While every tool vendor could market themselves as 'unified' solutions provider, only a handful are truly unified. In this blog, we explore the real need for unified PSA and RMM solutions and how they differ from integrated solutions.
"We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided," says Albus Dumbledore. The greatest wizard of all time is hardly ever wrong. Conventional wisdom teaches us this simple truth of unity is strength. But apply that simple truth to software, and you may find places where it falls flat on its face.
The average person uses 25 apps per day, but you know this already. What you may not know is that a 1000+ member organization could be using 203 apps. 203! Let that sink in. If we are to believe conventional wisdom, shouldn't this number be coming down? Shouldn't we be unifying all our business apps so that we are stronger? Isn't that the simple truth?
Point solutions vs. integrated solutions
The business world woke up to realize that they didn't want to be weighed down by gigantic software. Slowly, household names like SAP and Oracle were replaced by 20 different point solutions that do what the 'enterprise software' does, only better. With the emergence of cloud apps and APIs, Integrations were a breeze. Then came along tools like Zapier, which can connect a business application to the kitchen coffee machine if it had APIs.
So against this backdrop, isn't the question of unified PSA and RMM redundant? Of course, you need point solutions because not only would that be more effective, but also it looks like integrations are no longer a problem.
Or, is that the truth? Let's dig in.
The problem with integrations
Let's understand what integration really, really means. It means you're connecting two business applications built by different developers for different purposes to work together. If we apply this to the real world, it's no different than getting two consultants from two different companies to work together, and all of us know how that goes. While they might claim to 'work together' to address your needs, they're always going to be focused on their own goals, and they're still going to optimize for their company's outcome. You can't blame them; that's what's going to earn them their paycheck.
The problem with 'integrated solutions' is that they're limited. Truly limited. A product that's built to integrate is blinded by the unknown. Without knowing what you're going to integrate with, you're only shooting in the dark. Building APIs for integrating into other unknown products is like building a key for a lock that you've never seen. It may open, but it could also completely get stuck in the lock and ensure you're never opening that door.
Wait, this sounds crazy.
Does this mean that we unite all our apps?
Well, obviously not. You're not going to benefit a lot by unifying the legal software with your PSA tool. You'll probably lock yourself up into a mess. The requirements for each software are different, and for that reason, it's best for everyone if they are different.
Unifying is out of the question but integration, that's not such a bad idea.
How are they different, you ask? Let me put it this way. Unified solutions have a much tighter connection. Typically, integrated solutions are connected through APIs, allowing them to go as far as the APIs let them go. Unified solutions share a common platform, and that enables them to do much more. That's why unified solutions are usually from the same company. Gmail and Google Drive unified. Slack, and Google Drive integrated.
You might think of me as a confused person writing this confusing blog and confusing you in the process. I'm merely trying to communicate a simple idea — all the apps in your ecosystem could be integrated, but only a few of them need to be unified. PSA and RMM fall right into that bucket.
What makes unifying PSA and RMM so important?
For starters, they are unified by the outcome. Both PSA and RMM tools operate in the same area, solving the same problem for the clients. The context that these two apps share is far higher than any (other) two apps in the MSP tool stack.
When they share the same set of users
When your product has users, you cannot ignore their experiences. What integrated products really mean to your technicians is that they're shuffling between different apps, different tabs, and maybe even different devices to get their job done. Authentication becomes a pain even if they use a single sign-on solution as they still have to log into multiple apps.
Even if they can tolerate all this, the apps are simply going to look different, and their minds are always going to be playing dark adaptation.
When they share the same set of data
Not all databases are created equal, and certainly not the ones made by different developers. It might be a fool's errand to keep the data in 'sync' between two databases residing in two different applications. Every time your RMM tool needs to access the contract information from the PSA tool, you're sending it on an adventure across the lands of API keys and security protocols. That is both time-consuming and expensive.
For data to be useful, proximity is essential. That's why the first step to any analysis or useful reporting is to get the data into a single source. If the critical data in your platform will be separated by app boundaries, you will eventually build your database with combined data. Now, who wants to go through that messy process?
When they are managed by the same stakeholders
Vendor relationships are complicated, as it is. With each vendor, you go through multiple meetings, multiple contracts, and a million support tickets. Now multiply that by 2. That's what happens when you have to work with separate PSA and RMM tools. If you're responsible for one of these tools, you're probably responsible for the other one as well.
Vendor management becomes super-simplified when you work with a unified PSA & RMM solution. But be warned, this problem exists with more prominent vendors where PSA and RMM are separate 'business units' within the same organization. That effectively means they are companies within companies, which is as good as buying from two independent vendors. You'll start hearing a lot of "Oh, let me ask John to call you about the RMM requirement. He's on a different team" and "I can't give you an answer for that PSA question, I'll let Lisa send you an email about it."
Related reading: Best RMM software
Look for truly unified tools beyond your MSP vendor's website
I am reminded of a trend in the headphones category. Wireless headphones were popular as a category until Apple (as always) disrupted the market with AirPods, thus inventing a new category — truly wireless. Now, the emphasis on the word 'truly' is essential because that clearly differentiates the AirPods from the previous generation of wireless headphones.
Similarly, unified PSA and RMM products are on the rise. These are smart (not the AI kind) vendors who capitalize on the marketing wave of 'unified tools'. Look beyond the website. Are they truly unified? Or are they merely disparate tools, built separately but hurriedly connected with hidden APIs to give you the mirage of unification?
We believe that the moment of truly unified PSA and RMM tools is here. While companies built a decade earlier are busy scratching their heads on how to 'unify' their existing toolset, at SuperOps.ai, we're building clean. We're building on an empty canvas, and we're unified from day one.
Related reading: MSP platform