RMM, PSA Change the Game for MSPs
Managed service providers (MSP) these days have to handle more applications, data and end customers than ever before. The low cost of entry associated with cloud technology carries a lot of benefits for MSPs, but it also means that partners have to up their service game without investing in a larger staff.
That’s where automated tools can be a lifesaver for service providers, acting almost like a supplemental staff member. From technical applications such as remote monitoring and management (RMM) and professional service automation (PSA) to line-of-business applications such as customer resource management and customer portals, automation has the potential to help MSPs and ICT consultants run their businesses more efficiently.
But do partners adequately leverage these tools? That’s one of the topics up for discussion at the upcoming Channel Partners Conference and Expo, April 17-20, in Las Vegas. We have a panel of experts ready to weigh in during “Tool or Die: How to Run an Efficient IT Consultancy,” including CompTIA senior director of industry analysis Carolyn April; Mike Reinhart, CEO of business management consultancy Quisitive; and John McPoyle, vice president of operations for SWK Technologies, which won the MSP 501 Vanguard Award in 2016.
We sat down with April to get a sneak peek of the insights she’ll have to offer during the panel.
Channel Partners/Channel Futures: The modern managed service-oriented channel is built upon automated tools like RMM and PSA. How did the advent of these technologies change the game for MSPs?
Carolyn April: RMM software provides the basic identity for an MSP. In the infancy of managed services, being able to remotely monitor, manage and repair a customer’s IT environment was the game changer from a traditional on-premises, break-fix service. For its part, PSA software has been most beneficial for MSPs that are growing at a good clip. Why? The recurring revenue model of managed services works best with a high volume of customers. But managing all the moving parts of a growing customer pool can be daunting. Think account management, CRM, invoicing, help-desk ticketing and so forth. Not to mention managing your internal, non-customer-facing operations. A PSA console automates many of those tasks and brings them under one umbrella for an MSP, which has been an invaluable resource.
CP/CF: Today’s MSPs are handling more data than ever, more customers than ever and more of the stack than ever, yet they’re still trying to work with the same basic staff size. Can service providers essentially use automation as a supplement to their employee resources?
April: The short answer is, yes. Automation is a key tool for making MSP operations run more efficiently with processes that are repeatable and consistent. Software packages like PSAs allow for this. As a result, a company may not need as many technicians for routine tasks. But it’s not that simple. If you look at the job market situation today, many companies are dying to find skilled workers in the tech industry. They are looking for people who can help them embrace and exploit emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence or blockchain. And many MSPs are also looking for workers whose skills align with existing solutions higher up the application stack, such as data analytics and business intelligence. Automation eliminates some human-resource needs, but does not cover all the bases.
CP/CF: What are the most popular tools used by MSPs today?
April: Homegrown solutions – aka spreadsheets – still dominate. RMM is pretty much table stakes for any MSP that has grown beyond a very small SMB in terms of the number of customers they are managing. PSA packages are also popular, but their high cost can be prohibitive to smaller MSPs. More recently, BDR solutions such as what you see from a provider like Datto are gaining in popularity. Many of these solutions are now offered as a holistic platform from a single vendor, which makes it easier for MSPs from an integration standpoint. Finally, any security-related tool is essential.
CP/CF: What needs or challenges of modern MSPs do we not yet have tools/technologies to adequately manage?
April: MSPs that are new to the recurring revenue model often struggle with some business basics such as calculating customer-acquisition costs, developing the right kind of service-level agreements, pricing their services and so forth. Many would extend a big welcome to any tool or service that could assist with these essentials.