By Israel Lang, Executive Consultant, HTG Peer Groups
The year was 2006, and our three-year-old company was going through a tremendous growth cycle. Our small team knew that the organic tools we had used early on [mostly spreadsheets, a quickly thrown together Access database, and an SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) accounting package] might be able to carry us through the current growth cycle but more than likely wouldn’t carry us through future cycles.
We set out to choose one of the emerging professional service automation (PSA) tools that had become prevalent among our peers and in the industry publications at the time. After reviewing the tools, we knew we had to adopt and invest in one of the platforms to keep our business growing.
Here are seven of the reasons we knew that PSA platforms are better than our homegrown tools:
- Having a PSA tool freed us to live our organizational mission. We wanted to help other organizations leverage technology to run their businesses, not spend endless hours keeping our internal systems and platforms running. The PSA platform allowed us to focus solely on what we could do really well which wasn’t developing tools to run our business.
- Many of the PSA tools are customized according to specific industry knowledge. We wanted a platform that was developed with our industry in mind. While we knew our business, we couldn’t have anticipated the change cycles that occur every three to five years in the service provider business. We knew we couldn’t be as agile to adapt our internally developed tools to those changes. We made an educated bet that the PSA vendors would be better at anticipating those changes and evolving their products to meet those changes, and our bet panned out accurately.
- A PSA platform gave our tools a unified feel and function. Our homegrown system required duplicate entry in some cases and generally wasn’t as efficient as it could have been. By creating efficiencies we were able to bill more hours, visit more clients, generate new business, and, just as important, spend time with our growing families.
- Being on a PSA platform opened valuable peer interaction opportunities. We wanted to learn from and leverage the wisdom of our peers. By adopting a common platform we gained access to a group of peers who had different perspectives on a common set of issues. Through user, affinity, and peer groups we were able to tap into this shared knowledge pool and go further, faster than we would have by continuing on our homegrown systems.
- Our PSA tool provided additional higher level functionality. We wanted a platform that allowed us to do things that our homegrown systems didn’t allow. Automating simple things that allowed clients to email a “help@” or “support@” e-mail address and open a ticket in the system, having a portal for them to check ticket status, and create workflows and alerts were just some of the things that our existing systems couldn’t do. We weren’t even thinking about how integrating our remote monitoring and management (RMM) tool, anti-virus and anti-spam dashboards, backup, and quoting product could revolutionize our business (see #4).
- Visibility into our company’s financials was much easier with our PSA platform. While we were able to generate monthly financials through our accounting software, we didn’t have the ability to really drill into lines of business or particular agreements or clients. Additionally, all the financial data we looked at was past tense, as if we were driving our company by looking in the rear view mirror. We couldn’t make adjustments mid-month or accurately and objectively predict how the month, quarter or year would end up. Our PSA tool gave us access to that much needed data in real-time. This allowed us to focus on those clients and solutions that provided the most profit as well as see which clients might need additional education or technology refresh.
- PSA tools were essential in equipping our sales and service teams for success. Our existing tools were adequate in these areas, but our PSA tool took us to a whole other level. We were able to set goals and targets for our teams. They were able to see how they were doing with up-to-the minute accurate data. This increased visibility allowed us to build a culture of accountability and execution.
Today, I work with many companies across our great industry (managed network, managed print, cloud, and POS solutions providers). From my experience the most successful ones have learned to leverage these tools to their maximum potential. Utilizing a PSA tool has made successful businesses even more successful. They have processes that are efficient. They have employees who are much more productive. They are often significantly more profitable than comparable companies. They contribute to the broader ecosystem, as they are often looked to as subject matter experts.
If you haven’t looked at or considered a PSA tool to help run your business, I recommend you investigate the options that are available. You might be surprised at the list of potential things you learn about how your business could go further, faster with the right tool.
Israel Lang is an Executive Consultant with HTG Peer Groups. Prior to joining the HTG staff, he spent almost 20 years in various roles in service and operations. Israel’s company was a member of HTG for many years, and he is a strong proponent of the peer group experience. He loves helping companies go further faster through developing executives, managers, and teams into effective leaders who reach their fullest potentials. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @israellang.