9 Steps to Better Business AutomationBy Pedro Pereira | Print
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Professional services automation was designed to help businesses run better by automating task and process tracking. Solution providers have used PSA to help their clients, but haven't done well in using it themselves. These best practices will keep PSA from becoming another piece of expensive shelfware.
For a long time, IT solution providers talked but did not walk for themselves. They automated the businesses of their clients, but neglected their own businesses, often keeping track of billable time and trouble tickets on loose pieces of paper and awkwardly constructed spreadsheets.
These bad habits started to change a few years ago when software companies such as ConnectWise, Autotask, TigerPaw and CoreConnex got into the picture. These vendors’ automation software specifically targets solution provider businesses, enabling both managed and break/fix services.
Commonly referred to as PSA (professional services automation), these applications have become increasingly sophisticated with each release, and a growing number of solution providers rely on them to keep their houses in order.
Different vendors’ PSA applications do some different things, but in general solution providers use the technology to keep track of all billable time, coordinate dispatch of technicians to trouble sites, and document service calls and their resolution, as well as for invoicing. PSA applications also integrate with managed services platforms to manage the workflow of alerts from systems being monitored and generate reports on services provided.
For every solution provider that has successfully deployed PSA software, chances are there is a counterpart somewhere struggling with how to put it to good use. It’s not an uncommon problem. The same has happened with managed services platforms, which providers use to remotely monitor and manage their clients’ IT environments. Some providers invest in the technology, then realize they don’t really know what to do with it, and that sometimes leads to an expensive application ending up on the shelf.
TigerPaw Vice President James Foxall says PSA software touches so many different departments within a business that it’s hard to grasp how much it does. "It’s critical that all departments realize the power that has been made available to them," he says.
The reason technology goes unused after a solution provider invests in it often has to do with company culture, says Ken Sponsler, vice president of engineering services at managed services provider Connecting Point of Greeley, Colo. "It’s just a different way of doing things," he says.
Businesses tend to get set in their ways, so change is hard, and inevitably some people resist change.
"Change is a difficult thing to swallow if the engineers and managers are used to doing things one way," says Tony Lael, executive vice president at CoreConnex.
To get the most value out of your PSA software, therefore, requires a commitment to change. That’s one thing. But it’s also important to understand the technology, what it does and how it fits into your business. What solution providers have to do for clients day and in day out, they must also do for themselves, and that is figuring out how the technology will meet their business goals.