ChannelTrends: How Much Is a Quality Integration Worth to Your IT Business?

integrationThe all-too frequently used statement that we only use 10% of our brains simply isn't true ‒ a majority of our gray matter is constantly at work ‒ though we still tend to utilize too little of our intellectual powers each day. Few of us can properly leverage our "inner Einsteins" to better our life situations and humanity. Sure, there are experts who offer memory training and other methods for improving our thought processes, but at the end of the day, we never tap into the full computing power of our brains.

A similar situation occurs in the IT industry. Few solution providers and MSPs realize the full benefits of their technology investments. They may install and configure the basic features of their PSAs, RMMs and other management tools, but rarely do they take advantage of all their available capabilities. In other words, most tech firms do the bare minimum here.

That doesn't mean they feel good about it. Providers often struggle to complete the initial set up and configurations ‒ usually encouraged by the supplier's onboarding team or self-determination ‒ before taking what ends up being a long-term break. Busy schedules, lack of training options, and higher priorities often get in the way.

One of the biggest obstacles that keep providers from getting the most out of their IT services tools is their own misperceptions. They don't comprehend what a fully operational solution can do for their businesses ‒ so they put little effort into configurations and integrations. The issue often stems more from a lack of information than disinterest.    

Understand All the Opportunities 
With all the promotions, educational options and press coverage, it's hard to believe that some MSPs still undervalue the tools they use to run their businesses. Integrations make a perfect example. While most sensible firms link their PSA and RMM platforms so their support teams can create and update service tickets, some go no further with their workflow improvements.

They end up missing out on things like asset and account synchronizing, and cross-platform notifications and policy escalations. No or little reporting and system status capabilities ‒ which can be extremely helpful during QBRs and contract renewal discussions. When an MSP has its integrations properly installed and configured, and employees are trained to use them effectively, their lives become easier.

That's just one of the value propositions associated with automation. Integration is a critical factor in managed services success and, with the growth in SaaS and cloud options, the possibilities are virtually unlimited today. That includes the latest security and vertical market-specific applications that link to more traditional MSPs tools, such as RMMs, PSAs, BDR, accounting packages, and email management solutions. Or integrations that streamline back end operations like payment processing, collections, sales, and marketing. Each can contribute substantially to an IT services firm's customer satisfaction rantings and its corresponding financial success.     

Of course, the value of automation depends on the provider's unique business priorities. The key is understanding the benefit of each integration for the provider, as well as the client, including: 

  • Efficiency gains: time is money in business. Integrations that reduce or eliminate manual tasks usually provide a fast ROI ‒ especially with the increasing cost of wages and benefits. In fact, some MSPs find the savings substantial enough to outsource integration projects when they don't have the in-house skills or the time to complete them on their own. And anything that can cost-effectively speed up operations on the customer side will sell.     

     

  • Greater management insight: the proverbial "single pane of glass" is essential to managed and cloud services providers. It's easier for owners to evaluate options and make critical decisions when they can access all their key operational information in a single portal. Quality MSP tool integrations give them that ability, allowing providers to make the types of informed decisions needed to scale their businesses and better manage their clients’ infrastructure.     

     

  • Boost in reporting capabilities: On the flip side, the more performance-related data you can share with customers, the easier it is to pinpoint potential issues and suggest upgrades. When all your managed services tools are connected and able to collect relevant data, it makes it easier to set client priorities and plan out future projects and investments.

     

  • Elevate the firm's professional profile: automation can be an image-enhancing differentiator. Quality integrations allow IT services firms to show off their technical expertise as well as their business prowess. Management portals, comprehensive reporting capabilities, and multiple customer service communications platforms are a few of the things that could impress prospects ‒ and encourage them to sign long-term contracts.

Integrations are not a one-and-done project. The most valuable links typically require a little time and attention each year, usually in the form of API updates and training employees how to use the latest features. But MSPs who do all that upfront and ongoing integration work find the benefits make it well worth the effort.    

Brian Sherman is president of Tech Success Communications, a channel-related content and social media development firm. He served previously as the chief editor at Business Solutions magazine and senior director of industry alliances with Autotask. Contact Brian at Bsherman@techsuccesscommunications.com