Can't do everything


I’m a one-person MSP for about 60 local small business / local municipal clients, taking care of providing network infrastructure and management, computer procurement, installation, and management, and typically any and all random troubleshooting and general use questions. I can keep up with the typical day to day with all of this, but how do I tell more demanding clients politely, but professionally that I don’t do software training with every little thing? For example, I install QuickBooks for clients. I know how to install it, get it networked, deal with company file corruption issues when they (thankfully rarely) arise, but I don’t know how to actually use QuickBooks - I’m not a bookkeeper, and that’s an easy one to explain. But when it comes to something like Microsoft 365, it gets more difficult. I sell MS365 licensing and I can help people figure out things in Excel, Word, Outlook - little tips and tricks, etc. But, when it comes to all the other offerings like Planner, the disaster that is Teams and it’s terribly confusing, poor integration between OneDrive, SharePoint, and sharing things with external users, and all the other constantly changing Microsoft products that accompany the varying versions of MS365, I can’t possibly keep up with all that. I don’t use any of these sub-products, and I don’t have the time or desire to learn them. But some clients are under the impression that because I sell them as part of the package, I’m supposed to know them all intimately, be able to explain what they all are, and provide detailed instruction and training for them to use them. I’m not a teacher, I’m not a software specialist, but I don’t want to sound like I’m just trying to shirk responsibility, either. How does anyone else in this situation properly communicate this so the clients are comfortable knowing that learning how to use their software is their responsibility and that they need to seek training? I’ve sent YouTube videos, but most refuse to take the time to watch anything even as short as a how-to on setting up Microsoft Authenticator on their phones, let alone a 15 to 45 minute training video.

Find a training company that does offer those services and let the client know that your specialty is NOT training, but here is a company that does specialize in that.

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60 clients! Sounds like you are killin’ it. I have come across the same thing in the past. IT especially as service provider is such a wide array of stuff. If you are honest up front and respectable most reasonable business owners will understand that you cannot specialize in everything but would be willing to spend some time to figure it out. If that is an issue then that is a red flag for me. If it is worth your time and If they are willing to pay you to figure it out or at least be patient while you do figure it out at your pace then that is a great customer to have. Not that I have always charged someone to but it really depends on the relationship I have with them.

A big help may be, if you have a web page outlining what you are capable of and folks you have partnered to provide the capabilities you cannot.

An analogy I have used in the past is: One person can certainly build a house by themselves but having specialized folks like electricians and plumbers are sometimes a better fit for the task. If you have been in IT long enough you know enough to ask the right questions to the right people.

Hope this helps…

You could also hire someone to help with all of the above, and to learn the applications and then perform training. All the training stuff would need to be an additional expense, and probably several different line items and prices. As long as the client knows that training is an extra, I would like to think people won’t be upset.

I run into the same issue at work, they expect me to have deep knowledge of the applications that we use, yet don’t/won’t give me the time to learn these things. They also seem to be allergic to training themselves. Adobe CC being the latest example, but them official classroom in a book, and no one can manage to even crack the cover. Free video training for a video production system? Nope can’t be bothered.

Now I just tell them, don’t know, haven’t had time to train.

Thanks, @LTS_Tom That’s a great idea and I feel stupid for not thinking of it myself. I just did a little research on companies that provide local in-person training for ~$2300 and will contrast that self-paced online options in the $500 range and let the clients decide from there.

Thanks, @koelslaw I’m going to send them options for local and online training. I don’t have time to learn it and then to figure out how to teach them, even if they wanted to pay me.

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@Greg_E I don’t want to get into hiring people. NY is a nightmare with employees and, unless I wanted to expand to 5 or more employees, it’s not worth it, and I don’t want to get that big. I’m going to send them training options from now on and let them decide if they care enough to learn. If, in this particular example, they’re willing to spend the time physically re-writing an entire calendar month on a whiteboard in their conference room every time jobs change dates, they should be able to devote the time to learning the software that will save them untold hours in the end.

@JVComputers to use the british term, your clients are taking the piss. I’ve worked with Project Server since its inception two decades ago, Microsoft have moved a lot of their offerings over to SharePoint and trying to keep up with just these two products is hard enough however competency in MS SQL server (Analysis server, Reporting Server) is also required.

At least with this suite I break it down in terms of Installation / Configuration / Migration / Training, you might be capable of installation (required for on-prem less so in the cloud) but you can forget about the rest.

As for your clients it’s largely irrelevant what they expect, it’s up to you define what the scope is and what they will have to do for themselves. Honestly, if for example you are only installing project server then you are the wrong person. It’s a useless product unless it’s configured and that requires expertise coupled with experience.

Most companies are clueless regarding the tools and technology (their CVs my say otherwise), in most instances I have seen, teams responsible for the platforms have even less interest.

Something to keep in mind, is that most employees entering the workforce in perhaps the last 7 years have absolutely zero experience in installing, configuring enterprise class software so they mostly only see a GUI in their workplace. I’ve come from a time where I installed Microsoft’s platform (AD, Exchange, SQL, SharePoint) in a couple of vms with only 2GB of RAM, it ran like a dog but I was able to learn how to use the tools for myself.

I’d always be clear on scope and responsibility from the start, from your experience you should know what this is. You will usually have to educate the client whether you like it or not.