IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

3 Tools to Support Managed Service Delivery

In this guide, you will find information to help you understand and make decisions for how to choose and use 3 key Managed Services tools; a Remote Monitoring Solution, a Professional Services Automation Solution (PSA) and a Remote Access Solution.

Whether you are a Solution Provider Owner/Operator, Account Manager or Systems Engineer, you’ll find important information about the considerations and benefits of adding these tools; and creating processes to leverage the efficiencies they provide, to support your Managed Service Delivery.

What are Managed Services Tools?

In this context, Managed Services Tools are defined as those tools which are necessary in order to allow the Solution Provider the ability to move from a reactive service response model to a proactive service approach, and include:

  • A Remote Monitoring Solution
  • A Professional Service Automation (PSA) Solution
  • A Remote Access or Control Solution

Benefits of implementing and using Managed Services Tools

The act of choosing and implementing the appropriate Managed Services Tools is often the first step taken by Solution Providers who are adding Managed Services to their offerings. This is generally for the following reasons:

  • In order to maximize net profits, Managed Service Providers must develop and implement effective policies and procedures to improve their efficiencies in service delivery, and look to Managed Services Tools as a starting point, leveraging their Tools’ built-in templates, workflows and functionality.
  • In order to standardize and document problem resolution, Managed Service Providers use their Tools’ Service Desk functionality to improve and document their service delivery to clients.
  • In order to show value to the end-user client, Managed Service Providers rely on their Tools’ abilities to generate meaningful reports which can be utilized not only for service validation, but also to identify revenue-generating opportunities, such as when a device or service’s monitored threshold is consistently exceeded, signaling an upgrade or up-sell opportunity.
  • In order to be alerted as quickly as possible to potential problems in client environments, Managed Service Providers establish proactive alerting and escalation of alerts in order to maximize their response time, allowing them the ability to act proactively to prevent or minimize service interruption.
  • In order to speed response and resolution times, Managed Services Providers leverage Managed Services Tools to remotely access and control end user devices and desktops.
    In order to improve staff utilization, Managed Service Providers schedule and automate the delivery of common maintenance activities such as operating system, application software, antivirus and antispyware patching and updating through the use of Managed Services Tools, freeing their staff to work on greater revenue-generating activities.

By administering maintenance and end-user support services remotely, Managed Services Providers further increase their efficiencies and staff utilization, and improve end-user response and resolution time, raising client satisfaction, and helping to foster the perception of the Managed Service Provider as the Trusted Advisor.

managed services tools

The benefits of the implementation of Managed Services Tools by the Service Provider is valuable to the client as well, for the more efficiently and proactively the Tools allow the Service Provider to maintain the client’s network and increase the client’s productivity, reducing reactive maintenance costs, and mitigating business risk, the more successful and profitable the client’s business will become.

Specific Tools for Specific Roles

In order to provide a well-rounded approach to proactive service delivery, the Service Provider must be equipped to monitor and service client networks, and document the results of their actions. In addition, their profitability increases the more they are able to provide these services remotely.

The Remote Monitoring Tool

The ability for the Service Provider to proactively monitor critical devices and services is a fundamental necessity for the capability to maintain and increase client uptime. The most effective network monitoring solutions allow the Service Provider to install a software Agent on a server or desktop in a client’s environment and initially obtain such data as:

  • Hardware Asset, Role and Inventory information
  • Operating System, Application Software and Licensing and Patch level information
  • Device IP address information
  • Physical System Information (Memory, Disk, NIC, etc.)
  • Running processes
  • Up/Down device status

After a predetermined period of time, the remote monitoring tool will be able to gather data and report on items such as the following:

  • Syslogs
  • Event Logs
  • System Uptime

The remote monitoring tool’s capability to allow the Service Provider to configure pre-set Alert Thresholds for critical devices and services is a key to maximizing client uptime and maintaining SLA’s. Commonly monitored devices include:

  • Servers
  • Routers
  • Switches
  • Firewalls
  • IP Phones
  • Access Points
  • PC’s
  • Printers

