Top tips to help automate your managed services offering

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As an IT service provider, you will already be aware there are a myriad of tasks that can be automated, improving overall efficiency for both your business and your customer’s business. Automation should be considered a business best practice as not only does it drive growth and increase overall profitability, it allows a managed service provider (MSP) to deeply integrate its services into its customer’s processes. The result – it is incredibly difficult for another provider to undercut you and take the business.

Automate the most common requests: Automating as many tasks as possible may seem slightly obvious, but it’s worth remembering that day to day maintenance can take up a lot of a technician’s time. Generally speaking, repetitive tasks can and should be automated including preventative maintenance, such as desktop cleanup and database table maintenance and cleanup. MSPs who are still tackling these tasks manually will be freed up to focus on higher value projects or important service calls, thus increasing the efficiency and profitability of the business.

Automate responses for more frequently occurring problems: As an MSP, your ultimate objective is to minimise downtime and facilitate a reliable infrastructure with 24/7 access. A Service Level Agreement (SLA) is the foundation on which your client relationship is built. As many issues just require a hardware or software reboot, problems arise when experienced technicians are pulled away from more urgent issues to deal with these occurrences. In order to combat this, MSPs must utilise their remote monitoring and management (RMM) platform’s self-healing capabilities. If a device or service changes to a warning or error state, the RMM system should automatically launch an automation policy to remedy the situation.

Make onboarding easy: To make the onboarding of new customers as easy as possible, MSPs must have a system in place that discovers devices and deploys probes automatically. Firstly, this will reduce the time it takes to add devices to you management software. Once monitoring has been established, routine maintenance can be taken care of by scheduled automation policies. This is particularly important at the beginning of your customer relationship as less time spent doing maintenance means more time supporting any arising issues. Secondly, by automating remediation, you will demonstrate how quickly you meet SLAs for common issues, thus reassuring your new client that establishing a working relationship with you was the right decision.

Strive to impress: Another key piece of advice for MSPs is to make sure the client knows about all of the fantastic work you are doing. A great way of doing this is with status reports. Weekly updates on maintenance and other matters which need resolving, together with a quarterly review, will demonstrate the value of the work undertaken and increase your clients’ understanding of your services. Your RMM system should provide graphical reports for customers and allow you to schedule when they are delivered. Executive reports provide a comparison to the previous week’s performance, as well as an update on the overall status of the network. Your RMM system should also be able to generate reports specific to help desk, patch management and backup, and other areas. In short, better reporting demonstrates better value.

Charge for automated services: MSPs must be sure to track automation as billable hours, even though it is effectively the system which is at work. MSPs have two options: perform tasks manually and charge the client, or automate maintenance and remediation tasks. As discussed, the latter of the two options improves customer service and promotes excellent response times. So as to produce an accurate record of time spent on automation, your automation policies should be capable of updating your ticketing system so that when tickets are complete you are logging time. As a suggestion, you can assign 15 minutes for small tasks and more time for larger tasks, all of which can be fed into an invoice. A common tactic to strengthen your customer relationship is to discount some of the automation hours the system has logged.

Finally, as you get more familiar with automation, it will become indispensable in your day to day business. Taking into account each step mentioned above and the dynamics of your business will begin to change for the better, in tandem with increased productivity and profitability.

David Weeks is channel manager, N-able by SolarWinds

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