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As a managed services provider (MSP), you are tasked with keeping track of multiple clients, projects, and technologies, all with multiple managers working with multiple internal and external resources. What’s the key to achieving this? You need to STAY ORGANIZED!

Essential approaches to staying organized

Staying organized isn’t always easy, especially when things get busy. To help you become more organized in your day-to-day, we identified six different areas to consider:

1. Ticketing System
There are perhaps hundreds of ticketing systems out there: Jira, Rally, Azure Boards (through Azure DevOps), HP Service Manager, Version One, SharePoint, and more. While choosing an appropriate ticketing system is important, the most important thing is to use SOMETHING. Even a simple, shared Excel file is better than chasing down requirements and issues through hundreds upon thousands of emails.

2. Time Tracking
Very few of us can dedicate all our time to a single bucket. Besides being spread across multiple clients, we might be allocated to several projects within a single client — along with one or more internal projects. To track time fairly and accurately, be sure to use a time-tracking service, or even a low-tech Excel spreadsheet. Track time in intervals that make sense, like every 15 minutes. This will help you to decipher where your human resources are being spent, so that they can be allocated differently should a problem arise. 

3. Source Code Control
In this day and age, the concept of “Source Code Control” should be ubiquitous. Invariably, some poor soul is running an application that only exists on their laptop. The first order of business, then, is to push all code artifacts in the source code repository being used by the client, such as TFS, Git, Subversion, etc. Only when the code is properly stored can we hope to confidently track software changes and manage releases.

4. Knowledge Base
In the support, monitoring, and operations world, rarely is a task only performed once. We use Microsoft OneNote to jot down notes, steps, screenshots, URLs, code snippets, or whatever else will help the poor schlep who needs to put out the next fire (even if the schlep who first fixed it is the same one who has to fix it days/weeks/months/years later).

Again, the specific tool is not important. We like OneNote because it’s simple, easy to format, flexible, easily shareable, and above all, easily searchable across all pages, sections, and notebooks to which the user has access.

5. Backup Resources
One hallmark of Managed Services is the concept of uninterrupted “service” to clients. Even in a standard Monday through Friday coverage period, there’s the expectation that, if something breaks, someone will be available within an established period of time (depending on the severity and SLAs) to take a look and start fixing it.

It’s the MSP’s responsibility to ensure sufficient depth of resources to provide that service, while still considering the “human” factors at play, such as paid time off, vacation, and illness. No matter how small, each client engagement should have a minimum of two consultants who are able to jump in and tackle problems when they arise.

6. Ownership
My wife and I often make the mistake of announcing something like, “somebody needs to empty the dishwasher!” Since we have four kids, it’s easy for them each to think, “I’m sure somebody else will do it.” In the Managed Services world, we’re tasked with the responsibility of following through with support and maintenance issues to best serve our client’s needs.

While discussing these issues, avoid using the phrases like “we have to do this” or “we have to enter this ticket.” If the collective “we” owns it, then nobody owns it. It’s okay for people to have backups, or shadow resources, or to work in groups. To maintain accountability, issues and tasks should always be owned by a single individual.

You don’t need to break the bank to keep you managed services business organized, you just need to put the right systems in place.  Doing so can save your sanity!

Photo: Altitude Visual / Shutterstock

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Vince Iovacchini

Posted by Vince Iovacchini

Vince Iovacchini is a Solutions Architect at digital business solutions provider Anexinet. He has 20 years of experience as an application and database developer, leveraging and serving a wide array of technologies and industries. Vince holds a BS in Computer Science/Engineering from Penn State University.

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