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Posted
June 24, 2021

The QBR Cheat Sheet: The Guide to Building a Better QBR Meeting Agenda

Denes Purnhauser

For many MSPs, QBRs are seen as a reactive process that only takes place whenever a client meeting is needed. Whether there’s a modernization project going on, something is broken or the client requested a meeting, it’s not uncommon for QBRs to be the default solution for any situation at hand. However, to increase client confidence and their perceived value from your QBRs, it’s best that they see this as a proactive process.

However, to increase client confidence and their perceived value from your QBRs, it’s best that they see this as a proactive process.

With time being of the essence, and often very little of it for a busy MSP, it’s important to take a step back and think about the end goal in mind. As you prepare for your QBR, some questions you could ask yourself include:

  • What do I want my client to get out of this meeting?
  • Do I want my client to make a decision?
  • Do I want my client to walk away having a better feeling?
  • Do we want to expand our services?

These questions will help you define your ultimate goal or objective for the meeting. Without it, your QBRs can lead to other problems — from less engagement to the wrong people attending the meeting, approval issues and more. Your QBR goal will play a pivotal role in determining what to discuss and how successful your meeting will be.

Using the Priority Matrix to Determine Your Ultimate QBR Goal

When it comes to unlocking the secret to successful QBRs, knowing what to cover is half the battle. So how can you dig deeper to determine your ultimate goal? This is where the priority matrix comes into play.

Initially made popular by the author Stephen Covey in his book called The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, the priority matrix is based on a time management principle where you can distribute all your goals across this framework to determine how you’re going to structure your meeting.

As you’ll often have either conflicting agenda items, limited time or the client isn’t prepared, the priority matrix helps you triage each agenda item so that you know precisely which items to address first. Even if you don’t get to every item in the agenda, you’ll still be in good shape as you’ll have gotten the important stuff out of the way first.

Using the priority matrix, agenda items should be placed into one of the following four categories.

1. Important - Urgent

If something is urgent and important, it will be your main priority for the meeting. To qualify as an important - urgent item, this would be an agenda item that doesn’t just need a conversation but also needs preparation to make decisions.

Also labeled as a kickoff in the priority matrix, your QBR preparation should be focused on creating proposals or anything else that’s needed to get approval for project kickoff during your meeting.

2. Important - Not Urgent

As secondary items needing discussion, this means that you have some time but you want to make sure that everyone is aware of these issues. For example, say you’ve identified the need for a modernization project but nothing is broken in your client’s environment — this is where you can begin planting the seed and grooming for a year-end modernization project.

This could also be something where you’d like to have a project to move your client to cloud or you have bigger project ideas but you need to assess whether or not your client is open to these types of initiatives.

As important, high-impact items that you’ll be coming back to later, other examples for important - non urgent items include:

  • Major infrastructure updates
  • Software updates
  • Backend and frontend modernization projects
3. Not Important - Urgent

Despite being urgent, don’t let these not important items distract you from your ultimate goal as they can easily take up a good chunk of your meeting time. Whether someone is wanting more information about a workstation issue, an ongoing project, tickets or things of a similar nature, it’s easy for people to get too far into the weeds around operational-type conversations.

While you’ll always have these technical issues, it will be much easier and a better use of your QBR time to delegate these issues to someone else. By having done your three-point assessment, you'll already have a solid foundation for what’s going on in your client’s environment and the reports to back it up, such as an open ticket list or an open project list.

Should an operational question come up, all you need to do is state who’s already working on that issue and provide them with the necessary report so you can easily control the situation and move on.

4. Not Important - Not Urgent

Lastly, your not important - not urgent items are typically support requests that you already know you’re not going to do. Whether these are requests that are out of scope for your services or you have requests that aren’t realistic given your client’s circumstances, all you need to do is address it with your client and let them know why these requests will be eliminated.

Ultimately, it’s important to have incoming and outgoing tasks because these tickets can create unnecessary clutter. Additionally, your clients may get the wrong impression that you’re unresponsive or ignoring their issues if you’re not saying “no” to certain items. By saying “no” and closing the loop, you can instill confidence in your clients that all their requests have been properly filed and decided.

Conclusion

With limited time for your QBR, you don’t want to overwhelm people by cramming in every possible agenda item. By starting with your kickoff items before moving on to secondary items, if you run out of time, it just means that you won’t have time for the unimportant stuff. Equipped with the knowledge and power the priority matrix provides, you can go into every QBR with confidence knowing you’ve got the strategy needed to deliver a meeting with the highest value possible.

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