers, while deploying automation systems to help customers with accounting, customer service, billing and inventory, typically were either doing the tasks manually in their own shops or using disparate systems cobbled together that didn’t communicate with each other or offer the best performance.

That’s why Autotask, and competitors such as Connectwise and Tigerpaw Software, came into being.

Along the way, as these vendors were assembling legions of channel partners, who use the software to run their own business and integrate it with RMM tools to help run those of their clients, Godgart spotted another area where the channel fell short – vendor communications.

While vendors run portals chockfull of information for partners, distribute email newsletters and engage in mass marketing campaigns, Godgart says solution providers don’t necessarily get the information.

There’s too much of it, and providers can’t keep up.

Godgart aims to change this with ChannelEyes. Once live, ChannelEyes will let vendors initiate discussion threads around their products and services. Partners and prospective partners can join the discussions to learn about the offerings.

Vendors, as well as distributors, other IT suppliers and associations will have the flexibility to tie their information streams to different geographies and sets of target partners.

The basic service will be free, but vendors can pay for "premium feeds" if they want to run video, post photos and manage multiple feeds. This is how ChannelEyes plans to make its money.

While information initially will flow around vendor-initiated threads, Godgart says ChannelEyes eventually also will allow channel partners to create their own discussion threads.

Godgart is careful to point out ChannelEyes is not a replacement for vendor portals, newsletters and email communications. Rather, it is a complementary service through a secure, controlled environment.

When asked if he believes ChannelEyes will have as profound an impact on the channel as PSA software, Godgard didn’t hesitate to say it will be bigger. By facilitating education and communication, ChannelEyes will integrate vendors and partners more tightly, and that should result in higher sales.

Whether he is right remains to be seen. But one thing is sure: If anyone knows how to make a difference in the channel, it’s Godgart.

Pedro Pereira is a columnist for Channel Insider and a freelance writer. He can be reached at pedrocolumn@gmail.com