In 2013, Paul Azad came to the conclusion that things had to change. His Melbourne, Australia-based managed IT service provider business was finding it difficult to scale and grow.
Azad says the professional services automation (PSA) solution they used at that time wasn’t up to the challenge. “It took me three months before I was comfortable to have new technicians on the phone with clients and six months to be comfortable enough to send them out on the road,” he says. “Onboarding took a lot of time and money, the busier we got, the harder it got. We needed to streamline our processes.”
Azad and his team decided to develop their own ticketing system — ServiceTree — that took a unique, operational approach compared to other PSA software.
It became apparent early on that Azad would have to make some hard decisions about where to focus his time: working on the managed service provider (MSP) business that was making money or investing his time into developing the new software application. The changing business landscape in Australia made that choice even more difficult. More Australian stores began to do business globally and adopted 24/7 schedules that kept them open — and in need of IT services — at any time of day. In addition, MSPs faced new competition from call centers based overseas that promised they could handle all of a company’s IT needs by phone. “I was quite busy juggling all of it,” Azad says. “I remember thinking, ‘I don’t know how I can make this happen, but I can see it.’”
Azad’s team was critical to his ability to find the time to develop ServiceTree. “We’re techies, so sometimes we don’t want to hire people who might be smarter or better than us,” he humorously points out. “But I needed to find people who could keep pace with me.”
He built the right team and worked on documenting what he knew so he could hand off responsibilities to his managers — something that’s reflected in the “Question Trees” functionality for service desk automation in his solution that provides staff with a continually improving knowledge base and efficient workflows. Azad stresses that it’s also essential to share your vision with your team so they understand and support what you’re trying to achieve.
Tailor-Made PSA Software
Azad says his team used the software in-house for about two years before making the decision to take it to market in the U.S., which gave them the chance to refine it and maximize the value it provides.
Using the software in-house also gave them the chance to collect important data. During those two years, Azad’s team scaled from closing 15,000 tickets to 37,000 tickets per year and labor profits improved by 42 percent. “We were able to grow, onboard, and provide a consistent level of service,” Azad says. “The only way we did it was by using ServiceTree.”
ServiceTree continues to turn in impressive numbers. The solution managed technicians on four continents, enabling them to execute nearly 80,000 tickets, manage more than 50,000 inventory items, and service 10,094 locations or devices by the end of 2018.
Azad says one of his biggest challenges as the CEO of ServiceTree is getting the word out about his software, but when he shares the data, he captures attention. He does, however, encounter some objections. “People wonder why they need more costs,” Azad says. “You need to show them how your application will add more value to their day.”
Azad uses a simple formula: “Experience divided by cost equals value. Don’t think of your solution as a megahertz thing. Think of it in terms of a value proposition. How much more value will you add to their business and to their customers?”
Essentials for Success
Azad says a key to developing a solution that will provide businesses with value is consistency. “The real reason people go to Starbucks isn’t the coffee. It’s the consistency of the experience,” he points out. “Managed service clients aren’t just paying for coffee. They’re paying $10,000 per month for a consistent level of service.”
He says it’s also vital for software developers to differentiate themselves from their competition: “It’s a crowded market, so have a powerful value proposition.” Azad also reminds ISVs there really aren’t any shortcuts. “You only get a first shot once. I didn’t want to let anyone down with the solution. Integrity is the most important thing,” he says.
Azad says passion is another key motivator to develop and launch a solution for a specific market. He now devotes almost all of his time to his ISV business. “My passion is in ServiceTree. I love challenging MSPs to think beyond what they’re doing,” he says, whether that’s a large company taking the next step toward growth or a two-person shop finding ways to plan time for a vacation. “It can empower any MSP,” he concludes.