Project Management for Managed Service Providers

project management








If the only thing we managed was Projects, life would be easy. If only… 

I remember one of the first MSP-Ignite Service Manager Peer Group meetings. When it came to a Members Spotlight, his challenge was managing Projects. “WHOA, SLOW DOWN NOW, that is a big topic and each member only has a few minutes to present Updates, Wins, and a Challenge they are facing, which aspect of Project Management do you want to talk about?” 

Project Portfolio Spreadsheet
Note: There is a Project Portfolio Spreadsheet (PPS) to:

  • Manage multiple projects
  • Across multiple weeks
  • With Multiple resources
  • In a single view

Click here to subscribe & download your PPS For free

If you Google Project Management, any article worth a powder will guide you to PMI. The Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK) is the bible to Project Managers, but the only thing of value to an MSP is the cover, which is used to wrap around an air cleaner and take a deep breath. 

MSP vs. PMI for Managing Projects 

Project Management for MSPs is a very different world than a PMI’s way of managing projects. Here are just a few of the many reasons… 

  • Service Managers are tasked with managing the Service Delivery Operations, oh, and by the way…projects too. 
  • Service Managers do not have total control – the Lead Techs do. 
  • The Resources assigned to the Project can be pulled at any moment for any of these reasons:  
  • There’s a hot issue with a VIP Customer 
  • They are the only ones skilled to address an issue 
  • Resource Planning is not in most MSPs vocabulary 
  • PMP training and certification is not provided (which may be a good thing, as it would put the Service Manager at odds with the MSP culture). 
  • Projects are King, but Managed Service Agreements are the economic engine. 

And to add Indy 500 methanol jet fuel to the fire, the term Projects to an MSP means two different things – A Customer Request Type (as opposed to a Break/Fix request), or a Vehicle to Capture Time (as opposed to a Ticket). Talk about confusing! 

There have been many times that I have said, if the Project (meaning Customer Request Type) is a single phase (PC Install), executed by Techs with the same Skill Set (Viper Team of Level I Network Engineers), then a Ticket should be used to capture time.  

The moment I say this, someone will remind us that Autotask Best Practice is: if it is a Project, use the Project module. Hmmm… 

The PSA for Managing Projects 

Since I mentioned Autotask, let me talk about the PSA for managing projects. For an MSP, Autotask is an awesome tool.  

In one database, it provides a… 

  • CRM module 
  • Sales Pipeline module 
  • Contract module 
  • IMS module 
  • Reporting module 
  • Procurement module 
  • Inventory module 
  • Time Keeping module 
  • Contractor Access module 
  • Project Management module  

While Autotask is not a great CRM, Contract manager, Ticketing system, Report writer, or Project Management software, it DOES provide almost everything your MSP needs; at an affordable price! 

Have you ever priced an Enterprise Integrated substitute? Using Stand-Alone products to replace each module for each integration will cost you as much as the entire Autotask SaaS priceWith that being said, managing projects inside Autotask is the right decision for an MSP. 

How to handle Portfolio Management 

What the module does not do is provide Project Portfolio Management – meaning it does not help manage multiple projects in the same view. For that, a simple Excel Spreadsheet showing weeks across the top, Resources down the side, and the Customer, whose project they are working on in the middle, does a great job at providing a Project Portfolio view.  

This is very helpful when a new project opportunity comes along. Specifically, one that is in the best interest of the Company to be done within the Customers want-by-date (& of course all projects fit this criterion, and the want-by-date is referred to as a Need-by-Date).  

In one view, when you use this spreadsheet you can see: 

  • What the Project Engineer, whom the Customer requested, is working on during the Customers Want-By-Date range 
  • What every Resource in the company is working on over the same Want-By-Date range, and for the next few months 
  • What projects need to be reassigned or delayed to fit in the new Project Opportunity 
  • Where fasttracking or creative scheduling is needed to keep from breaking a Customer promise and/or disappointing a Customer 

Project Portfolio Spreadsheet
Note: There is a Project Portfolio Spreadsheet (PPS) to:

  • Manage multiple projects
  • Across multiple weeks
  • With Multiple resources
  • In a single view.

Click here to subscribe & download your PPS For free

Stay tuned... More project Management topics to come 

Heads up! Over the next few weeks we will be writing about new and different aspects of Project Management for MSPs. Previously we have written about the four phases of Project Management, as well as on-boarding, off-boarding, and Project to Support hand-offs (see list of links below).  

Check out the topics we’ll be covering in the next couple of weeks:  

  • Sales – Engineering – Project Management workflow 
  • What MSP-Ignite Owner Peer Group members are wrestling with when it comes to Project Management 
  • Sales – Sales/Engineering – Project Management 
  • And a wrap-up, summary, PM for MSP eBook launch 

Here are our previous Project related articles – In case you missed them 


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