What is Professional Services Automation (PSA)?

PSA stands for ‘Professional Services Automation’. The term describes the IT functions that manage teams. A PSA system is particularly necessary for the management of IT support departments or Managed Services Providers (MSPs). Find out how you can improve the performance of your IT support team and demonstrate goal achievement by deploying a PSA.
Remote Access Meaning & Definition

What Are the Functions of a PSA?

A PSA should be able to fulfill all of the team management functions needed to run an IT operation as a successful support department. Management tasks that PSA should assist with include:
  • Distribution of work to team members
  • Tracking of task progress and completion
  • The logging of resources used on a project
  • Forecasting to identify where extra resources might be needed
  • Goal achievement reporting for service level agreements
  • Auditing to demonstrate compliance to data integrity standards
Although a PSA is an essential tool for the management of IT support, it is not the only software platform needed by MSP and cost-center IT departments.

Software Needs of an MSP

In order to operate, an MSP needs two categories of software:

  • Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM)
  • Professional Services Automation (PSA)

An RMM platform supports the IT team in its daily tasks to maintain client networks/workstations. This is a bundle of tools that presents a unified console to technicians. The RMM should also automate routine tasks that need to be carried out in order to keep a remote IT system operating without incident. These features include:

  • Equipment monitoring
  • Warnings for statuses approaching performance limitations
  • Alerts for unexpected hardware and software failures
  • Patch management
  • Software license management
  • Resource capacity assessments
  • Remote control features
  • Onboarding procedures
So, RMM is concerned with all of the daily tasks that an MSP’s technical team needs to perform in order to fulfill the obligations written into a service agreement.
The PSA supports the management of an MSP to make sure that all employees are working to expectations in supporting the clients. Not only do team leaders need to make sure that all of the functions laid out in the contract with a client are being performed competently, they also need to ensure that all technicians are fully occupied so that the MSP can run its business profitably
Team management functions include decision making over the number of technicians needed in order to run a service and also be sure that the right skills are constantly available.
Pre-sales specialists get input from the PSA’s analysis tools when bidding for work and client liaison managers use the system to keep track of performance and spot areas for new business opportunities with existing clients.
Accounting departments need to be able to record and demonstrate resource usage for billing. MSP operations managers need to ensure that every letter of the contract is being complied with and that the activities of the company do not breach data security standards.
Clearly, MSPs need both an RMM platform and a PSA system. Each of these categories of software services is a bundle of tools, tailored to specific job roles within the MSPs. The ideal solution, for any MSP shopping for its software needs, is a service that offers a package combining both RMM and PSA functions.

Key Modules in the Perfect PSA

A comprehensive PSA should include:

  • Customer relationship management
  • Helpdesk interface and automatic ticketing
  • Knowledge base, both for user access and technician guidance
  • Task tracking
  • Contract management
  • Time sheets, task completion, and automated billing
  • Accounting integration
  • Reporting and auditing functions
Including all these functions in one environment creates a closed loop system where no task goes unlogged. This is a vital condition for MSPs since unrecorded actions cannot be billed.

Customer Relationship Management

A customer relationship management (CRM) tool will enable your staff to know background details on your clients, and their employees, that contact your service. This central activity database records
  • Contact details
  • Interactions and their results
  • Service level agreements
  • Devices
  • Tickets
  • Access passwords
  • In-house notes
CRM systems can be tied into a digital phone network to automatically access client details when an MSP makes or receives customer contact.
What is RMM and What RMM monitoring software can do for you

Helpdesk Interface and Automatic Ticketing

Although many people are accustomed to making phone calls for support issues, accessing the Help Desk through a Web-based portal can solve problems faster.
The portal ties together all methods of problem solving and can reduce costly technician contact by enabling self-service solution support. The interface can include a chat facility for interactive problem definition. The operator can then raise a ticket to record that the MSP is engaged in chargeable activities.
An alternative approach requires customers to email the Help Desk. The PSA system should be set to receive all such requests and automatically log a ticket for the issue. Help Desks that accept phone calls should make the ticket-raising system available to operators so that they can fill in an issue log on behalf of the client and get the solution process rolling.

