The ongoing convergence of IT VARs and carrier services agents bodes well for a company such as Tigerpaw Software, particularly as they both embrace the type of professional services automation (PSA) tools Tigerpaw offers to make recurring revenue services models work efficiently.
"They're finding they can't be an MSP without having automation tools," James Foxall, Tigerpaw's president, told CRN in a recent interview. "We don't sell hardware. Our job is to figure out what does our customer want and help them get there. Software is the primary vehicle."
Tigerpaw, Bellevue, Neb., works with roughly 1,200 telecom agents and 1,200 IT solution providers -- many of them converged companies that do both -- and with a range of solution providers specializing in A/V, security, alarm, point-of-sale and other markets. It touts some 35,000 users in 28 countries, and its flagship software integrates with major MSP and remote management offerings such as those from Kaseya, N-able, Level Platforms and Zenith Infotech.
Exploiting IT-telecom services convergence is nothing new to the managed services industry; both of Tigerpaw's major PSA competitors, Autotask and ConnectWise, have cultivated deep presences in the networking channel.
But Foxall said Tigerpaw's deep roots in providing automation and efficiency tools to the telecom space -- the company launched in 1984 with a single DOS-based product -- means that it understands the customer set and its pain points that much better, and has seen enough false starts in that convergence to know a trend from a fad.
""The days of purely telecom are coming to an end," Foxall said. "From the telecom perspective, we had that period where telecoms went out and partnered with IT shops, but then there were a lot of battles over who owned the customer and who owned the network."
Some of that conflict pushed the telecom providers into knowing more about -- and selling more of -- the IT piece of the equation. Around the same time, IT providers began to get hip to managed services and developing annuity-based services streams -- something the cloud computing era is expected to catalyze.
"On the IT side, selling a managed services model is good for them, but it can be hard to explain why, and hard to get them to wrap their heads around it," Foxall said. "I've heard, 'I'm selling phone systems; I don't need to do that.' But that's a big mistake."
As far as channel programs, Tigerpaw offers channel referrals for signing up new customers, but its customer base is effectively the channel itself: telecom agents and resellers, IT VARs, integrators and MSPs looking to automate services, from billing and invoicing on out, and take man-hours and working capital out of various administrative challenges.
In mid-June, Tigerpaw confirmed the release of Tigerpaw 12, the latest update to its PSA software. The company's goal is to continue to fine-tune the platform to get to a point where it's as streamlined and automated as possible, but also maximizes the use of sophisticated customer relationship management and professional services tools, Foxall explained.
Tigerpaw 12 includes such details as the ability to update service orders from a task; to display all service orders assigned to a particular technician as an associated technician on the service orders list view; to rename book items by changing their item ID; to hide inactive reps from drop-down menus in the software; and to merge contacts within Tigerpaw for the same account.
Foxall said many of the updates Tigerpaw makes to the platform are a direct result of customer feedback. Tigerpaw executives and engineers meet regularly with Tigerpaw's Customer Advisory Group, which includes more than 100 companies. Tigerpaw 12 included input from more than 500 user requests, Foxall said.
In addition, three of the major Tigerpaw 12 enhancements came from a live design session at last year's Tigerpaw National Conference -- the company's quickly expanding user community event, which this year, for its third installment, takes place from Sept. 26 to 28 in Chicago. At last year's Dallas event, Tigerpaw hosted 500 customers, and Foxall said it expects to grow that attendance by 10 percent to 15 percent this year.
More enhancements will continue to come, Foxall said. Earlier in June, Tigerpaw launched an expanded version of its application programming interface, furthering how the Tigerpaw platform can tie to third-party applications. Tigerpaw also has seen a lot of interest in the Tigerpaw Business Academy, an online training resource that offers live Webinars, recorded videos and technology certification to Tigerpaw customers.
If the release schedule for Tigerpaw seems slower than in previous years, that's by design, Foxall said.
"Our customers tend to get on a version and stay on it for a little while. We'd started to go a little too fast with updates and users said, 'Hey, it's time to slow down, you don't need to do so much,' " he said. "So we started to go to them and ask, 'What do you all want us to do? Tell us where things could be made more intuitive and where we could reduce clicks.' "
PUBLISHED JULY 5, 2012