A PSA built especially for MSPs? Does it make a difference?
A PSA software solution purpose-built for MSPs can be a game-cha…
I will stop myself right here.
As an MSP, you have probably wondered what difference does it make, between using a service desk or using a PSA tool “purpose-built” for MSPs?
I need ticketing. I need a portal to manage clients. Why can’t I use a service desk that probably works just fine? Is there more to these “purpose-built” tools than meets the eye?
The short answer is that something that is not made with you or your pain points in mind can only do so much for you.
For the long answer, read on.
1. Service desks don’t cover your billing needs
Most service desks out there don’t offer billing and invoicing features. Their targeted customers don’t work with these features extensively, and if they do, they would have to integrate the service desk with a billing solution like Xero or find a service provider who provides the integration.
Service desks lack the essentials that make an MSP business.
As an MSP, you heavily depend on invoicing and time tracking to run your business. From creating invoices to setting recurring payments to tracking the payments made, you need a good billing mechanism that enables everything in one place. You are bound to get in trouble when your ability to get paid depends on a poorly integrated solution. This brings us to the next argument.
2. Service desks are not optimized for things that matter to an MSP
Let’s say you manage to find a service desk that has all the essential features an MSP uses. The question now boils down to efficiency. Take time tracking, for example. Service desks let you configure time tracking to track where your team spends time. This includes granular assessments like how much time a technician spends on each ticket.
Service desks optimize time tracking for productivity, not profitability.
Time tracking in managed services has a whole different connotation. Managed services have a vastly different business model that banks on the accurate tracking of work delivered to make revenue and establish profitability. Even for MSPs who don’t charge by time but by project or task, they still need to track the time they spend, for driving effective revenue decisions and pricing models. Service desks look at time tracking through the lens of productivity rather than profitability, which reveals why MSPs who run their business using a service desk have a hard time billing clients the way they want to. They eventually give up and optimize themselves for the tool they're using instead of the other way around.
3. Service desks are not optimized for revenue metrics either
The most important differentiator between a PSA and a service desk is:
Service desks help you run things better. A PSA helps you make revenue.
A PSA is purpose-built for managing contracts, tracking billable hours, and using both to generate accurate invoices. Using a PSA can help an MSP make revenue-impacting decisions because the tool can paint a clear-cut picture of which client is your most and least profitable and where you incur the most cost and get the least returns. Since these metrics are a natural part of how a PSA operates, it can help an MSP grow, not just operate.
Related reading: How to be a more profitable MSP with your PSA tool
4. Service desks aren’t cut out for heavyweight client management
Most service desk client management features are so lightweight they’re almost invisible. They don’t offer a convenient portal for hosting all requestor information. And what happens when they don’t? Here are a few possible day-to-day scenarios.
- Your techs will not be able to manage clients in a way they are used to.
- Time taken to resolve a ticket isn’t transferred to an invoice directly.
- Mapping clients to contracts, contracts to billable hours, and generating invoices out of these will be a manual process. What should’ve been an automated workflow has to be a taxing, time-consuming manual process.
5. Service desks don’t play nice with integrations MSPs can’t live without
Service desks make it incredibly hard for you to bring in other tools you use into the ecosystem such as payroll, contacts, time cards, and remote control that integrates with everything else. The process looks as follows:
-> Customer sends the ticket to the service desk.
-> You pull up client information including assets, configuration, and contracts from a spreadsheet, or if you’re a slightly larger company, a documentation tool.
-> No way to refer to terms of working inside the service desk, i.e, whether you need permission to log in to the client system using an agent or when does a connection request expire.
-> Find the asset in your RMM.
-> Resolve the ticket. But, you don't know how much time it took. If you’re lucky, your technician remembered to clock in manually while starting the ticket.
-> Add an approximate time to the ticket and log the information into QuickBooks. There is no way you can directly transfer time from your service desk to your QuickBooks or any other accounting software you use.
And it’s the same story for all clients you have. If you get a new client, you’d have to set them up on ten different tools, and when they leave, you’d have to offboard them from ten different tools.
Getting a PSA is not even a matter of productivity anymore. It is a matter of sustenance and growth.
What’s not meant for you…
…will force you to go out of the way to make it work.
Don’t go for workarounds when you can go for a tool that works for you. A PSA understands the way you operate; it is a revenue center for your business. Whereas a service desk is a cost center (unless you intentionally use it in a way it isn’t), contrary to the claims of many marketing blogs and business owners overpitching a service desk for more than what it is.
A service desk, which is a cost center, is best suited for those who sell products rather than services. They need the service desk for what it is—a tool for streamlining communications.
MSPs sell their services, and they need a PSA purpose-built for them, a full-fledged mechanism for hosting, managing, and growing their business.