Feature Article: Benchmark Your Managed Services Success
By Gennifer Biggs, Business Solutions magazine.
One of the biggest complaints about managed services is the difficulty of completely changing the trajectory of a break/fix company to the managed services business model. For Todd Schorle, president of TS TECH Enterprises, the evolution took a detailed strategy and an introspective approach to business that continues today. TS TECH started the transition to managed services for the reasons most IT solutions providers tackle the change in their business model. "We were tired of feast-or-famine revenue," says Schorle. "Plus, we were already doing a big portion of it; we were monitoring our customers' networks and giving our most valuable services — help desk and server management — away for free."
In 2006, the solutions provider began offering fixed-fee plans to its customers. "We didn't have the pricing or offering completely buttoned down, but we knew the process had a learning curve and the sooner we started making the transition, the quicker we would finish," explains Schorle. He adds that, to make the process manageable rather than overwhelming, his company approached specific challenges in the managed services shift by setting 90-day goals. By the time the evolution was complete — two years later — Schorle was sold on the concept of 90-day benchmarking as a business tool. "Sometimes it is hard to see the progress you are making when you are in the trenches; you get bogged down," says Schorle. "This is our way of getting beyond that."
Flush from its success in adopting a successful managed services model, TS TECH decided to apply the approach to continuous improvement throughout the business, implementing an official Kaizen policy (Kaizen is a Japanese management term referring to continuous improvement). Schorle explains that his company started by publishing goals as yearlong projects with milestones every 90 days, using paper reminders posted around the office. As the MSP evolved, it started using its professional services automation (PSA) tool for tracking the projects. Now, Schorle is using an internal service board within the PSA to track goals. That service board lists all the outstanding tickets associated with TS TECH's efforts to improve, allowing everyone in the company to see what work remains outstanding.
In order to stay on track — and enthusiastically engaged — with the company's goals, the staff meets every week to review that service board. "We talk about what's working and what's not," says Schorle, who stresses that improvement is a group effort.
For TS TECH, the proof that continuous improvement efforts are paying off is found in increased overall customer satisfaction, as well as increased internal satisfaction.
Schorle says the difference in his model is that his company makes time to improve. "It used to be that we didn't have time to be proactive because we were so busy being reactive, and that is a huge challenge to businesses," says Schorle. "But if you don't make the time to change, it will never happen."