Monday, August 16, 2010

The Five Best Decisions I've Made In My Business: #4

I've been looking at some of the decisions I've made in my company over the years. Last week I talked about Zenith Infotech and RMM tools generally. See The Five Best Decisions I've Made In My Business: #5.

That article also lays out the criteria for top-five decisions.

So now . . .

#4 Best Decision I've Made In My Business: Adopting ConnectWise and Autotask

Let's be honest, if you read this blog or have been in the I.T. business for the last few years, this is not a shocker.

I think it was six years back that I signed up for Connectwise. At the time, I couldn't find any other practice management systems for I.T. that were really comprehensive. Like many businesses, I had developed a system in-house to enter time over the web from client offices, and I made my technicians account for all of their time, enter notes and billable time into the system. And so forth.

But like most I.T. companies, my solution was a combination of unrelated, separate processes that "got the job done." It was not a PSA (professional services automation) tool. And I am extremely happy with my documentation processes, but I didn't have documentation for all clients available at my fingertips.

Having a PSA system changed my business in several ways. It allowed us to enforce policies we already had in place. And it allowed us to adopt new policies that helped our business even more. Way back then I coined the phrase that if it's not in the PSA system, it doesn't exist. ConnectWise has now adopted that as one of their tag lines.

At one point I think we had eight licenses for ConnectWise. And we went through a period of creating efficiencies in our service delivery. As a result, our staff would decrease a body or two. Then we'd add some clients and the staff would increase. Then we'd become more efficient and decrease. We found that the pricing model for ConnectWise was not very flexible. At the same time, our ConnectWise server was getting old and we could see a new server, SQL, and licensing in our future.

At that time we were evaluating all the relationships in our business (clients, vendors, employees, products, supplies, etc.). That's when we started looking at other PSA systems. And we settled on Autotask.

Making the Switch

Many people have expressed to me the same belief I held five years ago: It would be nearly impossible to switch to a new PSA system. In fact, it was surprisingly easy, once we committed to the change. We set our sights on a 30-day transition. The team at Autotask was a little worried about that, probably based on experiences with other companies. But we had top-down dedication to make the move. We dedicated every resource they needed to getting the job done, and we were up and running 100% on Autotask in 30 days, with all of our data imported and ready to go.

Now we go back to one of the conversations in the comments from the previous post in this series: With any tool you use, you need to dedicate someone to learn the tool as much as you can. We spent the first few months learning the tool and figuring out how to do the basics every day. But the power of the tool is in digging in and using all the other (90%) features.

We retired the ConnectWise server altogether because Autotask is a cloud-based system. So we didn't need to maintain another server in our colo facility. Maintenance and updates were no longer ours to worry about. There are no days when my technicians are "down" because of my server, my internet, my anything.

And to be honest, there haven't been any days of downtime that I recall at all.

In my seminars I frequently tell people that they have to have a PSA system. ConnectWise, Tiger Paw, Autotask . . . SOMETHING. The most dramatic thing a PSA does for your business is that it contains the absolute complete list of everything that everyone in the company needs to do. Between tasks and service tickets, every single thing that needs to be done by everyone in your company should be in your PSA system.

We rarely schedule work, but Autotask allows us to perfectly sort activities by priority. Every technicians is always working on the most important thing that needs to be done. And so, with everyone working on the highest priorities in the company, the work goes very fast.

This was always a "rule" in my company. Now it is completely embedded in the daily routine of everyone here.

PSA systems are not free. In fact, they're not really cheap. But they pay for themselves and help you make more money in a thousand ways. Over the years on this blog I've told countless stories about how we made money or saved money because of the ways we use Autotask (and CW before that). When I say "Documentation Will Set You Free" that means "Documentation in Autotask Will Set You Free."

As many people know, I have a great paper-based documentation system for clients to keep on site at their office. But even with that, we scan their paper documentation, and license information, and put it in Autotask. Even if their building burned down, we would have their internal documentation in our system.

Autotask doesn't quite "dominate" our business, but it affects almost every function every day. We live inside Autotask. Our policies, processes, procedures, projects, and profitability are all better off because we use Autotask. Because it's cloud-based, it is universally available to us without an agent of any kind.

Sometimes we call it our "ticketing system." But it's really our business system.

When my brother Manuel left my company earlier this year (after six years of service), we did a formal exit interview and talked about each aspect of our business. When it got to Autotask, his entire evaluation was "It just did every single thing it was supposed to do every single day. It just works."

- - - - -


Connectwise introduced us to the all-in-one business automation system.

Autotask took that automation to the cloud and freed up a significant amount of our time and resources.

If you don't have some kind of PSA system, get off the fence and get one today. This afternoon is fine. Just do it. It will dramatically improve your business (if you use it). And don't fear the big switch. It's surprisingly easy.

Comments welcome.



  1. What were the reasons for the change other than hosted/cloud based?

    now that you have changed how do you compare them on features and usability?

  2. Are you doing all of your billing through Autotask as well? We are considering moving to Autotask but presently use FreshBooks to do all of our quoting and billing, and love it...though it's not designed for MSPs at all. Would love to have integration between the two, but that's not available just yet.

  3. We do quotes in Autotask. I love the ability to convert a quote into invoices and service tickets.

    98% of our invoicing is done through AT. It REALLY makes the managed service billing easy. You can create "bundles" that includes per-device pricing and then adjust the monthly bills depending on devices.


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