Q&A | February 13, 2014

"Continual Service Improvement" Can Start With A Look At Your Data

Bernadette Wilson

By Bernadette Wilson, associate editor, Business Solutions magazine
Follow Me On Twitter @bernadeditor

Continual Service Improvement Data Viewing

The data you collect about your businesses is valuable — if you use it.  

Autotask’s senior VP of community and business development Len DiCostanzo, a former managed services provider (MSP) himself, understands the struggle to find time to fit everything into your schedule. He says MSPs — especially SMBs — can find the idea of taking time to analyze data daunting. Rather, “they go with their gut and keep working,” he says.

DiCostanzo explains, however, identifying strengths and weaknesses in your business and planning accordingly is necessary to ensure satisfied customers. He points out that “continual service improvement,” the focus of one of the volumes of the ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) best practices, is more than a book — it’s also an expectation among your customers. Without a critical look at performance data, your business initiatives could miss their mark. In the white paper, “Understanding The Changing Landscape For IT Services: A Guide for SMB IT Managed Service Providers and IT Solution Providers” Autotask president and CEO Mark Cattini states, “As your business grows and evolves, it will become mission-critical for you to ensure you’re making fact-based decisions.”

It’s also crucial that the service you provide is equal to — or better than — your competitors. In a recent study by CompTIA, “Trends in Workforce Automation and Communication,” revealed that about three-fourths of small businesses (less than 100 employees) have had a significant or moderate increase in their use of business process automation in the past two years. Of those businesses, 45 percent are using the technology for data analytics. “Technology is no longer functioning in a simple support role, but is increasingly used to meet business objectives and drive differentiation,” said Seth Robinson, director of technology analysis for CompTIA. “Companies with aggressive technology adoption mindsets are able to advance to process-level issues and create competitive advantage.”

DiCostanzo points out analyzing data can begin with one metric — perhaps response time, which is a major component of service level agreements (SLAs). If your company has not met its agreement on response time, taking a look at the data about those instances that can reveal why delays occurred and what impact they have had on your business. The process of collecting data, reviewing reports, and acting based on the facts will help you leverage information on your business’s performance to improve it.

DiCostanzo says Autotask itself is taking measures to better leverage data. “We had this great product gathering lots of data. Now we’re working to make that data easier to consume.” Autotask unveiled its Performance Dashboards with analytics at Autotask Community Live in June 2013. The dashboards are preconfigured to compare a business’ performance against commonly accepted best practices — but can be configured to show performance based on an individual’s targets. Autotask expanded its portfolio in November with Client Reporting Dashboards. These tools enable Autotask partners to provide their clients with the same level of dashboard reporting that they have to measure their service performance. This year at Autotask Community Live, June 8-10, Autotask will unveil a new look at partner data. “It includes a benchmarking feature that provides a comparison to the Autotask network as a whole,” DiCostanzo says, and added additional functionality will be added to the new release.

Whether or not you are an Autotask partner, DiCostanzo advises, “Look at reports.” The ability to gather customer data — what he calls “institutional memory”— and to provide a report of performance is a step toward the trusted advisor role with your clients. “There are so many tools and so many opportunities to look at data,” DiCostanzo says, “If you’re not looking at reports, you’re missing the boat.”