Saturday, June 16, 2007

Roadmap Update

Technology Roadmaps for Clients

Back in October I posted a note about creating Technology Roadmaps for clients. See http://smallbizthoughts.blogspot.com/2006/10/technology-roadmaps-for-clients.html

Our company -- KPEnterprises (Sacramento's Premier Microsoft Small Business Specialist) -- provides free planning meetings for our clients under contract. Basically, our goal is to help them develop a budget (most don't have one) and to develop a vision and plan for their technology.

I promised an update. After about nine months, here it is.

First, we've had excellent luck with clients who truly buy into the concept of a totally outsourced I.T. department. Which is great.

We've had less success with people who just want to save a little money but not really turn things over to us.

Anyone who has scheduled and participated in two meetings had loved this process. We start with a "business plan" for their technology department. We also talk about new technology they need to be aware of (e.g., no one's going to be using Server 2003 or SBS 2003 in three years).

As a rule, clients who invite us to talk to the highest levels of management have embrace the roadmap process the strongest. It's a waste of time to do this with middle managers who can't make any decisions.

Second, Seminars kicked butt. We held a Technology Roadmap "Summit" for our clients, even those not eligible for the quarterly freebie. Everyone filled out our forms -- 30+ pages of questions. In fact, we got so much work, I've hired three people since then.

Do this.

Third, No one wants to read the books we gave them. We didn't think they would (see original post), but the book makes a very impressive leave-behind.

As you may recall, I ordered copies of Patrick Colbeck's little book "Information Technology Roadmap for Professional Service Firms." I gave some to clients at meetings and seminars. Available at www.smbnation.com.

People who are intrigued with the concept appreciate the book, but not enough to read it. This is an instant gratification world: they just want us to do the work. Probably worth giving it to them. Good P.R., but not a focus for their attention. So far, no one has asked me a single thing about the book. But the price is right, so it's worth doing.

Fourth, we have seen a nice flow of hardware sales from Roadmap clients. Once they buy off on the concept of regular upgrades, the purchase orders start rolling in. And when something breaks, clients buy the right thing instead of just "something" to get by. They don't always buy from us, but it's still good to see old pieces of junk get replaced with new machines -- with 3 year warranties.

Newer equipment (no matter where they got it) lowers the cost of delivering managed services.

Fifth, quarterly meetings are a lost cause. Instead, I've tried to meet monthly. Meetings are constantly rescheduled, so this has become semi-monthly in most cases. This is fine, though. We do what we can. If we stuck to quarterly meetings, they might be every six months.

Sixth was quite unexpected. On more than one ocassion we found ourselves with clients who lost their in-house I.T. person and simply turned the whole operation over to us. I believe the Roadmap process convinced them that we could simply handle everything. This was based on follow-through and consistent high quality support.

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The biggest change for KPEnterprises

Two big demands resulted in us making one major change in our company. First, we developed a huge backlog of Requests for Quotes. All quotes had to be generated by me, so I personally was the bottle-neck in the process. When I realized that RFQs exceeded $100,000 it was clear that someone else needed to do this.

Second, we had (still have) a growing backlog of Roadmap meetings. No one is waiting on us, but we haven't tapped 80% of our clients. Since we now know that these meetings directly result in RFQs and sales, they are now a high priority in our company. We also have two major new clients who need attention on this.

So the big change for us is: We have hired a customer service manager. One of his primary jobs will be to learn and do this process. In fact, his highest priorities each day are:

1) Make all scheduled client phone calls.
2) Get out Quotes.
3) Have roadmap meetings with clients.

Anything else he does is far, far less important.

It makes perfect sense. Charlie will meet with the client regularly, gather feedback on our general performance, kick the service team in the butt when needed, and generally guide the relationships. His time is not expected to be billable, but he'll be managing relationships, which should make the whole operation work more smoothly.

If you aren't doing "roadmap" meetings with clients, I highly recommend that you start soon.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing!

    When we started our business we did something very similar right from the "get-go"

    As we've got bigger the time between customer meetings has gotten longer :-(

    We're taking someone on over the next couple of weeks to get back on track

    ReplyDelete

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