Trouble ticket systems are one of the oldest tools in the IT business. They allow techs and other support personnel to quickly respond and remedy customer problems and issues. Another piece of software that has rapidly been gaining momentum is customer relationship management software (CRM). This type of software allows organizations to keep up with customers' vital information, such as contact information, order status and many other data points. Bridging the gap between these two software systems is a new breed of software called professional services automation software (PSA). PSA systems are designed to help businesses grow by making them run smarter and more efficiently. So, let's take a look at how they work. (Get some background info on CRM in Top 6 Trends in Customer Relationship Management.)

What Are PSA Systems?

PSA systems, in a nutshell, allow businesses to integrate a vast amount of customer data. In fact, your organization may already be using a PSA system without your even knowing it. Anyone familiar with the concept of a "trouble ticket number," a common method used to detect, track and report problems, has already become acquainted with a PSA system. But PSA systems go far beyond just a trouble ticket. Most PSA software connects to a database, which allows a complete history of each machine to be kept at hand, including asset tracking numbers, serial numbers, patches, installed software and hardware versions.

Benefits of PSA Systems

So what's the point of all this data? PSA systems allow any tech to assess a specific customer's problem at a glance. So, if a customer’s system has mysteriously become stricken with a troublesome piece of software, a good PSA system will give insight into the problem by documenting exactly what has been done to the system in question, such as which patches were applied, which registry entries were cleared or any other operations that were performed. This provides data about any IT problems, which can make these problems easier to fix.

Problems with PSA Systems

A PSA system can be a handy piece of software but, at best, that is all it is: software. And software is only as good as the people who use it. It’s like the age-old computer term: garbage in, garbage out. A company can have the fanciest PSA system on the planet, but if its techs aren’t using it to document what they're doing, which system they are doing it on and when they’re doing it, it’s not going to be of much use. As with any other software system, training is key. This means that techs need to be using the PSA system and keeping good notes.

PSA System Integration

Many PSA systems will integrate with any other software that may be running, such as CRM systems or remote monitoring and management (RMM) systems. For example, when an RMM program detects that a system drive is becoming too full and is in need of cleaning, it can generate a trouble ticket, which is then handed off to the PSA system. The PSA system can then send the ticket through the appropriate workflow steps as needed. This means that a hard drive failure can go to one tech, while a problem with networking may go to a different tech. The benefit to having the PSA system is that this software typically has much more advanced workflows than RMM systems and can store granular data about problems with specific systems.

Why PSA?

PSA software offers some similar functionality as CRM, RMM and other enterprise software. However, PSA tools are specifically designed to tackle the job of boosting a company's business by allowing it to take care of more customers with fewer techs (and let's be honest: What company doesn't have that goal in mind?). These tools can also free up business time by making regular mundane tasks both faster and more efficient. This leaves techs - and ultimately executives - with the time to tackle bigger, more profitable projects.