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
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.