Harnessing the Power of PSA

The convergence of voice and data is prompting something more than the long-expected combination of products and services. For partners, convergence also means taking a fresh look at how their agencies, consultancies or IT houses are run. What theyll probably find right away is they need more than sales force automation (SFA) to push their businesses to the next level. After all, if a customer doesnt receive a follow-up call or, perhaps worse, an invoice, partners risk losing precious revenue. With so much at stake, its time to consider using professional services automation (PSA) in addition to SFA, because PSA puts all aspects of a company  from employee timekeeping to completed client orders  into one silo, ultimately resulting in more revenue and satisfied end-users.

The difference between SFA and PSA is marked. SFA tends to constitute one component of PSA or be part of a customer-relationship management (CRM) tool. Plus, SFA manages just the sales cycle. PSA, on the other hand, gives a holistic view of a companys operations; every work order, document, communication with customers and so on, is recorded and a status maintained. Nothing slips through the cracks,” said Jeannine Edwards, director of ConnectWise Community, the vendors channel program.

IT and telecom partners alike need PSA, said James Foxall, president of Tigerpaw Software Inc., because the channel is changing. Once upon a time, interconnects sold phones and VARs sold data networks. But IP technologies have eaten away at those distinctions; at the same time, more partners have evolved into managed services providers. All of these shifts demand the use of a PSA,” Foxall said.

Bob Vogel, executive director of Autotask Corp., agreed. Without a unified business operating system, channel partners are likely to hit the proverbial wall.” No longer can partners furnish the level of service their customers expect without PSA there are too many moving parts. Thus, to thrive in the channel, PSA is a must.

That doesnt mean that any off-the-shelf PSA platform will suffice. Be careful about buying a generic product. If the software doesnt address certain channel-specific tasks, then channel partners stand to spend an enormous” amount of time and resources on configuration, Vogel said. Some of the departments and functions that need to be included in PSA for partners:

  • Contracts
  • Billing
  • Project management
  • Service desTech scheduling
  • Time and expense
  • Quoting
  • Outsource management
  • Inventory
  • Reports

Channel partners also need features such as:

  • The ability to capture and charge for time
  • Multiple billing options including recurring revenue, fixed-fee or subscription
  • Product quoting and procurement
  • Client-access portals that let customers submit problem tickets directly
  • Integration with remote monitoring and management tools that oversee end-users networks
  • CRM

But once the right PSA is in place, partners will be able to start organizing their businesses in a targeted manner. This will take time. Merely installing PSA does not guarantee results. For PSA to pay dividends, channel partners must implement PSA across the company, even though that may take several months. Thats because so many groups and roles are involved. And even after PSA has been in place for some time, expect to keep tweaking processes to make the most of the software. It will be an ongoing exercise,” said Vogel.

The results, though, will be worthwhile. Using a PSA helps VARs, MSPs, ISVs, consultants and agents avoid so-called silos of chaos” and take advantage of the efficiencies resulting from automation. The important byproduct is happier customers and a healthier bottom line,” Edwards said.

Questions to Ask When Buying a PSA Platform

  • How often does the vendor update the software?
  • How stable and reputable is the PSA supplier?
  • What is the total cost of ownership?
  • What kind of support comes with the program?

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