In many of my books and articles, I refer to an Excel spreadsheet called the Managed Services Grid. Basically, this is a single spreadsheet you use to keep track of your clients and the services they are buying. It compliments your PSA (Professional Services Automation) tool and provides a cross-check.
There’s no magic here. You probably have some variation of this. For us, the Managed Services Grid is one place where we keep track of all the numbers related to buying the components of managed services and selling managed services to our clients. There are basically two kinds of information here: Things we buy; and things we sell. See the graphic below.
Here’s what you’re looking at:
A. Client info
Of course we track the client name. We also need to track how they pay, and the plans they have (such as Platinum Managed Services, Cloud services and Hardware as a Service (HaaS)). Related to that, we track the nature of the monitoring we do. These include monitoring only, basic patching, fixes or none of the above.
This information is found in the columns labelled Client, Payment Type, MS Plan and RMM.
B. Services and software we license
In terms of what we buy, we keep track of:
- RMM (remote monitoring and management) agents
- Spam filter agents
- Antivirus agents
Each of these things is purchased by us on a per-unit basis. In some cases we sell them on the same basis. At other times we bundle them with other services. In all cases, we have to pay for every agent used that month – without regard to whether we got paid for it, sold it per unit or bundled it.
This information is found in the columns labelled RMM Agents, Spam Filter and AV Clients.
C. The services we deliver to each client
In order to make sure the invoices are correct every month, you need to track the number of machines or devices under Managed Services contract, cloud Contract, HaaS, Backup and Disaster Recovery or some other service.
At some level, most of this exists in your PSA. But it’s not all in one handy spreadsheet. You need to coordinate this information between your bookkeeping/front office staff, your technical staff and your PSA. The Managed Services Grid is more than just a cheat sheet for getting a quick glance at payment plans or the number of machines under contract.
It is also a tool you can use for communication within your company. Whether you use the system described here or another, you’ll see how useful it can be. This spreadsheet can be used for asynchronous communication for your people. There are two basic rules for this communication:
- You need a system for staff members to communicate clear, unambiguous information and questions. The following examples are based on the process we use:
- If the front office manager has a question about any number in the table, she changes the background color to green and enters a note.
- When a technician makes a change in the field, such as adding or removing a machine, he changes the appropriate cell to light red.
- When the front office sees a light red cell, she makes the appropriate change in the PSA and then turns the cell to yellow.
- When anyone has a question, they put notes in the notes field.
- If, for whatever reason, you believe that the numbers in the real world are off from the contract numbers, then an on-site physical inventory is required. In such cases, the cell is colored red and a service request is created. The most common use for this is when you are on-boarding a new client.
- Once the service manager has verified that the tech information has been entered into the contracts in the PSA, he sets the background color to “no background”. This is the normal state unless a tech or the front office have a question. When notes have been addressed, they are cleared.
- Everyone MUST use this system. You have to be able to trust the system. That means that everyone uses it.
This last point is critical. Like documentation itself, the process of maintaining the Managed Services Grid is very easy and just takes a few minutes here or there. But if you get behind and can no longer trust it, then bringing it up to speed will take more time.
So, the Managed Services Grid is a tool you can use for communication. It is a way to verify how many agents (etc.) you are being billed for. It is a great way to track the services you should be billing. And it is a wonderful quick-reference guide for all of the above.
Keep It Up
The most common time that the Managed Services Grid is used by a technician is when a machine is added to or removed from managed services. (See my previous blog post Adding a new machine to managed services.
The field tech’s job is not to determine billing or discuss the contract with clients. His job is to make sure that machines added to or removed from service are reflected in the Managed Services Grid.
The Service Manager will use the Managed Services Grid much more frequently. For him, it’s a reference tool. How many machines do they have? How many licenses are we buying? Etc.
Once a month, the Service Manager will verify that all the numbers on the grid are correct. If any cells are colored, he’ll make sure that they are addressed. Then he’ll verify that the billing numbers for contracts in the PSA are correct.
At the time of billing, the book keeper or office manager will once again verify that the Managed Services Grid and PSA agree. Then she’ll run the invoicing for the month. It’s not her job to determine whether these numbers are correct; it’s only her job to verify that they agree with each other.
Once again, everyone who touches the document should do what they can to verify it is up to date and accurate.
You may from time to time add or remove information from the Managed Services Grid. I highly recommend that you always use a copy. Even copy the worksheet and rename it as an old version. Then you can make changes to the new version and you’ll have an “in place” archive of the old format.
Obviously, the overall format won’t change once you are tracking everything you need to in the Managed Services Grid.
So if I had to highlight three take-aways from this blog, they are as follows:
- A single Excel worksheet is a good place to keep a snapshot of your clients, what you buy and what you sell.
- Create a system that allows each user of the Managed Services Grid to provide changes and asynchronous communication.
- Make using the grid a regular habit for everyone.
(Used with permission of Karl W. Palachuk, SmallBizThoughts.com)