Software Integration Project Leads To Managed Services Success
By installing a set of integrated software applications, this MSP (managed services provider) is avoiding customer invoicing conflicts concerning services delivered.
With all of the hype surrounding managed services, it's important for VARs to remember that entry into the managed services market requires more than just technical competence. It requires the ability to manage your technicians — both in the call center and in the field. Most importantly, any foray into managed services requires you to show the value you are delivering to your customers. This is a key to avoiding difficult conversations that can arise when your invoice arrives and the customer has no recollection of any services you provided. When it's time to invoice customers for your services, how will you make sure your customers are aware of all the services you delivered? Michael Drake, founder and CEO of masterIT, an MSP in Bartlett, TN, installed a set of integrated applications to address this problem for his business.
masterIT provides technology services such as remote monitoring and management, help desk, on-site professional services, and remote backup and storage. The company is also an ISP (Internet services provider). Shortly after he founded the company in 2006, Drake merged masterIT with a local professional services provider called Wisetech that was using simplistic and outdated service ticket software.
The combination of his managed services and Wisetech's reactive professional services was a good fit. However, Drake knew that in order to be successful as an MSP, he would have to install management software that was capable of handling the unique needs of an MSP (mentioned earlier). "We founded the company with the specific purpose of being an MSP," explains Drake. "Because we didn't spin off from an existing VAR, we had the enviable situation of building our NOC [network operations center] and implementing our management software toolsets from scratch. We looked for software that would serve as the foundation for our network monitoring services and help us to run the MSP business." He landed on the combination of Autotask and N-able.
N-able N-central provides remote monitoring and management capabilities. Autotask provides back end business management for services providers. Although each product is sold separately, Autotask and N-able are designed to work in concert. For instance, when the monitoring engine in the N-able N-central platform triggers an alert, it automatically creates a ticket in Autotask. Based on the SLA (service level agreement), the ticket is handled remotely, escalated, or the engineer is dispatched to the customer's site.
masterIT also offers a HaaS (hardware as a service) model. The HaaS offering provides clients with network equipment as part of its fixed-fee services. masterIT uses Autotask to preschedule tickets so that every member of its team knows which equipment is due to be replaced and when. Autotask also creates reminders that trigger procurement activities for new equipment and remarketing activities for old equipment.
It took about one year for masterIT to fully utilize Autotask and N-able. Why that long? "It took us six months to know what we didn't know," says Drake. "After six months, we invested in Autotask professional services. Prior to Autotask's training, we were using only 30% of the functionality." Drake went a step further and brought Autotask back in one year after the installation to provide additional training. Although he doesn't have specifics on the breakdown of his investments, Drake says that he has spent nearly $1 million to get the MSP operational.
Drake is still learning all of the ways Autotask and N-able can help his business be more efficient. For example, prospects of masterIT undergo a financial assessment, a total cost of ownership analysis, and a complete network evaluation. That information is housed in Autotask and is used for prebriefing sessions before visiting a new client to position the solution in terms of overall cost savings. Finally, Autotask provides a connector for QuickBooks accounting — the program masterIT uses for accounting purposes.
Drake concludes, "Autotask helps us to look at our critical business metrics." It is the healthy ratio of fixed fees compared to actual services performed that keeps masterIT on a double-digit growth pace.