Magazine Article | March 14, 2007

Get Control Of Your Managed Services

A VAR attributes a projected 100% increase in sales revenue this year to creating customer help desk policies and using a Web-based PSA (professional services automation) solution.

Business Solutions, April 2007

Andy Harper is CIO of Gaeltek, LLC, an outsourced IT service provider with firsthand experience about the "how to" as well as the "how not to" sell managed services. In 2004, Harper earned a managed services contract with his first client, a full-service investment banking, asset management, private equity, and securities firm. Initially, the firm contracted Gaeltek to conduct an application audit and to ensure the firm's entire server and application software licenses were up-to-date and in compliance with the SEC's (Securities and Exchange Commission's) mandates. Over the course of the next couple of years, Gaeltek sold and installed six Windows servers (one Small Business Server; two domain controller, file, and print servers; and three member servers dedicated to line-of-business applications) and 65 Microsoft Office 2003 software licenses. Far and away, however, professional services were Gaeltek's moneymaker, comprising not only the largest percentage of the IT service provider's revenue, but a source of steady revenue, also.

There was a downside to Gaeltek's initial professional services experience, however. As many VARs that sell professional services can relate, when your customer's network and applications are running smoothly, they quickly forget why they need you. This led to Gaeltek having to document all major IT problems it resolved each month and review the list with the banking firm regularly. At the same time, help desk calls were getting out of control. "There were days when we received 600 e-mails asking for help desk support," says Harper. "Even though we used Level Platform's remote monitoring and management service to solve the majority of the problems, we were still so buried in support calls and e-mails that we couldn't take on any new clients."

Policy Management Enables Business Growth
Gaeltek solved its professional services dilemma by meeting with the banking firm director and establishing a banking firm power user employee at each of the firm's three sites. "We trained the power users to handle the most basic IT issues, and they served as a filter for all help desk support issues," says Harper. "For example, if an employee's computer froze up, the power user would instruct the employee to restart the computer and determine if the problem had been resolved prior to sending an e-mail to Gaeltek."

The new policy, which is adopted across all clients, helped cut down Gaeltek's help desk support requests to about 50 e-mails per day, which was significantly better, but still time-consuming to manage. In 2006, Gaeltek discovered the solution to its professional services management problems via Autotask, a Web-based PSA software provider. The Autotask software replaces help desk e-mails with an online ticket system that the banking firm's employees can use to enter information about IT problems and Gaeltek service technicians can check at any time. "The software includes a data entry screen with drop-down menus that help users enter pertinent information about their computer problems as opposed to 'computer not working,'" says Harper. "The software also requires users to rate the urgency of each request, which allows us to more easily prioritize our work." To help its customer further, Gaeltek subscribes to Autotask for Outlook and Autotask for QuickBooks. Autotask for Outlook integrates many Autotask functions into the Outlook interface and enables, for example, Gaeltek to right click on the occasional e-mail that is sent by a banking firm customer and transfer it to the Autotask online program. The Autotask for QuickBooks application helps automate the billing process, cutting back significantly on the effort required for monthly billing, while still ensuring the client sees the information it needs to see.

More recently, Gaeltek purchased a subscription to Autotask LiveMobile, which enables the IT service provider to check and respond to help desk support issues even when not in the office or at the customer's facility. "By using handhelds equipped with Windows Mobile operating systems and a Cingular wireless wide area networking connection, we are able to immediately respond to alerts and close out service requests remotely," says Harper. "Since we've incorporated the new policies with the customer and the PSA automation solution, we've reduced our managed services time management by 60 hours per month." The result is that Gaeltek has been able to take on one new customer per month without adding to its staff, and it's projecting to double its sales revenue in 2007.