Our Channel Explained series provides targeted articles that flesh out detail on channel terminology but avoid information overload. This week we examine the question, What is channel business automation software?
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By Yuval Shavit, Features Writer
Many IT resellers have traditionally made most of their money on product margins and break-fix calls, but as more of them start to sell managed services, many are finding that it's important to maintain a system for assigning service appointments to employees. Learning how to allocate your staff is one of the one of the most important aspects of running an IT reseller business, and many resellers use channel business automation software, also known as professional services automation (PSA) software, to help schedule their workers' time and monitor how efficiently it's being used.
Channel business automation software is essentially scheduling software that lets you manage all of your employees' schedules and view those schedules in various ways, such as employee type, customer or job type. For instance, a business automation system can let you view all of your senior technicians' schedules or all regularly scheduled printer maintenance calls.
A good schedule will have some free time built in, in case a call takes longer than expected or an emergency comes up, but too many open slots means that your business is running inefficiently. You could service the same number of clients with fewer employees, or -- preferably -- more clients keeping your same staff. It's also important to make sure the free time you build into your schedule is spread across different classes of workers. If your low-level technicians are constantly busy, you may find yourself sending a senior-level engineer to fix a simple printer problem for a client. Conversely, if your senior engineers are all booked, you won't be able to handle more complex emergencies. Make sure to go back and record how much time each service call actually ended up taking, so that you can hone your estimates in the future.
Channel business automation software is similar to customer relationship management (CRM) applications in that its goal is to make it easier for resellers and MSPs to interact with clients, and many channel business automation applications include a CRM component. Channel business automation software also frequently includes billing and invoicing components, which some CRM programs include as well. The main difference between the two technologies is that CRM is designed primarily to track calls from customers, while the primary function of channel business automation software is to coordinate a reseller or MSP's staff.
Two major vendors of channel business automation software are Autotask and ConnectWise. Both companies target MSPs strongly and have technological partnerships with managed services platform vendors like Kaseya, Level Platforms and N-Able.