Business Practices MSP Technology

Managing an IT Team in a Business that’s Not Tech Focused

For businesses outside the tech sector, managing an IT team presents a number of unique challenges. You want to be sure you’re providing the tools and information that this critical team needs in order to function at peak efficiency while also drawing them in and making them an important part of your office culture.

Even if your business doesn’t operate within the technical sector, your IT team is an important part of your overall functionality, and you want to be sure that you’re managing them as well as possible.

Step One: Know What You Don’t Know

Chances are, your IT team is filled with individuals who have skills that you don’t. They’ve spent years in school, or working on certifications, or diving in with fields of study that simply haven’t impacted your personal needs. For this reason, it’s important that you understand the areas of expertise claimed by your tech team – and know what you don’t know.

You can effectively manage a technical team without vast technical knowledge yourself, especially if you follow these key steps. I worked with the CEO of an international software company who didn’t even know how to add an image to an email. It didn’t stop him from building a multi-million-dollar company, though.

Let the existing members of your team participate in interviews for new team members. They likely have a better understanding of the specific skills needed to work in your office, and they will know what questions to ask and what red flags to look for.

Listen to the advice of your team when it comes to adopting new technology. They keep up with the latest trends in their field and can provide more effective advice about the tools that will be most effective for your business.

Let members of the IT team participate in discussions about ongoing challenges or other measures that need to be taken in the office. Let them shape critical technical decisions and processes. They’ll help you to make better decisions and they’ll appreciate the stock you place in their expertise.

Step Two: Move Team Members into the Right Roles

When you’re dealing with your IT team, one of the most critical responsibilities you hold is ensuring your they each hold the right roles. Get to know the members of your team! Each of them has a unique set of skills, interests, and specialties. While they should all be able to fill certain basic functions within your environment, you should take a few key points into consideration when moving team members into a new role or assigning roles for a project.

What are the team members’ unique skills? What is each one good at? When you understand what your team members are good at, you can better place them in a position that will enable them to do the best possible job and draw real satisfaction from the role they play in your business.

How do your team members interact with one another? Are there members of the department who work together better than others? What skills are the members of your tech team interested in expanding?

You may not always have an expert in place for every aspect of a new tech job. By choosing the team members who have the closest set of skills, however, you can increase the odds that your project will go the way you want as well as decreasing frustration amongst the members of your team.

Step Three: Offer New Tools

IT specialists love operating on the cutting edge. They like playing with new gadgets, testing out new technology, and learning more about the latest advances in their field. That doesn’t mean that you have to adopt new technology just for the sake of moving forward with something new. In fact, it’s often practical to wait until some of the early testing phases of the newest technology pass through before jumping in with them – but it does mean that you should endeavour to use practical technology advances effectively throughout your organization.

When you look for the newest technical advances in your field, you can help keep your IT team excited and engaged.

Step Four: Provide Adequate Compensation and Benefits

Many non-technical companies struggle to offer the level of compensation expected by tech experts. If you want to manage an effective tech team, it’s important that you provide them with industry-standard compensation and benefits that will encourage them to stick with your business long-term. Tech professionals are looking for reasonable health insurance, tuition reimbursement or help attaining new certifications, and a paycheck that’s not significantly below the industry standard.

If you’re struggling to keep team members in their jobs, consider how you can change your salary and benefit offerings to help improve the odds that they’ll stick around. Make sure to carefully consider how much your tech team offers the company as a whole. You can’t run effectively without them, and that means that you need to provide adequate support to the team that’s so critical to your success.

Step Five: Clearly Define Company Expectations

Different companies have different expectations for their technical teams. In order to manage yours effectively, make sure that you provide clear instructions regarding your expectations. Make sure the team knows:

  • What projects or items take priority. For example, if they’re in the middle of a big technology roll-out, should they put that on hold to deal with a CEO who’s struggling with their laptop?
  • What procedures are in place for handling help desk tickets and other areas of concern. Is there a ranking system? Do some employees in the building take priority over others?
  • How do you handle system updates?
  • What procedures are in place for managing technology throughout the building? How do you handle upgrades? What’s the process for requesting new equipment or for retiring old equipment?

When your tech team knows exactly what’s expected of them, they’re better able to perform daily tasks throughout the workplace, and that means that, as a rule, the entire day will run smoother.

Managing your tech team has several unique attributes compared to managing others throughout the building, but the keys remain communication, respect, and understanding. The better you understand your IT team, the better you can work with them – from shifting them to the roles that are right for each member of the team to integrating their ideas and opinions into the company structure.

By showing them respect and appreciation, you’ll also build their respect for the company, which will make them more likely to stay with you over the long haul.

To see how ServiceTree helps you to manage your team and build a positive company culture, reach out today.

Business Practices MSP Technology

The Ultimate Checklist for Becoming a Smart IT MSP

Being an MSP isn’t really a complicated business, but most of us find ways to complicate it. Time and time again you see a simple MSP business model become overly complex. The MSP owner doesn’t do this to create excitement in their life – more often then not it’s the single cause that prevents the owner from having any work/life balance.

