Making work-flow

Before we, as a business, moved into managed services I looked into how it was being done and the various software that is typically used to implement a managed services practice.  There are two core elements that were being repeated over and over again and these were:

  • Desktop/Server agents – these will typically be used to provide the necessary features to make delivering managed services easier and more importantly efficient.
  • PSA Software (Professional Services Automation) – this is the software that will be used to manage your deliverables and help you to ensure that you are delivering on your promises to clients.

The first point that we looked at was the management software that was on offer.  The key player at this time was Kaseya who at this point had a very large share of the desktop/server market.  The software itself is very compete as a package but we found that it did not lend itself well to small deployments in a cost effective manner.  This led our search deeper and it was then when we found Zenith.  At this time a relatively new player but none the less a very powerful toolset and extremely cost effective.  The product also did not have a steep learning curve which meant that the tech’s were able to quickly get on board with the product.  This meant that we were sold on the product that we’d use to manage our clients site’s, next it was on to the PSA.

The next hurdle was to be the decision on what PSA software we would be using to manage the clients.  As with many MSP’s we initially decided to start by running a relatively manual system by keeping notes which involved a combination of both spreadsheets and completed paperwork that is then filed.  Within a short period of time we found that we started to outgrow this manual system so we then had to undergo the process of looking a tools that would be able to manage this a little cleaner.  The first product that we tried was osTicket, this worked great for simple ticketing based on email transaction as well as web based entry.  Now to be fair this worked fantastic at what it did but we needed more from it, we required more integration of the fringe elements such time tracking for onsite work as well as site documentation.  Next we looked at Shockey Monkey, this is a project being developed for the community Vlad Mazek (OwnWebNow) which is shaping up to be an amazing project but unfortunately we were quickly being over taken by our needs which meant that we needed to look for a ready made package.  After much searching we have finally settled on AutoTask.  This will truly help our business moving forward as the whole workflow will be managed from end-to-end.  From the moment the call comes in a ticket is created.  From here and work done is added to the ticket, if onsite work is required then a site visit can be added to the ticket.  For any work done on the ticket it is allocated a code which allows us to govern what charges are applied and if they have a Managed Service Agreement then the time is allocated to the account and is tracked through the account.  This means that we can see very quickly that our accounts are profitable or not.  When the work is completed we can then make any adjustments to charges and the post it for invoicing.  The final step is then to import the invoice into QuickBooks directly.  If terms of the techs onsite, they can now fill in the work as soon as they leave site from a PDA/handheld device which means we have the most accurate information possible as it is still fresh in their mind.

All of this works to make our business run smoother and more importantly make my life easier which I am all for.  Many of the lesson I have learned others have learned and documented before me, so why listen to me?  No idea, but for what it’s worth I didn’t listen but sometimes you have to work things out for yourself 🙂

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