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4 Reasons Why vCIO’s are vital during the COVID-19 Crisis

4 Reasons Why vCIO’s are vital during the COVID-19 Crisis

The pandemic has changed our lives exponentially in a very short period.  Companies are faced with the realities of extended closures, or at a minimum a reduced workload and revenues. Individuals are concerned with the potential to be laid off in addition to the concerns about the health of family and friends. 

It is a very stressful time for all and certainly it can only be termed as “business as unusual”.

IT workers have been classified as essential workers during this pandemic and that comes as no surprise to the tech community. We are a team of behind the scenes performers ensuring that all critical systems are available and operational no matter what we may be facing as a community.

IT pros have always gone above and beyond for their clients. I remember during Hurricane Sandy being in my data center helping clients relocate servers before the storm. I stayed with our clients until everyone was fully operational, only then driving home on closed highways trying to stay in front of the storm.

My story is far from unique as many tech professionals have slept within data centers, pulled all-nighters, and done everything they can to serve their clients. For our customers, it forced the discussion to rethink about cloud computing and started the process of mainstreaming cloud infrastructure.

Now, as we are amid a global crisis it is the perfect time for our Virtual Chief Information Officers, or vCIO’s, to show why they will be a key part of each companies operational and recovery plans in the coming months.

 

Identify the Gaps

 

Many companies quickly discovered they were not prepared for this crisis. It is much different than a traditional disaster. Think about it, it is really a situation where the systems are performing, it’s the people that are gone.  Many were caught totally unprepared.

Virtual CIO’s can work with their customers and build a “lessons Learned” list. This list can be incorporated into your bigger strategic action plan with the client.

Recommendations and budget can be redefined to support the needs of a remote workforce that may not have been addressed in the current crisis.

 

Cyber Education

 

Cyber ThreatThe biggest challenge of sending your workforce home is that they are now out in the wild. If this crisis has shown us anything at this stage, no matter what is going on in the world the hackers and dark web never sleep. New ways to attack a mobile workforce and create security breaches are being devised every day.

As a vCIO you can educate your clients and help them understand what to look for and what best practices they can follow to reduce data exposure.

·        Even though you may be in your PJ’s, you are still at work. You can help employers educate their staff that the same acceptable use rules found at work apply at home. Especially on business issued machines.

·        Using Zoom? Don’t publish the link publicly on Social Media as Zoombombers, like photobombers, are joining corporate meetings as unwanted guests.

·        Stay on secured connections while using company assets. Remote need to be vigilant in connecting only via secure networks and leverage VPN’s when possible. Keyword loggers and password sniffers can help hackers get into your accounts.

·        Stay safe on social. In a time of crisis and panic some may overshare. Be careful not to discuss company issues on social media.

·        When working remotely the lines between work and home can become blurred. Remember company email for work, personal email for home. Do not mix sensitive data and personal data.

As new threats enter the market, our vCIO can help spread the work with our clients and reduce the risk of a breach occurring allowing data exposure.

 

When we have to say goodbye

 

Unfortunately, one reality of this crisis is going to be the reduction in workforce for many companies. Some have well defined exit plans, while others do not. One of the big challenges found in the ‘new normal” is many of these layoffs will occur outside the office walls increasing the likelihood of a security incident.

vCIO’s can help their clients review their exit plans and determine where the existing process will not meet today’s reality. With the COVID-19 crisis some new challenges are introduced.

·        Can we truly shut the door?: When we lay off a remote employee we are able to discontinue their email and cutoff access to the critical systems.

But what about synced data? Can that data be removed to a removable drive? Sent via personal email? Unlike the office where we immediately get their assets, we have more risk with the remote workforce.

·        Retrieving assets from remote workforce: How do we get these assets in a time of social distancing? Require the assets to be shipped back? Send staff to retrieve? Most solutions come with risk, either in asset or data loss or risking exposure.

Additionally, is there corporate data on those assets? The longer the asset is in the field with a laid off employee the bigger the risk.

·        Unhappy Campers: Any employee lay off comes with unhappiness for the employee, but there are some real fears associated with being laid off during the COVID-19 crisis. Finding a new job will not be easy, if not impossible until this issue passes. Insurance concerns are larger as contracting the virus is not fantasy, but reality.

These are new issues that can increase the likelihood of disgruntled former employees who may share trade secrets, intellectual property, or even company files as the anger and fear grows.

VCIO’s can help heir clients devise a strong remote worker exit strategy to reduce the risks associated with remote layoffs.

 

Building a new strategy

 

One thing is for sure is that when the nation Strategyreturns to “normal” it will not be the normal we faced prior to this crisis.  The strategic plan you and your customer were working towards needs to be thrown away. The business goals we were chasing in January have undoubtedly changed…dramatically.

