How Automation Accelerates MSP Success
MSPs are faced with complex decisions every day. From hiring to certifications, SLAs, pricing and more, the business choices that factor into each workday seem never ending. But for many, the decision to automate often causes some angst and it shouldn’t. Here’s why:
Business automation, and more specifically the automation of IT service delivery, offers a clear path to stronger profits, reduced costs, streamlined services and a better customer experience. Ultimately, automation can make your business more valuable in the eyes of your customers, and in the eyes of potential investors and buyers, too.
Automation is one of the smartest, and ultimately most profitable, decisions you can make as an MSP. Yes, there’s some necessary groundwork and decisions to be made before you jump in, but the right automation will benefit associates, customers, partners and the business overall.
If you’re not sure where to start, here are three simple steps to get moving in the right direction:
1. Start with an Automation Strategy
Most managed service tasks can be automated. In fact, the scope of IT tasks that are eligible for automation are far-reaching and almost overwhelming. That’s why it’s wise to start your automation journey by identifying the areas of your practice that will benefit the most from repeatable, standardized procedures and processes. Patch management, backup, onboarding and mobile device management are just a few. Remote monitoring and management (RMM) tools offer a simplified way to get started with automation. Today’s best-in-class platforms come with pre-built automations spanning all your most critical IT tasks. In some cases you can just check the boxes on your RMM dashboard for the tasks you’d like to automate, and then drop them into your automation policy. In addition, more sophisticated RMM tools feature drag-and-drop capabilities that let your technicians create customized automations on the fly, with a few simple steps. Automation is no doubt getting easier and easier, and the best part is that RMM platforms will do all the heavy lifting for you, saving you time and money along the way.
2. Automate Billing and Operations
Beyond automating your managed services, one of the first areas of the business many MSPs will automate is operations, and more specifically, billing. Most MSPs will tell you that billing is a tedious, time-consuming process that takes business leaders away from more profitable activities. Eliminating it from the list of monthly or weekly tasks is an easy decision. A professional services automation (PSA) system can reduce the time in half that it takes for billing, while also allowing you to easily generate professional service reports, track utilization rates and demonstrate efficiency to customers. These systems offer a valuable, repeatable business framework and can reduce monthly invoicing headaches by transforming the way operations are managed. An effective PSA should provide you and your clients with a secure portal for clients to submit and track support tickets, an online scheduling calendar, simplified remote ticket entry and service reports that can be customized with ease.
3. Scale and Standardize
The biggest appeal of automation may be the way it allows you to scale your business. You should be able to apply an automation policy to multiple devices or customer sites: there should be no need to build different policies for different customers. For example, once you have created your ideal maintenance policy you can apply it to thousands of devices at multiple customer sites. The time savings for this capability alone is a game changer for many MSPs. And for those MSPs who lose sleep at night wondering if they’ve covered all the bases across their clients’ networks consider this: your RMM should allow you to automatically launch an automation policy when a problem is detected.
As you get started with automation, an important step is to establish standard operating instructions (often called runbooks) for the way your business completes its most common tasks. These instructions offer a valuable guideline for the way you run your business, and can be set up for automation within your RMM platform. An added benefit: when any of your technicians leave, your business can continue on without missing a beat. Your automations give you a way to capture the subject matter expertise and skillsets of your most experienced technicians and use that knowledge repeatedly across your business.
Today’s smartest and most successful MSPs use automation to move their businesses forward and free up their talent to be more strategic. In addition to providing productivity gains and greater profitability, automation also gives MSPs more time to grow their practices and focus on more strategic aspects of their business, while allowing technicians to work on more strategic tasks. Simply put, the decision to automate is an easy one if you take the time to read beyond the headlines, really assess the mess, do your homework and make the move to simplify success.