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Much Ado About To-do

When you need to get things done, you can’t go wrong with a good old trusty to-do list which helps you organize what needs to be done and by showing what has been done so far, also helps keep you motivated. To-do lists can take many forms but fundamentally are pretty much the same, whether they be written on paper or on a computer, however when they integrate with other systems or functions they can become even more useful. So without further ado we present to you the all new To-do Lists feature in version 8 of CommitCRM!

To-do Lists

What do you do when you add a new Account to your CommitCRM database? Probably there’s a whole list of steps you would normally do such as creating web logins, sending them to the customer, adding secondary contacts, etc etc. You can now create a simple To-do list with all those steps in and check them off one by one when done so you will know for sure exactly what was done and what wasn’t – no more trying to remember some obscure step in the process or missing something important!

What about Tickets? Probably you get many support requests which entail a common sequence of actions to resolve. Now you can whip up a To-do list for each of the common situations and run through the relevant list when a Ticket is created, saving time and effort and resulting in happier customers.

You’re probably thinking “Great! But how am I going to remember to create all those to-do list steps every time?!” Well we have you covered there as well since you can save any list as a Template and then simply select the appropriate Template from a drop-down list to add to the To-do list tab in the Tickets window. In fact you can add multiple lists if the need arises!

To-do lists are not just available in Accounts and Tickets, you can also create them in Assets, Contracts, Opportunities and Employees. In each section you can easily create and apply To-do List Templates and list steps can be dragged and dropped to change the order and in fact entire lists can be dragged and dropped if there are several on the tab. You will also see a section on the preview tab which tells you how many open To-dos you have for that Ticket or Asset or other.

Another useful feature of the To-do list is logging of who did what and when. In other words the system notes which employee marked a To-do step as done and displays that persons name next to the step in the list of completed steps – so now if someone messes up you’ll know who to blame and if it was you… well the cat’s out of the bag! 😉

Automatically applying To-do Lists can be done by adding them to Activity Templates so there’s no excuse not to use them! You can also generate Reports which include To-do lists using “Expanded Ticket Details2” and “Asset Details Including Configuration Note, Pending, To-do and History”.

As you know, CommitCRM is a PSA which means it’s all about professional services automation to improve workflows, enhance efficiency, capture more billable time and ultimately charge for that time. To-do lists are another big part of that effort and since they involve actual work being done, you can rest assured that you can easily charge for that work.

When a to-do task is marked complete you can immediately add a Charge for that specific step, directly from the To-do tab. You can also do this at any time, not just immediately afterwards and you can also charge for ALL completed steps at once. Now the multitude of little jobs you frequently do while working for a customer but perhaps don’t always charge for, can be easily billed – no more money slipping through the cracks!

We hope you find the new To-do List feature useful and it helps you get things done and bill for more time.

Until next time,
The CommitCRM Team

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New CommitCRM v8 Released!

to-do-list
Hi Commiters,

We are very excited to announce the release of the new version of our Professional
Services Automation software.

The all new CommitCRM 8 is ready and available for you to download right now!
There are many big new features in this release which we believe you will find very
useful in automating your business and improving efficiency. Of course as usual we
are building these features based on your always valuable feedback which we
certainly appreciate.

Click Here for the full list of what’s new in 8 as well as upgrade instructions.
We’ll also soon be publishing a series of articles here on the blog which go into
more detail on some of the key features in this release.

As always you can find us on Facebook and Twitter as well as of course on our own Forums.

We hope you enjoy the new version!

The CommitCRM Team
CommitCRM – Business Automation For Successful ITs!

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You Can’t Stop the Signal – the Tickets and Techs Must Keep Moving!

When Tickets are arriving for all manner of issues, from multiple customers and you need to assign them to various technicians at differing times throughout the day or week, you need a way to manage all this efficiently and effectively. This is where the Dispatcher comes in to its own. With a simple drag & drop, a new Ticket can be sent to the Dispatcher or if that is a click too many for your liking you can choose to have all new Tickets appear in the Dispatcher by default.

Drag & drop for Dispatching

In CommitCRM the Dispatcher is where new appointments are scheduled after a Ticket is created, or in other words you use it to arrange appointments for your employees based on work requirements associated with new Tickets.

