Wednesday, July 04, 2007

ConnectWise Will Set You Free

[Note: in late 2008, KPEnterprises switched from ConnectWise to Autotask. I didn't want to re-write this whole post. So please understand that we now say "Autotask will set you free."]

[The key point here is that a good PSA system will set you free. ConnectWise set us free and gave us spectacular documentation. Now Autotask sets us free and gives us spactacular documentation. Use your tools.]
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You may have heard the saying "The truth shall set you free." Or its direct corollary, "Perfect documentation shall set you free."

In our company this equates to "ConnectWise will set you free."

(Note: We say ConnectWise because that's what we use. You might use Shockey Monkey, AutoTask, or some other practice management software. The important point is to have best practices and use your tools to make money.)

One of the most important concepts in managing the profitability of your service business is to track how you use your time. The only thing that comes close to that in importance is to make sure that nothing on your "to do" list gets dropped or forgotten.

We know we can't bill for everything we do. But we still need to make the client aware of all the things we do.

Enter the "Zero Time Entry."

With a Zero Time Entry, we put time against a service request to note that we did some little thing, but the actual time worked was too small to bill. The best example is a phone call that resulted in a voicemail. Or a quick email about an issue.

Zero time entries are very useful in two specific circumstances. First, when we or the client want to know where we are in a project, we just look in Connectwise. Second, when a client wants to dispute whether we're giving adequate attention to an issue, we have a trail to follow. We might see entries like this:

    Friday June 29th 9:45 AM - Called [client] regarding email archiving. She hasn't had a chance to clean out sent items. Time 00:00 billable.

    Friday June 29th 2:45 PM - Called [client]. Left voicemail. Time 00:00 billable.

    Monday July 2nd 8:30 AM - Called [client]. Left voicemail. Time 00:00 billable.

    Monday July 2nd 4:30 PM - Called [client]. Left voicemail. Sent email requesting status. Time 00:00 billable.

    Tuesday July 3nd 9:00 AM - Called [client]. She needs handout on cleaning and archiving email. Sent this via email. Changed priority to P4. Time 00:00 billable.

    Thurday July 5th 8:30 AM - Called [client]. Left voicemail. Sent email requesting status. Time 00:00 billable.

    Friday July 5th 8:30 AM - Called [client]. Left voicemail. Sent email requesting status. Time 00:00 billable.

    Monday July 9th 11:00 AM - Called [client]. Too busy to work on this now. Will call when she has time. Changed status to "waiting on client." Time 00:00 billable.

Now, please understand that this example could have included a series of communications that actually moved a project forward. In this case, however, you see that we've documented the fact that we tried to work on this service request for ten days, the client did not make herself available, and the SR was placed in a holding pattern until she gets back to us.

(Note, also that this SR will be closed the next time we call and she doesn't have time. We'll close it with a note that client can create a new SR when the problem comes up on her radar again.)

Why do this? Because we have too many service requests for anyone to keep track of. When the Customer Service manager gets a call from [client's] boss, wanting to know why her email hasn't been taken care of, he can look in Connectwise and read through all this.

We put these entries as Zero Time Entries rather than internal notes so that they show up on the invoice.

One of the really great things about Connectwise is that all your tech notes get printed on the invoices. Even Zero Time Entries. So a client who cares can look through all these notes and see why they're getting billed. Or not billed. In either case they see the progression of each SR to completion.

Another great example of Connectwise setting you free is when a client comes to you and says "We have _this problem_. It's been going on for over a month. What have you done about it?"

Well, let's see. On your last invoice, SR 12345, we noted the problem, documented it, developed a plan to fix the problem, made a list of affected workstations, and fixed three of them. We are currently working on the other three.

How may I provide you with excellent service today?

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But Connectwise is much more than a time tracking tool.

    What's the external IP on that firewall? Did you look in Connectwise?

    Where's the license file for [client's] new Office licenses? In Connectwise.

    Who was the last person to work on that PC? Check Connectwise.

    How many times have we had problems with that switch? Look in Connectwise.

