Differences Between RMM, PSA, ERP & Ticketing Systems

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Managed Service Providers have a fun kind of business. It’s not so much the technology they get to play with, but rather the business operations themselves. In many ways, an MSP is similar to a hedge fund. They purchase resources (technician labour) at an acceptable ‘raw rate’; they package it up with reporting mechanisms and then on-sell it as a managed service.

From the outside, it might look like a cash cow business, but those times are long gone (if they ever existed).

 

The Problem with MSPs

Many aspects complicate this simple business idea. The biggest challenge is common to most businesses; that none of the employees are as driven and motivated as the business owner/CEO. You can try to incentivize staff just as many do today, but although money is an incentive for some, it can soon cause problems, too.

  1. Your team is paid for 100% of the hours they ‘work’ yet you’re never able to invoice all of those hours.
  2. If a team member is ill, they’re still paid, but you cannot on-charge this to your customers.
  3. If a team member is ill, you must find the necessary resources to do their work while maintaining consistent service levels for all clients. You can hire more staff, but then you’re lumbered with additional overhead when your staff member returns. Keeping that additional resource busy can prove too difficult.
  4. You need to up-skill your team regularly. Google is inadequate in this regard.
  5. You must maintain a dynamic library of information about each team member’s knowledge and skills to ensure you’re deploying the right resource for each job.

 

Customers

Then there’s the other side of the equation – your customers. The following list of variables is challenging for an internal Service Desk, but when you add the complexity of multiple customers, they’re particularly difficult.

  1. Different SLAs
  2. Different requirements
  3. Different processes
  4. Different company structures
  5. Different infrastructure/structure
  6. Different passwords (hopefully)

Both of these groups – internal and external – create inefficiencies for the MSP, and these cost money.

For those with a strong operational or process background, this comes as no surprise. Usually, it’s the most significant driver in an MSP’s profitability, compounded further by a competitive employment market (leading to higher remuneration for the technicians), plus added competition from overseas players.

 

The Solutions

As an MSP, it’s easy to feel the industry is always trying to sell you something. The truth is, vendors within the tech industry want to empower businesses.

Large businesses outside the MSP space are getting in on the act, too, with telcos, printers and cloud providers all vying for a slice of the MSP action. Likewise, the gig economy has given rise to freelancers offering remote service via Freelancer, Upwork and other talent portals.

Many of these new players lack the necessary experience in the MSP market to know what it takes to run an efficient, profitable and unified services-based business. Indeed, the core elements that comprise a successful MSP business are often interchanged and drawn on randomly without a true understanding of their role or relevance.

In the MSP space, three acronyms are familiar – RMM, PSA and ERP. But which ones do you need, why do you need them, and what value does each one bring to the business? Do you need them at all, and how are they different to a ticketing system?

First, though, let’s address the term, ‘value’. While there are many interpretations, a reliable definition is this:

Value = Experience / Cost.

You could run a small MSP business without RMM, PSA or ERP solutions; scraping by with a spreadsheet, RDP/VNC and some sweat and tears. You might achieve the bare minimum, but if you value your team’s time as well as your own, you’ll soon discover the cost of labour is far more expensive then a correctly implemented toolset. Likewise, for example, you could build a house with a hammer and a handsaw, but it would take longer and cost more.

 

Available Tools

Let’s look at each of the tools in turn, beginning with ERP. It’s not specific to the IT industry, but it’s important nonetheless.

ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning)

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) – is the father figure of business suites. Key ERP’s power and appeal is it provides end-to-end process and operational management, allowing the business to have a ‘Single Source of Truth’ (SSOT) where stakeholders can have a 50,000-foot view of what the company is doing, and how it’s performing.

Unfortunate most tools in the MSP industry don’t use the ERP concept as a blueprint, and this impacts the success of their customers. ERP evolved from another acronym, MRP (manufacturing resource planning), used in the manufacturing industry. However, as manufacturers evolved and modernised, MRP vendors added their own modules and deployed their solutions across other industries. Thus, it became ERP.

ERP tools come in many flavours, but seven core modules apply to modern MSPs.

  1. Procurement – Purchase Orders & Inventory Management
  2. Production – Tickets
  3. Accounting – Creditors & Debtors
  4. Human Resources – Team Proficiency & Team Availability
  5. Governance
  6. Customer Service
  7. Sales – Product sales
RMM (Remote Monitoring & Management)

Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM) has received much attention in the recent years, due mainly to the acquisition of some of the larger RMM platforms by PSA providers.