In addition to hardware devices, critical services can also be monitored, alerted on and escalated. Commonly monitored Services include:

  • Broadband Services
  • Email Services
  • Web Services
  • SQL Services
  • Backup Services
  • Antivirus Services

Not only hardware and services can be monitored, but critical Line-Of-Business Applications are also capable of being monitored and alerted on. Monitoring Tools normally utilize the following protocols to perform their function:

  • WMI
  • Syslog
  • SNMP

What to look for in a Remote Monitoring Tool

A Solution Provider today has the benefit of a wide variety of remote monitoring tools to choose from, and several factors will weigh in their final purchase decision:

  • Suitability for their particular business model and supported hardware and services
  • Cost and ROI
  • Implementation, Training and Deployment time
  • The ability to provide meaningful reporting
  • The quality of Vendor support
  • The ability to and ease of integration with their PSA Solution

Solution Providers whose business model focuses on supporting Microsoft Operating Systems and Software and IBM-compatible hardware benefit from the widest selection of remote monitoring tools. Those whose business models include support for Operating Systems such as Apple, Linux and Novell, and other 3rd-Party Software and hardware will currently find their choices for Monitoring Tools more limited.

Many remote monitoring tool vendors include Hosted, or “Pay As You Go” pricing models, lowering the barrier to entry for Solution Providers, as well as other, more traditional pricing models. Hosted Monitoring Tool Solutions also reduce Implementation and Deployment time, as the need for the Solution Provider to procure, build and configure host server hardware is eliminated.

The ability for the remote monitoring tool to document Alerts, Errors and Informational data through a robust reporting engine is necessary when validating the Solution Provider ‘s services to clients, and crucial when justifying budget requests for service or equipment upgrades and capacity planning.

As a result of remote monitoring tool vendors’ efforts to gain market share, overall vendor support has improved, with services such as sales and marketing training, templates and collateral being offered, in addition to product training. Solution Providers should make certain to choose a vendor that provides support during the Solution Provider’s hours of operation. Depending upon the vendor and Solution Provider’s geographic locations, time zone factors should be considered.

A critical function that the remote monitoring tool must provide is tight integration with the Solution Provider’s PSA Solution, which handles Service Request, or Trouble Ticketing duties among others. The remote monitoring tool must be able to communicate Alerts to the PSA Solution, and open a Service Request, documenting the Alert, and enabling the PSA Solution to assign the appropriate Priority and SLA to the Service Request, and alert and escalate the problem as appropriate.

The PSA Solution

Choosing and implementing a Professional Services Automation (PSA) Solution in the Solution Provider’s practice is the next step in improving efficiencies by implementing a consistent workflow process and reporting capabilities across multiple business units:

  • Service Desk
  • Professional Services
  • Sales and Marketing
  • Purchasing
  • Inventory
  • Accounting

What to look for in a PSA Solution

As in a Solution Provider’s decision to purchase a Monitoring Tool, similar factors weigh in the PSA Solution’s purchase decision:

  • Suitability for their particular business model
  • Cost and ROI
  • Implementation, Training and Deployment time
  • The ability to provide meaningful reporting
  • The quality of Vendor support
  • The ability to and ease of integration with their Monitoring Tool Solution

Solution Providers whose business model focuses on delivering Problem Resolution and Professional Services to clients, and require the ability to document services and time expended on service delivery will benefit greatly from a PSA Solution.

Like Monitoring Tool vendors, many PSA Solution vendors also include Hosted, or “Pay As You Go” pricing models, lowering the barrier to entry for Solution Providers, as well as other, more traditional pricing models. As with Hosted Monitoring Tool Solutions, Hosted PSA Solutions also reduce Implementation and Deployment time.

