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Finding The Right PSA Tool No Easy Task

There are many factors that go into choosing the right professional service automation tool provider, but in the end any of them will work well with the majority of MSPs.

The decision about which professional services automation provider is best for an MSP depends on several factors way beyond the cost of their offerings.

In the end, the decision depends primarily on which PSA tools are best for the MSP's circumstances, with no single PSA vendor able to claim the title of best provider, said Michael France, chief operating officer and managing partner of Taylor Business Group, a St. Charles, Ill.-based executive coaching firm focused in IT solution providers.

France, speaking before an audience of MSPs attending this week's NexGen 2018 Conference and Expo, said his company in October did a report comparing the three primary PSA tools--ConnectWise Manage, Kaseya BMS, and Datto's Autotask PSA--and found benefits to all three even as the tools continue to evolve.

[Related: Datto CEO Austin McChord Stepping Down]

There are other PSA platform providers who will be included in future reports, he said.

MSPs looking to evaluate the right PSA tools for their business should look at a number of factors, France said.

These include user interface, where a clean, uncluttered look and ease of use is important; integration with other vendors who use the PSA platform to bring their offerings to MSPs; the service desk where some are easier for large clients and some better for smaller clients; and the ability to import and migrate data with the platform.

Other factors to consider include how open the platforms are, particularly in how they handle third-party APIs; their ability to let MSPs easily manage projects; invoicing and how they integrate with third-party applications like accounting software; contract management; client experience; and cost.

While all three PSA tool providers offer a wide range of capabilities, MSPs may not necessarily use them all, France said.

"If you are a smaller MSP, you will not use the entire product set of your PSA," he said. "But you will as you grow."

France also warned against assuming any of the PSA platforms are perfect for an MSP.

"All three offer great support, but they will never run your business like you run your business. … It has to be set up right and then maintained over time," he said.

Cultural alignment with the MSP is just as important as a vendor's feature list when determining which PSA vendor to work with, said David Townsend, president and chief operating officer at Awecomm, a Detroit-based MSP.

This is especially true when one remembers that changing PSA providers is not an easy task, Townsend told CRN.

As a technology firm, we are always looking for things to work better," he said. "Maybe one day we think we should move to the other guy. Every eight to ten months, we see a new trend, and think we should move. But these changes happen all the time. If we moved every time there was a new issue, we'd be moving all the time."

There are very few trigger events that would cause Awecomm to switch PSA providers, Townsend said. "It would have to be a compelling business-critical capability not working with our provider that another could offer," he said.

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