We need to help our clients redefine that strategy.  We must incorporate into our strategic plan the lessons learned during the crisis.  Building a new plan based on adjusted expectations will be critical.

Our technology roadmaps will need to be rebuilt to include the needs of a remote workforce. We will have identified risks that will require broadening the security portfolio.  We will have to learn how to do more with less as companies fill the positions lost to layoffs.

 

Ready to step up?

 

The best part is we don’t need to wait until this crisis is over. Start engaging your clients now. They have already experienced many of the concerns outlined above and need our skills.  This is an opportunity to create real value for your clients and show true partnership as we battle as a global community.

Are you ready for the challenge vCIO’s?

How MSP’s can Create Amazing Customer Experiences

How MSP’s can Create Amazing Customer Experiences

The Customer Experience Starts with the Sales Process

How can Managed Service Providers create amazing customer experiences? The customer journey starts with the sales call which serves as the audition for your company. It is also the first exposure to your company, your culture, and it mission. A great sales experience can swing a deal even when all proposals are not equal.

Most MSP’s have service delivery down cold. Their service desk manned by superstars.  They have a very structured support processes and they are proactive in their approach. Most use tickets to keep clients up to date on status and in the know. Most even crush their Service Level Agreements (SLA’s) exceeding their customer expectations.

A rock star service company delivering incredible customer support. Sounds like a pretty good customer experience, doesn’t it?

So why can MSP relationships go sour?

Things can go badly if they are not concerned with the overall customer satisfaction. This is usually the things outside of technical support. For many Managed Service Providers, the account management stops with the sale event.

At this point most accounts are turned over to the support team. While these folks are competent and care, they are often viewed as a commodity by your client. They are keeping things up and running, technical support at its finest, but that alone cannot drive long-term customer loyalty.

Important, Yes! Strategic, hardly.

So how can you flip the switch and improve the customer experience? In most cases the customers perception starts with the salesperson and that first meeting. It can make or break the customers perception of your entire business.

Amazing customer experiences start with the sales process…

The experience starts the moment your walk in the door. Dress appropriately and speak confidently. The salesperson is representing the whole company. Once the meeting begins keep it customer centric. Of course you need to introduce your company, its history, products and services, and key wins. Once you finish, it needs to be all about the customer.

  • Have a plan and do your homework and be in control, your prospect will appreciate the respect.
  • Two ears one mouth, make sure you listen, customers want to be heard.
  • Hit your commitments, promise a proposal by Tuesday…it better be there.
  • Don’t try to shortcut the process, the customer is evaluating you. 
  • Good things sometimes take time. Then ask for the sale, some customers need a push.

 After the sale…

  • Communicate with your clients during on-boarding.
  • Bad news doesn’t get better with age. Don’t delay letting you client know if they are in the midst of a bad experience.
  • If there is a problem, go see them live. In bad times a client wants to know you care.
  • Interact with your customers regularly. Listen and learn what their key initiatives are and then find solutions to support them Hold regular business reviews.
  • Give them a call just to say hi. Regular contact is key to any customer experience strategy, A brief check in with some small talk helps build rapport.

Great client experiences in IT are a blend of great service and account management. Most MSP’s can check the first box, but sometimes box number two slips.

Done right you have a raving fan, done wrong you are gone.

How does your MSP create amazing experiences? Share with us in the comments below.

 

Is There Money in vCIO? Yes!

Is There Money in vCIO? Yes!

How to Monetize your Virtual CIO Practice

 

For most MSP’s and IT Service Providers their Virtual CIO practice is the delivery of Quarterly Business Reviews (QBR’s) to clients.  It is just viewed as a component of their standard Managed Service contracts.

Not many MSP’s look at the monetization opportunities that can be generated by the program. In, fact many Managed Service Provider’s (MSP’s) view them as a cost of doing business and focus on the cost of preparation vs. the return on investment (ROI) of the program.

The problem with not defining your vCIO Program

 

Recently, I had a demo with a vCIOToolbox prospect, and I asked him why he is interested in our platform. His reply was one I have heard a few times before.

He explained that his company recently lost a contract to another MSP.  That company offered a vCIO program, even more amazing what that they were charging for that service.  He was shocked when he heard this.

He told the prospect “We also act as your vCIO, QBR’s and technology roadmaps are part of the agreement without any additional cost”. The prospect then told him that may be the case, but it was never positioned that way during the sales process.

His prospect then stated that the other vendor led with the Virtual CIO service as the key component of the overall contract.  Projects and associated services are driven by the strategy that was developed in those sessions.  He said, “It felt like a true partnership, rather than a service”.

