by JD Sartain

Acquisition 101 – manage what matters

Aug 24, 2015
IT LeadershipManaged Cloud Services

What happens when your revenues double overnight? Multiple challenges required one solution.

Prosource Technologies (located in Cincinnati, Ohio) is a managed services provider (MSP) that offers document automation, office equipment and technology solutions. Earlier this year, Prosource acquired another local IT company called Alternative Computer Technology (ACT) that specializes in Internet and network security products and solutions. The acquisition essentially doubled Prosource’s revenue and significantly increased its customer base overnight.

While the acquisition of ACT would allow Prosource to expand and improve its portfolio of managed information technology products and services, full integration of the two businesses was not going to be easy. All of the customers had to be migrated into a single Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. The accounting software had to be combined. Technicians from both companies would need to work from a single ticketing system in order to effectively manage the combined customers’ networks. Thousands of recurring subscription renewals for security products had to be managed. All of which was a little outside of Prosource’s wheelhouse, so to speak.

So, Prosource called in Autotask (located in upstate New York) – a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions provider with a complete, cloud-based IT business management platform – to integrate the two companies as quickly as possible. This included a number of new challenges (for instance, ACT had no automated ticketing system (they handled requests manually), so the new team had to be on-boarded rapidly to fall in line with the existing company’s processes.

Calm on the surface

“Immediately following the acquisition of ACT, we got to work addressing the first challenge: migrating all customers into a single CRM system,” says Kim Drumm, operations manager at Prosource. “To ensure no service disruption, it was imperative that resources across all departments had customer information at their fingertips. Autotask’s import function made this process virtually effortless.”

[Related: How an MSP can help your company get its groove back]

Drumm explains that with existing resources, the ACT employees gathered the necessary customer information from their current CRM system and transferred it into an Autotask import template. Then, with the click of a single button, all the information was uploaded to the existing database and available to the entire expanded organization. During the upload process, all accounts were flagged as prior ACT customers (for historical tracking purposes) and this helped to focus marketing efforts via customizable list of lead sources.

“We also took advantage of Autotask’s Account Classification function to temporarily flag each of these accounts with a unique icon visible everywhere throughout the system,” adds Drumm. “This icon gives an at-a-glance visual to employees of ACT customers to remind employees that these customers are not familiar with Prosource’s employees and processes. Once integration efforts are complete, the temporary flags can be removed.”

“The next challenge they tackled was combining the two accounting systems,” says Pat Burns, VP of Product Management at Autotask. “ACT used the same accounting software as Prosource, so this was an easy transition. However, there were some unique labor-billing arrangements that were different from Prosource’s standards such as varying hourly labor rates and flat rate monthly agreements.”

Burns emphasizes that the Autotask contract function solved this easily. They created default labor billing contracts associated with each individual customer and to match the ACT agreement in place. This ensured that employees focused their energy on providing best-in-class service to customers without worrying about unique billing arrangements (since Autotask remembers what and when to bill, so resources don’t have to).

Services, subscriptions, renewals … oh my

The final and biggest challenge Prosource faced was integrating (into Autotask) the thousands of subscription renewals for security products. The account managers had to be aware of the upcoming renewals and have the capacity to see what the clients had purchased in the past. Prosource had no experience with software subscriptions, and ACT’s security software offerings were fluid; that is, changes sourced from vendors required frequent product renaming, merging, substitutions, and deactivations.

In addition, Prosource needed the capability to bill for hardware appliances or future consulting labor hours in conjunction with those renewals. Many customers came from the education market segment where renewals were tracked for individual schools, but the billing had to flow through the school district.

[Related: IT departments not losing ground to managed service providers (yet)]

“We consulted with Autotask and found the answer in its recurring service contracts and associated contract charges,” says Drumm. “This method allowed us to efficiently add entities such as subscription charges, appliances or consulting labor all in the same place, while ensuring the revenue for each flowed through to the appropriate general ledger code. The contract function managed our third-party billing needs and also managed the fluidity of security software offerings, without losing the historical tracking of what the customer purchased at each renewal period.”

Once all the customers were set up in the Autotask system and the appropriate billing agreements were in place, Prosource focused on service delivery integration so the technicians from both organizations could work from a single system to manage combined customer networks. ACT did not use a Professional Services Automation (PSA) tool to manage service requests for its customers. So Prosource had to acclimate the ACT technicians to its service ticket flow (via Autotask training materials such as videos and online documentation combined with shadowing the existing technicians). In addition, workflow tickets were automated to ensure the tickets for Act customers flowed directly to the ACT technicians.

“Once the initial integration challenges and data migration into Autotask was complete, we created customized dashboards for the ACT employees. Autotask dashboards allow us to put the most important information at the fingertips of each and every resource, based on their roles via fully customizable widgets. We started with Autotask’s out-of-the-box dashboard tabs that were preconfigured for roles such as salesperson, sales manager, or technician and then tailored them to the ACT team. Anything a user didn’t need was removed from their dashboard view to eliminate distraction and focus users on their specific job responsibilities,” concludes Drumm.

“The key to processing high volumes of information and ticket requests in today’s data-driven world is simplicity,” says Burns. “Users should not be overwhelmed by excess, and rely on automation to handle the complexities. We recommend the ‘Smart IT’ approach, in which IT solutions are forward-thinking and enabling, rather than reactive and limited to problem solving. By removing the noise, businesses can help customers manage what matters.”