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Business Operations

3 Key Drivers for Profitability When Working from Home

With the current situation we are all facing with COVID-19, we have all been forced to work from home and think outside the square. As a whole, the IT space has been hit the least, but it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t evaluate what we are doing and how. 

Many business owners don’t look at their internal business, and how things happen. Are we running things as effectively as possible? Is everyone in the business working towards the same goals? Chances are no – and it’s understandable – if you never look in, you’ll never overcome your current challenges or make it past your current state. Something many of us only look at when we are bleeding is how we are spending our money, and are we getting value from it. 

When speaking to MSPs, we frequently ask questions around tickets and data. It helps us understand the position the MSP is in, and how they view what is important to them. We’re surprised time and time again, that most don’t know their business metrics, even from a high level, and we’re not talking about Staff Member X worked on ticket Y for Z minutes. We’re talking at a simple level – how many tickets were logged in the last 7 days.

This is a simple metric that should not take more than 30 seconds to consume, but having this metric weekly gives you a very quick powerful snapshot as to how things are trending. 

3 Key Metrics

Here are 3 key drivers an MSP can look at to ensure they are profitable and heading in the right direction.

Ticket per endpoint goes down

Most MSPs have seen their end customers affected directly with the current climate. Either from having customers needing to terminate employees, or reducing the number of employees that are working for them. In either case, this is directly linked to a reduction of devices requiring support, so it should also directly relate to the ticket count going down. We see on average between 1.7 and 2.7 tickets/endpoint being logged (pre-COVID-19).

 Time to support goes up

Most MSPs have seen only a minimal impact on how busy their techs are. Why is this the case, considering most have seen a reduction in support requests? Supporting your customer when they are working from home is harder and takes longer. If the user has taken their device home – we are not trying to support a device that is not in an environment we have designed or setup. Most homes have consumer-grade internet connections and Wi-Fi. Together with slower internet speeds faced by everyone leads to simple things that and simple support taking longer.

Cost of tickets go up

Supporting a device has a cost. How much it costs per ticket is something most MSPs have never analyzed, measured or tracked. From our analysis pre-COVID-19 we see an average ticket costing $16. This has taken into account the utilization of a tech and the loaded burden cost. With the time to support devices going up, it is no surprise that directly transfers to the cost/ticket going up by as much as 25%. At a cost of $20 to the MSP per ticket, you can see for MSPs that are too efficient and having 2 or more tickets/device being logged per month. 

So to recap, is working from home bad news? Can we still be profitable in this environment? Yes it is possible – but you cannot achieve it with your head in the sand. Keep an eye on the amount of tickets being logged on a daily and weekly basis. Together with these 3 metrics, you need to be aware of how this is affecting you and adjusting your team size and expectations accordingly.  

 With the data listed above – an MSP is achieving a monthly gross margin/tech of between $3,450 and $8,700. You can see from this – there is a massive difference of over 100% between the 2 figures.  

If you’re looking for ways to improve your MSPs profitability, whether while working at home or from the office, reach out to our team today to schedule a demo of our PSA plugin or check out our new podcast MSP Power Up™

Categories
Business Operations

The Glass Ceiling for MSPs

The infamous glass ceiling. I am pretty sure most MSPs have heard of it – or worse felt it. The 2 ceilings we hear about are the $2m ceiling and the $4m ceiling. I only came across this glass ceiling in the last few years when speaking to MSPs, yet I have had my MSP since 2000. When I had first heard of it, I was quite confused as to why MSPs talked about it, getting past it was like winning a prize. It was only after speaking to many MSPs about the way they did what they did and a few years of digging to really understand what made this glass ceiling – and why so many were affected by it.

 The great news is that these ceilings are glass – so we can definitely smash through them, but what makes these ceilings and more importantly how can we get past them?

What Causes the Glass Ceiling? 

The ceiling is a result, not a cause, just as the profitability of a business is a result. As a business, if you want different results than what you are seeing you’re going to have to take different actions. What I found interesting was that the word ‘culture’ gets thrown around in these discussions, and it was this that started my thinking. What is the relation between the way that different MSPs define their culture and their size? Does it have anything to do with the ceiling? 

