What’s the best way to keep track of multiple clients, projects, and technologies, all with multiple managers working with multiple internal and external resources? STAY ORGANIZED!
1. Ticketing System
There are perhaps hundreds of ticketing systems out there: Jira, Rally, Azure Boards (through Azure DevOps), SolarWinds MSP, HP Service Manager, Version One, and even SharePoint. Though choosing an appropriate ticketing system is important, one that’s the right fit for you, your team, and your project, 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 are able to 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, and track time in intervals that make sense, e.g. 15 minutes:
3. Source Code Control
In this day and age, the concept of “Source Code Control” should be ubiquitous. But invariably, some poor soul is running an application that only exist on their laptop. The first order of business, then, is to push all code artifacts in a source code repository such as TFS, Git, Subversion…whatever is in use by the client. Only once 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, queries…whatever 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 9×5 M-F 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 our 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.
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 phrase “we,” as in, “we have to do this,” or, “we have to enter this ticket.” If “we” owns it, then nobody owns it. It’s OK for people to have backups, or shadow resources, or to work in groups, but for accountability, issues and tasks should always be owned by a single individual.
For more tips and advice on staying sane while managing your managed services, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We’d love to help you out.