Although a Service Request or Trouble-ticketing system is required for a Solution Provider to integrate with their Monitoring Tool in order to deliver a higher degree of service to clients and improve internal efficiencies, a PSA Solution offers much more than this. Effective PSA Solutions provide the following benefits to a Solution Provider:

  • A CRM System
  • A Service Request or Trouble Ticketing Component
  • A Project Management Component
  • A Scheduling & Dispatching Component
  • A Time & Expense Tracking Component
  • An Inventory Control Component
  • An Asset Management Component
  • A Configuration & Change Management Component
  • A Service Agreement & SLA Management Component
  • A Knowledge Base Component
  • A Resource Management Component
  • Quoting & Invoicing Integration with Accounting Systems
  • A Sales Funnel Component
  • Robust, customizable reporting

The PSA Solution’s CRM functionality allows the Solution Provider to automate their workflows and record and report on client-facing processes such as sales, marketing, projects and services. Applied correctly, this process-based mechanism boosts client satisfaction, shortens sales cycles, simplifies project and problem management, facilitates escalation and improves resolution time.

Other Solution Provider functions benefiting from a PSA Solution include effective resource management through efficient scheduling and dispatching, time tracking and expense management – with key metrics including utilization and net profit by deliverable easily tracked and reported on.

The ability for the PSA Solution to manage client Assets and Configurations further increases the Solution Provider’s efficiencies and speeds problem resolution. And, when paired with Change Management, the Solution Provider can insure that standardized methods and procedures are followed to handle all changes to a client’s infrastructure, minimizing the negative impact of any change-related incidents.

In order to effectively deliver problem management and resolution services, the Solution Provider will leverage the PSA Solution’s Service Request, or Trouble Ticketing component, and build their Service Desk offering around an effective, standards-based problem management process; incorporating problem identification, prioritization and escalation for timely resolution, all governed by a strict SLA. The ability for the Solution Provider’s Monitoring Tool to integrate with the PSA Solution’s Service Request component is critical for maximizing efficiencies and maintaining SLA’s, as Alerts are passed from the Monitoring Tool to the PSA Solution to automate the creation, prioritization and escalation of Service Requests. As issues are closed, the PSA Solution updates its internal searchable Knowledge Base with each resolution, allowing the Solution Provider and their staff the ability to quickly query their own internal database during future problem resolution – a true benefit, especially when dealing with specific Line-of-Business applications or unique hardware and software configurations.

Integration with a Solution Provider’s quoting and accounting solutions further extends the value of the PSA Solution, reducing redundant data entry, increasing efficiencies and speeding turnaround time for client quotes and Invoices.

The Solution Provider’s sales process also benefits from the PSA Solution’s ability to create customized workflows based upon specific solution sales processes and cycles, tracking each milestone during the sales process and managing the Sales Funnel. As with the Service Request component, the Sales component enforces a strict sales process, standardizing each step in the sales cycle and providing meaningful data through reporting, which allows the Solution Provider to forecast potential revenue accurately, or modify sales processes in order to achieve their desired outcome.

In many cases, implementing a PSA Solution into a Solution Provider’s practice and enforcing management of each business unit by the processes and workflows established will be difficult and challenging, but in order to transition to not only a proactive service delivery model, but also a proactive business operations model, it is the most efficient and effective answer.

managed service delivery PSA Solution

The Remote Access Solution

A necessary but sometimes overlooked Managed Services Tool is the Solution Provider’s Remote Access Solution, or Solutions, as there are two specific scenarios addressed by these tools:

  • Remotely accessing equipment
  • Remotely sharing a desktop session with an end-user

These scenarios each require a different capability and approach by the Remote Access Solution. In the case of remotely accessing equipment, the Solution Provider can use already-existing methods, such as Secure Telnet or SSH, or VPN with RDC for Windows servers and desktops. But in those situations that require interaction with an end-user remotely, the Solution Provider will need the ability to share the user’s desktop, take control of the user’s keyboard and mouse, and interact in real-time for effective and timely problem resolution.

