When you hear someone mention Professional Services Automation (PSA), you should pay attention. PSA is a fancy way to describe an integrated platform that can be used to consolidate critical business functions within one application. In the case of IT consultants, who must juggle a vast array of business requirements, it means collecting and estimating, time tracking, billing and invoicing, trouble ticketing, and dispatching and scheduling within one program.
The old-school method
My office, which supports hundreds of commercial clients and maintains a staff of a few dozen engineers, uses a collection of tools and utilities to manage operations. Trouble ticketing is managed leveraging a customized open source system integrated with our own Exchange infrastructure, which fuels communication and calendaring. We leverage TeamViewer and LogMeIn Rescue for remote support. QuickBooks Enterprise is our estimating and invoicing solution, while yet another firm powers remote monitoring efforts.
The new-school method
ConnectWise PSA collects all those disparate features within a single, integrated PSA. Better yet, ConnectWise PSA built the application to power its own consulting business. The software package isn't an app for generalized industry that also accommodates consultants; it was designed from the ground up specifically for IT consultants.
The design prerogative's resultant power quickly becomes apparent when reviewing a tutorial of the system's operation. Consultants can build price quotes within the tool's "Quosal" interface. The estimating utility can even connect to consultants' existing D&H, Ingram Micro, Tech Data, and SYNNEX accounts for accurate pricing and availability information.
Converting estimates to orders requires just a few clicks, and automatic email updates are generated as a result. Clients can even pay their invoices online using the client-facing portal.
Trouble tickets can be dragged-and-dropped onto an engineer's calendar. Field techs then receive an email message notifying them of the appointment. An embedded link within the message connects to the trouble ticket, providing the tech with more information.
Remote support sessions are powered leveraging NTR connectivity technology. Unlike other remote tools I've seen, the integrated remote support tool creates a ticket that automatically tracks time spent on the remote support call, thereby simplifying billing and invoicing processes.
My office loses some time moving service descriptions and time and materials costs from calendars and email and even trouble tickets to an invoice; ConnectWise PSA presents the opportunity to smoothly transition this information throughout the entire service process.
The integration is great, and the app is powerful. By centralizing on a single PSA, it eliminates the need for a variety of sometimes disparate and incompatible tools. Further, streamlined workflows reduce data entry tasks and free up engineers to solve more client issues, thereby enhancing profitability. But at what cost?
Like many other office investments, a PSA is a cost of doing business. ConnectWise PSA offers two pricing models. Consultants can either choose to pay for cloud-based access, billed monthly, or purchase the software license rights and install the application locally on their equipment.
Basic pricing begins at about $40 per user per month, with additional fees for adding mobile access support, remote monitoring features, and email-to-trouble-ticketing capability. Compare that to the costs of purchasing and licensing other components separately, and the price proves reasonable.
ConnectWise PSA is a compelling solution that my consulting firm is going to research further. While researching the PSA, I met up with another IT firm that mentioned in passing that it uses ConnectWise PSA and highly recommends it.
ConnectWise PSA is definitely a product IT consultants should consider and one I wish I knew about it long ago.
Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president of Eckel Media Corp., a communications company specializing in public relations and technical authoring projects.