Illuminate has been a leading provider of managed IT services to small and medium sized businesses in Scotland since 2008. From strategy, compliance, and infrastructure to cyber protection, support, and training, their experienced IT professionals ensure partners’ technology is always ready for business.
Brian McFarland is Illuminate‘s Projects and Operations Manager, leading both the delivery of managed services and managing key client relationships. He’s a strategic leader known for identifying weak points in business processes and streamlining them using the latest systems.
In early 2020 Amanda Stewart, Illuminate’s founder and Brian were looking for a way to become more proactive and switch from a break-fix model to a managed services model. “Break-fix isn’t just a difficult business model, it’s also an expensive one,” says Brian, “being reactive to customer needs, rather than proactive, takes a ton of time, resources, and cost. The break-fix model really isn’t ideal for the customer, either – under that model, we wait for something to fail then fix it which can impact our client’s productivity and increase costs.”
One example Brian shared revolves around an Illuminate client with many servers in a fairly remote location. “If something significant went wrong at that site, it could take enough resources away to make managing other clients difficult. We could have technicians offsite for days at a time resolving those issues.”
In the process of evaluating remote monitoring and management software to support their shift from break-fix to MSP, Illuminate IT defined a very specific set of needs the software would have to fulfill. The product needed to:
- Fit into their budget and make since with client budgets
- Be easy to roll out to clients
- Easily enable automation on key workflows
- Have clear and precise reporting
- Be easy to use
“There are only six of us at Illuminate, but we have lots of clients and they rely on us. We needed a solution that a small business could use to manage many clients and that would do a lot of the work for us,” explains Brian. “Ultimately Ninja ticked all our boxes. It integrated with the tools we had, was super easy to use, and fit our budget. Other tools we had seen or used were convoluted, complex, and clunky.”
As a break-fix company reactivity was ingrained in how Illuminate worked, so Brian and Amanda had to undertake some focused change management while implementing Ninja. “It was ingrained in us to work a specific way,” says Brian. “It was going to take work to become more proactive, but ultimately Ninja improved both our team’s efficiency and our ability to balance the tactical with the strategic.”
Illuminate has rapidly adopted many of Ninja’s capabilities and integrated them into their daily work. “Ninja is the second thing I open ever day. I’m a planner and I don’t like surprises, so I use Ninja to identify what the priorities are for the team on any given day and start assigning projects,” says Brian. Brian’s team has also invested time and resources into leveraging Ninja’s automation capabilities, automating key tasks like OS patch management, application patching, ticket creation, server reboots, and more. “Every day, Ninja takes care of hours of billable work that were previously managed hands-on by technicians.”
The clarity and reliability of the data Ninja makes available has been critical to driving client satisfaction and conversion to the managed services model. “With Ninja, we see potential problems before they impact our clients. We can often call up a client and let them know that an issue exists and what steps we are taking to remediate it before they even notice. Whether that issue is emergent and needs to be addressed now or preventative and forward-looking, clients recognize the benefit and see how we are adding value for them,” says Brian. In addition, the reports Brian would bring for client meetings are now easily available at the push of a button (or two), “It used to take me a full day to pull reports prior to client meetings – I was switching between tools, collecting data in excel, and taking screenshots from everywhere. With Ninja it takes at most a couple of hours and comes from a single source.”
While everyone at Illuminate pitches in and provides support to clients, moving from a break-fix model to a managed services model using NinjaOne has allowed Brian to take a step back and be more strategic. “Ninja enables us to be proactive both for our clients and our business. It saves everyone on the team an astronomic amount of time, allowing us to find new clients, build better relationships with existing clients, and provide exceptional managed services to all of them.”