What we found is that the smaller MSPs struggle to get past the $2m ceiling not because its $2m. The reason is that as a business they need to do things differently, they need to be more structured and put in the processes to make this happen. The unfortunate thing is that many MSPs have been started by a tech themselves, and a lot of the time they don’t have the business knowledge to take their MSP to the next level. This has a compound effect. They are not profitable enough to be able to afford to bring a business manager into the business to help them make the change, and if that’s not hard enough, the last compounding point is that they, the business owner, are not ready for the change. They cannot expect this change to happen without them, and they need to do what is required to make the change.

I have spoken to many business owners that are under that $2m ceiling – that will never go past it, due to themselves. They cannot expect their team to do something one way if they don’t do it themselves. This is the single most common reason the $2m ceiling will continue to keep them trapped. They need to embrace structure and process to be able to not only get past the $2m ceiling but also to enjoy higher profit margins. 

How to Break the Glass Ceiling

So what do MSPs that are trying to break the $2m ceiling and $4m ceiling look like – and how do they compare with those that didn’t see the ceiling to start with? Here is a table we put together, and for those that have read any of my blogs or heard me at an event or in a podcast – you will see a reference to restaurants. But this time it’s not fast food. After reviewing the table, can you see where you are and how others do things differently? Have you experienced being a consumer in a restaurant and experiencing what is described below? Put yourself into your customer’s shoes and think about things from the way they see it. 

If you want to chat about ways to break the glass ceiling, feel free to book some time on my calendar! 

 $2m Ceiling$4m CeilingCeiling Smashed
Tech Team SizeUnder 1010 – 20Over 20
Culture

 

I don’t want my people to be restricted.

 

I want people to have fun, and colleagues to work with their peers through issues.I want my team to grow with my business. I want a performance team that succeeds together.
How the do it
  • They let techs do what they want, when they want.
  • Tickets are just picked by the techs. It’s up to them to keep an eye on the queue.
  • They allow customers to dictate how the log tickets.
  • Data from emails don’t always go into the ticket (PSA).

 

  • Tickets are allocated by a dispatcher
  • The dispatcher is a tech that spends some of their time looking at the ticket queue.
  •  They depend a lot on email, communicate back and forth via email.

 

  • Dispatcher allocates all work once it’s logged.
  • Dedicated Customer Service Representative (CSR) logging tickets.
  • Tier 1 team works on basic tickets.
  • Tier 2’s and Tier 3s are in smaller ratios compared to Tier 1.

 

 

Delivery of ServiceInconsistent.

 

Transitioning between inconsistent -> consistent.

 

Consistent

 

Their people
  • Everyone they hire is a T1-T3.
  • Their people should be able to do any ticket.

 

  • Different levels of techs are hired as required.
  • Growth of each team member is unstructured and driven by the team member.
  • Any success of this growth by the MSP is accidental.

 

  • People are hired for specifics skillset.
  • Junior hires are put through a structured development plan.
  • Team members are shown how they can grow into future roles.

 

Net ProfitLow  – < 10%

 

Medium 10% – 15%

 

Higher 15%+

 

Data Analysis
  • Looked at quarterly if at all.
  • Utilization & Labour cost are not measured.

 

  • Looked at once per month – or less frequent.
  • Utilization is measured, but data accuracy is assumed.

 

  • Service Manager oversees day to day ticket flow and customer satisfaction.
  • Data is reported daily / weekly, and people held accountable.

 

Tech to Endpoint Ratio1 : <120 

 

1 : 120 – 1 : 150

 

1 : >150

 

Team utilization (real)

 

< 55%

 

55% – 65%

 

> 65%

 

SLA

 

Not in place, as tools and process are not in place to measure.

 

  • Are set out with the customer, but processes are not in place to ensure they are met.
  • Not well communicated to the team.

 

  • Clear and documented for the customer.
  • Documented and communicated to the team.

