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5 Ways to Improve Your MSP Service Level Agreement (SLA)

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5 Ways to Improve Your MSP Service Level Agreements (SLAs)

SLAs are the foundation of your MSP business. They are essential to building strong client relationships and must be clear, reasonable and well-constructed.

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Why Automating Every IT Task Isn’t the Best Solution

Posted August 25, 2014by Ray Vrabel

automation-fail

As the world becomes even more technologically advanced, there is push to automate anything and everything. The prospect of automating tasks is exciting for sure, and there is most definitely a place for automation within many industries.

So where does the MSP space fall in this new-found model of ‘efficiency’? RMM technology has advanced to allow for many IT tasks, both simple and complex, to be completely automated.

This is a good thing, as it allows MSPs to become more efficient, take on more clients and ensure better service delivery to those clients. However, just like most things in business and in life, it’s never good to do something all or nothing.

What I would like to concentrate on in this post, however, are some of the limitations that are often overlooked in the rush to sell automation for all IT tasks.

Why You Shouldn’t Automate Every IT Task

Don’t get me wrong, automation is a great thing and one of the core pillars of providing managed IT services. I just want to make you aware of the downfalls of just blindly automating every task and setting rules for everything.

No matter how technologically advances, the fact remains that the more times you do something, the more likely it is to break. There’s always an exception to the rule.

Keep this in mind as you’re building out your automation processes and logic.

Here are just a few quick examples of the limitations of automation.

1. Automation Will Fail

As I mentioned above, there’s always an exception to the rule.

Needs change. Situations change Processes change. The world changes. Unless an automation process is self-healing, it will need a person to look into it. Then that person will have to determine where the failure occurred and the necessary changes needed to adjust accordingly.

This process could actually take more time than was originally saved by the automation in the first place!

Don’t let this stop you from automating tasks, just be sure that you’re considering all situations before setting a rule.

2. 100% Patching is Not Always Effective

One of the tasks that many MSPs automate is patching. Patching can be a pain. Patches are released all the time and it’s hard to stay up to date on them all. Because of this, many MSPs will set a rule to push patches to clients’ devices as soon as they’re released.

However, this is not a smart idea. Oftentimes, patches are released without thorough testing and will end up crashing client devices with certain software and/or operating systems. Then you’re left with a non-functioning device that takes more time to fix than to actually test the patch in the first place.

Unless it has been determined that a patch will truly benefit a customer and is relevant to their needs, pushing the patch out automatically may impede efficiency and security, when it should be improving these.

Patching is just one example where automating a process can leave more mess than the time it actually saves you. It’s important to practice smart patching procedures for each patch and for each client. For this reason, I don’t recommend automating your patching.

3. Automated Reports Create Distance

Ignoring the human element of business is a big mistake. Pushing out a monthly, automated report can inadvertently replace human interaction. Sure, it may save time on your end, and possibly your client’s end too, but it may be doing more harm than good.

Scheduling regular face time and/or phone calls with you client is a critical element to MSP success. This is where you build stronger customer relationships and it’s in these conversations where opportunities are discovered, issues are addressed and real business is done.

The resulting increase in goodwill, trust and revenue can’t be addressed by a report that is the result of an automated report. Make sure you’re scheduling regular business reviews with your client and don’t miss out on the chance for face time.

Conclusion

I want to be clear that automation has many benefits, and I’m certainly not arguing for its removal. There are plenty of places in the MSP world where automation makes total sense. The better question that successful MSPs ask is where automation would hurt them. Automation must be done the right way; it’s not a cure for all of your remote IT activities.

Make sure you understand where automation can help you and hurt you, and be wary of automating every IT task.

The key to being an effective MSP is understanding your clients’ needs and building a strong IT infrastructure, not becoming the most efficient at automation.

eBook-Dodging-Danger-5-Hidden-MSP-Pitfalls-and-How-to-Avoid-Them

Ray Vrabel is Continuum's Director of Technical Account Management and participates in product and service growth initiatives, and also manages Continuum's Technical Account Management team, which supports over 3,500 partners worldwide. Prior to Continuum, Ray joined Zenith Infotech in 2005 and held several positions including Service Desk Manager, Sr. Technical Account Manager and Sr. Manager of Service Operations. He currently has over 15 years of experience in the IT industry, specializing in Managed Services, Disaster Recovery, and Cloud Solutions. Prior to Continuum and Zenith, Ray worked at ANH Refractories, a world-class provider of Refractories products, in their Service Desk Department supporting 53 locations and 1,500 employees. Ray also worked for a startup venture at Body Media a pioneer in wearable body monitoring systems as a technical lead in their Technical Customer Support Department. Ray holds a Bachelors of Science in Business Technology Support and Training from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

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