Hot on the heels of a major hardware failure that disrupted service for almost 200 of its 2,400 customers, professional service automation (PSA) vendor ConnectWise is launching its second-generation partner collaboration platform. ConnectWise Network 2.0 offers significant new features and enhancements to its partner community of IT service providers, said Jeannine Edwards, Director of the ConnectWise Community.

Available free to ConnectWise customers, it is a matchmaking tool for solution providers to find other Network members in different geographies or with different skill sets. The original features include basic geographic and skills matching, and integration with service ticketing and time/expense tracking.

"It was a very V1 effort," said Edwards. The initial platform was "a little bit clunky" and kind of hard to navigate. So ConnectWise went back to the drawing board, taking recommendations from partners, and coming back with a new and improved version. A beta was launched last month and V2 is now ready to go.

"We made some significant investments from a Web development perspective, updating the GUI, updating the profiling so partners could do some due diligence, extending the ability to search for each, and to find out what other communities you belong to."

The overall objectives of the community and the new platform are to be able to communicate faster, better and more efficiently to other partners, and the essential capability to say yes to customers, whatever their requests, said Edwards. All our partners feel comfortable with a forward-thinking community and they can connect with 2,400 likewise partners "who can allow you to say yes to your customer" and find a solution for the technical problems, she added.

One of the biggest improvements in V2 is the ability to be a lot more granular in describing companies’ capabilities and finding the best possible partner, said Edwards. "Partners can do very detailed descriptions and everything is very searchable." Members can search by keyword, technology and geography. "We’ve really taken the steps to say how do we create a very detailed snapshot of what you can do and also make that snapshot searchable."

The service is available free to existing customers, and as of September 15, all new customers were automatically given access to the network, instead of having to request it. Edwards says the number of partners joining ConnectWise has been growing rapidly. Since last January, the number of organizations adopting the solution has increased 33 percent, and 100 percent since January 2008. Last month was one of the company’s best months ever, with more than 150 new partners signing on.

This further validates what ConnectWise is seeing — and doing — in the professional services market, said Edwards. "I think we’re in a good place. Our partners are telling us that outsourcing remains strong, particularly for people who have adopted a PSA tool."