 

Real world analogy
  • It is like going into a restaurant, sometimes they greet you and take you to your table, other times – it’s up to you to find somewhere.
  • The pages on the menu are just clipped together with a paper clip.
  • Sometimes you have to put your hand up for service, other times they come to you.
  •  Sometimes you need to have a booking, other times you don’t.
  • Sometimes your meals come out fast, and hot – other times you look around and other guests seem to be getting the royal treatment and the waitress is on their beck & call, while your constantly putting your hand up for attention

 

  • It is like going to a restaurant where you are always greeted at the door.
  • Sometimes you can choose where you sit, other times they will direct you to a specific table.
  • When you sit down sometimes they offer you water and the menu.
  •  Some days the person who greeted you then becomes your server and has to rush back to the front door when a new customer walks in, on other occasions you feel really looked after.
  • The meals are always good value but the portion size and attention to detail vary depending on if it’s a weekend or a weekday.
  • It is like going to a restaurant – your greeted every time at the door, and taken to a seat.
  • They ask for your preference of location to sit.
  • The person that took you to your table hands you over to a server who then looks after you until you leave.
  • On sitting down your asked if you would like water, and given the menus.
  •  The menu is simple that anyone can work through it.
  •  The meal sizes are similar, and you always feel the same value of your outing.

 

Categories
Business Operations Business Practices

What Can MSPs Learn From Fast Food Drive-Thrus?

Most people are surprised when I say that a fast food restaurant and an MSP have elements in common.

Categories
Business Operations Business Practices

A Different Way of Thinking

As a business owner, I know exactly what it’s like to have some vendor spouting off about how you should be running your business.

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Business Operations Business Practices MSP Technology

Quick: What’s making you the most margin? (Don’t know? Let’s Talk)

One of the questions that invariably pops up when any group of MSP owners are talking is price.

What do you charge? How do you charge? What’s your best margin solution?

My answer to that question is fairly simple: Your services automation tool should answer those questions. You should be able to see the uptime (or downtime) of any solution you deploy with your customers, You should be able to easily see what products are consistently triggering support tickets, and which solutions are sailing along smoothly.

The cost of a solution isn’t its price tag, it’s the cost to your business to keep that solution delivering in your customer’s environment.

Many MSPs struggle with pricing because they don’t have or don’t know how to use the data from their own business. How do I know that? Because, in the early days of our own MSP business, This Solution, we were running blind. We were constantly trying to understand and, in some cases, micromanage our costs. The issue? We weren’t looking at our staff as a cost we could effectively manage. Instead, we were completely focused on what products we could squeeze more money out of. We also weren’t delving into where our products were adding to our costs by routinely demanding technician attention. It’s at the intersection of labor and product where most bad things happen for MPS businesses.

Tried, Tested in a Real MSP Environment
When we invested in the technology that became ServiceTree, we knew that having accurate, real-time data about each solution we deploy, in each customer’s site, was elemental to not only delivering a good customer experience but also pricing our services and offerings correctly to maintain margin.

That’s why our tool’s UI clearly shows data on each solution, its ticketing history and more. With our real-time data, MSPs can see what costs money—wasted tech time, troublesome products, needy customers (come on, we’ve all been there …). After you act to right the ship, you can then easily track the impact of whatever change you make—the data will tell the tale.

Sometimes a troubled business can make one simple change to staffing, to a product line or support level in a contract, and see a tremendous impact on their margins and, ultimately, the bottom line. Learn how our intuitive UI helps you see real-time data from your business and make seeing trends and hiccups easy.

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Business Operations Business Practices MSP Technology SLAs

Who Sets Your Support Priorities? (Hint: It shouldn’t be your tech team)

One of the most difficult parts of owning a services business is developing, standardizing and then meeting SLAs. While most MSPs, including our own This Solution, have standard agreement levels with our customers. But even with standardization comes variances and exceptions within those contracts as we tweak for size or geographies, response time tolerance, unique vertical demands, etc.
Keeping tabs on those details can be painstaking and time-consuming. Perhaps more importantly, while executing against those contracts and SLAs is definitely a team effort, managing them is not. Unfortunately, many MSPs leave those details—which customer and project combination is a priority—to their tech team members to determine, which is not only ineffective but can be costly.
Let’s be clear, you hire your techs for their skill with technology, not to be the hallway monitors for your customer contracts. Asking them to do that is simply setting them up for frustration and your business up for potential failure.

