If you’re an MSP doing Quarterly Business Reviews / Business Strategy Reviews / Technology Business Reviews or anything along those lines, you might have noticed a chronic hurdle: it’s impossible to wrap a process around them that has traction for more than a few quarters. Thus it’s hard to make those productive, engaging, and repeatable. The result is either an ever broken process or the owner of the MSP is stuck in these meetings and prevented from focusing on more strategic work.
What quarterly business review (QBR) means in the MSP market?
As many decision makers of your clients don't play an active role in the day-to-day IT operation, they're often oblivious to the MSP's performance, hard work and value they deliver. A Quarterly Business Review meeting is the single most important opportunity for MSPs to generate executive level client engagement, demonstrate value, discuss business priorities and expand their services.
Why SOME MSP's QBRs are broken
The problem is a too tactical viewpoint of your client engagement process. Typically people in an MSP see various issues with clients that should be solved. Examples:
- clients are not adopting standards
- clients don't update their devices
- clients aren't using Office 365 to its potential
- clients do not understand the services
- clients are looking at the competition
- clients are bargaining on price
- executives are not engaged
- agreements are old needs renewals
- clients are not in the new stack and items need adoption
The list can go long, but the fact is that issues are constantly surfacing that need attention, and most need to be addressed together with the clients. They believe that the root cause of the problem is the lack of proper communication on a particular topic. The tactical approach is taken: wrap a QBR process around the issues.
Now they have found the topics for the QBR, they automate the process. They start to look for tools and practices to streamline the conversation on those essential topics with some structure:
- standards and their score of adoption report (clients are not adopting standards)
- warranty report with recommendations (clients not updating their devices)
- Office 365 adoption report (clients are not using Office 365 for it 's potential)
- Service utilization report (clients do not understand the services)
- Service Satisfaction and Ticket Reports (clients are looking for the competitors, clients are bargaining on price)zoo
- Strategy Technology Reports (executives are not engaged)
- Service Agreement Renewals (agreements are old needs renewals)
- Solution Stack Adoption Report (clients are not in the new stack, items needs adoption)
Why is this a flawed approach?
The approach is not sustainable as it does not address the real problem. The real question is not that those topics need to be discussed with a client efficiently. The root problem is that ALL of those topics must be covered with ALL clients REGULARLY in a very compressed time frame.
If an MSP misses ANY of those conversations with a client, they start to build up an account management debt with the client. More account management debt means less engagement, more risk, and lower profitability with a client.
What is Winning practice?
The more strategic approach for client engagement is solving the root problem. The MSP defines all the possible topics to cover with the various audiences of the client. The MSP sets the general priorities of introducing a process for the given communication need, and also specifies the system to be able to spread topics with clients over a yearly period in client-specific QBRs.
Step 1: Define the topics by audience:
Now the MSP defines what needs to be developed and priority.
7 example topics with executives for strategy/business engagement
- Business Strategy Analysis
- Technology Landscape Review
- SWOT Analysis
- Competitive Analysis
- Digital Transformation Strategy Planning
- IT Infrastructure Development Planning
- Business Application Planning
7 example topics for executives for strategy/technology engagement
- Technology Health Review
- Cybersecurity Health Review
- Information Management Review
- Policy and Compliance Analysis
- Technology Improvement Roadmap Planning
- Technology Initiative Planning
- Technology Budget Planning
7 example topics for Managers for Tactical/Business engagement
- Service Process Reviews
- Team Scorecard Review
- Customer Satisfaction Review
- Master Service Agreement Review
- Service Utilization Reports
- Project Reviews
- Budget Reviews
7 example topics for managers tactical/technology engagement
- Solution Stack Compliance Reviews
- Project Reviews
- Ticket Reviews
- Operation Scorecard Review
- Critical System Reviews
- DR / BC Planning
- Warranty Reports
The case might be that the MSP decides to start with the Tactical/Technology part to engage the main contact person AND start some strategic conversation with executives with a Business Strategy Review. Now both main stakeholders are going to be engaged until the remaining topics unfold in the quarters to come.
Step 2. Set Development Priorities
These 28 example topics cannot fit into a single QBR session nor be developed over a quarter. That means the next step is to set priorities and craft a mini development roadmap of the most important issues. That defines the solutions for the most critical issues kept in mind; the rest being dealt with over the next few quarters.
It also gives an opportunity to slowly build the systems around the solutions, test the processes, and help clients adopt topics quarter by quarter.
That allows the MSP owner to relax and see how the client engagement topics are going to be developed over time. Also, it gives confidence to the AM team that it won't be just a "quick fix" with "another tool."
Step 3. Plan the solution stack and automate
Now, the QBR process is not determined by any "QBR solution", but it is an open book of topics and ideas. The problem is QBR solutions offer specific QBR processes for the topics THEY see important. These topics could be "Best Practice Adoption" some for "Lifecycle Management", some for "Strategy Overview", some for "Asset Management". The adoption of those tools solves one problem only and it’s always a temporary one. It does not promote covering "all topics", does not promote a roadmap to develop further and does not even promote the MSP's special take on those critical meetings.
Instead, what is needed is an open hub for defining and discussing the topics and automation to gather inputs for the meetings and setting outputs after.
If a topic example is Solution Stack Standardization, then the input is a score of their current Stack Adoption, and the output from the meeting is a set of recommended processes. This is a standard process; many tools can leverage.
However, if you have many topics distributed throughout the year and you would like to track which topic was covered with which client you need more horsepower to automate this.
The philosophy of applying tactical solutions for a QBR with clients was a great process to start any QBR conversations with clients. However, as the operation matures, client expectations start varying. The technology service provider competition means more top MSPs need to see their QBRs as a real strategic differentiator. They need to be ahead of the curve, stay unique, and articulate their value for all client audiences.