Product Comparison Update: PSA (Professional Services Automation)
By Jay McCall
If managed services are a part of your business model — or will be soon — you need a PSA tool. Here’s the latest on the leading options.
IIn the July 2013 issue of Business Solutions magazine, we included a product analysis comparing PSA tools from Autotask, ConnectWise, and Tigerpaw Software. Three MSPs who were each familiar with one of the PSA tools provided candid feedback on several key components, including CRM, ticketing, reporting, and project management.
We solicited feedback from the three vendors about key updates made since our last product analysis. As you’ll see, they each had a lot to share on this topic.
Integration Tops List Of PSA Improvements
In last year’s review, one of the key critiques was a lack of integration with complementary software products. The MSP using ConnectWise, for example, felt his 50-plus employee company was outgrowing ConnectWise because of a lack of integration with “more robust marketing tools.” The Tigerpaw user also cited one of the shortcomings being a lack of integration with her company’s GFI MAX RMM (remote monitoring and management) tool.
Based on this year’s updates, it was apparent each vendor felt this was an important issue:
Autotask indicated that it “developed a world-class API [application program interface] to enable integrations with scores of applications and tools.” The vendor currently has more than 100 integrations, include several that make it easier for Autotask users to deploy, manage, and bill for cloud services. Notable new integrations this year include QuickBooks Online and Amazon Web Services. Autotask lists its integration partners on its website: www.autotask.com/solution/integrations.
ConnectWise also claims “more than 100 third-party integrations.” With regard to the concern that its product may not be suitable for larger MSPs, the company’s director of marketing, Mark Sokol, responded, “After 50 employees, ConnectWise is actually a better fit with technology companies and MSPs because of the ability to pull so many departmental functions together: sales, finance, help desk/support, service, marketing, and project management. Our latest, extensive, and open APIs allow MSPs of all sizes to integrate any tool they wish into ConnectWise.” Some of the new integration partners ConnectWise announced in 2014 include Sage Canada, Acomba, Salesforce.com, D-tools, Jira, ADP, GPS, Great Plains Navision, Great Plains Solomon, HP Quality Center, and Team Foundations Server. A complete list of its integration partners can be found on its website: www.connectwise.com/integration-partners-list.php.
Tigerpaw also made big strides in its integration capabilities over last year. “Tigerpaw has completed a new Web API that opens up additional RMM, ticketing, and automated billing functionality,” says James Foxall, president and CEO of Tigerpaw. How does that affect the incompatibility with GFI MAX mentioned earlier? “We have a new GFI integration in the final phases of development that is due to release this fall,” says Foxall. “GFI was a Gold sponsor at our annual partner conference in August, and we consider them a valuable partner.” Foxall also indicated that within the past year Tigerpaw completed an integration partnership with Mercury Payment Systems, which enables a “setit- and-forget-it billing model for managed services.” A complete list of its integration partners can be found at www.tigerpawsoftware.com/tsi/partners.
Notable CRM, Ticketing, Project Management, And Reporting Updates
All three vendors made significant updates in their core products over the past year. Beginning with CRM, Autotask introduced new Opportunity Assessment and Sales Process tools designed to increase visibility into the sales process. The Opportunity Assessment tool includes qualifying questions that can be used to determine a prospect’s fit. The Sales Process tool helps users configure a step-by-step sales process; plus, it includes resource materials available via live links to a knowledge base, allowing management to review which steps were followed.
ConnectWise was the only vendor not reporting any updates to its CRM module, although it did list several new CRM integration partners, noted earlier.
Tigerpaw made four updates to its CRM module, including a new line item discount control in the quoting tool, extensive feature improvements and forecasting reports to its Opportunity Management tool, an Outlook to Tigerpaw Journal Connector, and a new mobile CRM module being released this fall.
