AI and the Evolving MSP: The CrushBank Case Study
Here at The Evolving MSP, we’ve been strongly advocating for the partner community to explore new, out-of-the-box ways to survive in the post-volume sales era. For Microsoft partners, that inevitably means finding a place in Microsoft's generative AI vision, whether that's through AIOps, AI-powered development with Power Platform or something else.
To help MSPs game-plan this transition, we're going to spotlight some partners that have made the AI evolution successfully -- starting with CrushBank.
Countering with a Contract Creates CHIPS
Thirty years ago, in 1993, the IT department at Hofstra University engaged a recent graduate to help them with their internal ticketing system. He, in turn, reached out to a friend who had just graduated from the University of Michigan (go blue!).
When the university offered to hire them both to run the facility full-time, the two students, Evan Leonard and David Tan, faced a difficult decision: take the job or continue along the path they had already chosen, which was to operate their own business. Leonard and Tan proposed a different approach: that Hofstra contract with their new company, CHIPS Technology Group, to operate their IT systems for them. Hofstra agreed.
This would be the first of thousands of contracts over the next 30 years during which CHIPS established itself as a leading reseller, Microsoft partner, then managed services provider (MSP) in the IT channel. Redmond Channel Partner included CHIPS as one of the Top 350 US Microsoft Partners in March 2021. Today, their mission statement is, "To make our clients' lives better by creating a secure and modern workplace."
The True Definition of an Evolving MSP
Leonard and Tan had always driven their business to be a leader in adoption of new technologies so they could bring them to clients faster and better than their competition. At first, they focused on guiding their clients to migrate from Novell's Netware to the new world of Microsoft Windows networking and servers.
When Microsoft Lync first emerged, CHIPS built its own Lync service to offer to clients rather than depend upon early cloud-based offerings.
When Teams was introduced, CHIPS raised the bar by ingeniously integrating it into their own IT Service Management methodology, creating a new team for every service ticket they opened. This kept all information about every ticket completely under control and instantly accessible at any time.
Artificial Intelligence Intellectual Property
When IBM introduced Watson, Leonard and Tan seized the opportunity to continue their path of applying the latest emerging technologies to their own operations, creating CrushBank in 2015 -- with Leonard as CEO and Tan as CTO -- to leverage Watson's machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) services to optimize support delivery.
According to Tan, "Basically, what we do is ingest all the data across your organization into a back-end powered by Watson, IBM's AI platform, and we make it available quickly, efficiently, in real-time for your technicians when they're trying to resolve tickets. We also then leverage the same AI to optimize a bunch of other processes in your organization. Things like assigning type, subtype and item to a ticket, calculating budget hours, analyzing the concepts and entities with tickets that come in -- basically just making all that data available, unlocking it, enabling organizations to really supercharge their delivery."
Twenty-five years in the IT business informed every design decision Leonard and Tan made in developing CrushBank. "The whole idea," explained Leonard, "is that Level 1 techs don't have to spend as much time on Google to find the information they need quickly. They don't have to bother your best engineers with questions when the information is readily available to them from CrushBank."
"And that's one of the first impacts with CrushBank," he continued. "The client experiences fewer escalations and techs resolve tickets faster."
Putting CrushBank to Work in Your IT Practice
CrushBank describes its core product, CrushBank Resolve, as "the only application that uses Machine Learning and AI across multiple tools in the IT tech stack. CrushBank unlocks a firm's proprietary content and historical ticket notes to provide invaluable support information and then uses that same technology to categorize and classify client interactions for improved decision-making. Founded by industry leaders, CrushBank decreases escalations to Level 2, increasing productivity and customer satisfaction. CrushBank searches and categorizes more than 25,000 tickets every day."
In June 2021, Crushbank Resolve was integrated into ConnectWise Manage, making it available to firms using ConnectWise to run their ITSM businesses. CrushBank Resolve operates inside ConnectWise Manage to present the vetted and ranked answers from a rapid search of PSA/ ITSMs, document management systems, configuration management databases, SharePoint pages and publicly available information from Microsoft and Stack Exchange. As a result, Resolve compresses the entire user support process, improving the accuracy of IT support, boosting engineer efficiency and increasing user satisfaction.
In addition to improving IT engineers' productivity, CrushBank Resolve enables newly hired IT engineers to fast-track their value to the organization by:
- Accessing dark data, such as customer support records, which accounts for 90% of most companies' information.
- Presenting customer-specific support information proactively even before the engineer becomes intimately familiar with the client environment.
- Learning from every interaction to store experiences and improve future responses.
CrushBank Resolve also reduces the high cost of technical turnover. Whenever an IT professional leaves, the former employer pays 100% to 150% of the departing employee's annual salary to replace the outgoing talent. CrushBank's Resolve archives each IT employee's institutional knowledge in real time, minimizing the "brain drain" inherent in every departure.
Posted by Howard M. Cohen on August 30, 2023 at 1:20 PM