Once a Ticket is in the Dispatcher it is ready for you to assign to a technician and schedule an appointment, if required (or you can remove it from the Dispatcher if not), by dragging and dropping the Ticket onto the graphical Dispatcher display under an Employee. When the appointment has been scheduled through the Dispatcher, it appears immediately on the Pending tab under the Ticket itself and also on the Ticket Preview tab.

On the Daily or Weekly Dispatcher tabs you can click on any Ticket in the “Tickets Marked for Dispatching” list and see a preview in the box on the right side of the Ticket list (you can disable this preview or move it to the bottom if you prefer). Below the list there are number of functions where you can create a new Ticket which will appear directly in the Dispatcher, show the Ticket details (open in the full Tickets window), print or email it or run an Online Service.

At the top right of the Daily Dispatcher there is a calendar date selector where you can jump straight to viewing the Dispatcher and existing appointments (if any) for any day in any month in the future or past and on the left side is the Employees selection panel where you can quickly choose which Employees to include or exclude in the Dispatcher view.

When viewing the Dispatcher tabs all you need to do to arrange an appointment is simply drag the Ticket to a suitable time block under an employee and that’s it – appointment is scheduled and Ticket removed from the Dispatcher. If you need the appointment to span more than one half-hour block you can just drag the edge of the appointment block up or down accordingly. You can even drag the whole block and drop it under another employee if required.

Drag & drop Dispatching

Of course when an appointment is scheduled, the Alerts Server will notify the relevant staff so nothing is ever missed no matter where they are. You can also view the daily or weekly Calendar for a quick overview of all pending appointments or tasks as well as see them listed under their respective tabs.

From any appointment you can do a quick right-click and have access to all sorts of extra data and functionality specific to that appointment such as viewing the linked Account or Contact, adding a History Note, creating a new Ticket, sending a message, adding a Charge and more. So you will always know at a glance where everything stands in your business, where every employee is working or scheduled, what issues they are working on and more.

Also in the Dispatcher window are tabs for Appointments and Tasks where you can view the appointments/tasks in list format instead of on a calender. You can select a date range to view and again these can be filtered by Employee. Of course you can also add and update and much more in these tabs via the right-click menu just as on the Dispatcher tabs.

Such functionality, enabling you to manage all these aspects right from the Dispatcher window within just a click or two, is a key component of Professional Services Automation and you’ll soon wonder how you ever managed without it!

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Sysadmin Day “Best of the Worst” Contest Winner

As you may already know if you have been following this blog, we recently announced a contest for Sysadmin Day which was on July 25th this year. We had a load of entries for the contest which were great fun to read, not to mention educational! However there can be only one winner this time and so after much deliberation we have chosen this epic story of sysadmin woe by “kaltag“…

Sorry for the novel. This tale starts last Tuesday. I got a call to go set up 2 new workstations and migrate their data from the systems to the new. I arrive onsite and discover the systems are bottom of the barrel Acers with 7 Home. They have a 2008 domain so that’s not gonna work. They order 2 copies of 7 Pro and I get called back Thursday when they arrive. I install 7 Pro and join the systems to the domain. At this point I look at the old systems to see what programs will have to be re-installed. Note: This is a printing company and they are cheap as hell with everything they possibly can be and their software reflects that. They have an addressing/routing program that runs in DOS (no go on 7), 2 other programs designed for win 3.1 which I could not get to work under 7, and a mail database app that was designed for NT4 which would also not run in any compatibility mode. At this point I decided they are going to have to use XP mode under 7 and do a physical to virtual migration of their old systems to get this software working. They agree and I start the disk2vhd process. The old systems are going to take several hours to finish so I set to downloading/install Windows XP mode. I discover they have a 256kb DSL service so I left and let everything finish over night.

Friday morning I go back and install XP mode (virtual PC) and get to work setting up the VMs with their VHDs. When I get to actually creating the machine and point it their existing VHDs it fails with an error. After some digging I find out disk2vhd creates a VHD the size of the entire drive which was 150GB instead of just the volume which was 80GB. Virtual PC won’t attach a VHD larger than 127GB. So I downloaded vhdresizer but it won’t let me shrink below the disk size either. So I attach the VHD in disk management and resize it which then allows vhdresizer to do it’s thing. Again, resizing both drives will take 4-6 hours so I get some information I will need and leave it to run. I have remote access so I can finish it from home over the weekend.