Take the Guesswork Out of SLAs
As a manager, I want to have my SLAs integrated into my services automation tool. With ServiceTree, once a contract is in the solution, support tickets are intelligently routed by customer, project, SLA and more to ensure the right ticket is getting to the right tech at the right time. No longer will your techs have to look at a list of tickets from multiple customers and waste time trying to determine the next step.
Why is this important? Not only does our PSA solution enable the manager charged with coordinating your SLAs with a full line of sight into real-time activities tied to each contract, it keeps your technicians from having to look up each contract every time a ticket hits. More effective. More timely. More accurate. That is what a good services automation tool should do for your MSP business.
Want to see how we support SLAs in your business, check out our demo.

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Business Practices Uncategorized

Keeping Your Most Skilled Assets Happy              

Paul Azad | ServiceTreeHi. My name is Paul, and I’m a techie. I love to solve problems, dig into weird patterns and tackle quirks in the network. But I’m also a business leader, so I know that using my talented team of tech experts well is the foundation for a successful managed services business.

When I talk to other business leaders—who are often also techies—the conversation quickly turns to how to make the most of the technical assets we invest in as part of our business. How do we enable technicians to focus on what they do best, keeping them challenged and busy without distractions? Utilization of technical talent can be one of the biggest hurdles to MSPs’ growth, for a number of reasons:

  • Techs aren’t getting the right tickets to put their skills to use in the best way, which is a waste of their talent and pushes your costs higher.
  • A lack of process for assigning tickets and then resolving problems with standardized (read: cost effective) workflows means you can’t use your junior techs effectively.
  • Techs are being asked to make prioritization decisions about tickets and clients without any insight into contracts and SLAs. It’s literally a guessing game.
  • The urge to pick out the most challenging ticket to work on can derail SLAs and leave your best techs working too long on a single problem while the demands of other clients go unmet.
  • Then there is the paperwork. Listen, no one likes paperwork, but when you’ve invested in a technician with high levels of expertise and valuable certifications, you don’t want them doing busy work like time cards. You want him or her working on tasks that deliver value to your customers.

So, how do business owners take that investment we’ve made into our technical talent, keep it engaged, focused and excited to deliver exceptional—and profitable—services?

Use The Right Tools To Keep Your Team Focused, Effective

My answer is simple: Don’t ask your techs to do anything but tech. Enabled by ServiceTree, your techs will see the next ticket and nothing else. They don’t need to worry about what is the right fit for them, or which client has what level of support in its contract.  The system has already evaluated and prioritized that ticket to deliver it to the tech best qualified to do the work and to meet the SLAs of the customers that have tickets in the system. No more wasting time tracking down a manager to find out when ticket should have priority. Instead, that technical team member can concentrate on the task at hand.

And, because of the process baked into ServiceTree, he or she also has all the information to execute a solution according to the preferences of our business.

What does that mean:

  • Techs only see the tickets they are assigned—no distractions.
  • Business best practices and workflows are customized and integrated into the tool to ensure repeatable, streamlined processes around every type of ticket, allowing junior techs to add value from nearly day one.
  • The system has already determined the right response time and priority for every single ticket.
  • Every minute spend on a ticket is automatically captured—keystrokes, screen shots, communications—everything. Your tech isn’t trying to remember how long it took to fix that server last week; the system tracks every step. No more timecards filled with guesstimates about how long a ticket resolution took.

This solution is a win for everyone. Empowering your techs to focus on their work, unhampered by debates over SLAs or paperwork, helps them become content, engaged members of the team. Happy, well-balanced teams deliver the best experience to your customers. When it all works, your team is more satisfied, your customers are happy, and your business is growing. Win. Win. Win.

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Business Practices

What does workplace culture look like?

If you’re asked how much you like your job today, your answer will depend on many factors. If your boss is breathing down your neck for a report, this is the day you’ll likely respond, “I hate my job!”

If you’re asked the same question tomorrow after the report is turned in, your response might be different. You might feel more positive about work, especially because your stress level is reduced and you feel more secure about your role.

Now, imagine your IT team members feel the same way from day to day. Their beliefs about their roles affect their perceptions of workplace culture. These perceptions influence the success or failure of the team.