Knowledge Base Both for User Access and Technician Guidance

The expertise of your qualified technicians is a valuable resource. Recording the knowledge of those key experts will enable you to spread their experience to less qualified team members. This is an important cost-saver because it enables less-qualified, and less expensive staff to serve clients with an apparently high degree of competence.
A knowledge base is an important tool for any MSP because it provides training, checklists, procedural verification, and technical information to all staff that are expected to have contact with clients.
The knowledge base should also be integrated into the client-facing Help Desk portal. Structuring the support access so that all users need to go through the knowledge base first before resorting to human assistance can cut down the number of tickets that get raised, save time, and cut support costs drastically.

Task Tracking

A task tracker serves two user communities: the end user who raised the issue and managers of technician teams.
Some problems take time to solve. Access to an online portal that lists ticket statuses enables reporting users to be assured that their problem has not been forgotten. This reduces the urge by waiting users to check back with the Help Desk on solution progress.
Task tracking is an essential part of a team manager’s daily activities. MSPs need to ensure timely solutions in order to control costs. Effective management requires automated performance tracking with exception alerts. Managers can set the parameters of what is considered to be a standard ticket solution period and leave the system to record each normally completed ticket.
Alerts in a ticket tracker give support team managers the opportunity of escalating or reassigning complex problems, and to split tickets and share effort between different subject experts. Ticket tracking can also save resources by enabling ticket merging when closely related or repeated issues are identified.

Contract management

All facilities in the PSA should feed data through automatically to a contracts management module. The information collected through the ticketing system is important data for managers who are responsible for monitoring client satisfaction.
Information collected in the contract management module helps managers ensure that the MSP is fulfilling its obligations and keeping clients happy. This tool will also demonstrate where contracts do not properly reflect the service requirements of the client, enabling the customer manager to propose adjusting the service levels agreed to in the initial contract.
Contract fulfillment information is also a useful data source for business managers who will be able to analyze the performance of the MSP, adjust expectations, and improve profitability by writing more realistically-priced contracts in the future.
RMM Meaning

Time Sheets, Task Completion, and Automated Billing

The automated data flows in a PSA feed through to billing. Timesheets, ticket metrics, and service task completion information are all needed for invoicing.
This automation rules out the risk of chargeable activities being overlooked and left off an invoice. It also eliminates the need for accounts department staff to have to chase up tardy reporters and it cuts out the time that operatives need to dedicate to paperwork, freeing everyone up for more productive tasks.
The repository of logs in the PSA that contribute towards the billing process makes all activity data available to both clients and client managers. This heads off disputes over invoices by making customer accountants fully aware of the all the recourse that his company’s staff had to the MSP during the billing period.

Accounting Integration

PSAs support client-facing activities. They aren’t complete ERPs, so MSPs still need separate back-office software to cover accounting and business capacity planning. A PSA that can feed data through to your accounting software closes the information loop and avoids loss of important financial records through human error.
This automated data exchange is not just a necessity to prevent tasks from being left off invoice. It is also an auditing requirement for compliance with financial reporting standards, such as SOX.

Reporting and Auditing Functions

SOX isn’t the only reporting standard that MSPs need to comply with. Businesses handling customer financial details need to comply to PCI-DSS. Any service provider contributing to the delivery of services to the general public will also need to demonstrate compliance to those standards if they want to win business. Similarly, HIPAA conformance is a requirement to win business from companies in the health sector. If you want to win business in Europe, you need to show that your processes are GDPR compliant.
Your PSA should provide automatic data access tracking and activity auditing. Platforms that include reporting and auditing functions do all of the compliance reporting work for you.