What to look for in a Remote Control Tool

A Solution Provider today has the benefit of a wide variety of remote control tools to choose from, and as with any purchasing decision of this type, factors that will weigh in their final decision include:

  • Suitability for their particular business model and supported hardware and services
  • Cost and ROI
  • Implementation, Training and Deployment time
  • The quality of Vendor support

Solution Providers whose business model focuses on supporting Microsoft Operating Systems and Software and IBM-compatible hardware benefit from the widest selection of Remote Control Tools. Those whose business models include support for Apple Operating Systems will find their choices for Remote Control Tools much more limited.

As with remote monitoring and PSA solutions, many remote control tool vendors include Hosted, or “Pay As You Go” pricing models, as well as other, more traditional pricing models. Many of the Remote Control Tools available to the Solution Provider are easy to implement, simple to deploy and do not require extensive training to utilize effectively. Effective Remote Control Tools should provide the following functionality:

  • Secure connectivity to the target PC
  • The ability to take complete control of the target PC
  • Fast performance
  • The ability to perform File Transfers between source and target PC’s
  • The ability to print from the target PC to the host PC’s printers
  • The ability to switch focus between the target PC’s to the source PC, allowing the end user to view the source PC’s desktop (for training and other purposes)
  • The ability to rapidly deploy, or make available any necessary Agents to the target PC
  • A Web-based architecture to allow functionality from any source PC in any location

Any solution that allows access to an internal network should be secure, minimizing the client’s external footprint. The Remote Control Tool should provide this security natively, in order to be considered a viable choice for the Solution Provider.

The ability to completely control the target PC by the Solution Provider greatly increases their ability to quickly and effectively troubleshoot end user issues remotely, increasing utilization, efficiency and client satisfaction.

The Remote Control Tool’s performance is critical in remote problem resolution – the faster the response, the better for both the Solution Provider and the end user.

The ability to transfer data between PC’s is also a requirement, as the replacement of Operating System or Software Application files is a common necessity, as is the pushing of patches and updates to the target PC from time to time.

Printing files accessed from the target PC to the source without the necessity to install and configure printer drivers also benefits the Solution Provider during problem resolution.

Rapid deployment of Agents, or the ability to host Agents on the Solution Provider’s website or support portal provides maximum speed and availability for Remote Control support to the client, and the ability to provide this support from any web browser at any location provides maximum flexibility in addressing end user issues.

remote control managed service delivery

The post 3 Tools to Support Managed Service Delivery appeared first on SPC Managed Services Blog for MSPs.

About the Author

Erick Simpson's picture

A Technology Businesses and Channel Growth and Transformation Consultant | Business Process Improvement, M&A and Integration Expert

Co-Founder of one of the first "Pure Play" MSPs in the industry, and creator of the MSP Mastered™ Methodology for Managed Services business performance improvement and the Vendor Channel Maturity Level Index™ that identifies IT channel program maturation for strategic growth, Erick Simpson is a strategic technology business growth and transformation specialist. He is experienced in improving top and bottom-line business performance by increasing operational efficiencies, boosting marketing and lead generation outcomes, accelerating sales velocity, shortening sales cycles and maximizing service efficiencies.

With over 30 years of experience in the IT industry as an Enterprise CIO, MSP, Strategic Coach and Consultant, Erick is a Business Process Improvement Expert with hundreds of successful IT Solution Provider, MSP, Cloud and Security practice business improvement consulting engagement outcomes.

One of the most prolific, recognized and sought-after  business improvement and transformation experts, authors and speakers in the industry, Erick has contributed to numerous industry publications and spoken at hundreds of events.

His published works include "The Guide to a Successful Managed Services Practice"; the definitive book on Managed Services, “The Best I.T. Sales & Marketing BOOK EVER!”, “The Best I.T. Service Delivery BOOK EVER!” and “The Best NOC and Service Desk Operations BOOK EVER!”, along with 50 Best Practice Guides.

Consulting Services for MSPs and Channel Vendors: http://www.ericksimpson.com

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ericksimpson
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/erickdsimpson
Twitter: https://twitter.com/ericksimpson

 

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