Understand Your IT Team’s Needs

While you may have high empathy and feel able to place yourself in the shoes of team members, it’s impossible to understand their needs all the time. Whenever you get caught up in a difficult project, you may forget to discuss their assignments and how things are going in terms of work satisfaction, workload, and level of stress. You may forget to ask them about their families and their personal lives, but you should understand their beliefs about the team even when there’s no time.

Why are their beliefs important? These are the foundation of your team’s culture! However, you can also influence their beliefs to strengthen the team. It’s a general belief that, in order to build a strong team, especially in IT where people collaborate from multiple locations, you should give your team shared dramatic experiences. This means scheduling time for the team to leave the workplace and attend corporate retreats or team challenges.

What Workplace Culture Means is Subjective

Whether we’re content with the workplace culture or not, we should understand that the team’s wellbeing is a matter of perception. Bob in Project Management might conceive the state of wellbeing in the company to be vibrant, fast-paced, friendly, and supportive of diversity. Meanwhile, Maria, the coding team’s administrative assistant, might feel that her co-workers belong to cliques and don’t like her; she really wants to transfer to another project.

Workplace Culture Changes

Rajeev Bhardwaj writes: “Work culture is an intangible ecosystem that makes some places great to work and other places toxic. In a nutshell, the ideology of an organization is what constitutes its work culture.”

We also know workplace beliefs frequently change. Employees don’t develop or hold onto their beliefs in a vacuum. What’s more, employees view this ecosystem according to their own working conditions. A big factor impacting employees’ perceptions of culture lies in the relationships they maintain with colleagues. Even two people working on a year-long project hold different cultural views and feel it currently meets (or fails to meet) their needs. The question becomes what IT leaders should do to create a better workplace culture. First, let’s consider the rest of the definition of workplace culture.

How Culture Works

When we consider how to define an organization as having a good culture, such as one where people want to work, there are a number of factors to consider. Obviously, employees want to work for a company with a good reputation and competitive salaries/benefits. They also prefer a work schedule that fits their family’s needs. Some employees want opportunities for advancement and to receive benefits that help them prepare for future jobs, including management training programs and tuition reimbursement.

While these benefits may seem like enough to attract employees and keep them in the organization, they aren’t.

Set a Priority for Cultural Values

As leaders, we can introduce new benefits to the workplace that help employees feel healthier, more positive about their jobs, and able to maintain a work-life balance. If we want employees to be productive and to feel they belong to the culture, we must give them every opportunity to succeed.

They need to work in a positive ecosystem where they feel appreciated and that the level of benefits equals or exceeds what they invest themselves. How else will they feel valued and want to keep working for us? We can set a priority for employees to be well and to provide benefits that promote their wellbeing. This includes offering incentives for high performance, encouraging workers to take time off and rewarding them with flexible scheduling (even telecommuting), and offering a gym membership or gym reimbursement program.

Start With Small Changes

While we can add employee benefits in waves and try to change their working conditions, a word of caution is needed. If we believe there’s something wrong with our team’s culture, it doesn’t make sense to upset employees by introducing too many changes at once. Sometimes, employees respond better when their leaders attempt small changes. The mindset is that leaders should try to improve workplace ambience, which can be achieved without spending too much.

Over time, an organization’s leaders can also shape culture, through conscious and unconscious actions (sometimes with unintended consequences). The best leaders we have observed are fully aware of the multiple cultures within which they are embedded, they can sense when change is required, and can deftly influence the process.

Map It Out

Before you try to introduce changes to the team, make a diagram of all the cultures in which you’re embedded. Be sure to add the names of team members who are also in those cultures. If you value your employees and want them to stay, make it easy for them to believe they belong to the workplace team.

Make your meetings with the group and with the individual members a top priority. Do everything in your power to help them buy into the shared beliefs of the team, to contribute new ideas and values, and to increase their rapport with others. When you see problems with the culture, sit down and have an open discussion with all members about where to make improvements.

They should be part of the process of determining changes to make the workplace climate better. The result will be a more positive work atmosphere where people feel secure about their identity, or sense of belonging to the team.

To learn how ServiceTree enhances your business culture, aligns your team members and respects everyone’s unique talents and beliefs, click here.

