Friday, June 21, 2013

SOP Friday: The Managed Services Grid

In the course of this series I have mentioned an excel spreadsheet called the Managed Services Grid. Well recently reader Chris asked about this on the blog. And that made me realized that I've never actually "explained" or introduced the Managed Services Grid. So here it is.

Please see references in these blog posts:

SOP Friday: Removing a Client from Managed Services

SOP Friday: Setting Up a New Managed Service Client (Checklist)

SOP Friday: Schedules and Timelines for Running Your Company

Introducing the Managed Services Grid

There's no magic here. You probably have some variation of this. For us, the Managed Service Grid is one place where we keep track of all the numbers related to buying the components of of managed service and selling managed services to our clients. There are basically two kinds of information here: Things we buy and things we sell.

See the graphic here. The graphic is actually 1500 pixels wide. So when you click on it you can see it in much better detail.

Here's what you're looking at:

A. Client Info
Of course we track the client name. We also need to track how they pay, and the plans they have (such as Platinum Managed Services, Cloud services, and Hardware as a Service). Related to that, we track the nature of the monitoring we do. These include monitoring only, basic patching, fixes, or none of the above.

This information is found in the columns labeled Client, Payment Type, MS Plan, and RMM.

B. Services and Software We License
In terms of what we buy, we keep track of
- RMM (remote monitoring and management) agents
- Spam filter agents
- Anti-Virus agents

Each of these things is purchased by us on a per-unit basis. In some cases we sell them on the same basis. At other times we bundle them with other services. In all all cases, we have to pay for every agent used that month - without regard to whether we got paid for it, sold it per each, or bundled it.

This information is found in the columns labeled RMM Agents, Spam Filter, and AV Clients.

C. The Services We Deliver To Each Client
In order to make sure the invoices are correct every month, you need to track the number of machines or devices under MS contract, cloud contract, HAAS, BDR, or some other service.

At some level, most of this exists in your PSA. But it's not all in one handy dandy spreadsheet. You need to coordinate this information between your bookkeeping/front office staff, your technical staff, and your PSA. The Managed Service Grid is more than just a cheat sheet for for getting a quick glance payment plans or the number of machines under contract.

It is also a tool you can use for communication within your company. Whether you use the system describe here or another, you'll see how useful it can be. This spreadsheet can be used for asynchronous communication for your people. There are two basic rules for this communication.

1) You need a system for staff members to communicate clear, unambiguous information and questions. The following examples are based on the process we use.

a) If the front office has a question about any number in the table, she changes the background color to green and enters a note.

b) When a technician makes a change in the field, such as adding or removing a machine, he changes the appropriate cell to light red.

c) When the front office sees a light red cell, she makes the appropriate change in the PSA and then turns the cell to yellow.

d) When anyone has a question, they put notes in the notes field.

e) If, for whatever reason, you believe that the numbers in the real world are off from the contract numbers, then an on site physical inventory is required. In such cases, the cell is colored red and a service request is created. The most common use for this is when you are on-boarding a new client.

f) Once the service manager has verified that the tech information has been entered into the contracts in the PSA, he sets the background color to "no background." This is the normal state unless a tech of the front office have a question. When notes have been addressed, they are cleared.

2) Everyone must absolutely and definitely use this system. You must be able to trust the system. That means that everyone uses it. Everyone must trust that everyone else has used the system and done their part.

This last point is critical. Like documentation itself, the process of maintaining the Managed Services grid is very easy and just takes a few minutes here or there. But if you get behind and can no longer trust it, then bringing it up to speed will take more time.

So, the Managed Service Grid is a tool you can use for communication. It is a way to verify how many agents (etc.) you are being billed for. It is a great way to track the services you should be billing. And it is a wonderful quick-reference guide for all of the above.

Comments welcome.

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About this Series

SOP Friday - or Standard Operating System Friday - is a series dedicated to helping small computer consulting firms develop the right processes and procedures to create a successful and profitable consulting business.

Find out more about the series, and view the complete "table of contents" for SOP Friday at

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Next week's topic: Collection Policies


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