The VAR Guy Blog

How to Overcome the One Hurdle Every Solution Provider Faces

Owning an IT services business isn’t all wine and roses, as some outside observers may suggest. Of course, there are many benefits to being an entrepreneur or few would put up with the “blood, sweat and tears” often required to build a successful organization. Problems are part of the equation for solution providers, who make their living by eliminating their clients’ current and future headaches — but they also have to resolve their own internal issues to survive and thrive through the years.

While many of the numerous challenges faced by VARs and MSPs often can be addressed quickly and easily, a few will affect their business throughout its lifetime, including profitability, employee hiring and productivity. Each requires constant monitoring and frequent adjustments, and all are impacted by one overriding factor: process efficiency.

In spite of all the automation solution providers have implemented in their own operations, improving their organizations’ business and process effectiveness continues to be the top concern for most. According to the 2012 CompTIA Managed Services survey, which included traditional IT solution providers, 70 percent of the respondents identified operational efficiency as very important to the success their company, while 81 percent indicated that that was a difficult objective to accomplish.

As companies grow, what was once a small issue can snowball into a much greater problem that gets harder to address, and solution provider businesses face myriad problems on a continual basis. That’s the nature of B2B services — resolving clients’ concerns, system failures and infrastructure management every day. When one problem is addressed, there likely are many more queued up and ready for their attention.

That’s why operational efficiency is such a critical factor in a solution provider’s business: Managing an ever-growing number of issues with a limited number of resources is critical to the solution provider's profitability and customer satisfaction. When problems aren’t addressed quickly and effectively, they tend to snowball, which can lead to costly repairs and a significant number of man hours to resolve. That leaves the door open to competitors who emphasize service guarantees (such as SLAs) and their experience in dealing with those types of problems. By implementing best practices and the right business systems, solution providers can successfully avoid process inefficiencies — and greatly improve their profitability.

How can service companies streamline and improve their process efficiency? The key element is dedication to the following steps that are employed by best-in-class solution providers:
  • Document all repeatable processes
  • Review and update these procedures periodically
  • Map each critical process when possible
  • Automate all procedures
Whether improving service response time or addressing cash flow issues, by breaking down the specific issues and documenting the resolution, a company can significantly reduce man hours and improve customer loyalty.  It may take a little time to strategize and documents the process, but the ROI is typically quick and valuable.

Most services professionals identify automation as the most critical component to profitability and delivery success, with a professional services automation (PSA) platform as the control center. Of course, the solution isn’t in the application, but how a solution provider leverages the application. No process should be automated until it’s been perfected, from the organization’s service ticket and system alert procedures to its billing and other accounting practices. After all, when you automate a poor process, it just makes it take place faster, not better.

PSAs offer other ways to streamline solution providers’ businesses, especially when complementary system integrations are implemented. Connecting a remote monitoring and management (RMM) solution can help a VAR quickly route client site alerts and related information to the proper technician. That improves SLA compliance and can reduce the time to resolution — saving man hours and diminishing the client’s potential downtime.

The same benefits apply to online backup and recovery solutions. For example, when integrated with PSAs such as Autotask and ConnectWise, Intronis’ notifications can create service tickets automatically with all the relevant customer information needed to resolve an issue. Deeper integration improves a solution provider’s billing and configuration processes, which can eliminate a number of manual steps each month.

Many of these industry best practices don’t take a lot of time to implement, but they do require long-term dedication to make them effective. In the end, the time and money saved will far exceed the upfront investments — and lead to a stronger organization built for success.

Ted Roller is VP of channel development Intronis, the cloud backup specialist. Monthly guest blogs such as this one are part of The VAR Guy’s annual platinum sponsorship program. Read the archived Intronis guest blogs here.

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