By reviewing the process listed above, it becomes very clear that MSPs have to be masters of project management, service delivery and managing cash flow. However, many existing VARs, who are looking to become MSPs, are good at project management, but are newer to managing rigorous service level agreements under tight margins—they don’t have the systems and processes for service level management.
The challenge is not just limited to new entrants into this market. Many existing MSPs use multiple spreadsheets, stand-alone SFA and support systems and project management tools to manage these processes. Their customer and prospect database typically sits in separate spreadsheets. Their transition project schedules are created in a Microsoft Project (or Microsoft Excel) and typically reside in the engagement manager’s laptop. Client environment information may be captured in multiple spreadsheets and Word documents. The availability of consultants with the right skill sets to drive the transition from the client to MSP environment and ongoing service delivery is tracked in a separate spreadsheet. The billable non-people expenses associated with each project may be tracked in yet another spreadsheet. Billing becomes a nightmare in such situations. The customer issues are tracked in a standalone support system, creating a huge issue - sales reps, while trying to sell additional services into an account, many not have visibility into support issues in those accounts.
When a MSP is small, such manual methods and fragmented systems may just work. But, as the MSP grows and continues to use manual processes and fragmented systems, things begin to fall through the cracks, leading to missed deadlines, lower than planned service levels, inaccurate invoices and higher costs of operations. In an environment, where competition is thick and margins are thin, this may prove to be deadly for a MSP.
Fortunately, integrated software packages for service providers are available and they support end-to-end business processes of a MSP and address the issues listed above. The full scope of capabilities covered by such packaged solutions includes:
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