RMM tools have three main components:

  1. Remote control
  2. Remote execution
  3. Monitoring

The issue with RMM platforms is that although they do the monitoring (a critical element), they don’t do it particularly well.

The idea behind an MSP using a monitoring system is that the MSP is aware of the issue before the customer is, and is working to fix it (or has already fixed it) before the customer has cause to mention it. Unfortunately, RMM tools are not sufficiently agile to recognise issues fast enough.

Before we each had a computer in our back pocket (smartphone), another one in our hand (tablet), and one in our bag (laptop), a system that monitored the status of a customer’s device every 5 – 15 minutes was acceptable. Those days are long gone. Today if a web page takes more than 5 seconds to load, we lose patience.

Ticketing System

There are many ticketing systems on the market, and each one delivers a single core function – ticket creation. The idea is simple; all the information about an issue or request is right there within the ticket, available for auditing in the future.

Customer – Contact Information > Location Information
Tickets – Create a ticket > Action the ticket > Close the ticket

A ticketing system works fine for a smaller IT department, or even an MSP that doesn’t need to account for resource consumption (time). They only require a record of what was done.

Some MSPs don’t see the value in using a ticketing system, instead opting to use email or spreadsheets to manage their tickets. Others use a cloud-based Contact Relationship Management (CRM) system to log tickets, but like the aforementioned approach, it’s extremely limiting.

One such limitation is the ability to report on all the aspects of your operation that can build efficiency, reduce waste and grow profits.

PSA (Professional Service Automation)

Many in the IT industry misunderstand Professional Service Automation (PSA); confusing it with a ticketing system. PSA is a product category in its own right, and it performs a very different function to a ticketing system.

A ticketing system is a small but significant subset of a PSA solution. There are multiple areas where PSA shows its real power and delivers its value proposition. Here are the modules commonly found in a complete PSA platform:

  1. Procurement – Purchase Orders & Inventory Management
  2. Production – Tickets
  3. Accounting – Creditors & Debtors
  4. Human Resource – Team Proficiency & Team Availability
  5. Governance
  6. Customer Service
  7. Sales – Product Sales
  8. Customer – Contact Information & Location Information
  9. Tickets – Create a Ticket, Action a Ticket & Close a Ticket

As you can see, a good PSA solution is actually an ERP solution. It provides the highly coveted Single Source of Truth. This point alone reveals the tremendous value in a PSA solution, and it doesn’t receive enough credit for that.

PSA provides ticket automation, along with basic business process automation. It will generally also provide integration with external tools for inventory management, procurement, network monitoring and remote connectivity.

Although third parties provide some of these tools, they usually interconnect tightly with PSA, allowing for an SSOT solution and reducing (if not mitigating) the issues created by disconnected systems.

If you’ve ever worked in an MSP or IT department with teams of people using multiple tools, you’ll know how negatively it impacts the effectiveness and efficiency of your people. Double entry, human error, miscommunication and a lack accurate reporting are just a few of the issues that arise.

If you’re not convinced, consider an 8-hour workday of a few members of your team, and jot down how many times they’re double-entering data, connecting (logging in) to devices and searching for information in multiple locations.

Combining multiple functions or applications into one solution isn’t unique today. Not long ago, we had to use one product for email, another for our calendar, and our to-do list was a notepad on our desk. Now it all happens in Outlook or G Suite.

Look at your smartphone. What once required multiple channels, touch points and activities now occurs on a single device. Think of all the things you do with this one device, each of which once required a separate device or physical process:

  • Phone calls
  • Banking
  • Weather
  • Video
  • Photography
  • Video and image editing
  • Calculations
  • Navigation
  • Music
  • Voice recording
  • Shopping
  • Project management
  • Health monitoring
  • Transport procurement
  • Language translation
  • Ticketing for events and travel
  • Knowledge (Google)

The fact is, once we experience the benefits of a single solution, we can never go back.

Our Approach To Solving These Challenges

We’ve been an MSP to some of Australia’s busiest and most demanding clients for the last 18 years, including taxi companies and fast food franchises. We believe we’ve solved all of these challenges with our solution, ServiceTree, which takes knowledge and process and automates them.

If you’d like to see how ServiceTree brings all these elements together in one package, reach out today.

 

Need help? Call our award-winning support team at +1 844 777 1221

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