Integration has always been a challenge. It’s actually a dirty word for a lot of IT technicians. That’s because a lot can go wrong during an integration as a result of poor planning, unexpected complexity, and system incompatibilities.
Managed services and cloud-based solutions were supposed to eliminate integration challenges. For end customers working with a service provider, that is true to a large extent. On the MSP’s end, however, integrating new services and solutions can be a little more complex.
So, MSPs must tread carefully when integrating a new service or capability. A straightforward, successful integration saves time and money, allowing your staff to focus on other day-to-day tasks and strategic work. But, an integration that goes awry can become a bottomless source of trouble and frustration, creating extra work that diverts staff attention from other important responsibilities.
When that happens, there’s always the risk that customer service will suffer. To avoid a nightmare integration, MSPs should look for services that easily plug into your existing tools and platforms, and vendors that understand your needs by providing intuitive tools to ease the process.
Using the Right Tool for the Job
The managed services model works better when tasks are automated, but this requires the right tools. Professional services automation (PSA) and remote monitoring and management (RMM) are cornerstone tools because they provide MSPs with the ability to create tickets, capture customer information, diagnose and troubleshoot problems remotely, and much more.
Additionally, many managed services vendors offer integrations with PSA and RMM tools that can help you to simplify operations, maximize efficiencies, and increase profitability. Ideally, the platforms you use should allow you to automate repeatable tasks that would normally require dedicated staff. If your staff isn’t bogged down with the drudgery of everyday repeatable tasks, you can take on more work and increase overall productivity.
So whether you’re choosing a PSA or RMM platform – or one that combines their functionality – pick one that is easy to set up and maintain. If your PSA platform requires a complex configuration to add customers and automate ticketing, for instance, it’s likely a bad choice.
Likewise, your RMM platform shouldn’t require a hair-pulling amount of configuration and integration every time you add on a service, whether it’s data backup and recovery, endpoint security protection, or some advanced analytics tool.
PSA software can also help MSPs manage their business, staff, and projects with less time and effort. If your PSA software is integrated with your RMM software, you can manage everything from a single dashboard, saving time opening and closing windows and uploading data to non-integrated systems. As a result, performing certain tasks should take no more than a few clicks. If you need to install system images, for instance, you shouldn’t have to repeat the process 10 times. Instead, you should be able to click “Install” once to complete the task for all the systems. Issuing a trouble ticket and invoicing customers should be automatic PSA tasks.
Additionally, your back-up solution should be managed via a central web portal or advanced integration between RMM tools, PSA tools, and add-on services. This can also help to improve efficiencies by supporting remote connections.
Achieving enhanced functionality with minimal effort can really make a difference in managed services integrations. If a service you add increases complexity and creates time-consuming processes, you have to question if it’s worth it. So before making a final decision, do your homework and be sure to test every integration to confirm you are making the right decision.
It’s important to also remember that automation is not a silver bullet for success. However, it can free up more time so you can focus on building your business. The fact is, we all must learn more from our successes and failures, and the data and capabilities provided through automation allow that to happen faster and with greater efficiency. In many ways, automation simplifies success and brings a renewed sense of balance for today’s MSPs.
Neal Bradbury is Senior Director of Business Development for Barracuda MSP, a provider of security and data protection solutions for managed services providers, where he is responsible for generating greater business value for the company’s MSP partner community and alliance partners.