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Inacom Information Systems set out to solve its own business problem by driving out the inefficiencies in its service provider practice.

It ended up completing what is perhaps the first customized, hosted version of Microsoft CRM. Inatrac, a tracking, reporting and management tool, is designed for use by VARs to drive profitability in their service provider practics, much like AutoTask and ConnectWise.

Inatrac consists of Microsoft’s hosted CRM layered with several of Inacom’s previously proprietary tools: Itab, a project-tracking time-entry platform, a business intelligence application, and rTab, a remote time-entry application. The tool empowers solution providers to make the right decisions about service delivery and management of the practice, said Bryan Bechtoldt, Inacom’s vice president of professional services and lead architect on the three-and-a-half-year project.

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“Service providers are kind of left in the dark about their profitability now,” Bechtoldt said. “Back in the VAR days they had structure built into the business to watch the business. Margins were so tight they had to. In service, where margins leave more room, it’s been overlooked and VARs are leaving money behind.”

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Inacom itself used the tools it created, along with a cultural change in how it provided incentives for its 65 technical engineers, to drive utilization rates up to 83 percent and profit up 63 percent.

Microsoft officials told Inacom that they hoped more ISVs and VARs would build out its platforms for such software-as-a-service offerings, Bechtoldt said.

Inacom has yet to plan marketing for the product, but said it is in talks with several companies, including a management consulting firm that it expects will resell Inatrac to its VAR customers.