The Strategic QBR Process: How to Achieve Shared Accountability

Published September 26, 2022

Way too often, the Quarterly Business Review (QBR) is treated as a sales activity – an opportunity to get in front of your clients and sell them new warranties and products. 

Unfortunately, also way too often, MSPs don’t have the proper action plan in place for their QBRs and end up putting in plenty of effort but end up getting low results in return. 

The desire is to change to a low effort, high return business review should be the goal of every MSP. To do that, MSPs need to change their focus around the QBR. That means thinking about it as a strategy meeting, not a sales meeting

“It’s changing the perspective in that your value isn’t in the products that you sell from a sales perspective, but it’s in your strategy,” said Luis Giraldo, CXO with ScalePad. “The sales QBR is what challenges MSPs to deliver them successfully because the client sees them coming. They become a pushback exercise. It becomes ‘every time you have a meeting with us, you’re trying to sell us more stuff’ because they are happening too regularly.”

During ScalePad’s Master Class webinar, Matthew Bookspan, CEO of Blacktip IT Services, said his company doesn’t even talk about products during their QBRs, which they have now called one-on-ones. Instead, they talk about their client’s business, industry trends, and concerns around their customer’s business that they are seeing. 

“They already got the report, so if they have any questions, they can ask,” said Bookspan. “Because we have them more often, we usually pick one thing we want to discuss strategy-wise, such as new projects they are working on, and how we can help impact that. So it’s a very different approach that doesn’t even get into dollars and cents.”


Defining roles to achieving shared accountability

For there to be a successful relationship between the MSP and the client where they can focus on strategy over sales, there needs to be established rules that lead to shared accountability. Often responsibility roles are implied and not defined on both sides. For there to be a successful QBR strategic process, both sides need to clearly define the roles they have in the relationship.

By defining the roles and starting with those definitions, MSPs and their clients have laid the foundation for progress forward. These defined roles can work as a benchmark for measuring the progress towards common goals and help align on a decision-making process. 

‍“The foundation or basis of the shared accountability framework is the client understanding clearly, and being told the expectations from them, is to have this role in the relationship,” said Giraldo.

Strategy tools in ScalePad Lifecycle Manager, including the DMI score, Insights, and Initiatives, have changed reporting from the typical measurement of activity to a report that measures outcomes. Combined with defined roles, MSPs, such as Bookspan’s Blacktip IT Services, have focused on strategic outcomes with their clients. Here is how Bookspan and other MSPs use Lifecycle Manager’s Strategy to achieve shared accountability with their clients.

Focus on the partnership

Bookspan is trying to achieve a better relationship with his clients, which is why he focuses heavily on the partnerships he creates with them. He talks personally with his clients about their lives, business, and industry trends during their monthly one-on-one meetings, focusing on strategy rather than sales.

Due to the focus on building the partnership, Bookspan can use the DMI score to measure success for both sides, not just his or his client’s business. By having defined the roles in the partnership, both sides share in the rise and fall of the DMI score.

“This score represents how we maintain the business, and from that, our goal is to keep the score at this goal or higher,” said Bookspan. “And I say ‘our goal,’ not my goal or your goal. That’s how we position it to bring back in that shared accountability.”

By having a better relationship with a client, MSPs can have open communication about what dropping scores mean to their clients and the implications for their business. For example, IT infrastructure will continue to get older, leading to more tickets, and worse user experiences. 

How to drive the strategic meeting

With strategic best practices in place, MSPs can implement strategic meetings with their clients. To improve communications with their clients and make shared accountability a prime focus, Bookspan and his company have ditched the ‘Q’ of QBRs. No longer is it a quarterly business review, but rather, a monthly business review that they have renamed one-on-ones. 

The benefits to more frequent meetings have been

  • Continuous communication between both client and MSP
  • Proactive planning and budgeting
  • A reduction in overload on the client with reports and information

Clients can be automatically sent reports about at-risk hardware before the one-on-one using Lifecycle Manager, giving them time to look into what the report says. In addition, with it being a monthly report and meeting, the client isn’t overwhelmed with information, leading to a more productive discussion with less focus on diving into a long list of line items. 

This strategy, paired with shared accountability goals, has led Bookspan to see his clients reach out proactively to buy new equipment to maintain their high DMI score. Simultaneously, regular communication with the clients builds trust, and clients make better decisions when they have a strong relationship with someone they can trust.

Your internal strategy will drive the QBR strategy and better client experience.

By implementing a strategic QBR process with defined roles and responsibilities and an agreement to share accountability, MSPs can improve the environment around them and elevate the client experience. 

Having a better strategic meeting doesn’t just happen overnight. It requires MSPs to want to have a better client relationship and offer a better experience. For some MSPs, that means focusing less on sales and more on outcomes and goals. For others, it means actually having communication with their clients beyond just emailing reports and asking for approval to buy new equipment. 

To achieve shared accountability, you need your own strategy to drive the strategic meetings with clients. That includes:

  1. Using a shared accountability framework like DMI
  2. Clearly defining the roles and responsibilities for both yourself and the client
  3. Proactively budget and plan with clients
  4. Continuously communicating with your client about goals and the impact you can have
  5. Providing multiple avenues to improve their environment

“We have heavily focused on defining how we have a better internal experience and how that, in turn, results in a better customer experience,” said Bookspan. “The two are not interchangeable and distinct, but a great employee experience results in a better customer experience.”

‍See how MSPs are using the DMI score and Lifecycle Manager Strategy as part of their strategic QBR process by trying your free edition today.