Categories
Business Practices MSP Technology

Why MSPs need a Question Tree-Based PSA Platform

Professional Service Automation (PSA) platforms typically include a knowledge base where clients can find answers to basic questions without contacting the help desk. Ironically, the ‘automation’ element is a misnomer (most PSA solutions include little to no automation), and the knowledge base component is usually static in nature. So not much automation going on here…

There’s a much better way to handle both.

A question tree (a.k.a. decision tree) approach to PSA optimizes the knowledge base by automating the answers according to pre-configured rules – which evolve over time. This can serve MSP techs and end-users alike, creating a more interactive system for both.

At its simplest level, chatbots use question tree automation to answer common questions from end-user customers. For example, a site visitor might want to know if the solution provider’s product integrates with a certain piece of software, so they ask the chatbot (pop-up chat window). While this information might be available within a self-help knowledge base article, it’s much easier to ask the chatbot.

 

Here’s HubSpot’s definition of a decision tree:

“A decision tree is a flowchart-style diagram to help you analyze various courses of action you might take for any given obstacle and the consequences for each. There are three parts to a decision tree: the root node, leaf nodes, and branches. This method can help you weigh risk versus reward, and map out a course of action to follow.”

Question Tree vs. Knowledge Base

MSPs are the outsourced IT departments for modern businesses; their main function is to support their clients IT infrastructure 24/7, or on an as-needed basis. Clients partner with MSPs to gain the knowledge, expertise, and tools to streamline, optimize, and secure their IT systems, in order to deliver quality service to their clients.

That’s why it’s important for MSPs to optimize their knowledge base with a question tree structure. Having a PSA platform with a knowledge base isn’t enough anymore; its lack of interactive functionality fails to solve many of the questions clients have.

A question tree, on the other hand, is interactive, and it can automate an MSP’s help desk and resolve common questions without involving staff. The question tree based PSA platform is an interactive self-help tool, while the knowledge base PSA platform is a static self-help tool.

Question Trees Leverage Automation to Solve IT Issues 

Saving labour costs is important to MSPs as it’s typically the largest expense.
Scaling services to meet the needs of modern enterprises means MSPs are often stretched thin when it comes to skilled IT technicians. Question tree based PSA platforms help alleviate the need for technicians to intervene with every question clients may have.

Reducing the number of tickets without reducing the quality of service is what MSPs want from their PSA platform. Question trees can help achieve this goal.

Automating help desk features for clients not only save money, it also improves customer service, too. When clients are able to resolve IT issues themselves with an interactive question tree, they save time and they feel more empowered. After all, submitting a ticket or calling the MSP’s help desk is often the last resort for clients.

Take for instance the results from a recent Zendesk study:

  • 75% of survey respondents said self-service is a convenient way to address customer service issues.
  • 67% of respondents said they preferred self-service over speaking to a company representative.
  • 91% of survey respondents said they would use an online knowledge base if it were available and tailored to their needs.

Gartner predicts that by 2020 a customer will manage 85% of the relationship with an enterprise without interacting with a human.
This percentage may be lower for MSPs, considering their service relationship needs with clients, yet it still indicates the desire for customers/clients to help themselves with service issues. In other words, the type of issues MSP clients have is more technical and complex in nature than regular consumers buying a product or using a service in other industries. Yet, even with the complexity of IT, MSPs will benefit more than most by resolving them through automation.

Here are some reasons why this is true:

  • Most clients aren’t proficient with the complexities of IT systems
  • IT issues can bottleneck workflows and stifle productivity
  • Staff limitations for MSPs
  • SMEs often don’t have IT teams that can understand and resolve common issues
  • Modern enterprises are constantly integrating and upgrading systems
  • IT issues can happen at any time day or night
  • Many common IT issues can be resolved with simple instructions or explanations

The Bottom Line

Question tree based PSA platforms provide more than self-service; they provide intelligent tools that help resolve common IT issues according to past client behaviour and rules-based criterion set by internal users. Both internal teams and clients will benefit by having this type of interactive, intelligent tool to resolve and standardize common issues.

Modern MSPs can reduce help desk ticket volumes without diminishing the quality of their service by adopting question tree based PSA solutions. Enhancing the knowledge base with an interactive question tree tool will expand a client’s ability to help themselves while reducing redundancy with common IT issues.

