Autotask Stays Relevant with Monthly SAAS Updates

By John Hazard  |  Posted 2006-10-17 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Autotask keeps its business management platform for VARs and MSPs fresh by pushing out a significant update every month.

Autotask, makers of a business management platform for IT service providers, keeps users engaged with its product and on the edge of their seats by pushing out monthly updates of its software, according to users.

In April the company introduced support for live reports for managed services accounts. In May, it rolled out support for recurring contracts. Autotask Extend, which connected ASPs to a catalog of applications, debuted in June. And so on.

The monthly releases enable the software maker to bring immediate and useable business value to users as they need it and will become the dominant delivery model for software as SAAS (software as a service) becomes the standard, replacing annual updates, said Bob Godgart, founder and CEO of the Rensselaer, N.Y., company.

"We're trying to get technology out as fast as [users] need it," Godgart said. "The market moves fast and their businesses move fast. They don't want to wait six months for a CD release to respond to it … It increases the importance of the product in helping them do their job better, and that drives adoption."

In October, Autotask is launching MSP Asset Discovery and Device integration for a pair of MSP Network Monitoring applications, N-able and LPI Managed Workplace and Autotask Mobile, to run the platform on a mobile device.

The strategy is likely to work best for BPO (business process optimization) companies like Autotask, whose customers, once accustomed to having tools under their belt, want more and need more as market forces change. Most manufacturers exploring the more frequent update strategy are in the BPO space. Salesforce.com and SAP release quarterly updates to their hosted CRM (customer relationship management) solutions, although only Salesforce.com does it on a regular schedule.

The traditional release schedule leaves users feeling underserved, said James Maiocco, CEO of Klir Technologies, an SAAS IT Analytics platform builder that practices frequent updates.

"Not releasing often enough (annually or longer) does not give users the confidence that they are truly benefiting from innovative, ongoing development efforts to consistently improve product," Maiocco said. "A long release schedule may give users the perception that they have purchased enterprise software… (it is) unresponsive to market demands, or worse yet, an investment in technologies that are outdated."

The strategy risks alienating users if updates are disruptive, unexpected or pointless, Maiocco and Godgart said.

Both companies ensure that updates are timed to market need. Godgart initiated Autotask Mobile early this summer after data and observation indicated use of mobile devices was hitting a stride.

Each month Autotask pushes out a release to its users, who log in on the release date to find release notes and an instructional video.

The software maker runs four rolling development teams who work on three- to four-month projects. Design teams spend a month storyboarding an enhancement, studying the use case, workflow, server requirements and so on before architects begin work on the update. Each update typically spends a month on staging servers before the live servers are swapped in and the process begins anew.

The process effectively changes the way users adopt software and increases the rates at which they do, said Matt Tankersly, president of TANK Technologies, an Autotask client in Pflugerville, Texas. Users integrated Autotask's Autotask Extend with more than 400 applications within 60 days.

"In the old environment, you got a CD in the mail with dozens of updates and you might not touch it for six months," Tankersly said. "Then your tech might download this feature or that, but not everything. Here, you open the system and once a month you see a new feature, probably one you're seeing a need for, and you can digest it. The old way was a pull, not a push. This effectively pushes the technology out into the market.

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