McBain joins Autotask in strategic role

Veteran Canadian channel executive Jay McBain has left his role with computer maker Lenovo to join MSP-enabling software vendor Autotask as the company‘s new senior vice president of strategy and marketing development.

The announcement brings to an end a brief, but intense, period of speculation as to where McBain was headed, and affords him an opportunity to continue doing what he likes best – crystal ball gazing.

“I love to look at what the industry might look like into the future, and perhaps I can bring that to the software point-of-view as well,” McBain said. “I’m gong to continue to poke around at what the channel is going to be doing and running over the next five years.”

In his new role, McBain will report to Autotask founder and chief visionary officer Bob Godgart, who just weeks ago stepped aside as CEO, ceding the position to new hire Mark Cattini in order to himself focus on the strategic and visionary side of things.

That gives the automation software vendor a healthy one-two punch in the visionary department, but is there room for both? McBain certainly thinks so. He said he intends to approach his new role much as he approached his previous one – spending a lot of time on the road, at industry events and in front of partners and customers. It’s part of what McBain describes as “an accumulation of conversation” – go out, talk to everyone, and report back on what’s happening and working and what’s not.

But it’s a little bit different at his new employer than his previous one, he said, noting that a big part of his role at Lenovo involved “getting Lenovo out of the boardroom,” whereas he praised Autotask for its visible profile, sitting on boards, joining committees and more.

“I’m joining the choir that’s already out there instead of leading the charge of getting Lenovo out there a little bit,” he said. “I prefer to be in front of customers instead of sitting in the boardroom. I’m going to stay active.”

McBain also expects to keep up another hobby or habit he’s become known for over his time at IBM Lenovo – blogging and social media. He noted that Autotask has well-established communities for that regard, and that he’s “excited to join and perhaps add some value to the Autotask customer base.”

His first job will be to really learn the business, he said. While he’s familiar with the company’s Autotask, Autotask Go, Taskfire and VARstreet lineups, he said he still has to “get pretty deep” on the software and cloud side after a long time in the hardware world. From there, he plans to “lead the charge” for Autotask into adjacent markets, including industry- and vertical-specific fields.

“More and more channel partners are looking at professional automation tools and taking their business to the next level that way,” he said. “The economic downturn really reminded many of them that to grow their business, they have to be more robust in terms of the way they run their business.”

When McBain announced his departure from Lenovo in the days leading up to December 25, it sparked a two-day maelstrom of social media action, and the suggestion that the ever social-media-savvy McBain may have planned just a thing, revealing his departure from Lenovo one day, and doing a slow burn over the course of couple of days until finally going public with his new employer.

But McBain insists it wasn’t any such grand plan. In fact, it was all just an accident, he insists, a by-product of not being able to publicly disclose his new employer until U.S. authorities had given their blessings to the new visa that would accompany the new role.

“Those three days of the slow reveal weren’t purposeful – I just didn’t have the green light from Homeland to announce it yet,” he said with a laugh.

That said, the experience did result in more than a thousand Google hits on McBain’s name in 48 hours, and may have taught the executive another lesson on social media – that sometimes the old rules of public relations are changing in a world where people are connected to their networks even when they’re away from the office.

“I’ve always been told not to release news the week of Christmas, but maybe the world is changing,” he said. “I’d almost recommend doing it during Christmas or New Year’s now.”

But he’ll save the details of that lesson for another blog. Maybe his own.