This is a public service announcement advocating the MSP adoption of professional services automation, a PSA for PSAs. Cue the furrowed brow, black and white color scheme, and Sarah McLachlan soundtrack. In all seriousness, a PSA tool is hugely beneficial for project management and business efficiency. To help better explain the value of such a tool, we sat down with Mike Salem, Founder and CEO of Vorex. Not only a Navigate 2015 sponsor, Vorex is also one of the leading PSA platforms we integrate with. What challenges can professional services automation help you overcome? What features make your job easier? Check out our Q&A!

Before we launch into the discussion, let's meet the interviewee of the hour...

Mike Salem founded Vorex in 2007 to fill an SMB need by using his deep expertise in business management software. During his tenure with large, resource-rich corporations like Bank of America and Sprint, Mike identified a way he could bring some of those enterprise-level resources to the SMB. He developed a passion for filling a gap he saw in the marketplace between incredibly expensive, complex business management solutions for enterprises and inadequate, overly simplistic ones for SMBs. His desire to help other business owners led him to leave his assistant vice president position to launch Vorex and follow his entrepreneurial dreams.

1. What is a PSA solution?

Professional Services Automation (PSA) is, simply put, software designed to make professionals’ lives easier. Features of a standard PSA solution usually include things like help desk ticketing, time and expense tracking and invoicing. Most commonly, PSAs are used to assist with project and resource management in a single interface to view, manage and control service offerings. By automating day-to-day business tasks, PSAs streamline operations, reduce redundancy and free up busy professionals’ time so they can focus on big picture strategy. The ultimate benefit of a PSA lies in its ability to deliver better customer experiences by improving how accounts are serviced while simultaneously increasing revenues and reducing costs for businesses.

2. What kinds of organizations are prime candidates for a PSA solution?

Any organization that manages multiple projects, accounts or clients can significantly benefit from a PSA solution. Whether you’re a PR agency, IT provider or telecom company, almost every type of organization can benefit from the way PSAs help streamline operations, save time and money and offer better insight into performance and metrics.

3. Do MSPs and IT Service Providers make the list? How so?

Absolutely! Small to mid-size MSPs and IT service providers are facing stagnant growth in some areas. In 2013, 25% of professional services organizations (comprised mainly of MSPs and IT providers) reported no growth, retraction or a net loss. Revenue growth among these organizations is also down across the board.

It’s clear that as technology and projects become increasingly more complex and the market gets more competitive, MSPs and IT service providers need a better way to manage their businesses and finances. PSAs are a low-cost yet effective way to do this. They give this unique industry a better way to automate services, keep track of help desk ticketing and maintain a better pulse on overall business health, including profitability and resource allocation.

4. Who uses a PSA solution within a given company?

The range of titles that use a PSA solution can vary greatly depending on allocated responsibilities. PSA users are most likely to be project managers, help desk managers or even business owners at a smaller organization.

5. What would you say to an MSP who isn’t using a PSA solution or is using their own ticketing service? 

It might sound harsh, but I would say without hesitation that they’re leaving money on the table and are missing out on business growth opportunities. Think about all the time that you, as a manager or busy professional, spend on daily operational tasks. What could you save if those processes were automated – maybe half that time? Now imagine taking that saved time and putting it toward company growth strategies. Stephen Covey, author of “7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” calls these “Quadrant Two” tasks that are focused on strategizing and long-term development. Spending more time in Quadrant Two is what delivers the most long-term value, but it’s only possible when you can shift your time and focus by automating other, more simple tasks.

6. What are some of the challenges that organizations that are looking for a PSA solution often encounter?

The complaints I hear most frequently from organizations are a lack of time and overall holistic insights into their businesses. I don’t think I’ve encountered a single professional who has complained they have too much time on his/her hands or is satisfied with the analytics available to assess the health of projects and accounts. What’s unfortunate is optimizing the way you spend your time and having robust insights and metrics is crucial to managing a growing business!

7. How does a PSA solution resolve these issues and remove pain points?

A PSA solution tackles these issues head on. As I previously mentioned, PSA software that’s easy to use and intuitive is a huge time saver because it automates recurring operational tasks so employees can focus on bigger and more important things. A good PSA solution will also combine important business functions and tools into its software, saving you the time and hassle of having to manage and maintain multiple platforms to perform different tasks. Think about how inefficient it is to log into one platform to record your time, then into another to invoice a client and then into yet another platform to manage your help desk! 

With a PSA solution like Vorex, for example, everything MSPs and IT providers need is available in a simple, consolidated interface that combines all important functions like customer relationship management (CRM), help desk and ticketing, billing and invoicing, project management and time and expense tracking into one central location. This enables managers and professionals to save time, get better holistic analytics and concentrate on growing their businesses.

8. What’s the single greatest mistake that companies make with project management, and what advice do you have for them?

I see a lot of companies driven by leadership that think they can manage all aspects of a project with ad hoc tools. But makeshift spreadsheets can only take you so far. While it might not seem like a big deal at the start of the project, these tools don’t offer any kind of deep intelligence or insights on project data, which can hurt the business in the long run. Knowledge truly is power, and the more data you have about your project, the better. Given that this is a common mistake, my advice would be to invest in an online tool that lets you track and manage your project from start to finish and that can generate useful reports and help you make sense of your data. A PSA solution helps you do this and makes the project management process more streamlined, collaborative and “intelligent.”

9. What kind of features should an MSP look for in their PSA solution? 

One of the biggest challenges I hear MSPs say they encounter when looking at PSA solutions is complexity. Most PSA solutions are just too cumbersome and complicated for companies to quickly and effectively adopt. This means a lot of companies are struggling to get the full value and potential out of unnecessarily complicated PSA systems because they’re only using a small fraction of what the PSA has to offer. 

It might be a great product, but if it’s not easy to use and simple to customize, the ability of that PSA software is irrelevant. A user-friendly and intuitive interface should be on the top of your list when looking for a complete PSA solution.

10. How important is it that your PSA solution integrates with other software solutions and tools? How so?

The whole idea behind a PSA solution is that it combines all of your essential business functions into one location to save you time and money, making robust integrations pretty important. The more business applications you can integrate and combine into one centralized place, the more your business will benefit from improved insights (that combine all aspects of your business in one report) and newfound time can be spent on tasks that will help the company grow.

11. How does the right PSA solution help an MSP’s end users? Does it play a role in client satisfaction? 

While I’ve talked a lot about how a PSA solution is beneficial for a business’ internal processes and bottom line, clients and customers can also absolutely benefit. A good PSA solution makes help desk ticketing more accurate and efficient, which in turn leads to better client services and satisfaction. In fact, Vorex had one particular MSP client who switched to our platform from another big name competitor. Vorex helped cut the time it took employees to create tickets for customer issues in half! Because our system was less complicated, employees were also including more detailed information in the tickets, and customers were even willing to log into the system and check the status of their tickets themselves. This resulted in a 90 percent decrease in customer calls to check on ticket statuses, saving employees valuable time and making customers feel more satisfied and in-the-know.

If you have additional questions or concerns about malvertising, feel free to stop by the Vorex booth at Navigate 2015 in Las Vegas.

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