Working from home – the new norm. What are your team members up to?

managing a remote msp team

Social distancing measures during the coronavirus pandemic have resulted in slapdash transitions to a remote workplace. Naturally, I was curious to see how other MSPs are handling the transition, and I’ve been fortunate enough to talk to MSPs all around the world. 

To say the least, the response to a remote workplace has been quite interesting. Some MSPs have truly mastered the “working from home” (WFH) concept, but many are in a productivity crisis and can’t even see it. One business owner I spoke to said that his team members are so well trained on managing their workload that he doesn’t see WFH having any impact on his team’s productivity. He actually added that he sees all the team members Instant Messaging each other throughout the day, as if they were in the office. I asked how many of his team members normally work from home; his answer was none. They normally work together in the office alongside a dispatcher who manages the process.

Managing a remote MSP Team

You hired your IT team because they’re great people and great at what they do, but can the WFH model be working that efficiently? When our team is within ear’s reach, it’s easier to sense how things are going. but how does that work when all of your team is remote? 

As someone who’s owned an MSP for 20 years, I was hearing some alarm bells. But before I go into that, I want to relate this MSP’s mindset to an airline I recently dealt with. I was trying to rebook my flights, and as all staff were now working remotely, changing a booking wasn’t that simple. In the office, they would just stand up, find a supervisor, get the supervisor to enter their approval, and the booking was changed. Remote booking was a nightmare.

It took me two calls to actually rebook the flight. On the first call, it took 21 minutes for the assistant to answer my IM and change the booking, and the second call took another 18 minutes. I was speaking to their premium service desk, so their wait time to answer my call was less than a minute, but with no prior experience in remote work, the service I received was far less than premium. 

That’s why the alarm bells went off: even the best service providers are struggling to adjust to a remote workplace. This MSP’s mindset was misinformed for three reason:

# 1 – His team hasn’t worked remotely before.

# 2 – He has a dispatcher that keeps an eye on everything.

# 3 – All the chatter he saw was in Instant Messenger.

Let me expand. His team members – who normally work in the office together and under the direct supervision of a dispatcher – are now working away from each other. The dispatcher now had to manage a remote team. How is she coping with not being able to see and feel what’s happening? 

I’m guessing that the team feels lost too since they’re spending a lot of time talking to each other in the group chat. All that chatter in IM would not boost productivity – it’s just another at-home distraction. 

With a remote team, you have to really consider the big picture. You hired your team because each member is a great technical resource, but with an emphasis on tech skills comes the fact that many techs don’t excel at unsupervised time management. Do not assume that they are good at managing their time – if they were, most “supervisor” roles would not exist. You need to ensure you have the right tools to oversee the process, since managing a remote team is not as easy as having a daily video call and expecting business as usual.

Keep a very close eye on your team’s utilization. You will need to go further than just looking at the % – someone will need to check tickets and review if the work done matches the time entered, as your team will find it easier than ever to overstate the amount of time per ticket. This leads to a false economy that your team is busier than they are, and that the team is more utilized then normal. 

After finishing the call, I was worried about the quality of service my friends and family were receiving from airlines. If I’m experiencing a long wait time with a premium service provider, what are infrequent travelers experiencing with normal airline receptionists? The COVID-19 pandemic has left all of us feeling worried and isolated, but keeping the team connected and ensuring quality remote service can help restore a sense of normalcy to this very difficult time. 

For a better look at your utilization rate or an automated way to manage paperwork and timesheets, ServiceTree Connect™ integrates with your PSA provider, as well as Autotask and Connectwise, to ensure a productive tech team both on-site and off. If you’re worried about keeping your services high, try booking a free demo with us today. 

The folks at ServiceTree hope you and your loved ones stay safe and healthy!

If you’re interested in learning about the why behind ServiceTree CONNECT™, and how we can help you put People at the center of your MSP, reach out to schedule a demo today! 

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