Client Management Tasks for MSPs

The longer an MSP is in business, the more operational data that it will accumulate. That data is a goldmine for business profitability analysis and it helps MSPs more accurately price bids for work. The PSA, together with an RMM will greatly reduce costs, allowing the MSP to cut prices and win contracts. At the same time, information on operating costs and turnover stored in the PSA will help you avoid the error of underpricing bids and putting the business in jeopardy.
Once you know the capabilities of your company, you are in a better position to tailor service level agreements and accurately define contract clauses.
When you win clients, the PSA will help your customer liaison manager keep the client happy, and review contract conditions periodically. Performance auditing in your PSA will enable you to demonstrate SLA compliance and back up your invoices. All of the information provided by a PSA helps you manage client expectations more effectively and keep customers satisfied.

User Support Facilities

Your PSA will provide you savings if it can encourage and support self-service activities for users. This cuts down the number of support calls and reduces costs
When problems reach the Help Desk, your PSA should include flexible ticketing options that include task sharing, ticket forwarding, and ticket merging. These utilities will reduce your need for expert resources. All tickets will pass through script-guided first line support operators to deal with common problems. This facility lowers your staffing costs by reducing the deployment of high-cost expert technicians.

Team Management Tasks

An effective PSA should enable automated task distribution, monitoring of technician performance, and collaboration. PSAs include performance boundaries, overdue alerts and the ability to intervene manually in task routing in exceptional cases. These facilities reduce the amount of time that your team leaders need to spend on expediting solutions.
A flexible, Cloud-based PSA and RMM package removes the need to employ a software and hardware maintenance team. By requiring less equipment, the business needs fewer expert managers with technical knowledge. A subscription-based RMM and PSA platform will enable you to add on seats instantly. You can expand your support team temporarily to get over surges in demand.

Standards Compliance

A PSA without reporting and auditing functions is not worth the investment. These days, MSPs cannot successfully bid for business without data protection and financial propriety checks in place. GDPR, SOX, HIPAA, and PCI-DSS are just a few of the many business standards that every MSP needs to deal with.

Atera’s All-In-One Solution

Atera covers all of the PSA functions that you need to run an MSP or a help center/IT department. It is an all-in-one solution that caters very well to the needs of MSPs because Atera also includes extensive RMM facilities
The Atera platform is a Cloud-based service, so you don’t need to install and maintain the software at your own site. You don’t even need servers, or premises – technicians can work from home and the service can be accessed through mobile apps.
This software-as-a-service is charged on a subscription basis per technician. That means start-ups and small businesses get access to all of the utilities in the package, at the same price-per-user as large organizations. That slashes the IT costs of start ups and frees up precious resources for marketing and customer service. You can add on user accounts and reduce the number of seats that you subscribe to at will, which makes it easier to expand for new clients and scale back when service contracts end.

“Thanks to Atera’s sophisticated set of PSA functions, we are able to dramatically increase our efficiency and reduce the end-of-month billing effort.”

– Russ Gordyan, RG Digital, USA

Atera is able to exchange data with accounting software. The platform currently integrates with QuickBooks Desktop, QuickBooks Online, and Xero. Data can be exported to any accounting software via CSV files.
The auditing and reporting functions will help you shape your contracts and demonstrate SLA goal achievement. Customer liaison and billing are much less time consuming, thanks to the automated services and data flows integrated into Atera. Conformance to the data protection standards that your MSP will need to follow in order to win business is much easier with Atera.

“Atera’s solutions for IT professionals made customer management super simple”

– Travis Mayo, Nano Geek, USA

The biggest advantage of Atera is that it will reduce your costs and help you win and retain clients. Investing money is a risk for any business and Atera understands that. The service offers a 30-day free trial of the entire system to help you assess the platform and train up your staff at no cost.
Take the risk-free trial offer of Atera and discover how you can improve your services and enhance your MSP’s profitability.

Conclusion

PSA will help your MSP reduce costs, bid more competitively, and retain clients thanks to its comprehensive business operations oversight. Technician management, staffing resource planning, and business expansion are greatly facilitated by the use of a PSA.