Isn’t it frustrating when your gut says the information needed to improve the operational workflows is in the PSA software, but nobody seems to know how to get to it?
Here you are, sitting on a mountain of data that is needed to improve the IT Service Delivery of your Managed Service Provider’s business…but you’re clueless on how to access it.
Meanwhile, other MSP’s are boosting their bottom-line by 10% every year, enhancing the Quality of Work-Life for employees and reducing Churn below the Industry average of 4%.
If the canned reports that come with the PSA tool don’t satisfy your thirst for information, then customized Live Reports may hold the solution.
But have you looked at the Live Report designer? It could take up to six months to learn how to write a simple report such as “All Open Tickets by Resource” – and you already know this, because you’ve tried.
To help reduce the time it takes to get you up to speed with writing Customized Live Reports, here is a list of Tips and Tricks to make your job easier:
To learn how to write Autotask Live Reports,
check out the information on our newest course:
The Rumpelstiltskin Method: Live Report Writing Made Easy!
1. Begin with the End in Mind:
Start with the end in mind. In this case, it means drafting an overview requirements spreadsheet of what you want the final report to look like (a requirement mock-up). The column headings needed at the end of the day equate to data fields. With the list of data fields in hand, finding the right Live Report category becomes a piece of cake.
2. Research Those Who Have Gone Before You:
Search the system reports that come with the Autotask software (Hint: they are in their own folder) for titles that sound like the type of report you are looking to write. Search a few logical categories out of the 26 categories available, which hold the 81 system reports.
There are only a few reports in each Category, so it does not take long to do the search. Once one or two of the most promising reports are located, copy them to your own “Copy of System Reports” folder so you can review them (Hint: you will need to create this folder). Here you can edit and run the report to see what Autotask has provided.
My guess – from experience – is that none of the reports are exactly what you are looking for. However, there are a lot of neat features, tips, and tricks that can be copied and pasted into the report you will be writing. It will also validate whether the copied report is from the right category or not.
3. Identify the Right Planet To Be On:
The hardest part of writing a Live Report is determining the right Category to write the report in. There are three ways to determine which Category is correct:
- Search the System Reports already discussed
- Create an Express report, name it “test”, choose a likely Category, and roll over the sub-categories with the magnifying glass, searching for all the fields you need. (Hint: this is the method I use most, but from experience – it is the least efficient)
- Review the diagrams** in likely Categories and then verify which category has all the fields needed by using a test Express report
** To find the diagrams: Live Report Designer → Getting Started Tab → Live Report concepts you need to Understand → scroll down to: Category descriptions and diagrams → expand the most likely Category by clicking on it
4. Start Simple & Build the Complexity:
When creating a Live Report from scratch, always start with an Express Report, so you can move from menu to menu quicker than in a Standard Report. Making changes as needed will also be much faster. And, it’s easier to validate that you have thought of all the right fields, organization, and filtering needed.
As an Express Report, you can do the same Category/Sub-Category, Sorting, and Filtering as you would in the Standard Report. You can also do most of the same formatting, functioning and grouping, including suppressing detail rows as needed in the final report.
The steps to creating an Express Report are:
- Name the report.
- Provide a description that will help you remember why the report is being written.
- Select the right category and sub-categories.
- When Sorting, make sure to:
- Include at least a base sub-category field
- Include fields that will be needed later for grouping
- Add fields in the order with which the report will be sorted
- Set the filter for the data needed in the report
- Create a layout that matches the requirements mockup from way back when
- Save and run the report to see what you get
- Tweak and Edit as needed
- Call me if you need help
When to convert to a Standard Report:
Convert to a Standard Report when you need:
- Conditional Formatting
- Complex formulas or formulas based on calculations
- Any advanced editing features
- Suppressing or deleting of individual rows
- To hide columns
Conditional Formatting allows you to:
- Call out data that is out of tolerance, such as:
- Metrics requiring celebration
- Sub-Issues that take longer than average to remediate
- Non-Billable hours in excess of a pre-determined threshold
- Drop some data out of the report, such as:
- Line items that meet SLA’s
- After the first 5 oldest open tickets
Complex Formulas allow you to:
- Forecast the future
- Drill down on the information to the root cause
- Include Running Sum calculations
5. Sit Back and Automate!
The benefit of scheduling the report is that it will run and be distributed to the Team automatically, thus saving you hours of time building and emailing the report each time it is needed. It can also be scheduled to run when needed and you are not available, such as shortly after Timesheets are to be submitted; thus, not interrupting your day.
Following the scheduling wizard is easy:
- Right click on the report name in the left navigation panel.
- Name the report and set the schedule by filling in the fields on the Recurrence Tab.
- Skip the Filters Tab, unless you are scheduling the same report for multiple reasons.
Then you can change the filter in the scheduler to create different reports for different folks, such as the same report, but for different Resources or Teams. Or maybe – the same report over different time periods such as Last Week, Last Month, or Last Qtr.
The filter in the scheduler supersedes the filter in the report. All other changes in the base report will flow through to the scheduled reports. To prevent changes in the base report, which changes the scheduled report (except for filter changes), copy and rename the base report before making changes.
The Recipients Tab is tricky. You must click on the To, CC or BCC to select or type in an email address. Also, change the subject line to something meaningful, as “Scheduled Report” is confusing when you have more than one.
I can’t express enough the value of having the report automatically distributed to the Team. By providing the Team with key information, they can more effectively self-manage and make the right decisions. After all, we hire Smart People and expect them to make Smart Decisions.
Truly, the rewards of using the Autotask Live Report could be life changing for an MSP. Just to recap, here are the results you can expect from its use:
- Writing the reports as needed
- Providing you with the information needed to make informed decisions
- Providing data to compare with your peers
- Monitoring and tracking operational improvements
- Providing confidence that you know exactly what is going on and how the business is operating
How valuable is having the right information to even a Managed Service Provider that is doing well? From experience, both as a Resource Planning Analyst and Autotask Certified Consulting Partner, the benefits are pretty impressive:
- Operational improvements of 5-10% which equates to $100K to $1M per year depending on the size of the business.
- A 1% Resource Utilization improvement alone is worth $3,000 per Tech per Year, and that is just one report.
Multiplying this one report times the number of Technicians, and a realistic 5–10% continuous improvement…well, you can see the value of having an experienced Live Report writer on staff. One who can mine the data for the information you need to spin it into Gold, and drive the business – or what I call The Rumpelstiltskin Report Method of Autotask Live Report Writing.
Areas in Autotask Live Reports that I have not figured out yet:
- Charts and Graphs
- Column sorting
Areas in Autotask Live Reports that I have figured out:
- Grouping on a formula (rather than a sort field)
- Hiding results in a white font
- Moving footer information to the header
- Grabbing the first and last record such as: The First (scheduled start date) and Last (scheduled end date) service call date in a project
Where to go from here:
If you are:
- Frustrated like most in getting information out of the Autotask PSA software
- Concerned the Dashboards are not giving you the full picture
- Tired of spending $1,000 for a few reports, and even more for changes
- Not knowing how to write Live Reports for yourself
Or would like:
- To know which Newbies are successfully using the method, or seasoned professionals who stand behind the method developer
- Proof this method works when a lack of method doesn’t
- To learn The Rumpelstiltskin Method: Live Report writing made easy
Then be sure to check out The Rumpelstiltskin Method: Live Report Writing made easy course and “How We Help!”