I can put my hand up and honestly say I was one of these owners, mistakenly thinking it would increase sales and attract new prospective clients. Just as the fast food industry makes a new burger out of nearly all the same ingredients used in other burgers, as MSP can do the same – slice and dice product offerings to attract new customers that have a specific need.

The problem is that while the changes you make mightn’t be complicated, you’ll need to communicate the change/s to your whole team, and they’ll need to adjust accordingly. Sound easy? More often then not, what makes sense to you makes no sense – and is therefore complicated – to those around you.

The good news is, when you craft up a ‘new plan’, it generally revolves around these three points:

1. Unit pricing
2. What’s included in the price
3. The SLA

After all, what else can you change when your an MSP? All we’re doing is reselling human resources (expertise and labour). We buy it (pay our staff), package it (apply policies/process/procedures and knowledge), and sell it. So how can we become a really smart IT MSP, and stop over complicating things? Here are a few key points.

The Smart IT MSP Playbook

Knowledge is KING, so make sure it stays in your business and not in your tech’s head. The last thing you need is for your knowledge to go on vacation for four weeks. Or worse, go and work for your competition.

Ensure you’re using a powerful PSA (Professional Services Automation) platform – not just a ticketing system or scripting automation for your servers. This is where you can automate your company’s processes and ensure that every one of your techs follows the same process and procedure to aid your customers. This is the single most powerful way to ensure that as an MSP, you’re delivering excellent customer service to all your customers all the time.

You achieve this in three ways:

Consistency – Your team will deliver consistently great customer service. Don’t underestimate how important consistency is. Think about why you go back to the same restaurant or grab a coffee from the same coffee shop. It isn’t because they gave you one great experience – it’s because they’ve done it consistently.

Metrics – Ensuring everyone follows the same process also allows you to look at metrics and compare tickets or technicians and make important business decisions.

Knowledge Stays Put – Keeping the knowledge within your business is critical to your success, and it’s an essential component to scaling. If you need to know something basic, you can Google it, but experience-based knowledge is much harder to come by. It’s the secret ingredient that differentiates your business. Automate the processes your technicians follow. Look at everything they do more then once and see how – not if – you can automate them. By automating repetitive, mundane tasks, they’ll have more time to deliver excellent, consistent customer service.

Let’s look at this in more detail, because it’s one of the most effective ways to increase profits. Automation can help an MSP to increase profits in many ways, including:

  1. Ticketing – Allow your customers to create their own tickets.
    • Make sure your PSA has a good customer portal so the users can log their own tickets, and see their open tickets.
    • Don’t reply to their emails as soon as they send them to your service desk.
    • Ask your customers to only call if it’s a P1 issue. Consider the likes of Cisco – the only tickets you can log with them over the phone are P1s; the rest must go through their online portal.
  2. Self-Serve – Invest in a PSA that offers true ‘self-serve’ for your customers. In doing so, you’ll provide a win-win experience, where your techs won’t need to work on the tickets that bore them (ones that customers can self-resolve). You should deliver a financial incentive to customers for doing this, too.
  3. Ticket Allocation – Techs waste a lot of time deciding which tickets to work on. They also tend to cherry pick the ones that want to do in deference to SLAs or the delivery of consistent service levels. Hiring a dispatcher can address these two issues, but at a financial impost on your bottom line. Also, dispatchers aren’t cheap, and tickets will still be coming through when they have lunch or they’re on vacation.
  4. Technical Automation – Now comes the techie part of automation. Here are 3 points on how you can benefit from technical automation.
    • CMDB (Configuration Management Database) – If you don’t know exactly what you have out there, what you’re supporting, and how it’s set up, you’re operating blindfolded. It’s critical as an MSP to have this information documented, as it reduces the time your techs waste trying to work out what’s what. It’s also essential to have this in place before you can automate anything. The last thing you need is to remotely restart a server running a critical application during the customer’s business hours, simply because you didn’t know what applications it was running.
    • Remote Execution – Yes RDP, TeamViewer and many other similar applications are great when you have to see what your customer is seeing, but many of the functions you must perform on your customers’ servers or workstations can be done remotely. This reduces the time it takes to get it done and mitigates the need to take over their session and interrupt what they’re doing. Nowadays, thanks to Powershell, the Linux gurus using SSH are no longer the only ones who get this benefit.
    • Remote Deployment – This is an incredible waste of time, watching the progress bar slowly etch its way to 100%, and in most cases whatever you install on one device, you’ll need to install on others. Use tools that let you remotely install applications; there are some that also handle the MSP world pretty nicely, too.
  5. Invoicing – Generate and submit your invoices to your customers as quickly and efficiently as possible. This is one of the top issues MSPs face today, and it starts from techs not filling out their job sheets properly (or on time), and it goes all the way through to billing for all the work your team does at the appropriate rates.

There’s plenty to work on, here. And all of it will improve the automation within your MSP and increase your profits. If you’re scratching your head and don’t know where to start, I suggest you look at ServiceTree. As an MSP ourselves, we faced all the same challenges you’re facing, and so we built a solution to manage every aspect of our operation. It delivers everything we’ve talked about here (and quite a bit more). And just like it did for us, it’ll completely transform your business.

If you’d like to see how ServiceTree turns average MSPs into smart IT MSPs, reach out today.