Although client meetings are getting shorter due to the remote environment, account managers need to pack more into each session. Flooding the client with too much information in a short amount of time leads to an overwhelmed audience, a lack of decisions and countless unorganized follow up meetings. The key is to be able to define all the talking points with the client and spread them out logically over the year. This sets a predictable rhythm for the account manager and the client so they can discuss all salient points and make decisions one step at a time. In this blog we review how to best distribute the topics over the year and the critical points of developing your Annual QBR Playbook.

Your QBR Annual Playbook is your game plan to specify the different topics, decisions and engagement over the year on the different QBRs. This playbook is developed internally and shared with the client to engender alignment.

Different playbooks should be developed for different client segments. If you have only one meeting with a client for a year (as they are small and have no budget for more meetings) you cannot really have a playbook with them. However if they actually have 2 or more meetings a year then a playbook can come in quite handy. We are going to review a 4 meeting QBR formula as this can be applied to medium and larger clients as well.

 

Are you a time-crunched account manager?

The QBR Annual Playbook helps you understand how your vCIO and Account Management team can maximize their productivity.

 

1. Decide on the Main Topics

The main topics with the client can be divided into three different areas regarding your service offering.

  1. IT Infrastructure - everything about their devices, stack, services, vendors, infrastructure components and connectivity
  2. Cloud Services - everything about their applications, cloud subscriptions, storage, integrations, adoption of applications and their Office Suites
  3. Cybersecurity - everything about their policy, compliance, awareness, risks, best practices and staying productive with high security standardsThe fourth area is the strategic perspective that brings all these above into a bigger plan with goals, initiatives, budgets and updated services. This gives you the ability to plan with them over the year and get all they need organized into an IT Strategy.

You can shift these topics as you want, but those are the main points we see MSPs discussing in different shapes and forms.

 

2. Kickstart with Audits

Each quarter should start with an Audit. An audit is a great way to specify “what good looks like” and compare the current reality to that ideal. An Audit also promotes continuity with ever-increasing scores, so they can reflect on their plans while getting closer to the future state. These audits and scoring give a tangible feel for often abstract or unfamiliar topics.

By sending them random thoughts on Cloud or Applications, you can provide them a list of different categories of application types that help with different business problems. That helps them to see the big picture and understand how technology can help their business.

Audits also streamline the account manager’s efforts and gives complete transparency on which client stands on what level of maturity. These audits can be combined into one “IT Excellence” score which gathers the different topics into one number.

 

3. List the things to review

Often the amount of information you need to share with the clients can be overwhelming. Some QBRs go as planned, but many get sidetracked with rabbit-trail discussions so not all points get the desired attention. 

Listing the different items to review will give you an easier agenda for the meeting, and preparation of a follow up lets them review some items before or after the session. 

In some cases it’s really important to “remember” that you reviewed their security state and they decided not to move forward with a certain action item. If you just missed that review and something goes wrong you have nothing at hand to prove it, or let alone explain that you did not have time to cover that topic over the QBR.

This can be a simple checklist to make sure you track. It will also drive your meetings as they’ll understand you have a list to go through. This practice with a general audit of the topic can be very helpful to cut the time and get aligned and on the same page with all parties.

 

4. Keep the plans integrated

You need a good QBR system in place that provides a higher level of governance with a client. That means that if an initiative came around over a cybersecurity audit it would not become an ad-hoc project they have no budget to cover. Without a proper IT Strategy each QBR becomes a “sales effort” to get approval on projects, which will reduce engagement.

The IT Strategy part solves this issue. If you have those 3 major cost centers for them (they spend money on IT infrastructure, Cloud and Cybersecurity) then the 4th session is to plan and budget in general. That gives the eagle eye level of view of their “current scores”, “future scores” initiatives and budgets. So as this is planned a year upfront the Quarterly Business Reviews of the different topics helps to “fill the blanks” and get decisions on critical initiatives within their budget.

Often working with less mature clients raises the “we have no budget” problem, as they do not plan for expenses on cybersecurity or applications. We have no place on this blog to go into the details, but there is a quick hint to generate a placeholder budget with them over the year: use an “industry benchmark” IT budget as a placeholder for their spendings. You can pick a percentile of revenue for a ballpark and reference for low maturity (5%), medium maturity (7%) and high maturity (9%). That establishes a “reasonable” budget where their IT spending should fall. 

This helps to have those detailed discussions spread over the year and not get into the “sales” conversations every quarter.

 

Conclusion

Managing your client’s technology is not easy. It takes time and effort from both sides. You are the leader of technology so your role is to create a framework for them to review, decide on and implement development projects to make their IT work for their business. Creating an Annual QBR Roadmap gives a framework and drives those crucial conversations.

 

Are you a time-crunched account manager?

The QBR Annual Playbook helps you understand how your vCIO and Account Management team can maximize their productivity.

 

Myles Olson

Written by Myles Olson

Growing up in Thunder Bay, Ontario in the 80s was an exciting time in the advancement of personal computers. Myles 1st job was at a dial-up ISP managing racks of 28.8K MODEMs that would often overheat, melt, and sometimes catch fire. Having worked his way from the server room to the boardroom, since 1999, Myles works with IT professionals to standardize and communicate the business value of technology. Not just what an MSP does, but why they do it. This is crucial to long term client engagement in meaningful conversations. In 2001 Myles moved to Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and worked as an entrepreneur, with startups and giants in the software space; like CA & Autotask. Having been both a technologist as well as a sales & marketing professional, Myles has an eclectic perspective of the role of technology in business. Unafraid to say it as he sees it, Myles brings a passion for sales, and business success to every conversation. Unafraid to say it as he sees it, Myles brings a passion for sales, and business success to every conversation.