Friday night I login and the resizes have finished. I created the virtual machines and boot ’em up. Both hang at hte XP boot menu. WTF?! I ran chkdsk and fixboot/fixmbr with no success. I eventually gave in and decided to run an XP repair install. I created an ISO of my XP Pro CD and started copying over their 256kb DSL line. I left it to copy over night ;).

Saturday morning the copy is complete. I ran the XP repair which got them booting and after logging in I get the activation error that it won’t login until it’s activated. I tell it to activate but the activation window never comes up. Some more digging and I find that internet explorer needs to be re-installed after a repair install sometimes. So I shutdown the VM, mounted the VHD, copied over the IE7 installer, detached the VHD and booted the VM back up with safemode with command prompt. I installed IE7, rebooted, and the activation window works now. Yay! Now I’m logged in and start checking that their applications still work. They all work with the exception of one program that uses the Access 2003 runtime. The office 2003 installer keeps trying repair itself and bombs out. Installing just the 2003 runtime fails so I make another image of my office 2003 CD and start copying it to their systems. This takes most of the day.

Sunday morning. The copy has finished. I repair the office installs and verify things are working, printers etc. Yay!

Monday morning (today) I go back on site to swap out the old and new machines. At this point I discover they have a time clock that uses a serial port connection and 3 HP laserjet parallel printers with only parallel connections. These new systems only have USB ports…perfect. So I run down to the local PC shop and pick up some USB to parallel/serial adapters. Installing the printers works fine. I check the timeclock program and verify it is talking to the time clock. They run a test download of the punches and halfway through the network link drops for an unknown reason. The timeclock program crashes magnificently. Restart the program and it now says there are no punches for the last week. FML. With everything else working they decide to call the timeclock people and let me move on.

I finish up and as I’m about to walk out the door they ask if I can do “one last thing.” They want one of the old systems moved to another employees office to replace an even older system. Cool, no big deal. I set up the old machine in it’s new location and plug it in. POOF and a big puff of magic smoke comes out the back…great. I tell the owner and he is understandably upset. He eventually calms down and asks that I just swap the keyboard on the old one as the even older one is nasty. I swap the keyboard and fire it up. Nothing. No power! How can I get 2 bad Power supplies!? I figure out the power cord has been bent at a right angle so long there is a short in it. Fiddling with it you can here it spark and the system gets power. So I grab a spare power cord from the car and go back in. I unplug the old cord from the wall and when I go to plug the new one in the socket broke THROUGH the drywall and fell into the wall cavity. Turns out someone had just cut a hole in the drywall and screwed the socket directly to the drywall with no box. It took barely any pressure to break through the 1/8″ drywall. Cue upset owner again. I ran an extension cord to another cubicle and get it up and running again but now there’s no network link?! At this point I’m about to kick a puppy. More troubleshooting and find out the network cable suffered the same fate as the power cord. A new cable fixed it right up. I high-tailed it out of there as quickly as possible after that.

TL;DR: Someone’s got a case of the Mondays….

The winner receives the Professional Services Automation software, as described on the contest page here, which we hope will be put to good use. Congratulations!

Until next time,
The CommitCRM Team

 

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Sysadmin Day “Best of the Worst” Contest

In honour of the 15th annual System Administrator Appreciation Day on July 25th we at CommitCRM are having a little contest!

No doubt just about everyone in the IT industry has had a bad day at some point, when everything seems to go wrong at the worst possible time in the worst possible way. Whether you are an MSP technician or a datacenter sysadmin, no matter what the platform, be it Linux or Windows or Mac or Unix or something else, you’ve been there and you’ve faced down that disaster and ultimately saved the day (hopefully).

You may have come out with a few more wrinkles, a beard that is a little more gray than it was at the start of that day, or a new appreciation for backups and you may have taken up drinking afterwards, but you won the battle and saved the interwebs (or your tech-phobic granny’s malware infected PC) because that’s what you always do even if nobody ever knows the epic fight you were engaged in on that cold, stormy night while the rest of the world was out partying or at home watching more heads roll on Game of Thrones.

Well now it is time to tell everyone of that heroic struggle – we’d like to hear the best sysadmin disaster stories where you ultimately saved the day! Tell us about that time the datacenter blew up, or when the backup generator failed and you had to hookup a dynamo to a bike and pedal furiously all night to keep the servers powered up until the electricity was restored or when your IT department manager dropped “the internet” or when legions of anonymous script kiddies ddos’d the corporate blog or when the CEO distributed malware to all 10k PC’s on the company network or gave the login for company bank account to a charming Nigerian Prince who promised so much for so little or that time in sysadmin camp…

We’ll publish the best of the worst disasters here and there will be a prize for the top story!

