N-able focuses on hearts and minds of MSP technicians

Gavin Garbutt

N-able CEO Gavin Garbutt

After years of focusing on the business needs of managed service providers in an RMM tool, Ottawa-based N-able Technologies is shifting its focus in 2012 to a new audience.

CEO Gavin Garbutt says it’s time to “win the hearts and minds” of technicians within MSPs.

To do that, N-able is switching up its product roadmap. Historically, the company has done quarterly releases of its flagship RMM product. But now, the company’s going to move towards doing two major releases a year, with a bunch of minor, single-feature upgrades happening on a nearly weekly basis. The intention is to release 50 new features – the 50 features it’s hearing about most from the technicians that use N-central – in 50 weeks.

Why go after the technicians at this point? In a word: efficiency. The company is focused on improving the number of devices an MSP can manage with a single technician. The only way to do that is through automation. And the only way to increase use of its automation tools – both those already in N-central and those soon to debut – is to get the full buy-in of the technicians who use the dashboard.

Garbutt said the goal is to get to the point where one technician can manage 1,000 devices on customers’ networks through N-central. Now it’s got to get MSPs past the point of being reactive.

“It’s a different mentality, and getting technicians over that hurdle isn’t easy,” Garbutt said.

But it’s a hurdle Garbutt seems confident his company can leap, with a focus on processes instead of technology. At its Partner Summit last week in Scottsdale, Ariz., N-able showed off a new drag and drop interface for management that allows policies and processes to be managed much more easily in the name of automation. N-central 8.2, the next major release of the RMM tool, will feature the capabilities, including built-in abilities to do some of the most common MSP tasks by dragging a process or policy onto the devices to be managed. While the software will ship with a number of processes pre-defined based on best practices, MSPs will be able to edit those to their own needs or create their own. The intention, said Garbutt, is to make it so senior technicians can create and edit policies and processes, as well as tackling more advanced technical challenges, while junior technicians use the pre-built processes to more quickly implement changes on customers’ devices – setting up a PC, for example, by dropping the appropriate process onto the machine in question.

“This will save them bodies upon bodies upon bodies,” Garbutt said.

The company also showed off a similar upcoming drag and drop environment for reporting that will make producing custom reports on service providers and customer environments easier to produce.

In support of its bid towards automation, the company launched a Technician’s Runbook within its help tool, essentially “a cookbook” for best-practice processes in the MSP industry, according to Robert Grapes, director of product management and marketing at N-able.

“It provides recipes for all the processes they need to go through,” Grapes said. “It’s not only a document but a working component of our strategy as we go to our partner base telling them our automation story.”

The company also previewed a Managed Services Runbook – Manager Edition, essentially a starter kit for those looking to launch a managed services business or practice. The intention is for that Manager’s Runbook to be a Wiki-style community driven document and guide, said N-able president J.P. Jauvin.

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