First, let’s define how we can generate revenue with a vCIO Program

 

Generally when I talk to customers about QBR’s and revenue, I get hit with “ I can’t charge for a QBR”.  To that I say, you might be right.

Surprised?

Don’t be.  There are a couple of ways to generate revenue through vCIO/QBR programs. But you do need to know when to position each.

  1. Fee based program: Here you are charging the client for the program. It will be a line item in your contract or can be a standalone Statement of Work (SOW) and will be well defined.  It would include a higher rate of meeting frequency and ad-hoc calls and services.
  2. Revenue Influence: Do not discount the amount of revenue that can be influenced during a quarterly business review. While the monetization is indirect, QBR’s will uncover new opportunity and reduce acquisition costs.  This is done through the development of a multi-year technology roadmap, gaining customer buy-in, and shortening or eliminating sales cycles.

Each approach adds to your bottom line and should cover the cost of delivering the service across your client portfolio.  Additionally, the regular contact with the client will help you build trust and loyalty, ultimately driving a higher lifetime value (LTV) for each client.

So, when do I use each approach?

 

The first is obvious, charge directly for that service.  I do caution, you better have a good handle on your prospect or customer’s business goals and challenges before putting a proposal in front of them.

Determining which is the right fit will be determined on a client by client basis.  In discussions with the client during the sales or migration process to MSP service you should get a sense of what is driving the company.

Are they in growth mode or reducing staff?

Is their business dependent on technology to drive the business?

Are they collaborative as a company openly sharing with you?

What is the overall value of their existing services to you?

These are a few questions that you need to identify before determining which path to take.

Fee-Based

Let’s start first with when it may be a good idea to lead with a formal program as part of the service contract for an additional fee.

You have got a customer who depends heavily on technology to operate.  Think about your customers that cannot afford any downtime of their critical systems.

An outage is an immediate impact to their business. They have expressed a desire to better automate processes within their business. They are open to collaborating with your team and see value in joint development of a 2 to 3-year technology roadmap.

They are likely a good candidate to introduce a Fee based program.

A fee-based program will require the definition of formal teams, roles, and expectations. These programs will have a formal schedule and are generally quarterly meetings, but some clients may need a monthly meeting schedule to meet their internal goals.

Revenue Influence

 

This may be the more standard approach for those in the small to mid-sized business market.  QBR’s will be structured as Technology Business Reviews that may happen on a semi-annual or annual basis.

Considerations that will drive who falls in this category will be based on your assessment of the prospect or client. If the business is static (think accountants, lawyers, physician offices, etc.) where their may not be a huge opportunity for revenue growth and innovation is limited.  These may be the correct candidates for a less frequent schedule and including the service as part of your contract.

But there is still a huge opportunity to influence revenue in these meetings.

You will still want to generate a technology roadmap so a customer knows in advance when a project is upcoming and how much it will cost…and most importantly what problems the new service will help solve for the company.

A well structured QBR will help customers understand the business to technology alignment of your solutions.  The reduced sales costs and implementation of the technology roadmap should drive revenue back to your company that more than covers to the cost of the QBR process.

It will also create loyal clients that will drive referral business.

The moral of the story

 

Monetization is a key within your QBR’s whether they are done for a direct fee or as part of your contract.  If done well payback can exceed 10X of the cost of delivery.

It will also create stronger relationships with your customer resulting in a higher lifetime value for each, and less risk of losing the relationship unexpectedly.

Just be sure to define it in your MSP agreement😊

Everyone Says You Should Do QBR meetings, but Why?

Everyone Says You Should Do QBR meetings, but Why?

Everyone says you should do QBR meetings, but why?

One of the benefits of working with the Managed Service Provider community is that I get to speak to a lot of MSP’s. In those meetings I always ask this question “What is your goal for your QBR (or vCIO)?”.

I get many different answers, and many MSP’s are very clear in their Quarterly Business Review/QBR vision and what results that they want to achieve by having a strategic meeting process. Unfortunately, I also often hear things like “because we know that you have to do it” or “our competition is”.

Not necessarily strong endorsements for the time investment that is tied to the QBR meeting process.

I will start with the fact I am a big believer in the power of QBR’s. That is probably obvious given that we are building a business around that belief,. But the process has always been a revenue driver and good customer experience when I was a MSP. It dropped money directly to my companies bottom line and created true customer loyalty

In the Information Technology industy competition is fierce. New MSP’s pop up everyday. Pricing has become commodity driven and customers always question your overall value to their company.