Post your stories in the comments section below and we’ll pick the winner on July 28th – make sure to include your email address or some way we can actually get back to you if your story is chosen!

The Rules:

  • Must be a true story – no fibs, no matter how creative!
  • Winner will be notified soon after and our decision is final.

Post your true disaster story in the comments below to enter the contest!

Good luck and Happy SysAdmin Day!!

Posted in CommitCRM Product | Tagged | 1 Comment

Desktop as a Service

Desktop as a ServiceDesktop virtualization, in particular “Desktop as a Service” (DaaS), sometimes called “Managed Desktops” or “Managed Workspaces” depending on the vendor or platform, is a service which offers a full desktop operating system experience hosted remotely in “the cloud”. Virtual desktops of one kind or another have been around for a while but technology such as Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) is quite complex to implement and manage and the costs are not insignificant to build a suitably robust infrastructure and then to maintain the hardware and software and security of the system as a whole.

Such complexity and financial considerations put it out of the reach of many or even most small businesses, not to mention medium sized enterprises and probably even those on the larger end would not be overly keen on diving in head first to the desktop virtualization arena. However all is not lost as the much maligned “cloud” has come to the rescue and turned complicated VDI infrastructure into a simple point & click SaaS type system, hereafter known as DaaS.

DaaS effectively offloads all that complexity and expense to the cloud, or in other words another company does all that tricky stuff for you so you can get on with your actual job on your nicely managed, secure and always available virtual desktop in the sky.

Advantages

Of course one of the main advantages, perhaps even the primary advantage, is the ability to work from anywhere on your familiar desktop. As long as you have access to a computer with a suitable client, you can login to your desktop and get on with whatever you need to do just as if you had your main desktop PC right there with you.

Another key advantage is the cost effectiveness. Being able to outsource your desktop computing infrastructure for a low monthly fee means you no longer have to pay out large amounts upfront on hardware (or take credit to spread the cost). Since you no longer have any (or much) hardware of your own you no longer need an in-house technician to maintain it all or to pay expensive fees to an MSP. You also save on electricity costs, license fees, upgrade costs and more.

Being in the cloud your data is safe, at least in theory. Typically a cloud based service, whether it be DaaS or any other, will come with multiple levels of redundancy and of course automated and frequent backups to ensure your data is always available and always retrievable in the event of a disaster. Also the operating system will be kept updated and security patches installed and security polices and systems are applied across the entire DaaS infrastructure.

Besides location independence, another feature is device independence – you can access your full desktop environment from any device (kind of) whether it be a full size PC, laptop, netbook or tablet.

Scalability is another plus point for DaaS and being able to instantly scale up or down to as many desktops as you need depending on current requirements or growth rates in your business, is very useful indeed.

Disadvantages
Naturally when your desktop is hosted somewhere remote in the cloud, you very much depend on having good network access otherwise the experience will be laggy and frustrating. The further away you are from the physical location of your desktop, the slower it will be although there’s all sorts of compression and caching technologies involved to help minimize the effect but at the end of the day you can’t break the laws of physics.

Can you really trust ‘the cloud’? Placing all your precious data on a remote system under full control of another company is risky. Not only could unknown parties potentially access your data, but accidents or malicious incidents could in theory wipe out your system or even the entire DaaS company and perhaps even the customers who depend on it. One only has to look at recent events in the cloud space to see just how bad things can get when everything is dumped into the cloud.

The observant amongst you may have noticed we said “kind of” when referring to device independence and the reality is that since a special client application is typically required to access a DaaS desktop, there are limitations. For example some only run on recent versions of Windows and Mac so if you’re on an older version or use Linux then you’re out of luck.

Another aspect of this is that if you still need to bring your own device (BYOD) with you just to access your cloud based desktop, why not just bring your desktop with you on a laptop or netbook? Of course if your own desktop computer gets lost or stolen then you’ve got problems and will be hoping your backups are up to date and accessible! If you lose a simple tablet or cheap netbook which contains nothing but the DaaS client then you’re not really losing anything but a bit of easily replaceable hardware – assuming you didn’t store your DaaS logins in a state allowing the new ‘owner’ of your missing device to access and use.

