I was recently speaking with the CEO of a mid-size technology solution provider and he asked me, “I know you have a bias, but you’ve been in the software industry for 10+ years, who would you say has the absolute ‘best’ PSA business software for IT/MSP, Physical Security and Audio Visual technology solution providers?”
I think my answer surprised him a little. Instead of naming our PSA business software, I gave him my honest opinion, which was simply: nobody.
The CEO’s question reminded of a recent conversation I had with my tire shop expert about winter tires. I asked him, “who has the absolute ‘best’ snow tires?” His answer was, “it depends” on which category of snow tire we’re talking about. He then proceeded to ask me if most of my driving would be in the city (plowed/slush), or in the country (un-plowed deep snow/ice) and what my priorities were; long tread life, road noise, handling?” His point being, depending on my answers and priorities, his ‘best’ snow tire recommendation answer might be different.
The same is true for the PSA business software market. Over the last 10 years the PSA business software category has matured and evolved significantly, and has actually split off into three distinctive sub-categories. Each sub-category is the “best fit” for a completely different IT/MSP, Physical Security or Audio Visual ideal customer profile and a very different set of business software requirements.
10 years ago PSA business software developers were focused on automating “break-fix” oriented IT/MSP, Physical Security and Audio Visual technology solution providers, and so Help Desk Tickets, Scheduling and Time Tracking were the focus modules. Recently, some PSA business software vendors have evolved their solutions to encompass other aspects of the business process including CRM, sales forecasting, quoting, equipment fulfillment, project management, job costing, support agreements, profitability tracking, etc. Like the snow tire example, PSA software vendors have started to “specialize” and splinter off into very different sub-groups, focusing on functionality to allow them to become “the best” at automating specific aspects of a technology solution providers business processes, each one appealing to very different ideal customer profiles.
There are now three distinctive sub-categories of PSA business software:
1. Ticket/Help Desk focused PSA business software
2. Project Management focused PSA business software
3. Enterprise focused PSA business software
This means there is no single ‘best’ PSA business software. It’s more about which PSA business software sub-category is the best fit for your IT/MSP, Physical Security or Audio Visual company’s requirements.
Click here to Download the PSA Software Buyer’s Guide to get a complete understanding of the different categories of PSA business software and which on is the ‘best fit’ for your company.
In order to find out which PSA business software is the best fit for your needs, you need to look at the three categories:
1. Ticket/Help Desk focused PSA Business Software
Ticket/Help Desk focused PSA software is a lot like it sounds: most of the functionality is geared towards creating, managing and resolving “support tickets”. These tickets are managed using different ticket “boards”. A ticket is moved from the ticket triage board and then assigned to the wireless board, storage board, managed services board or even to the sales/pre-sales board. This kind of PSA software was originally designed for “break-fix” shops and is now popular with pure play MSP’s (Managed Service Providers) because the focus of the functionality is on tracking either reactive or proactive customer support issues.
|Ticket/Help Desk focused PSA solutions tend to have strong functionality around help desk, ticket management, ticket assignment, resource scheduling & dispatch, ticket resolution, time sheets, expenses and time & materials billing or recurring billing for ticket-focused work. Ticket escalation and resolution analytics along with a ticket knowledge base. Automated workflow and notifications assist as tickets are moved from one ticket board to another. Color-coded tickets and escalations raise SLA compliance issues. Configurable billing and cost rates make time and materials and recurring billing fast and easy.
|Some of the Ticket/Help Desk focused systems may have CRM, project management and equipment ordering modules, but those aren’t really the strengths of these solutions. Many customers using this type of PSA software tend to use 3rd party products for quoting, project management and will often use their accounting system for equipment or product purchasing and inventory management. Spreadsheets are often used in conjunction with these solutions for things like project job costing, sales forecasting, and business profitability reporting & analytics.
‘Best Fit’ for…
Pure play Managed Service Providers, Break-fix shops & Consultants; basically any organization that is mostly professional services focused (not project/solution focused) and have a light requirement for managing sales, quoting, project management & job costing, equipment procurement, customer asset tracking, or expect to perform those functions in other systems.
