Much of the technology discussion today revolves around automation. It is a principal goal of the Internet of Things (IoT), digital transformation, and artificial intelligence (AI). But automation is nothing new to MSPs, since replacing repeatable tasks with software scripts is central to the managed services model.
Still, many MSPs continue to get by without automating processes they should. This bogs you down with routine tasks, making you less efficient and limiting your ability to deliver excellent service.
So as we stand on the cusp of a connected world, where automation plays a fundamental role, MSPs already should have replaced manual processes in at least five areas—billing, help desk, patch management, data backup, and customer onboarding.
Accurate, timely billing is essential to healthy customer relationships. If you’re still handling this aspect of the business manually, you’re running the risk of introducing errors and hindering the process as your billing department (who in many cases is the owner or an office assistant) gets pulled into other tasks. Customers aren’t very tolerant of billing errors, so the sooner you automate this function, the better off you’ll be.
As MSP Alliance President Charles Weaver says, “Any time you have to manually interact with a trouble ticket, you should look at that as an opportunity to automate.” Scripting functions, such as routing and assigning tickets, initiating remediation, and tracking a ticket response, make for a much more efficient help desk. It allows your staff to focus on the bigger problems or get reassigned to proactive tasks.
Test management is one of the most common features of RMM platforms. It makes sense to simply take advantage of the functionality, but if you have special circumstances requiring you to test patches before you apply them, you can still take advantage of automation to disseminate the patches. As soon as you’re done testing a patch, you’ll want to apply it because it could well be what prevents a cyberattack against a customer.
MSPs traditionally have used automated data backup and recovery to get their foot in the door with managed services. Every MSP should use automated backup systems and require customers to leverage them. Especially in the age of ransomware, when an attack can shut down a business from one minute to the next, having readily available data backup can save a customer’s bacon. Automating the process allows you to customize backup to customer needs and increases backup reliability.
Every customer is different, so onboarding will differ from one to the next. But most tasks involved in onboarding can be scripted because they are repeatable from one environment to another. The more onboarding tasks you automate, the smoother the process is likely to be, which makes for a good start to the customer relationship.
Automation makes you more efficient while making your services more predictable and reliable for the customer. If you still haven’t automated any of these tasks, start now. If you have, start thinking of what to automate next.
Pedro Pereira is a Massachusetts-based writer who has covered the IT channel for two decades. Recognized as one of the first journalists to cover managed services, Pedro continues to track, analyze and report on the IT channel and the growing MSP partner community.
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