The DaaS Players
The main players these days in the DaaS market are Amazon AWS with their “Amazon WorkSpaces” product, VMmware with their acquired Desktone system and Citrix. While those are the big three, actually signing up for a DaaS desktop with Citix and Desktone is no easy matter since they don’t sell to end users and they don’t list any prices. You have to find a reseller somehow and signup through them or perhaps even signup as a reseller. With Amazon at least it is all a lot clearer – if you have an AWS account you can just add that service to your existing portfolio. All the prices for DaaS instances at Amazon are clearly displayed so there will be no surprises and you can be up and running in no time. Having said that, VMware also offers another brand of DaaS service called Horizon, based on Desktone, which you can actually signup for and prices are comparable to Amazon – however there is currently a minimum order quantity of 50 desktops which puts it out of reach of many small businesses.

Alternatives
DaaS is not the only solution to remotely accessible desktops and there are some viable alternatives. First of all you could simply connect to your office (or home) network with VPN and directly access your PC there and use it as normal. You could use RDP to access any Windows PC but it doesn’t have to be in your office and you could instead use a VPS or dedicated server running Windows, effectively rolling your own “cloud” solution. It doesn’t have to be Windows of course so you could run any desktop OS you prefer and then RDP or VNC as appropriate.

Yet another alternative is a “web desktop” which is also a hosted solution but typically not actually Windows, just something which looks a bit like Windows (or some other familiar OS). Usually these would be accessed through a browser and so will be limited to some extent but at the same time less dependent on a special client application – if you have a modern browser, capable of running technologies such as Javascript, Flash, HTML5 etc, you’re good to go. Compatibility with your main desktop OS is of course an issue but for many use cases, that is not really necessary and most day to day tasks can be accomplished adequately.

Which type of remote desktop you go for ultimately depends on what you need to do with it, what apps you need, how you will access it, how much you trust the vendor and of course how much it will cost (or save) you in the long run. YMMV.

Until next time,
The CommitCRM Team

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10 Ways to Charge More for Your IT Services

charge-more-moneyBusiness is ultimately about making money and every business owner would like to make more money than they currently do and preferably for less work.

But how can an IT services business charge more for the work they do and services they offer? Read on for 10 ways to charge more

1. Increase Prices – this is an obvious one, easy to say but perhaps less easy to do, or at least it may seem like something you can’t easily do without risk as some customers may walk if you raise prices for your IT services. However in many cases higher prices can lead to a higher perceived value which can in turn contribute to sales. Even a modest increase can have a significant impact and most or perhaps even all customers would be willing to pay, as long as the service is good.

2. Remove non-profitable low cost services from your offerings – concentrate on those which generate more profit for your time. That is unless the low cost item is a deliberate loss leader which brings in new customers that you can later convert to your high priced items. Weigh up the benefits of such low cost items carefully and ditch any that don’t make the grade.

3. Log more time – this doesn’t mean go out and do more hours of work, it means make sure you actually log every minute that you actually do work… no more free lunches! Your time is valuable and those 5 minute phone calls or any other small task soon add up. Using tools which help you log your time more efficiently will obviously increase your logged time overall so log it or lose it!

4. Add value to your service offerings – clients will be more prepared to pay more if they see more value added. Everybody likes to get more for their money. That value can even just be in the form of better guarantees for service provided. You can use an SLA to ensure you meet the service levels you are promising and measure it against past SLA data to show how it is improving and to clarify to customers exactly what service they are guaranteed to get.

5. Collect and publish good references and testimonials – when a potential client is not sure if you are worth the price you are asking, a good word from existing customers can help with convincing and closing the deal. Your customers often have a better idea of what matters to them than you do and their opinion is typically considered more valid by their peers.

6. Increase the perceived value you offer – promote new benefits to existing services, add tiers for higher levels of service, re-position your business in a way that seems like it offers higher value. For example compare books to self-study courses – the same info may be included in both but a course seems like it has higher value, even if it is still self-study like a book, and so it often costs more.

7. Educate your customers – make sure they know the true value of the service you are offering. You’re an expert in the field, an IT professional who will resolve their problems so their business can grow, make sure they know exactly how much they benefit from your service. Quantify precisely what you provide them with.

8. Check out what the competition charges for similar services – if everyone else charges more than you, then you can charge more also. If their customers are willing to pay them that much for IT services then they should be just as willing to pay you that much. Compete on quality, not price.

