The largest determining factor between failure and success as a managed service provider is operational efficiency. Is the management team doing all it can to maximize profitability and minimize its expenses? Are their clients happy with response times, follow-up on issues, and the billing process?
All of those aspects of an MSP’s operations can be difficult to manage, especially during periods of expansion when resources are often more limited than the workload. Controlling the chaos inside an IT services business in the best of times is tough enough. The most successful MSPs embrace industry best practices and focus on process efficiency to bring sanity to their operations.
Without a professional services automation (PSA) platform in place, that objective is extremely difficult, if not impossible, for an IT services business. These systems allow you to get a clear view of all aspects of the operation, bring order to the chaos, and eliminate many time-consuming manual processes. With businesses demanding more each year from their MSPs, including additional support and faster response times, PSAs are usually the strongest tool in their arsenal.
Efficiency is the top priority
Continual improvements in productivity and quality are essential to IT services growth. If an MSP is not making advances in those areas, client satisfaction and retention is at risk, and chances are there will be at least one competitor ready to poach unhappy accounts. You have to work proactively to improve all facets of service delivery and management to keep the wolves at bay.
At the same time, a healthy business needs to grow. Doing more work with minimal resources is the MSP mantra, as providers struggle to find and hire quality tech professionals. The salary demands of competent engineers and IT support specialists remain high, and with a strong job market, attracting skilled team members can be a difficult task. MSPs often delay recruiting and training activities until sales and MRR grow more than enough to justify those additional investments.
A PSA can help ease the “ebbs and flows” in your team’s workload. These platforms allow managers to track hours and resource utilization and instantly review revenue and margin status. Using analytical tool features, you can accurately predict bench capacity and workloads and the firm’s ability to take on new clients without substantially increasing overtime or causing employee uprisings.
A swiss army knife for managed services
While visibility is essential for proper planning, that’s just one of the many benefits of implementing a PSA. The “professional” part in the name often gets overlooked, but these platforms allow MSPs to strengthen areas of their operations that clients and prospects notice and respect.
The “automation” piece is just as critical. The complexities involved in running a managed services business, from the initial sales and service delivery activities to timely billing and collections, can easily get out of hand. PSAs typically integrate with a long list of tools that MSPs use to support their clients and manage their back-office operations.
These connections enable automated processes and collect, store, and transfer crucial client and business information across the platform. With fewer keystrokes and a smaller amount of human interaction, these integrations reduce errors and payroll costs.
More importantly, PSAs allow MSPs to manage service delivery and other critical business activities more effectively. These are truly enablement platforms for the managed services community.
What other advantages do PSAs provide to an MSP?
#1 Creates an information highway/repository
Many consider these platforms to be the foundations of their businesses. PSAs collect and distribute valued pieces of information between applications and initiate a variety of automated processes based on prescribed methodologies. A commonly heard phrase among channel professionals is “if it isn’t in ConnectWise/Autotask/Kaseya, it didn’t happen.” The information team members need to do their jobs, from business owners and technicians to sales and accounting personnel, should be saved somewhere in the company’s PSA.
#2 Manages service tickets
It’s easy to overlook the routing benefits of PSAs since that functionality is part of their original design. The base technologies in some of these platforms pre-date the managed services era, with some of the early systems providing ticketing support for a variety of professional services organizations, including appliance repair shops and plumbing and heating businesses. The ability to create and submit maintenance requests from virtually any location and route them to the appropriate support personel is invaluable. PSAs speed up the response times and provide technicians with the information needed to address the issues, especially when an alert automatically generates the ticket.
#3 Leverages and enhances key MSP tools
PSAs are the ultimate data leverage point. Integrating various MSP business and technical applications enriches the collective toolset, providing a highly manageable platform that collects valuable pieces of information and pushes them to all the right places. For example, you can connect a PSA with an RMM and other apps to monitor and manage clients’ systems. Integrations with accounting packages like QuickBooks and Dynamics and payment platforms such as ConnectBooster can automate critical activities in an MSP’s billing and collections process. Each connection can save time and reduce anxiety for IT services business owners, employees, and in some cases, clients.
#4 Automates key processes
Integrations are just the technical side of the equation. PSAs allow MSPs to set up work rules that route information through various aspects of the combined platform, automatically initiating processes based on the particular data inputs. A big part of the value proposition for these systems is their “hands-free” capabilities. Removing people from as much of the equation as possible not only reduces payroll costs and stress but cuts down on entry mistakes and other human errors.
#5 Provides visibility/control
Information is power. Putting critical business data in an easy to see and customizable format makes it easier for owners and employees to do their jobs. Most PSAs provide users with a simple interface that contains schedules, performance metrics, and other details relevant to that individual. With all information in a central location, each team member can easily manage their work and track progress on various projects and activities.
#6 Enables service level agreements (SLAs)
PSAs give MSPs the ability to manage multiple levels and types of SLAs concurrently. Providers can monitor agreement statuses across various workflows, through automatic alerts, and by tracking different escalation paths. Those automations help MSPs manage client expectations and improve customer satisfaction levels, with real-time alerts and updates tracking assignments and schedules, prioritizing urgent tasks or those with nearing due dates.
#7 Maximize resource utilization
PSAs allow MSPs to strengthen virtually every part of their operations. From quoting to collections, these platforms increase the efficiency, productivity, and customer satisfaction levels across the board in an IT services business. The end goal of PSAs is lower resource utilization rates and faster responses to clients’ technical issues. With all the information and control in one place, MSPs can make quicker and more well-informed decisions on their businesses and their teams’ activities.
A whole lot more
This article only hits on a few of the many benefits of professional services automation platforms. As a central management console, master tool connector, and repository of critical business information, these platforms exponentially expand an MSP’s capabilities.
They drive efficiency through automation. Few MSPs could scale their operations without leveraging a PSA and its key integration points, managing information and workflows to optimize resource utilization and boost customer satisfaction. Very few business tools provide the type of power and ROI these platforms bring to IT services firms.
Whether creating and routing service tickets or generating invoices and requesting payments through the various financial tool integrations, PSAs have become the cornerstone of a successful MSP.
But a strong PSA is not the only key to success, and it needs to integrate with other critical business tools like your billing software that impact your success. See how ConnectBooster fits into your whole MSP’s ecosystem to drive operational efficiencies.