MSP automation refers to the use of software tools and technologies by Managed Service Providers (MSPs) to automate routine tasks, streamline operations, and improve service delivery. It's a key strategy implemented by an increasing number of MSPs to improve efficiency, reduce costs, and enhance customer satisfaction.
Are you a managed service provider looking to dip your toes into automation? Follow along for some tried-and-true best practices, actionable advice, how-to guides, and trend forecasts in the realm of MSP automation. By the time you finish reading, you'll be fully equipped to organize your automation strategy as a managed service provider.
Why Does Automation Matter to MSPs and Their Clients?
How does automation transform the way that MSPs operate and deliver services? Let's delve into the importance of automation in the MSP landscape, exploring its impact on efficiency, cost savings, service delivery, scalability, and security.
Efficiency and Productivity
Automation allows MSPs to handle routine tasks more efficiently. For example, instead of manually checking each system for updates or potential issues, MSPs can use automation tools to perform these tasks. This not only saves time but also ensures that these tasks are performed regularly and consistently, reducing the risk of errors or oversights.
This increased efficiency can also lead to higher productivity. By automating routine tasks, MSPs can free up their staff to focus on more complex, value-added activities. For instance, instead of spending time on routine system checks, IT professionals can focus on strategic projects or proactive problem-solving.
Automation can also lead to significant cost savings for MSPs. By reducing the time and effort required to perform routine tasks, automation can help MSPs reduce their operational costs. These cost savings can then be passed on to clients in the form of lower prices or more competitive service offerings.
For example, an MSP might use automation to streamline its billing process. By automating this process, the MSP can reduce the time and effort required to generate and send invoices, leading to lower administrative costs.
Improved Service Delivery
Automation can help MSPs improve their service delivery in several ways. First, by automating routine tasks, MSPs can provide faster and more reliable services. For instance, with automation, MSPs can quickly identify and resolve issues before they impact the client's operations.
Second, automation can help MSPs provide more proactive service. For example, an MSP might use automation to monitor a client's systems for potential issues. If an issue is detected, the MSP can address it before it causes a problem for the client.
Automation also enables MSPs to scale their operations more easily. With automation, MSPs can handle a larger volume of work without a proportional increase in manpower or resources. This makes it easier for MSPs to grow their business and take on more clients.
For example, an MSP might use automation to manage a large number of systems across multiple clients. By automating tasks such as system monitoring and patch management, the MSP can manage these systems more efficiently, allowing it to serve more clients without needing to significantly increase its staff.
Automation can also enhance security. By automating tasks such as patch management and system monitoring, MSPs can ensure that their clients' systems are always up-to-date and secure. This can help prevent security issues and protect clients' data.
For instance, an MSP might use automation to regularly check a client's systems for missing security patches. If a missing patch is detected, the MSP can automatically apply the patch, reducing the risk of a security breach.
Understanding the Key Components of MSP Automation
Various components work together to create a comprehensive automation solution that improves efficiency, reduces costs, and enhances service delivery across an MSP's offering. Here's a breakdown of the various types of automation technology available to MSPs, along with any relevant use cases:
- Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM): This is the core of MSP automation. RMM tools allow MSPs to monitor and manage their clients' IT infrastructure remotely. These tools can automatically detect and resolve issues, often before the client even realizes there's a problem. This proactive approach to IT management can significantly reduce downtime and improve overall system performance.
- Professional Services Automation (PSA): PSA tools help MSPs manage their business operations, including project management, time tracking, billing, and reporting. By automating these tasks, MSPs can streamline their operations and focus more on delivering quality services to their clients.
- Automated Patch Management: Keeping software up-to-date is crucial for maintaining system security and performance. Automated patch management tools can automatically install updates and patches on client systems, ensuring that they're always running the latest, most secure versions of their software.
- Backup and Disaster Recovery (BDR): BDR solutions automate the process of backing up data and restoring it in the event of a disaster. This not only ensures that clients' data is always protected, but also significantly reduces the time and effort required to recover from a data loss event.
- Security Automation: With the increasing number of cyber threats, security has become a top priority for businesses. Security automation tools can automatically detect and respond to threats, reducing the risk of a security breach and the potential damage it could cause.
- Scripting and Standardization: Automation scripts can perform routine tasks, such as system maintenance and user management, without manual intervention. This not only saves time but also ensures that tasks are performed consistently, reducing the risk of errors.
- Integration: MSP automation tools often need to integrate with other systems, such as CRM and billing systems. This integration allows for seamless data flow between systems, improving efficiency and reducing the risk of data errors.
- Reporting and Analytics: Automated reporting tools can generate detailed reports on system performance, security incidents, and other key metrics. These reports provide valuable insights that can help MSPs and their clients make informed decisions.
The Many Challenges of Implementing MSP Automation
When it comes to implementing automation in MSP operations, there are a few common hurdles that often come up. Understanding these challenges can help MSPs navigate their automation journey more effectively.
- Talent Acquisition and Training: Implementing and maintaining automation requires specific skills and knowledge. MSPs often face difficulties in finding and training the right talent to handle these tasks. This challenge extends to smaller MSPs or single-person shops where time constraints can make it difficult to implement automation.
- Process Optimization for Automation: Before a process can be automated, it needs to be streamlined and optimized. Automating a problematic process can lead to inefficiencies and errors. MSPs often encounter issues when preparing their processes for automation.
