What are the challenges associated with a growing trend in the MSP world: partial technical support, or from a client’s perspective, partial outsourcing of their technology services?
With small businesses it makes sense to pass everything over to an MSP; large organisations will have the scope to employ a full team of technology support staff and keep the problem internal. The challenge comes where a medium-sized organisation retains some technical skills in-house (say desktop support), but hires an MSP for more specialist areas such as networks or security. Where they cannot afford the depth of resource necessary to cover a topic fully, they will outsource that aspect of their internal support to a specialist MSP.
For the MSP this is a good business model, since the critical mass builds knowledge enabling them to sell those specialist services again and again. The challenge, however, comes with shared ticket workflows.
There are three ways two support organisations can collaborate on ticketing:
- Basic: using standard email parsing to create a ticket on the MSP system with no relationship to the internal issue raised. Visibility can be delivered to the internal team through notifications and auto-enrolment in ticket threads, but the ticket firmly sits on the MSP’s PSA system and has no linkage to the client’s internal help-desk.
- Ticket-to-ticket linkage: if the client’s ticket system and the MSP’s PSA system have an interface, then the internal ticket will have an external reference tying it to the work the MSP is delivering. This is clearly better than the basic model, but gets cumbersome and confusing when work is shared between the parties. If the workflow crosses the systems (for instance such as the client performing some testing prior to closure) this model will struggle to keep statuses aligned between the two systems.
- Shared working and escalation: the ideal model is for both parties to use the same system. A ticket raised on the client side can be dealt with directly internally or escalated to the MSP for attention as an option within the workflow. If this option can be made to work, there is only one ticket per incident and total clarity would exist over responsibility.
For #3 to work, because the MSP has multiple clients but the client is likely to only have one MSP, the system to be shared must be the PSA, not the internal help desk. So, allowing a customer write access to ticket flows within the MSPs PSA platform is the requirement, but this comes with problems:
- Security: the MSP has many clients’ data in their system, so allowing a client inside the system to work their own tickets could lead to a breach of confidentiality if the client were able to see tickets from other clients. For this option to work, there needs to be impenetrable Chinese walls between client ticket flows so that a client logging on would only see their own information. While this may sound simple, in practical terms it is quite complex, because there are many ways to find information (global search not the least) that have to be restricted by security profiles. More complex still is where the internal resource may act across internal legal boundaries, a common issue with medium-sized organisations that may have multiple legal entities in a group.
- Licensing: as most PSA tools are licensed per user over a medium to long term, including client users may prove to be very expensive and also inflexible. A client cancelling could leave the MSP paying for licensed users they no longer need.
Because of these challenges, while the need exists, to date the market has not found a way to deliver such a collaborative model.
Harmony’s new collaborative working model solves this problem by enabling MSPs to not only share ticket workflows with their clients—it even enables the client to use the MSPs’ instance of Harmony as their own internal service desk system. Better, these collaborative external users are charged for the months they are active, even if the MSP is on an annual contract.
With this development, HarmonyPSA has become the first PSA to offer true service desk extranet capability without compromising security.
About the Author: Harmony Business Systems Ltd (HBS) is the company behind HarmonyPSA, the most complete cloud PSA software on the market. Developed with functionality to cater for even the most complex needs of MSPs, VARs, ISVs and Professional Services organisations, HarmonyPSA truly is the next generation of PSA systems. HBS is an independent company based in the UK. Follow HarmonyPSA on Twitter or LinkedIn