Guest Column | August 8, 2014

The Real Difference Between Business Tools And A True PSA

Ed Mana, ASCII

By Ed Mana, Chief Technologist, Technology on Demand, ASCII member since 2011

I admit it. I am a tool and gadget junkie. Whether it is a CAT-5/6 crimp gun to save minutes crimping jacks or some new zip tie cutter, I am there.

As an IT solutions provider, not only do I have physical tools, but I have software tools as well. The software tools I use vary from malware and anti-virus mitigation to third-party patching, etc.

When it comes to tools to run your business, this is where I have it boiled down to a total of two: an accounting package and a PSA (professional services automation) package. I use my accounting package for taxes, bill paying, and payroll. I use my PSA for everything else. In my case, the PSA and accounting package are linked so data flows between them and is consistent.

Most companies without a PSA use many different tools to mimic some of the features of a PSA. For example, you may use one piece of software for service ticketing, another for CRM (customer relationship management), and yet another piece of software or an on-line service for e-mail blasts to your customers. In addition, invoicing customers is performed from the accounting package. You are now using a total of four individual software packages to run your business, and none of them are truly integrated to each other.

There are a few pros and many cons to this approach. One pro, as I see it, is cost if you use low-cost or free versions of various software. Another is that you are not tied to one single vendor. However, you get what you pay for. The cons to this approach are the amount of individual software packages you need to manage and the lack of integration between them. This causes the data stored in each to potentially not be the most current as you will have to constantly update an address or phone number in four pieces of software (accounting, ticketing, CRM, and mailing list.) In addition, updating multiple software packages across different computers in your organization and making sure each is at the correct version coupled with backing up each individual software’s data can be a nightmare.

However, the biggest con to a non-PSA approach is the lack of ability and/or difficulty to pull metrics about your business. For example, how profitable was that AYCE (All you can eat) contract last month? The month before? The year before? Another example is how many marketing touches you placed and which ones yielded actual sales and the total amount of profit from those sales.

Stop the insanity!

By using a PSA, all of these functions are now combined into one single piece of software. This is the biggest pro for using a PSA. You no longer have to juggle between several different pieces of software to manage a customer. Another pro is that you now have only a single piece of software to install and maintain. The cons to using a PSA are cost and you are now putting all of your eggs into one basket with the PSA company you’ve selected.

However, I think people miss the main reason to use a PSA. What is that you ask? AUTOMATION! The single biggest difference between using and not using a PSA or using a PSA and not using it correctly is the automation that it provides. Automated workflow is a key PSA feature. One example of workflow automation is to notify your accounting department when a new account is created. This allows them to make sure the tax information is entered and correct. Another example of workflow automation is to notify the end-user when a ticket is created and completed so they receive communication during the service process. A third example would be to notify someone in your organization when an SLA expired on a ticket. Our e-mail templates have been so successful in customer communications that customers think someone actually wrote them a personalized e-mail vs. these “automated” e-mails and now start engaging in real conversations!

In addition to the above, most remote monitoring and management (RMM) tools integrate to PSAs. This means that now you have even more automation in terms of RMM generated service tickets.  The RMM and PSA work together to create and close tickets automatically as needed for various services issues. In a non-PSA environment, these tickets would be manually entered into a ticketing system.

A PSA also allows for better reporting since all of the information is in a single place. Without a PSA, you would be hard-pressed to determine the quantity of quoting vs. how much you’ve closed along with how noisy a client is on the service-side in a single report. With a PSA, you can do this with several clicks.

In closing, a PSA is one of the best tools in my “toolbox” to run my business. In fact, it has become the “toolbox!”