Pia CEO On The Power Of Automation, Balancing Two Companies And AI’s Future

‘What I really hope in 12 months is that the MSP industry sees that there's a new way to operate and that MSPs of the future are going to have to find ways to use automation to increase their margins,’ says Gerwai Todd, Pia CEO.

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Pia CEO Gerwai Todd is focusing on more and more automation and helping MSPs eliminate mundane tasks to increase their margins.

“Where I’d like to see us 12 months from now is a product that is doing good work to help reinvent the MSP business model,” he told CRN. “What I really hope in 12 months is that the MSP industry sees that there's a new way to operate and that MSPs of the future are going to have to find ways to use automation to increase their margins.”

Todd, who was appointed CEO of the Tampa-based automation company in January, has a long history in the channel. He’s a 10-year veteran of ConnectWise and has run and sat on boards of multiple technology companies in his tenure.

He is also currently the CEO of TimeZest, a software company helping MSPs schedule meetings seamlessly by integrating with their PSA. He maintains dual leadership roles with both Pia and TimeZest but the companies will remain separate and supported by their respective executive leadership teams.

However, Pia is integrating with TimeZest to provide MSPs with the seamless ability to categorize tickets in Pia. The integration benefits existing and future Pia and TimeZest customers by bringing together more workflows and processes with the goal of promoting more efficient, effective and client-driven MSPs.

And he’s eager to work the problem that the team has been trying to solve.

“I'm most excited about getting back to some of my roots,” he said. “I find that some of the best ideas and solutions come out of an MSP. We also get this amazing value of having that MSP lab that we can work with the team, test things and we can really understand what's happening in the business on the ground.”

CRN spoke with Todd about what’s to come for Pia, automation and how the company is helping MSPs.

How will you balance being CEO of both Pia and TimeZest?

Imagine if you're running a company that has worldwide teams, it is no different. I have a team in Australia and we have worldwide team members throughout both companies, and I just have to work longer days.

What's your strategy going forward to scale Pia to the next level?

We're laser focused on building the right thing for MSPs and solving the key use case that we've really targeted, which is how do you automate and simplify some of the work that hits a helpdesk. There's just a lot of monotonous administrative work that can hit a help desk and we'd like to take, what I'd call, level one or some level two issues and streamline the processing of those. So taking something we'd have in documentation, we put in IT Glue or other documentation systems and move it into a system. So when team members are looking to execute a function, like a password change or setting up a new user in Microsoft 365 or whitelisting, or blacklisting an email address, we can do those by the push of a button.

AI has effectively matured to the point where it can really do a good job of identifying the type of problem we have, prompting a technician to let them know, ‘Hey, we think we know what the problem is here. Do you agree?’ and guiding them through clicks of a button through the quick automation of those changes. One of the key things that we've seen, as an example, is we've had MSP owners come to us and say, ‘I've got a team of five techs. They're great. They all do great work. We've got documentation in our documentation platform but they all still process the task slightly differently.’ To really drive that consistency, we have to take what's in documentation and be able to systematize it, and that's effectively what the Pia team has done.

What are your MSP partners’ biggest challenge and how is Pia helping them?

The challenge has actually been part of the business model since the beginning, an MSP is trading time for dollars. When you get into that equation and you look at the vast majority of the MSPs, 80 percent of the staffing in an MSP is service staff. They have to be able to deliver that service through a tech team on a help desk doing all of that work to support those users. What we're trying to do is put the tech teams and also the leadership of MSPs in a position where they don't have to do so much administrative work.

If we're taking level one things and making them more automated, that means you can bring on team members with a little less tech experience and grow them. You can also take team members that you've had on your team for a while and grow them by not having to hire the next batch of techs just because you brought on five customers. I think what it all comes down to is that the gross margin and net profitability of an MSP business model, in most cases, is quite challenging. If they were ever hit with an economic change that disrupts their business, before you know it they're going to be right at breakeven or potentially in the red. The mission at hand is how do you get an MSP business to be healthier financially? And I see this as one of the ways.

Where do you see Pia a year from now?

That's a tough one because so much work is going into getting our strategic planning together for the rest of the year and getting things in line. Where I'd like to see us 12 months from now is a product that is doing good work to help reinvent the MSP business model. What I really hope in 12 months is that the MSP industry sees that there's a new way to operate and that MSPs of the future are going to have to find ways to use automation to increase their margins.

How does Pia stand out from the competition?

Our focus is on two key things. Number one, being an AI-first company and not being a technology company that then bolted on AI. We’re focused on AI first, which is our roots. Number two is we want to remain focused on one key area, which is the service desk. We are tackling service desk use cases. Everything we do is integrated to PSAs, so our goal is to simplify and drive automation into the teams to help them be way more efficient than they are today.

What is your message to partners going forward about what's to come from Pia this year?

What you're going to see this year is continued innovation in what we do, doubling down on that AI-first approach and really focusing on our AI engine, that’s what makes us unique.