Tips for MSPs Evaluating PSA Solutions

By Shane Matzen

If you’ve ever found yourself struggling to find the right solutions for your business, unable to figure out how to compare apples to oranges, weigh the pros and cons, stressing over this monumental decision for your business, you’re not alone.

For managed service providers (MSPs), evaluating a professional services automation (PSA) tool is often a challenging yet essential process.

Here are some tips and things to consider that can help MSPs make better, more informed decisions when evaluating PSA solutions.

Sticker price should never be the only factor in making a decision

Price is absolutely important and should be a factor, but don’t let that be the only one.

The phrase ‘you get what you pay for’ holds true. When total value, vendor-client relationship, and total cost of ownership (TCO) are factored into the equation, you may find that it will cost you a dollar just to save a nickel.

It’s likely you don’t compete in your market solely on having the lowest price–you probably focus on values and relationships with your clients. These are more difficult to quantify when compared with price but are worth your consideration when looking for a new solution.

Don’t forget add-ons!

Say you’ve narrowed your search down to two solutions. Both have similar feature sets, no clear winner one way or the other; all that’s left to do is pick the cheaper of the two, right?! Not so fast.

Go a step further and ask for definitions of what is included or omitted from the proposals you receive. One solution may seem cheaper but ultimately cost more once you factor in essential add-ons.

Clearly define your processes and goals

Value and TCO are much more challenging to measure than price and can often be subjective.

First, list out each process within each aspect of your business, along with an easy-to-follow example.

Next, list out any capabilities or toolsets that would be nice to have.

This exercise will help you better understand and communicate your current challenges and prioritize what you are looking for with a new PSA solution.

Provide this list to each potential vendor for more structure and tailored demos to help you compare apples to apples as much as is possible. As your research continues, you’ll learn about new and unique capabilities. Add these to the list for later consideration or a subsequent round of demos.

Eventually, you’ll have concrete information to help you compare how well each solution matches up against your criteria.

Scalable solution–plan for growth!

As you evaluate capabilities, keep an eye on scalability and flexibility. Don’t just look for features that match your existing processes and needs but what you will need one to three years down the road.

I’ve worked with countless MSPs that started with a basic solution which they rapidly outgrew. By the time they realized they needed something more robust, they needed to find a solution quickly. Further, they barely had any time to devote to proper implementation of our solution. The lesson here is that it’s better to find something you can grow into and put in the time upfront to establish a strong foundation rather than having to rebuild your house one year down the road.

I don’t like to “re-buy” tools if I can help it. I prefer to spend a bit extra on quality tools that will serve me for years to come.

The Ultimate IT Professional Services Automation (PSA) Buyer's Guide

What every IT pro needs to know before buying a business management platform.

View the Resource

Identify your implementation and onboarding needs

Onboarding is often one of the biggest hurdles with adopting or switching PSA solutions. The reality is, implementing a new PSA solution is no small task.

PSA solutions are inherently intricate as they centralize many different business processes.

If your PSA tool is too simplistic, you’ll likely experience growing pains. If it is too complex or clunky, the learning curve can negate gains from those additional features.

Some vendors will tout self-guided, fast, easy implementation. This notion is enticing but comes with a hidden cost.

Remember the adage: Good, Fast, Cheap: Pick any two! Something billed as fast and cheap probably isn’t very good. If you want Good, it will either cost you time or money.

Sunk costs

A sunk cost is a cost that has been incurred and isn’t recoverable. Choosing not to adopt a new solution because of the time and effort “wasted” on a previous solution can cost you in the long run. Instead, focus on the ROI with a new solution and compare that with the cost of maintaining your existing solution.

Ask about partnership and support

Be sure to ask yourself, “Does this vendor have a solid reputation for partnership and support?”

Some vendors invest heavily in marketing and modern UIs, but support can be either understaffed or inexperienced.

Does the vendor emphasize partnership? If their business model aligns with your success and growth, they will have an incentive to work with you and help your business grow.

Discuss rate of innovation

Some PSA solutions seem to be in some sort of holding pattern. They have been around for a long time and have solid tools but seem to be stagnant.

Other PSA tools seem to crank out releases every few weeks. The concept of frequent releases sounds great at first but can be misleading. It could be that it is a relatively new offering that adds features that more established PSAs already have.

As software products mature and add more functionality, so too grows the need for additional support, QA testing, development, etc., which can slow down the pace of feature releases.

Look for a happy medium.

Assess availability and durability

Our CTO, Bob Petrocelli, says, “Quality is a feature.” It doesn’t matter how nice your PSA is to look at if it is saturated with bugs and vulnerable to outages. Ask vendors about uptime percentages and proven availability and whether there is an SLA or guarantee for uptime and availability.

Security is another crucial consideration. Can you enforce multi-factor authentication (MFA)? Are there options for single-sign-on (SSO)? What measures or audits are conducted to ensure that your data is protected? MSPs have been a fast-growing target of cyber attacks, so you want to make sure your vendor has substantial resources and makes an ongoing effort to bolster security.

Try it out (at the right time)

Trials have their purpose, but too many MSPs focus on this too early in the process.

Sales Engineers and Reps will take time to understand your needs, priorities, and vision and present you with a “model home” to match it as closely as possible. A custom or tailored demo will save you and your vendor time. You will save time by seeing early on whether you can envision running your business with this PSA. You can make sure it checks all the necessary boxes before you sink time and effort into a trial.

For more tips on approaching your evaluation process for a new PSA solution, check out our PSA Buyer’s Guide for MSPs.

The Ultimate IT Professional Services Automation (PSA) Buyer's Guide

What every IT pro needs to know before buying a business management platform.

View the Resource

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