This is not surprising as the better a MSP does at their job through automation and remote support and the less they are seen on-site can lead a customer to “wonder what we are paying for, nothing breaks anymore”.  The curse of the successful MSP lives and breathes.

To minimize the risk of a client acting on that belief and improve customer retention, we need to create more direct customer interaction. We have to do it for our long term well-being, but also to improve the customer experience for your client as well. That is where a well executed QBR meeting can be gold.

Why Many QBR Meetings Fail

1. No Plan- Too many MSP’s go into the meeting with no plan what they want to accomplish and what outcomes they want to drive with their client.  To hold a successful meeting you need to be in control of the discussion, but too often conversation steers to the “problem of the day” or a rehash of issues from the past.

Other meetings will stray into the more tactical conversations with reviews of reports from PSA and RMM systems. You have to set goals for the meeting and create a win/win approach so both your customer and your MSP can benefit from the meeting. You need a strong customer experience strategy.

2. Focusing on your accomplishments: Yes, in the QBR you may want to highlight ticket counts and projects completed, but too many QBR’s are boast sessions.

MSP’s spend too much time talking about the service they provided over the last quarter to justify their contract. It is often forgotten that this is an opportunity to learn what new initiatives or challenges the customer faces.

Focus less on you and more on them, like the old saying goes two ears, one mouth, use them in that order.

3.. Confusing or inconsistent documentation: I speak from experience on this item. When I started doing QBR’s (then called strategic meetings) 15 years ago, I would be the first to say that my meeting presentations and reports changed from meeting to meeting, client to client. I used PowerPoint, spreadsheets, RMM and PSA reports to produce great “thud factor”, but very little to help the customer see clearly the issues we need to focus on remedying.

The challenge is that without a regular format supported by consistent reporting the customer didn’t know what to expect in the meeting and key stakeholders will often stop attending.

4. Getting the right people in the room: This leads us to this point, often when an MSP holds a QBR it is only between their primary contact and themselves. This causes decisions to often be made in a vacuum or stall without support from influencers and stakeholders throughout the organization. 

Additionally, often the primary contact is just an influencer in the decision making process. It is their job to vet the recommendations we make but others control the purse strings. We need to get these people to the QBR meetings, but if you cannot provide each attendee with a nugget of value that they can directly latch on to, their attendance will be one and done….and so may be you and your MSP at contract expiration.

5. Being too technical: So you have the right people in the room, another easy way to empty it is to get too technical. Since the majority of SMB’s serve the small to mid-sized business community many of the attendees may not be tech savvy. 

QBR’s (ahem, Quarterly Business Reviews) can die by the acronym. Speak in letters vs. words can make the MSP seem unrelateable or even arrogant as their audience may not know the meaning for each.

Additionally, talking about tech concepts without providing the room with the “why” it is important to them and the problem its going to solve can also be an issue.

Change the QBR Meeting Dynamic

It isn’t difficult to overcome these issues when holding QBR meetings. You need to just put in some effort to stay in control of the meeting. This starts with setting the tone and communicating the format of the meeting will be more strategic. Keep it simple and focus items supporting business strategies and solutions that are customer centric.

Work with your primary contact to spread the word that everyday problems need to be left at the door, and if needed a separate meeting to address those issues should be set with the client. Just keep them out of the QBR.

Second, outline what the meeting goals you want. They should be focused on strengthening the Business/Technology alignment for the client. Drill deep on the Business Goals and Challenges they have for their business, not just IT goals.

Examples could be “we are trying to triple our revenue over the next 3 years”, ” we want to hire the best talent, no matter where they live”, “We need to cut staff and figure out how we can automate some of the tasks that will be left behind when those resources have to leave’.

Each of the examples can drive a technology solutions, but now you are presenting those products and services as problem solvers vs. a feature/benefit/cost sale. This elevates your status with your client. The customer feels you truly are becoming a trusted advisor. This is how you create a win/win scenario

Standardize QBR Meeting Materials

Create a standard set of meeting materials to set customer expectations from meeting to meeting.  These materials should have something for everyone in attendance. Technology Roadmaps for the CIO and Tech team, Financial Roadmap for the CFO, Summaries so the non-technical understand the problem that will be solved by each solution so they can weigh in on each recommendation and provide their opinion.

You can certainly do this yourself, but you can also standardize the process using QBR software platforms like vCIOPro to generate these materials. (Sorry for the shameless plug).  We document our process that can be done with or without our software in the PowerQBR Formula Blueprint After each meeting ask for customer feedback on how you can improve the meeting to meet the individual needs of all in attendance.

So with a little planning, a consistent meeting agenda, and staying away from the 5 QBR killers you can create amazing QBR expedience making your MSP the vendor partner your client can’t live without.