2. Project focused PSA Business Software
Project focused PSA business software is geared towards the project management, resource management and professional services job costing part of the business process. Functionality is heavily focused on the project delivery steps that happen after a new project is booked. These solutions focus on project management & project schedules, tracking project budgets and project cost against budget performance, resource scheduling and time & expense tracking. Project-focused PSA solutions are traditionally deployed as best of breed “point solutions” and the expectation is that CRM, quoting, equipment estimating, procurement and fulfillment and ticketing/help desk support & support contracts happen in other systems.
|Project focused PSA solutions are strong in the areas of creating project schedules (WBS – work breakdown task structures), resource scheduling, tracking actual hours vs. estimated hours, tracking complex employee cost, bill rates and skill sets, often across multiple projects at the same time. Functionality is geared towards project delivery, professional services job costing, collaboration, time and expense tracking, and professional services milestone, progress, or T&M invoicing.
|Most Project focused PSA solutions do not even have modules for CRM, quoting, sales forecasting, equipment procurement, customer asset tracking, support agreements and help desk. Some may have procurement functionality but do not typically track inventory. The expectation for this PSA solution category is that these functions will be performed in other 3rd party systems.
‘Best Fit” for…
Engineering, Architects, Construction/Construction Subcontractors where the focus on the company is to deliver the project. Pre-sales and post-sales support are handled in other 3rd party system(s).
3. Enterprise focused PSA Business Software
A relatively new entry into the PSA business software category, ‘Enterprise’ PSA business software is basically a combination of the first two categories; Help Desk and Project focused PSA business software, combined with CRM software. These solutions tend to be equally strong in CRM, quoting, project management, job costing, help desk, time & expense tracking, support agreements and equipment fulfillment.
The goal of Enterprise focused PSA business software is to help companies scale by improving efficiency and productivity. They do this by providing shared real-time visibility, audit trails and accountability across all departments, as well as providing structure for repeatable business process steps and best practices.
|Enterprise focused PSA business software is designed to improve operational efficiency and productivity by better linking and coordinating the activities of all departments. Gathering, managing and reporting on all business process data in real-time as part of a single enterprise solution and database.
Keying errors and delays are eliminated. Changes made in one module are immediately visible in all other modules, so any affected department is aware of the change and can adjust accordingly. Having all operational data in one system provides real-time visibility for better planning runway, project delivery, resource coordination and customer support, as well as providing detailed analytics across the business for strategic decision making. Profitability reporting and analytics
|An Enterprise focused PSA business software can be implemented in phases, but in order to realize it’s full potential the software requires that users in all departments use the software, so having a strategy to drive user adoption across all operational departments becomes important. Enterprise PSA business software may also require more implementation resources and departmental buy-in than a more limited scope PSA.
Since Enterprise focused PSA solutions are “strong” across all operational departments, as opposed to in just one area, they may have fewer bells and whistles than some of the more limited scope PSA’s.
Best Suited for…
Mid-size to larger technology solution providers (or smaller companies with aggressive growth plans who want to ‘buy once’ and never outgrow their solution) who have multiple lines of business (project solutions, managed services, equipment, etc) and have multi-layered post-sales support (manufacturer support contracts, managed services, traditional support contracts, etc.). Companies where growth has introduced a layer of complexity to the business that needs to be automated in order to scale and continue to grow profitably.
So, the truth is there is no ‘best’ PSA business software solution, only the ‘best fit’ PSA business software category for the problems your IT/MSP, Physical Security or Audio Visual technology solution provider is trying to solve.
Choosing the right PSA business software category for your organization is an important decision because you’re not just buying PSA business software for what it does today, but also for how it’s likely to evolve over the next 5-7 years, as your business grows and evolves.
This will be determined to a large extent by which PSA sub-category that vendor fits into and the corresponding “ideal customer” community they’re developing the software for.