9. Build up your brand – a recognized brand is typically seen as offering more value and worth paying more for, even if unknown competitors offer something better. Spruce up your website, get a fancy new logo, make your brand highly visible on everything you produce, dominate the relevant social network channels, be seen everywhere your customers gather, online and offline. Become the recognized leader in your area and your customers will be more willing to pay a premium for that.

10. Don’t be afraid to lose customers – specifically those who are not profitable enough for you or you may even lose money on. Better to have higher paying customers which you can take better care of, than bazillions of unprofitable customers who use up all your time and end up getting a worse service from you, which ultimately hurts your reputation.

A few small tweaks to your offerings, careful re-positioning and appropriate price increases can all add up to a healthy boost in your income without annoying any of the customers you actually want to keep and enabling you to offer a better service overall – everyone wins!

Until next time,
The CommitCRM Team

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Drag & Drop Tickets

In the endless quest for improved efficiency, every little bit counts, every second and every step which can be shortened or removed from the process entirely, helps streamline your workflow and improve productivity. One such efficiency feature is the ability to drag & drop Tickets to perform various important actions.

Drag & Drop Status

Changing the Status of a Ticket is of course a very common task as the Ticket progresses through your support system and so for example any time you need to change the status from New to Scheduled, Cancelled, Pending, Completed or some other status, you can can easily do that from the Tickets list – just select the Ticket and drag it to the left sidebar and drop on the Status you want to change it to. As soon as you drop the Ticket on another Status in the sidebar, the Status will update in the Tickets list – simple and efficient!

Drag & drop to Status

 Drag & Drop Inbox

You can also drag Tickets from the Inbox and drop them onto any Status and they will not only have their Status changed but they will also be removed from the Inbox allowing you to quickly and effortlessly work through your inbox and deal with all the incoming or updated Tickets appropriately.

Drag & drop to Inbox

Drag & Drop to Dispatcher

Tickets can be quickly added to the Dispatcher by dragging and dropping onto For Dispatching at the top of the left column. This is functionally the same as going to the Details tab for the Ticket and checking the box Show in Dispatcher.

Drag & drop for Dispatching

Drag & Drop Dispatching

In the Dispatcher window you can see your Tickets in the list awaiting dispatch and needless to say you can drag & drop again, this time straight into the column for a specific employee at a certain time to rapidly schedule an appointment.

Drag & drop Dispatching

Drag & Drop Labels

Version 7 of CommitCRM introduced the popular Labels feature and naturally the ability to quickly label a Ticket through drag & drop is a key part of that. With Labels you can even drag & drop the Ticket multiple times onto different Labels in the left sidebar which results in the Ticket having multiple Labels assigned to it. Each individual Label can easily be removed from the Ticket by simply clicking the ‘x’ next to each Label on the Ticket Preview screen or from the Labels drop-down menu so they are very easy to manage.

Drag & drop Labels

We hope you find all these time saving efficiency features useful and of course we’re always working on adding more ways to simplify, improve efficiency and automate your professional services.

Until next time,

The CommitCRM Team

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4 Simple Steps to Bill IT

Always a popular topic amongst IT service providers is the the subject of billing for all that hard work done and often also for items sold such as computer hardware and software. A business simply isn’t a business if there’s no money flowing and of course it needs to flow the right way – in, not out!

A very typical workflow goes something like this:

1. Log it > 2. Solve it > 3. Charge it > 4. Bill it!

running awayLog it basically means opening a support ticket for the issue then you can work on it to solve it, then you charge it for the various hours worked and any equipment provided (depending on the contract terms), and finally the bill it part arrives where the client actually pays for the service provided or at least is asked to pay – actually getting the money is another matter!

However despite the seeming simplicity of this four step workflow there lies a myriad of technicalities and details which all need to be accounted for, one way or another in order for the money to flow into the business.

BillingBilling comes in all shapes and sizes and clients are forever demanding new and exciting ways to spend their money with you. Some want to pay by the hour for the work you do, others pay monthly, some are just one time fees while others are recurring and some wish to pay only when there’s a full moon or the sun is at a certain angle (well ok maybe those last two don’t really happen – but never say never!). On top of all that, some are “all you can eat” for a fixed fee and some are the “block” options such as block of hours, block of tickets and of course block of money. To make matters even more complex, clients may have multiple services and contracts each with different types of billing requirements such as managed services (MSP) contracts.

