Aim Of N-Able MSP Support Centers: Partner Success

Solution providers have both criticized and vigorously defended N-Able technology's managed service provider platform. Gavin Garbutt, N-Able's chairman and co-founder, recently spoke with

CRN: One of the chief complaints from frustrated partners is that the N-Able platform doesn't do what they expected or what they say they were promised. What are you doing to support them?

GARBUTT: A lot of people are looking for a silver bullet. We've set up a maturity process model and an exam that our partners take to understand how the business, sales, marketing, people process and their technologies work, so they can measure themselves. How do they deliver their services and how can they improve it? It's really not just about buying a product and saying, 'OK, I'm going to be successful now.' It's about understanding what you're doing and making the investment in your people and your processes.

CRN: Are partners required to take these courses?

GARBUTT: They are definitely supposed to take the courses. The people that do, do very well. The people who don't, don't. If they do go through our technical training programs, they'll find they'll get most of their issues resolved. And if there are outstanding issues, then we have a fully automated help desk with sales engineers to help people when they need it.

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CRN: You're opening up a number of different locations. Can you tell us about those?

GARBUTT: We are in the process of opening 12 centers across the U.S. We've already hired for nine of them.

CRN: What will the centers offer?

GARBUTT: They are sales and support centers. The whole idea is we have been supporting our partners from Ottawa. So rather than four days a month in front of customers, [N-Able's reps] now will be 22 days a month in front of customers.

CRN: Will these centers have training for new N-Able solution providers?

GARBUTT: There's technology training, then there's the MSP maturity model and test, which is based on Gartner's process maturity model. It scorecards our partners on whether their business is ready to become a managed service provider. It looks at their finances, operations and HR, sales, marketing, service and support delivery, policies and documentation. It measures all those areas and lets them understand [how their service delivery capabilities rate]. It doesn't happen overnight ... We have partners that say, 'I'm going to take bits of it and parts of it and I'm going to go sell it,' and then they can't figure out why it's not working right. We have a partner care division for people that do go off track, and [we] help get them back on track.

CRN: What is your timeline for opening those centers?

GARBUTT: They'll all be [open] by March 1.

CRN: N-Able has 500 partners. Did you take on too many partners too quickly to support them? Some partners we've talked to feel that N-Able only cared about getting their purchase order. GARBUTT: I don't think so. We've doubled our number of partners from 15 months ago. But we've gone from 45 employees to 120 employees during that time. We've kept pace with our growth. Can we do a better job in partner care? I hope we can always do a better job. Excellence is something we all strive for. The majority of partners are very happy. The ones that aren't, we want to address their issues and help them be successful.

CRN: Many partners have told us they were oversold on the functionality of the platform and the investments—not only monetary investments, but other resources—that they were going to have to make to get this up and running.

GARBUTT: It's hard to say what salespeople who are no longer with us have said. That would be speculation on my part. Any customers who have come to us and said, 'We need help because we're not generating any revenue with the product,' we have supported aggressively.

CRN: How do you help transition someone to become a managed service provider?

GARBUTT: If somebody is just a reseller of hardware and they don't have any technicians to support their customers and are happy doing just that, they are somebody [to whom] we would say, 'You're not ready, and you have to think about getting the right people, processes and technologies. We can help you with processes and technologies. You have to find your own people.' We would say to someone, 'Don't come in at a Platinum level because it doesn't make any sense. Come in at a [lower level] and get a number of customers on board.'

CRN: Is that a recent message on your part? Some partners have said they were upsold to Platinum or to a level that they were not ready for.

GARBUTT: If you're not ready to get into managed services, if you're not serious about changing your business model, then you shouldn't come on board with us. And I'll say that to a group every single time.

If you're serious from the top down to push this through your organization, we have the courses available for the sales guys, the technical guys, the marketing guys so that they can understand the value that [the change will] bring to the business.