To learn how ServiceTree has taken PSA and redefined it with powerful question trees and real end-to-end automation, click here.

Categories
Business Practices MSP Technology

4 Practical Ways to Motivate your Tech Team

When managers hear the word ‘motivation’ there’s an almost audible groan. We all know workplace motivation is important for employee morale, focus and productivity, but the things we’re asked to do to promote it are often impractical. Usually, they just don’t work.

Motivational advice often lacks substance, and tactics like inspirational notes or asking about feelings often feels cheap and hollow for managers and their teams. This is especially true in serious and tech-related industries where these camp-style counsellor tactics might not work at all.

Here’s a test. Try patting a programmer or engineer on the shoulder and ask them to open up about their feelings. If you’re lucky, they’ll think you’re joking. Group activities like offering compliments in a circle (while holding hands and humming Kumbaya) or throwing around a ball covered in questions are party games and, while they might be fun for teenagers (still doubtful), they won’t work for a team of serious professionals.

If you want to motivate your team without acting like a touchy-feely camp counsellor, try focusing on what matters in the office instead. We’ve got four great places to start.

1) Respond to input.

Motivational post-it notes left on desks are funny at best, but what really motivates a team of professional thinkers and technicians is knowing that their team is being run effectively. Your team needs the ability to request and receive changes when it matters. One of the most important ways to motivate any group of self-directed professionals is to make sure their opinions and recommendations are heard and addressed.

This is especially true in tech circles where new solutions are constantly developing. It’s always possible that a new best option for building your projects will appear and your team will enjoy working with a well-configured stack of technologies and policies.

In fact, make it a policy to always give serious consideration every time one of your IT team members brings something up and then find a way to respond. Most professionals don’t make suggestions lightly and if they can easily exercise professional influence, they will feel more in control of their projects and more motivated to achieve.

2) Streamline pain points.

While your people may not bring everyday complaints to you, go out of your way to tease out the things they complain about amongst each other. Everyone complains about work to a certain extent but what they say might contain some real pain points that could theoretically be resolved.

Do your engineers joke about managers lurking over their shoulder? Maybe it’s time to dial back the micro-management. Are they constantly complaining about how much time it takes to write reports? You may need a software upgrade that will automate reports for them. Do whatever you can to streamline areas your techs find difficult. As the weights fall away, so will the work-related stress. Performance, mood, and motivation will all increase in unison.

3) Praise in private.

Conventional wisdom says, ‘praise in public and criticize in private’. I’m unconvinced. I think both need to happen in private. Public praise – especially amongst a group of contemporaries in the same roles – breeds resentment. “Why did Bill get a pat on the back for that project? I did just as much work on it…”

If you build a culture that truly recognises the skills, traits and motivations of each individual, you’ll conclude that praise or criticism is never relative to the other team members. It’s bespoke. It’s personal. As such, each person must be guided, critiqued and appreciated in a private setting. There are many advantages to this, but one that stands out is the eye-to-eye authenticity of the act. It says, “We’re not show-boating, here. I see you.”

4) Not everyone wants to be a boss.

Understand that not every great technician or engineer wants to move up to management. In fact, a surprising number of them don’t want that at all because it means leaving the specialist/expert track. Engineering is about hands-on work – getting elbow-deep in a project. Most engineers don’t want to be taken out of the field, and many technicians feel the same way. They’d much rather keep improving their technical skills and accomplishments than mess around with KPIs, management meetings and acronym-laced platitudes.

This doesn’t mean you can’t reward them with other forms of promotion. Make sure you have a variety of raises and promotion options besides the management track available and accept you might get a little top-heavy on leads and seniors if you want to keep your best technicians for a long time. You can also ask each team member where they really want to be in five years and then help them get there when promotions are earned, even it involves a small lateral movement.

Tech professionals are not retail clerks or marketers. They don’t need a cheerleader to get them motivated. They need a coach who’s got their back on the hard issues and understands what rewards are actually rewarding versus fluff. With intelligent, responsive support as your motivational approach, you’ll be able to effectively boost the morale of your tech team without the usual static about feelings and party games.

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For MSPs who recognise that a great business is built by people who feel supported, ServiceTree was made for you. Learn why here.

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