One of the common complaints I hear from managed service providers (MSPs) is the belief that their PSA (professional services automation) tool is not efficient and is taking up too much of their time for them to recoup the benefits.
How well your PSA tool performs has a lot to do with how you set it up. Many PSA systems incorporate multiple tools in one, becoming a sort of Swiss Army knife for running your MSP business—sometimes this works well for the MSP and sometimes it doesn’t. At the core, however, your PSA should make your life easier—not harder.
Many of the popular PSA tools perform the following functions:
The challenge for many MSPs is understanding that their PSA solution will not always reduce the amount of time it takes to do an individual task, which can give the appearance of inefficiency. The real power of the PSA lies in its potential ability to translate time into money.
Ticketing is the backbone of any PSA solution. It can feel like it takes more time to use a ticketing system than simply tracking time against a client and task on a timesheet. However, what happens when a tech waits until the end of the day or the end of the week to fill out a timesheet and then forgets one? A ticketing system creates an incident that cannot be forgotten because there is a record of it. This incident needs to be resolved, and until it is, acts as a reminder that work needs to be done. If you know the work was done, it is easier to remember what you did and how much time it took to make sure the client was billed.
Tickets also have an owner; this way, multiple techs are not working on the same issue at one time, which can be a significant problem for MSPs that handle all their incidents via email. Integrating with your RMM solution, likewise, makes sure that email alerts do not get ignored or worked on by different techs in parallel. By using a ticketing system, you make sure incidents are captured (and reminders utilized), have time applied to them, and ultimately are correctly invoiced to generate revenue. While it does require time to complete, update, and close tickets properly, this time is more than recouped by properly capturing all the billable elements.
Second only to ticketing is integrated billing for time, materials, and contracts. One of my early mentors told me that nothing matters until the invoice is paid. Rolling that back a step, invoices cannot get paid if they are never sent. Therefore, tracking the time, materials, and recurring items that need to be billed for are essential aspects of the PSA. Granted, it takes time to set up the integrations, configure the contracts, and maintain all of it, but the additional revenue captured by having everything managed well and automatically applied to invoices should more than offset that time.
On the surface, it can seem like your PSA takes more time than it is worth. However, the contribution of the PSA to the success of your MSP business should be well worth the perceived inconvenience. In addition, to those of you wanting to grow beyond the “one-man-band” stage, it is one of the best ways to scale as you add technicians and other employees.
Eric Anthony is principal of customer experience at SolarWinds MSP. Before joining SolarWinds, Eric ran his own managed service provider business for over six years.
You can follow Eric on Twitter at @EricAnthonyMSP
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