If a network monitoring solution failed to notify you of an issue at a client site for ten or fifteen minutes, leading to systems interruptions and real downtime, would it be of any value to your MSP? Unless it provided some other valuable benefit, and you had a backup system in place to overcome that major deficiency, probably not. The potential damage to a customer’s business and your reputation from using that solution could be substantial.
That’s why automation and managed services-oriented integrations are so crucial. When properly implemented and maintained, these connections and technological innovations can create a direct route for sharing critical information between applications and platforms. That saves MSPs time and frustration and can help ensure your clients remain online, productive, and fully operational.
IT services professionals who don’t understand the value of automation are doomed to mediocrity today. With so many great tools at an MSPs disposal, from RMMs and PSAs to cloud and security management platforms, if not exploring all their options, they could find themselves at a major competitive disadvantage.
Peers will surely pass them by (if they haven’t already). That’s because automation helps providers and their clients improve efficiency, reduce costs, increase margins, and scale their businesses. Innovation creates a win-win opportunity for everyone.
Automation is an MSP enabler
With the right technologies and integrations, channel partners can accomplish a great deal with the least amount of resources. Linking somewhat disparate systems helps MSPs better manage their collective IT environments (internal and client-sided) so everything runs at peak performance, or as close to as possible.
Integrations reduce the complexities involved in running an IT services business and make it easier to scale without massive investments in people, real estate, and other resources. To maximize those efficiencies, MSPs need all the various automation systems to speak the same language; to share the right data at the perfect time so it initiates the correct sequence of activities. A quality managed services integration will do that.
Automation reduces task duplication and virtually eliminates the need for manual data entry or human intervention. MSPs need those capabilities to counter the rising costs of hiring and retaining quality employees today, in addition to the many other benefits it provides to the business and its clients.
From prospects to long-term clients, technology can fuel the funnel
Automation should be a cornerstone of every operation in an MSP firm. From lead generation and sales prospecting to onboarding and long-term client support, whenever there’s an option to implement a tool or configure an integration, the opportunity should be thoroughly evaluated.
Of course, those solutions need to be cost-effective, providing some level of benefit that justifies the time and expense involved in their set up and ongoing operations. Automation done right is a solid investment for any business.
So, what technological innovations should MSPs consider implementing to streamline critical processes and save more of their limited and highly valued resources, including their cash, time, and attention?
Here are ten examples that can help IT services businesses grow their client base and improve operations and support.
1. Marketing automation
Billboards and postcards still have a place in the channel, but today’s marketing departments rely on purpose-designed technologies to effectively promote their services and solutions. These platforms allow MSPs to automate email and social media campaigns and drive traffic to company websites to meet lead generation and SEO objectives. An effective solution collects leads from specific channels and then routes that information in real-time to the appropriate members of the sales and marketing teams. MSPs can integrate platforms such as HubSpot, Unbounce, Sendinblue, and Prospect.io (though the latter is more sales than marketing) with their CRMs and similar solutions to simplify lead funnel management.
2. Sales: Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
Serious companies employ automation throughout their client acquisition, onboarding, and management processes. In their most basic form, CRMs allow MSPs to input and maintain a database of useful information on prospective and current customers, an essential tool for sales and account managers. The more advanced solutions give providers even more features and integration options, including with the tools MSPs use to run their businesses like PSAs (i.e., ConnectWise, Autotask), hosted VoIP solutions, and Office 365. When properly designed and managed, these automations help providers land new clients, keep them content for the long haul, and create upsell opportunities.
3. Quoting tools
The busier your MSP business, the more clients and prospects will be asking for service, project, and product price estimates. While that’s a great thing for the bottom line, your team can easily be overwhelmed without an effective process in place for creating, distributing, and converting quotes into contracts. Automation eliminates those headaches and gives providers the ability to track and alter these documents as needed. When MSPs integrate their quoting solutions with other key managed services tools ‒ such as billing, accounting, and payment platforms ‒ they speed up quotes and the sales closing process.
4. Professional Services Automation (PSA) Platforms
Essentially the brain of an MSP business, these solutions allow providers to coordinate key operational activities, track employee utilization and company performance, and create valuable reports for their clients. PSAs are also integration hubs. These systems are the ultimate connectors for MSPs, allowing them to create a “single pane of glass” management platform that communicates with a variety of business and client-critical solutions. In other words, PSAs help providers deliver quality support to their clients and efficiently manage their back-office operations.
5. Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM) Solutions
These are the other foundational pieces of an MSP’s tool kit. While PSAs are the brains, RMMs are a provider’s eyes into clients’ computer systems, sending back real-time data on the status of each device. From real-time alerts and service ticket creation to software patching and OS updates, these solutions give MSPs remote capabilities that reduce downtime and boost efficiency.
6. General Cloud Solutions
The web is the perfect automation tool. Thanks to the cloud, MSPs can leverage resources from virtually anywhere in the world to support their operations, as well as their clients. The opportunities are endless, including:
- Business productivity tools (i.e., Office 365, G-Suite)
- Backup and business continuity applications
- Collaboration suites like Slack, GoToMeeting, Flowdock, and WebEx
7. Hosted VoIP
Yes, voice solutions can provide automation options for MSPs. As a web-based application, hosted VoIP can be utilized by employees in the office or on the road, through traditional-looking phones or a host of mobile or stationary devices. Those remote capabilities make it easier for your team members to work effectively from virtually any location, and when integrated with CRM and email systems, these solutions can automatically provide employees with key account information. Whether it’s sales handling an incoming prospect call, or a tech reaching out to a top client, that instantaneous access to critical data makes it easier to complete the tasks at hand.
Financial systems are often set up as an island within a business’ IT system. However, even if security requirements dictate certain access restrictions and information firewalls, accounting integrations with PSAs and other managed services tools can be huge time-savers for IT professionals. For example, connecting quoting, billing, and automated payment systems with QuickBooks, Xero, Microsoft Dynamics GP, or other financial software can eliminate double, if not triple data entry. It’s a great way to reduce headaches for MSPs owners (and your accountant).
9. Payment platforms
Very few people enjoy asking their clients for money, especially when invoices are long past due. Automated payment platforms like ConnectBooster can make that unnerving task-irrelevant. With a secure online portal to store credit and ACH data and retrieve current and past invoices, your clients gain access to a PCI compliant system for paying their monthly IT services bill. MSPs benefit just as much, if not more, by eliminating redundant accounting tasks, improving cash flow, and increasing billing transparency.
10. Customer satisfaction systems
Consider this a tool of awakening in a managed services business. While the best way to get actionable feedback from your clients is to engage and ask them the right questions, customer satisfaction applications are a great safety valve. MSPs can leverage automated solutions like AskNicely, Qualtrics, and Promoter.io to assess the value clients place on their firm’s technical prowess, team members, key services, and other business processes.
Technology makes life easier
Automation can eliminate many of the mundane tasks that your team members despise, freeing up time so they can help with more important (and more profitable) activities. Technology is an enabler.
Automation allows even the smallest MSP to scale to great heights. Using fewer costly resources, providers can leverage internal and client-facing applications and integrations to do the work of many with little or no manual effort.
What solutions are you planning to implement this year to help maximize the efficiency of your IT services business?