    And most importantly . . .

    Where can I get a list of every single activity, project, and problem that needs attention by someone in my company? Connectwise.

If it's not in Connectwise, it doesn't exist.

When we add up all the outstanding Service Requests, projects, and activities in Connectwise, we get a tally of how many hours we have "in the pipe." When we don't put in accurate estimates for work to be done, then we have an inaccurate estimate of work in the pipe.

When we maintain Connectwise the way we're supposed to, we can use it to make decisions about staffing. After all, there's a difference between a 2-week backlog and a 5-week backlog. If the numbers are accurate, we can make decisions with confidence.

If you've bought a professional services tool and not yet implemented it, get your butt in gear.

If you're keeping track of your clients using Outlook and Excel, get a professional services tool.

How do you pay for it?

Guaranteed more billable hours. Better scheduling. More productive use of your time, and your techs' time.

How can I run off to the Worldwide Partner Conference for a week with a senior technician on vacation and my service managager leaving for two weeks on the day I get back? Because Connectwise has set me free.


  1. Hi Karl,

    Thanks for the post on ConnectWise. At my company we have implemented ConnectWise to some degree. Unfortunately we don't have all modules going yet. I can see how if you are doing service tickets, etc the application works great. But, we are really struggling on how best to use the application for projects. If you have a project that spans a couple months and multiple resources, it seems like a very manaul process for updating and also doesn't really help you guage how much availability your team members have. Any thoughts?z

  2. I just cancelled Connectwise and am about to be in lawsuits with them. You can forget about their 120 day satisfaction plan. It is a scam.

    The reason I cancelled is there is no effective way to control what engineer has access to any given set of customers, and more importantly, your customers passwords. You can possibly group engineers together with given sales territoriess, but this is rarely the structure that companies use.

    I also have major issues with the fact that if an engineer leaves, there is a simple way for them to take your entire customer database with them. If you have 100 engineers, I would expect that 8-10 would leave per year compromising your list at least 1-2 times per year, potenitally to your largest competition.

  3. I sold my business after 20 years and continue to work for the successor company which implemented ConnectWise about 18 months ago. ConnectWise in my opinion is overly complex, very non-intuitive and user unfriendly. If you deploy ConnectWise to the extent we have, you’ll be more focused on serving the needs of ConnectWise than the needs of your customers. The overhead associated with running ConnectWise offsets any benefits. Customer facing aspects of ConnectWise such as certain types of invoices and reports create confusion and leave customers questioning your abilities in other areas. If you want to micro manage every minute detail of your business, Connectwise may be for you but you will pay a price in losing individual initiative and common sense. Thankfully, I can retire in a couple years and ConnectWise will at some point be just a bad memory.

  4. Benn Probett3:58 AM

    I've been using ConnectWise for about 4-5 years now and I love it as a PSA. If you and your staff follow the CW University you will find it is great for every element of an outsourced IT organisation. Saying that just started up at a new MSP using AutoTask and I have found AutoTask the most infuriating system ever.

    Needless to say we are moving to ConnectWise to plug the holes in the day to day with a rock solid PSA/CRM and improve overall business process. Trying the Cloud solution this time, fingers crossed the is no gap in solutions :)

  5. Anonymous4:21 PM

    We purchased ConnectWise, and it was nightmare scenario here in Australia, the support is very poor and there implementation servers is an installation only,. I'm curtly in the progress seeking damages as they refused to refund. As mentioned above, you'll spend all your time servicing ConnectWise. Stick with Auto task or ManageEngine

  6. Anon: I am publishing your comment. But please note a few things. First, as a totally anonymous comment, it's pretty easy to discount the complaint. I am happy to have a discussion here, but I prefer it to be as open as possible. Second, ConnectWise has lots of very happy customers. So your experience represents a portion of that group, but not necessarily the majority.

    I am not currently a ConnectWise user and I'm being not paid by them for any services, marketing, etc. But it's fair to point out that they are a major player in the SMB space with many raving fans.


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