PSA Tools and Systems for MSPs

Why Do You Need a PSA Tool?

Unless you’ve got an accounting department handling the task of generating your invoices, I’m willing to bet the last few days of the month aren’t generally ones you look forward to.

We all dread the administrative chore of getting the billing done. Verifying the chargeable hours… putting together the service reports… printing the invoices and stuffing envelopes… Not only is it painfully boring, it also eats away at our income because the time spent on this mind-numbing task could be used for more profitable support activities.

But if we put it off, we don’t get paid… and we can’t have that!

There is an excellent and very affordable (or even free) solution to this problem. You can dramatically reduce the time it takes you to do your billing, easily generate professional service reports, improve accuracy and eliminate billing errors, and improve your client’s satisfaction all by simply implementing a solid Professional Services Automation (PSA) system.

A long time ago, I used to call this my Ticketing System. But these applications have evolved and now do so much more to streamline our processes and improve communications, they deserve to be called by their new acronym.

At a minimum, good PSA tools should be used to provide you (and your client) with the following:

  • A secure customer access portal where clients can submit and track their own support tickets
  • A web-accessible, shareable scheduling calendar
  • Easy remote ticket entry
  • Easily customizable service reports, for both your records and for delivery to clients

And ideally, it will also provide:

  • Integration with your Remote Monitoring Managment (RMM) system
  • Easy invoice generation
  • Integration with your bookkeeping software

Giving your clients access to their own support portal where they can submit and then track progress on their own tickets can be beneficial to you on several levels.

Support items won’t fall through the cracks, and you’ll be better at meeting your SLAs. If clients are properly trained to use the portal, there’s a chance more support items will be reported, resulting in faster problem resolution and potentially more billable services. And of course, clients appreciate the added transparency of knowing what work is being done, for who and how long it took.

I really don’t have to add how important it is that any consultants (yourself included) who perform any service, accurately record their time. Regardless of whether the work is billable, remote and included with your monthly support plan or just plain non-billable stuff like researching a new piece of equipment – the time needs to be recorded and tracked. And there’s no easier way for getting this done than by entering the time in a centralized system the moment you complete the service.

A good PSA tool will give you centralized access (either from your own internal shared server, or from the PSA’s hosted service) where you can enter your time from any web accessible entry point, mobile devices included.

Once time is being accurately recorded and tracked, you can better project monthly performance levels BEFORE the end of the month, when it’s too late to take corrective action. You can also easily and instantly print comprehensive service reports for your clients on demand.

But the real genius behind today’s full-featured PSA’s is their integration with your other administrative systems.

If your PSA tool integrates with your Remote Monitoring Management software, it can automatically create support tickets for the appropriate client when alerts are generated. Even if you get lazy in monitoring your alerts, your PSA system will remind you that a client needs your attention and that you’ve got work to do.

And if your PSA can generate invoices with just a simple mouse click or two… well… the time saved here can easily justify the cost of just about any PSA on the market today (but you don’t have to spend a lot. We’ll get to that in a second).

With many of today’s Professional Services Automation programs that have an invoicing feature, the process will be a simple process of running a report to verify the time spent and billable charges. You verify that your recurring monthly charges are being properly applied.

If everything looks good, a few clicks can generate your invoices and automatically a pdf of the invoice and service report to your client, with a pre-customized email message from you.

The PSA will then integrate with your accounting software and synchronize the invoicing data, making bookkeeping tasks much cleaner.

I get asked quite often for a recommendation on a system to use. My recommendations are primarily limited to what I’ve heard in our IT community. My personal experience is limited to the very few systems I’ve evaluated through a trial and the one I ultimately chose to use in my own business.

There are plenty of low cost or even free PSA tools you can check out. Several popular options include:

  • ConnectWise
  • Autotask
  • TigerPaw
  • osTicket
  • ShockeyMonkey
  • BlueFolder

Of course there are others, and each application has its dedicated fan base. But regardless of which  PSA tool you decide to go with, you’re sure to see an improvement in efficiency, an improvement in customer satisfaction and there’s a solid chance you’ll get paid faster and more consistently. There are not a lot of systems out there that can offer you a bang for your buck at this level.

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