Tools can make or break a managed service provider’s (MSP’s) profitability. That’s why remote monitoring and management (RMM) software has become a staple for MSP operations. It’s also why so many MSPs depend on professional services automation (PSA) software to streamline their back-office processes.
Specifically, PSA for MSP platforms enable MSPs to automate and scale many tedious but essential aspects of running a managed services business. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at PSA software, including benefits, key PSA features, and the role of PSA software as part of an integrated MSP software solution.
What is PSA software?
Professional services automation (PSA) software is a suite of software tools that help streamline and automate service delivery tasks such as billing, resource planning, time tracking, and project management.
PSA software is popular among a wide variety of service businesses. That’s because time is money for service businesses, and back-office tasks don’t directly generate revenue. For example, you have to get invoices out to get paid, but you don’t get paid for creating invoices.
PSA software automates those types of backend tasks away so service providers can focus on delivering value. PSA software for MSPs becomes particularly powerful when it integrates with other tools like RMM platforms to become a central hub for business operations.
Read more: What components of a PSA will set your MSP up for success? Download our PSA Fact Sheet.
Why a PSA is a critical component of any MSP’s toolkit
Tasks like billing, time tracking, and service level agreement (SLA) management are important but don’t drive differentiation for an MSP. You have to get them done to keep the business running, but wasting too much time on them prevents you from delivering value to your existing clients or acquiring new ones. PSA software frees MSP staff to focus more on core business functions and less on “keeping the lights on” administrative tasks.
To explain exactly what we mean, below are six key benefits of PSA software for MSP businesses.
Centralize all MSP operations
Tool sprawl is one of the single biggest productivity killers for MSPs. Not only is it challenging to learn all the tools, but data silos can also limit the power of automation and reduce operational scalability. PSA software helps MSPs solve this problem by acting as a central hub for “business” information. The idea is simple: having everything in one place makes things smoother.
Integrating PSA software with other core MSP tools like remote access and RMM software takes the power of centralization to the next level. For example, if its RMM and PSA are tightly integrated and automated, an MSP can start with automated RMM-driven maintenance and leverage PSA functionality to create tickets with billable line items without direct human intervention. We speak from experience on this one. It’s no secret that the upside of combining RMM and PSA is one of the reasons so many MSPs choose Syncro.
Automate service delivery end-to-end
Tool sprawl isn’t the only big productivity drain facing MSPs. Manual processes can drastically slow down internal operations and cut profits. This is particularly true when the manual processes are repetitive data-entry tasks like billing, ticketing, and asset management workflows.
Fortunately for PSA users, repetitive workflows are also ripe for automation. That enables MSPs to automate across their service delivery pipelines to increase efficiency end-to-end from onboarding to invoicing. The result is usually faster service, happier customers, and staff that can focus on more of their energy on core business functions.
Minimize administrative costs
This benefit is easy to summarize given our last two points. All else equal, it’s safe to say that:
fewer manual processes + less tool sprawl = lower costs
Additionally, even when you aren’t entirely automating a process, a PSA can simplify the work by centralizing the data and streamlining workflows.
Reduce operational errors
Fat finger mistakes can be costly. NASA’s missing hyphen that led to the Mariner I crash may be the most famous example. While most MSP typos won’t be anywhere near as disastrous, they can be expensive and time-consuming.
When a human has to manually perform data entry for contracts, invoices, and tickets, the probability of typos is much higher than with machines. PSA software helps ensure repeatable and reliable results.
Improve service and client satisfaction
PSA software directly improves client satisfaction by enabling faster responses and more accurate billing. It also indirectly improves an MSP’s customer service by freeing human time to focus on innovation and complex problem solving.
Gain real-time visibility and control
The right PSA software can provide centralization that enables visibility an MSP would not otherwise have at their fingertips.
For example, with the data from a PSA MSPs can detect process bottlenecks and cost inefficiencies that may have otherwise been hidden by data silos and manual processes. Additionally, PSA platforms often provide reporting and analytics features to drill into and visualize MSP key performance indicators (KPIs) such as client ROI and average time to ticket resolution.
Important PSA features for MSP businesses
When it comes to PSA for MSP businesses, there’s no shortage of options. And there’s plenty of variety between platforms. An essential part of understanding which PSA software is right for your MSP business is knowing what features to look for. After all, an IT MSP has different needs than a legal firm.
Even within the MSP world, the needs of providers of different sizes and service offerings can vary significantly. We recommend considering platforms with PSA functionality in a broader integrated MSP platform. That approach helps MSPs streamline processes, scale more efficiently, and reduce complexity.
With that in mind, to help you make the right choice for your business, let’s look at 12 important PSA features for MSP businesses.
Help desk and ticketing
An MSP’s helpdesk is often the “face” to the client. A ticketing system is the backbone of how the help desk interacts with customers.
PSA software that includes ticketing streamlines support by providing comprehensive visibility into the context of a ticket. Billing, contracts, asset data, and ticket history are all in one place, enabling MSPs to remove friction from customer support.
