Managing projects can be the work that tips your MSP from being barely profitable to quite profitable. Managing projects hits the trifecta of benefits for you and your clients: they reduce risk, increase revenue, and often make one or both sides more efficient.

Then, why do so many MSPs struggle with projects? How do you build a solid project management practice? That’s what we’re covering on today’s ramble. Today is all about projects.

Projects = Profit for MSPs

So, what makes for a good Project Management Practice at your MSP? Several things. First, let’s talk about what a project is.

What is a project?

There are several criteria that indicate whether or not a piece of work might be a project. The rule of thumb is that if any of the criteria below is a ‘yes’ then it’s probably a project.

  1. Will the work take 8+ hours?
  2. Will the work require multiple resources?
  3. Will the work take multiple weeks/months?
  4. Does the work require a statement of work (SOW)?

Who is on your project team?

When you start your Managed Service Provider you generally move your most talented technician into a Project Manager. They handle all of the tasks: Communicating with clients, managing the project plan, scoping the project, and executing on the project work. The problem is, this doesn’t scale well, and a person that’s good at the technical execution probably isn’t great at the other stuff. Those who are good at all of those pieces are basically mythical unicorns. While you may find one or two, they’re pretty tough to find, and often aren’t great at all of those pieces. When I was working projects in the MSP world I routinely was good at 3 of the 4 tasks, but not all of them.

I recommend separating the technical work from the management of the project as quickly as possible. Often the role of Project Coordinator is a great fit here. Someone to manage the communication, scheduling, and just generally keeping things moving along. The technical execution is handed off to the engineer on the team. If you must call your project person a Project Manager for title reasons, go for it. Just know that it’s often FAR better to let them focus on the technical work.

You might even be able to use your Dispatcher to manage that administrative work. When you have a great dispatch person they should be able to handle some of this work. Especially the scheduling pieces.

Statement of Work

Your Project Practice in your MSP MUST include a Statement of Work (SOW). This SOW covers things like the scope of the project, responsibilities for both the client and MSP, and how to handle things that come up that are out of scope. This SOW allows both the MSP and the client to be on the same page for the project.

Not only do you need this SOW, it MUST also be signed off before you start performing work on the project.


Communication is key for a well executed project. Most of the issues I see Managed Service Providers face in their project practice circle around communication. Expectation mismatches are often the core issue with projects. Build a regular communication cadence between you and your clients and stick to it.

You may want to have a weekly check-in meeting. If not a meeting, you might have a weekly email status update. Whatever the method or cadence is, make sure that you’re doing it regularly, and doing it well.

Project Execution

We’re finally getting to actually doing the project work. This work is extremely important, but honestly probably not where most MSPs struggle. Throughout all of my blog posts and videos it’s pretty clear that managing the business side is where MSPs need help. Let’s presume you can technically execute the project well enough.

That said, there are a few areas that are worth mentioning as it relates to execution:

  1. Focus on fewer projects at once. Back when I was a project manager at a previous MSP it was common for us to have 7, 8, 9, or more projects open and active at once per person. This is FAR too many projects for any one resource to work on. Keep it to 1-3 projects per engineer at a time. Let the engineer focus on moving fewer projects forward at a time. Projects will get completed faster and at a higher quality.
  2. Schedule at least 4 hours at a time. Wherever possible, you should schedule at least 4 hours at a time to work on any project. When you schedule several tasks across multiple projects throughout the day you lose a lot of momentum with all of that context switching.
  3. Schedule projects from start to finish. Scheduling projects from start to finish is important to give you a sense of what the next several weeks look like. This allows your sales and account management teams to know when the next available project start date is. Know that it won’t be perfect, and you will have to do a little adjusting as you go. The more you do this, and the more structured you work your projects the better this gets over time.

When you are able to focus on these three execution areas your MSP Project Practice will be humming along and profitable. You want to be as efficient as possible with moving your projects forward.

By Adam

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