Ticketing — All three vendors made significant updates to their ticketing modules, too. Autotask released a new problem/incident ticket feature that gives MSPs the ability to group multiple incidents (incident ticket) to a common root cause (problem ticket) and coordinate the resolution. When you create a ticket in Autotask, you can now select the “ticket type” with the options: service request, incident, or problem. You can also associate incidents from the problem ticket. The problem ticket has an incidents tab that presents the list of associated incidents. When you add a note from a problem ticket, you can select “Apply Note/ Status/Attachment to this ticket and its incident(s).” This makes it easier to update associated incidents directly from the problem.
Autotask also came out with a Change Management Extension, which gives users the ability to establish a change management process that clearly outlines the changes to be performed and approvals needed from key decision makers.
ConnectWise recently announced Solution Sets, an update to its ticketing module, which now includes a set of templates that make it easier to perform tasks such as setting up a help desk, managing accounts receivable and collections, and client onboarding (and terminating).
Tigerpaw made several improvements to its ticketing module, including extensive updates to its email connector, additional SLA (service level agreement) functionality, centralized document management capabilities integrated with its customer portal, PCI compliance in its automated payment processing component, several new service-related reports, and numerous enhancements to its Mobile Service product.
Project Management — In last year’s analysis, our Autotask reviewer found the vendor’s project management module “complex and inflexible.” Since then, Autotask made a major upgrade designed to make it easier and more efficient to create and maintain project schedules as well as make the project team more accountable. Notable improvements include a new project scheduler with inline editing and drag and drop, new Gantt charting, a new project wizard with importer for templates and CSV files, and improved time entry with the ability to add remaining hours to project time entries and summary page.
ConnectWise says it’s making several enhancements to its project management model, which will be announced at its annual IT Nation conference, being held November 12 to 14 in Orlando, FL.
Tigerpaw made one key project management update, which resolves a point it was criticized for during last year’s analysis. “Tigerpaw users always could have multiple service orders under a single project,” says Foxall. “However, the new parent/child features we’ve developed now allow users to put a single contact across multiple accounts and locations, and roll all of the work done at multiple locations into a single parent invoice.”
Reporting — Two changes Autotask made to its reporting module include the introduction of Performance Analytics and several usability enhancements to its LiveReports. With Performance Analytics, customers can see the business data, metrics, and trends that affect service delivery, client reporting, financial management, sales opportunities, and project portfolios. Performance Analytics automatically aggregates the information users need and presents it in a portfolio of trending charts to help IT service providers make fact-based decisions about their businesses.
Autotask LiveReports now includes the ability to drag and drop reports and folders from within the main menu, an active preview, the addition of a format paintbrush, and new right-click options from within the designer. A new report creation option is available that allows users to create and format an Express Report. With a new tabbed interface, users now can simultaneously edit and run multiple reports, too. Autotask also added a Getting Started tab, which has links to training videos and widely used help articles to aid in the report creation process.
ConnectWise’s upgraded module now includes a new report writer, new dashboards, and the ability to analyze information in new ways.
Tigerpaw indicated that it now has more than 700 standard Crystal reports built in, and a customization feature that allows users to create targeted, customized analytical reports. It also added a new set of Service and CRM reports.
The Final Say On PSA
One question we asked each PSA vendor was, “What percentage of your revenue comes from converting IT service providers from one of your competitors?” The average is only about 10 percent. Foxall’s description of the challenges implementing a PSA gives some insight: “An ideal implementation of a PSA permeates all functions of a business. It touches the salespeople, marketing team, account managers, project managers, support team, client service team, accounting and administrative staff, and the executives.”
Based on the dramatic improvements each PSA vendor made over the past year, there may be a second reason why only a small percentage of service providers change PSAs: If you’re not happy with a particular module, or if your PSA tool lacks a certain feature, there’s a really good chance the issue will be resolved in the near future. The bigger issue with PSA, which retail VAR Dakota Retail Technologies talks about in this same issue (see “Break Out Of Paltry POS Sales,” on page 34), is once you’ve made your selection, you need to make the commitment to fully implement it, so you can realize all the benefits it has to offer.