Time tracking and billing
Time tracking and billing features in PSA software for MSPs improve visibility into time spent on billable hours vs. non-billable and ensure accurate billing on a per-client and per-ticket basis.
Converging ticketing, time tracking, and billing into a single platform also enables granular reporting and can uncover bottlenecks and technical problems that reduce profits.
Contract and SLA management
Contracts and SLAs are vital to an MSP business. They set expectations for response times and cost throughout client relationships. Managing contracts and SLAs in a PSA enables central management, customization, and integration into other MSP workflows such as billing and ticketing.
Automation is amazing, but you need a human touch every now and then. A PSA that enables clients to seamlessly reach out to you helps ensure humans can address issues quickly and keep customer satisfaction high. For example, a quick chat can prevent a minor misunderstanding from becoming a major escalation.
Reporting and analytics
If you’re not assessing, you’re not progressing. That old business adage holds true for MSPs of all sizes.
Having “all” your MSP data in one place enables visualization of financials and service metrics so you can drill down and optimize in the places with the most business value. You might even realize you need to fire a client, an underused MSP best practice.
Bringing on new clients is essential to MSP growth. But not every lead is created equal. Knowing the context around an opportunity can help you focus your energy on closing high-value leads.
Traditionally, leads are handled in customer relationship management (CRM) software. Opportunity management features bring CRM-like functions to PSA software and focus on the deals that are worth the effort. The data already available in a PSA makes it easier to forecast resources and profitability and simplify workflows throughout the client relationship lifecycle.
All-in-one is the name of the game for core MSP tools, but there will invariably be some third-party solutions that can help further streamline your workflows.
A robust set of integrations helps you keep your solutions connected and scalable even if you use multiple tool vendors. For example, ACH payment integrations can streamline billing, while postage integrations can simplify snail-mail invoices.
Uptime and security
SaaS platforms solve many problems for MSPs by abstracting away the complexities of infrastructure management. That’s why many MSPs prefer SaaS-based PSA software.
However, using SaaS means your business workflows depend on infrastructure you don’t control. For MSPs that have to maintain SLAs with their own clients, that makes PSA platform reliability a key business concern.
When you evaluate SaaS-based PSA solutions, look for software that’s transparent about how they handle security, reliability, and disaster recovery to ensure you’re doing right by your customers. To help you get started, here’s a look at how we do things at Syncro.
Audit and compliance
Compliance is a must for many MSP clients. If you can’t demonstrate compliance, you can’t meet requirements. Ensuring that your MSP tooling, including your PSA, meets the compliance standards your customers demand is a critical business consideration.
Keep that in mind as you evaluate PSA solutions. For example, to maintain compliance with regulations likePayment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), you may need to demonstrate the use of robust auditing policies. Similarly, standards like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) have strict data requirements.
Did you know? The Syncro platform is HIPAA compliant, and Syncro customers can request a HIPAA business associate agreement (BAA).
The reports, SLAs, and workflows at one MSP can drastically differ from another.
Customizations enable MSPs to make the platform work for them.
For example, custom widgets allow MSPs to create purpose-built experiences for their clients. Contract and SLA customizations enable flexibility in service offerings on a client-by-client basis.
The time it takes to ramp up PSA software can vary drastically depending on platform complexity and the amount of data required.
Ease of use and support are two key considerations here. In some cases, platforms charge for onboarding support. In others, support is included. Often the platforms that require paid support will have longer overall onboarding times and higher operational complexity.
Whether or not you need to import data from an existing PSA tool into the new platform can also impact onboarding time. When considering new PSA tools, check for data import features that automate the process.
Another downside of tool sprawl is license cost. Each tool requires its own license. Integrated MSP software that includes PSA and RMM functionality can reduce license costs, but there’s still more to consider.
Pricing models can significantly impact scalability and your bottom line. For PSA and RMM software, per-asset and per-user pricing models are typical. Per-asset pricing effectively penalizes growth and operational efficiency. On the other hand, per-user pricing is much more conducive to an MSP that wants to enable business growth without being overly constrained by licensing costs.
Syncro: The best PSA software for MSPs
The best PSA tool is one that helps MSPs automate and scale back office processes so they can focus on delighting clients and improving profitability. Syncro is all-in-one MSP software that includes PSA, RMM, and remote monitoring and access features. With Syncro, you can:
- Have a central dashboard for all your core MSP tools
- Fully customize your PSA experience from workflows to contracts
- Combine data from RMM and PSA tools to automate service delivery end-to-end
- Integrate with over 50 other platforms and leverage a robust API
- Scale with flat per-user pricing
- Unlimited support to help you when you need it
But don’t take our word for it. Check out what the MSPs on G2 — where Syncro has a 4.5-star rating — are saying. If you’re still not convinced, sign up for a free trial (no credit card required!) and take the platform for a test drive today.