Being able to quickly add charges for work done when it is done or items sold when they are sold is essential for a business to ensure nothing is missed and to facilitate healthy cash flow. Tools which enable charging easily and quickly from wherever you may be and on whatever device is being used, desktop or mobile, and for whatever managed service or item was provided under whichever form of contract are what every IT business needs to succeed.

Service Level Agreements (SLA) are a common sight these days and technology has provided many ways for SLA’s to be tracked and enforced appropriately which not only helps ensure the customer gets what they pay for but also helps the business keep on top of things and run efficiently without having to waste time and brain power manually trying to work out whether or not you are managing to stay within the terms of the framework agreed.

Everybody loves Taxes as I’m sure you’ll agree. However even if you don’t it makes no difference as there’s no escape from the inland (or outland) revenue no matter where you travel in the universe, so applying, charging and accounting for all manner of taxes correctly is essential and whatever billing tools and services you use, need to cope with this appropriately without driving you to the drink in the process.

Defining the precise billing format which will apply to a client, the taxes which must be included, the services which will be provided for the fees charged and the service level agreement which must be adhered to, along with various other business terms, is generally where the contract comes in and being able to quickly create and manage a diverse array of sometimes complicated contracts catering to the needs of your business is obviously very important.

Accounting for all this billing is commonly done these days with accounting and bookkeeping software such as the ever popular QuickBooks which is used by countless businesses, both in the IT services field and others. Of course being an IT business means you’re more likely than most to be using software for every part of your business where it is at all possible and so deep integration with Quickbooks, or whichever accounting system you prefer, is high on the list of priorities when choosing business applications.

billing clientsActually collecting money from your clients after (or before) doing the work, is a task fraught with risk but these days there are many online billing companies that take the pain away from you and the money away from them. They make charging your customers a click of a button at most and in many cases not even that as the whole process is automated and integrated using API’s on one side of the transaction or the other. Companies such as Paypal, Blue Snap, Stripe and even Amazon now provide customized billing to ensure you get your money without losing your shirt.

Knowing what is going on in your business is critical and knowledge is power which is why reports are so important and popular, whether they be simple spreadsheets or complex graphical reports pulling data from multiple sources to present in an easily digestible form. With reports you can know how much time was logged by each employee, get itemized account charges and much more which ensures you can always see what is going on with every client and every employee, as well as in the business as a whole.

Managing all this billing complexity is where Professional Services Automation comes to the rescue and puts everything you need at your fingertips, on your desktop or mobile device wherever you are, integrating with the business applications you depend on and turning what could quickly become a major headache into an automated breeze.

Until next time,
The CommitCRM Team

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Ticket to Ride

Batch remove from inbox

Tickets are a key part of most service businesses, they are the lifeblood rushing through various arteries to and from the beating heart of your business. Tickets mean work and hopefully more billable hours (depending on the contract terms of course) and are generally good to have, unless they’re an indication of things going terribly wrong with your product or service in which case less tickets is probably better!

However regardless of the business or contract type, if there are tickets involved you can be sure that they will get around, one way or another… flying in from customers, being created and updated by technicians on and off-site, through the Web, via mobile devices and Windows clients, opened and closed and acted on in all manner of ways. Sometimes, amidst all this frenetic ticket activity you may find yourself needing to move a ticket or perform some action on a whole range of tickets and with the recent versions of CommitCRM we’ve added some handy new features to help deal with those tricky ticket tasks more efficiently.

Move ticket to another accountIf you find yourself with a ticket which was accidentally linked to the wrong account you can easily move it to another account, hopefully the right account this time, along with all related data including charges, history notes and everything else which needs to go with it.

Sometimes you may have a large number of tickets which need to be removed from the Inbox and the last thing you want to spend your precious time doing is going one ticket at a time to remove them – you can easily do the whole lot as a batch and use your valuable time for more important tasks. Also besides the batch remove feature, tickets are automatically removed from the Inbox on completion. But thats not the only batch feature, you can also do a batch update of the account region. For example if a customer moves their office to a new region and you have a large number of tickets showing their old region, it is now trivial to change them all to the new region code.

All these new Ticket management features can be easily reached through the Tickets > Tools menu in the CommitCRM application and along with the many other new features recently added, we hope will contribute to a more effective and efficient workflow in your business.

Until next time,
The CommitCRM Team

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