IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

Tool Selection Tips

Rather than fall for the “shiny object,” consider factors like integration, scalability, and optimization. By James E. Gaskin

RMM, PSA, AND QUOTING solutions are all essential tools of the managed services trade. Picking the right ones can help you be successful. Picking the wrong ones will cost you time, money, and maybe even your business. How do you choose the best options for your company? And how do you get the most out of the tools you have?

Start by avoiding the big mistake in software selection—falling for the “shiny object” before figuring out your profit model. “Understand how to make the software profitable,” advises Rex Frank, president and CEO of the coaching firm Sea-Level Operations, in Sumner, Wash. “Pay to save labor every month.”

In addition, he says, factor in your integration needs. For example, Frank explains, “People don’t pay enough importance to [the] ability to sync with the billing system.” Manual translations lead to mistakes, such as paying for 50 anti-malware licenses but only billing customers for 35.

Today’s competitive products offer similar features and functions. Taylor Business Group, a coaching firm in St. Charles, Ill., recently ranked the top five PSA tools, and found no hands-down winner or loser, according to Dennis O’Connell, the company’s director of business development. Choosing between such tools should come down to “what the MSP owner feels is important,” says O’Connell. "Lots of cloud customers? Choose one with more cloud features. Lots of process automation? Pick the tool that best supports that."

Once you do select a tool, stop worrying that there’s something better out there. “Back in 2005 to 2010 or so, vendors were leapfrogging each other with new features,” says Frank. “Since about 2010, there’s not many strong reasons to change just for better features.”

“People buy the software they need to get them to $500,000, then the software to get them to $2 million … If you plan to grow to $10 million, buy that software at the beginning.”—DENNIS O’CONNELL, DIRECTOR, BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT, TAYLOR BUSINESS GROUP

One potentially good reason to switch tools, though, is if your business model changes. For example, says O’Connell, “If you’ve been a traditional MSP and start managing cloud customers, your old software may not handle that different business model well. Sometimes, vendors find it hard to leapfrog themselves and get a little behind the competition.”

Another reason to change tools is to keep up with your growing business, adds O’Connell. “People buy the software they need to get them to $500,000, then the software to get them to $2 million, then to get them to $10 million. If you plan to grow to $10 million, buy that software at the beginning.”

Remember that changing tools costs time and money, warns Frank. While a rep from, say, Kaseya, might pitch an inviting deal, if your people are already well trained in ConnectWise, “the retraining time could offset that discount,” says O’Connell.

Should you decide to make the leap to a new tool, be sure to optimize it. “We see customers walk into new tools using the same lack of effort as their old tools, and they get the same result,” says Frank. “You may just need to learn it better and maybe add extensions for certain jobs.” Lack of expertise makes every tool worse.

When you hire new people, adds O’Connell, “getting a person familiar with your existing software makes for a smooth transition and cuts training costs and time.”

If you do need to make a change, examine the leaders in that market, says O’Connell. “You can’t look strictly at price, but at the value you can generate with them. A low price that comes because of terrible service won’t be a good value.”

Availability of market development funds is another consideration, says Frank.

No matter how much consideration you apply, however, buying a tool won’t help unless you actually use it, adds O’Connell. “Surprisingly, lots of people buy tools but don’t implement them,” he says. “They buy a tool that can save them 15 minutes in a remediation but don’t use it and take five minutes longer to do that job. That wastes a lot of money.”

Indeed, your current tool may be fine if the issue is on the other side of the keyboard. Sums up O’Connell: “You can almost always get more value from the tool you have.”

About the Author

James E. Gaskin's picture

JAMES E. GASKIN is a ChannelPro contributing editor and former reseller based in Dallas.

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