- Identifying Suitable Areas for Automation: Not all tasks and processes are suitable for automation. Identifying the areas where automation can make a significant difference can be a challenge. MSPs need to identify friction points that could be addressed with automation, which often involves collaboration between different teams and feedback from customers.
- Monetizing Automated Services: One of the key challenges MSPs face is figuring out how to charge for services that are automated. A potential solution is to establish minimum time entries for tickets. This approach allows MSPs to bill for simple automated tasks, making them both billable and trackable.
- Deciding Where to Start with Automation: Knowing where to begin with automation can be a daunting task. MSPs can look at their existing service agreements and operational procedures, and identify routine maintenance tasks that could be automated. Alternatively, MSPs can review their ticket history and identify the most common issues that could be resolved through automation.
- Integration with Broader Transformation Initiatives: Automation is often a part of larger digital transformation initiatives. Integrating automation into these broader strategies can be complex and challenging.
- Managing Change, Especially at Scale: Implementing automation often involves significant changes to workflows and processes. Managing this change, ensuring that employees are trained on new systems, and overcoming resistance to change can be difficult.
An Overview of Popular MSP Automation Tools and Services
As an MSP building its automation stack, the exact tools and services that you add to your arsenal will depend on your specific needs. However, here's a list of commonly used software and applications that could provide a good starting point for further exploration:
- Simeon Cloud: Simeon Cloud is a comprehensive IT management platform that provides automation capabilities for Microsoft 365 MSPs. It offers a range of features including configuration management, compliance monitoring, and reporting, making it a go-to solution for handling operations specific to Microsoft 365 services like Azure AD, Intune, Teams, SharePoint, Exchange, and more.
- ElectroNeek RPA: ElectroNeek RPA is a Robotic Process Automation vendor for MSPs and IT teams. It can help businesses streamline operations across various functions from IT administration and maintenance to accounting, human resources, sales, and marketing management.
- Ansible: Ansible is an IT operations automation platform that helps businesses with tasks such as software deployment, cloud provisioning, system administration and configuration, rolling updates with zero downtime, MSP patch automation, and others.
- Chef: Chef Enterprise Automation Stack focuses on increasing software innovation velocity. The key functionality is infrastructure configuration and management.
- ConnectWise Manage: ConnectWise Manage is a business automation software for MSPs that covers various aspects of business operations. The tool is especially relevant for MSPs that work with medium-sized to large enterprises.
- Continuum: Continuum CRM is a comprehensive contact and prospect management system. It handles all contact management activities from email marketing campaigns planning and scheduling to tracking conversions and sales.
- Ninja: Ninja is an IT service delivery tool that provides the most updated insights on the VM, laptop, server, workstation, and devices’ performance. Enhanced tools such as a remote control center, scripting, and patching add maximum efficiency to IT management operations.
- Kaseya: Kaseya is a complex BMS (Business Management Software) tool with a bunch of useful features. Its areas of focus include project management, CRM, helpdesk management, finance and invoicing operations, and time tracking.
- Tigerpaw: TigerPaw provides businesses with tools to increase collaboration among teams, boost cash flow, improve project management, and enhance customer service.
- Autotask: Autotask is an IT BMS tool for value-added resellers and managed service providers working with medium-sized to large companies. Autotask Professional Services Automation (PSA) software and the VARStreet are comprehensive quotations, billing, and e-commerce management tools.
What Makes Simeon the Go-to Platform for Microsoft 365 MSP Automation?
Simeon Cloud is a comprehensive IT management platform designed to automate and simplify the management of Microsoft 365 environments. It is particularly useful for Managed Service Providers (MSPs) who need to manage multiple client environments from a single GUI.
“Simeon Cloud has become a mission-critical partner that enables us to implement our Zero-Trust cybersecurity strategy at scale,” says Oscar Rodriguez, CEO of Aegis Innovators. “We have invested heavily into Simeon’s platform, and we use it to roll out Microsoft 365 to all of our new clients.”
Here's a quick overview of the features that make Simeon the best platform for automating Microsoft 365 MSP environments:
- Multi-Tenant Management: Simeon Cloud allows MSPs to manage multiple tenants (client environments) from a single platform. This includes the ability to establish and maintain baseline configurations for each tenant, deploy updates in bulk, and monitor for deviations from the baseline.
- Automated Provisioning: With Simeon Cloud, MSPs can automate the deployment of entire environments based on existing configurations. This includes the ability to copy and move configurations between tenants, which can save time and reduce the risk of errors.
- Monitoring & Reporting: Simeon Cloud provides detailed monitoring and reporting capabilities. MSPs can track changes to configurations, compare environments to best practices, and receive alerts when deviations occur.
- Backup & Restore: Simeon Cloud automatically backs up tenant configurations and provides a one-click restore feature. This allows MSPs to easily revert changes if mistakes are made.
- Application Packaging: Simeon Cloud simplifies the process of creating and managing applications in Microsoft Intune. MSPs can update and deploy new versions of applications via automation, and deploy application packages to multiple tenants at once.
- Security & Compliance: Simeon Cloud helps MSPs maintain security and compliance by allowing them to deploy consistent, security-focused configurations and enforce them using policy-as-code. Any deviations from these policies can be automatically remediated.
Want to learn more about how Simeon can help automate your client workflows as an MSP? Request a demo with our sales team, today!