When Is It Time to Implement Professional Services Automation?

One- or two-person MSPs will benefit by establishing time tracking, documentation, and other good habits early.

Managed services providers operating one- or two-person shops have a lot of activities to pack into a business day. After providing services to customers, troubleshooting, following up on new business leads, and chasing payments, there’s probably a tendency to back-burner projects such as implementing professional services automation (PSA) software.

Brad Schow, VP, Consulting Services for ConnectWise, says, however, “If your business has grown to three people or more, it’s time.”

What You’re Missing without Professional Service Automation

“MSPs working alone or with a partner are so busy muscling through, and it all seems to be held together by osmosis, but after a business has grown to three or more people, the cracks begin to show,” Schow says. At that point, it’s harder to keep track of tickets, manage documents, and establish consistent vernacular.

Schow adds that a blind spot for many MSPs is when they’re tracking work. “It’s a problem if you’re not tracking things right away. Some do it at the end of the day — or worse, at the end of the week,” he says. “That habit leads to leaking information and an inaccurate record of the amount of time you’ve spent.” He points out that unless an MSP is tracking time accurately, they won’t bill appropriately and won’t have the revenue to grow. “Those things can wear on an organization. It’s best to establish habits early,” he comments.

Where to Begin

Schow stresses that you need to maintain the proper perspective as you incorporate professional services automation software into your operation. “Marketers in the industry may tell you that when you’ve turned on all of the features of a PSA tool, it will fully transform your business,” he says. “This can be a source of frustration. Smaller customers may want to turn on features they don’t have the time to use and manage properly,” he says.

It’s smart to start only with the PSA features you need today, which may be tracking tickets, managing the terms of agreements, and customer relationship management (CRM). “As you grow, you can turn on more features,” Schow says.

He points out, however, accounting integration is a goal to work toward because it will help you run a better business. “Without insights from that data, it’s hard to know if your business is healthy and if you’re generating the gross margin you need to be profitable,” he says.

“MSPs who integrate with accounting and get the data they need to run their businesses are the ones we see grow and realize the greatest value from the tool,” Schow comments.

He warns not to implement a PSA tool now that has only the capabilities to address your current needs. “A lot of tools feel like a fit, but when you grow, you’ll be looking at a rip and replace,” Schow explains. “Choose one that’s comfortable for you to use now, but that’s capable of scaling with your business as big as you see yourself growing.”

Is There ROI for Small MSPs?

Schow says some MSPs question whether a PSA tool can support their unique processes and services in a way that will truly benefit their businesses.

The best way to understand the value of professional services automation, Schow says, is talking to other users. “You’ll hear that they were where you are, and the only mistake they made was not putting it in place sooner,” he says. “We hear all the time: ‘It’s the best decision we ever made.’”