Friday, October 06, 2006

Technology Roadmaps for Clients

Our company 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.

My definition of "managed services" focuses heavily on being the outsourced I.T. department for my clients. As such, we try to help develop the budget, the policies, and the 1-, 3-, and 5-year plans for the "I.T. Department." Basically, if they have a big business plan or binder, we provide the I.T. section that slips into place.

Here are some notes from a recent client visit to show the type of things we cover:

- Client has been buying whatever (brand name) PC strikes his fancy. We want to add some consistency to this. We'll explain that a few dollars here and there will be saved by reduced costs over time.

- Client uses office licenses but wants to move to the latest versions of several programs without a huge outlay at once. We'll discuss Office licensing options but make no decision until we've reviewed other factors.

- Client thinks they want to move to Vista but doesn't know why. We'll explain the hardware hurdles and propose a plan to move to Vista gradually. We'll talk about OEM vs. upgrade license. And defer decisions . . .

- Client has Server 2003, Exchange 2003, SQL 2005. And 35 employees. With partners and reps accessing the system, they may need more license. We'll talk about growth for the next three years. Part of me wants to see them on SBS, but they already own most of the tools in current versions. We'll talk about costs on this. Try to explain that R2 will allow them to actually use SQL and Exchange on separate boxes if the choose, since they already own those servers. Again, we'll defer a decision.

- Client is very excited about SharePoint. Again, SBS looms large. But putting current system on SBS is about $6,000 plus lots of labor. SharePoint would be about $7,000 plus a little labor. Have to evaluate the desire for SharePoint vs. this cost.

- One more factor: Client uses Citrix to get to the desktop. This cost would go away with SBS.

- OK. So back to office. With Open Value, we can get desktop licenses for office SBE, Windows, and SBS cal in one big lump for about $44,000. This can be spread over three payments for a few extra thousand dollars.

- Timing is important. If we buy office or SBS today, for example, some kind of software assurance is a must. If we buy office the day after 2007 is released, I cannot in good faith sell a two year S.A. because there's no way the client will ever see the next version (sorry, Eric).

As you can see, all of these decisions are interrelated. And they all involve lots of money and labor. And timing matters.

MOST small businesses make these decisions one at a time, trying to save the most money on each purchase. The result is that they spend more money as time goes on. All of these decisions are inter-related, and they should be governed by a single "Roadmap."

Reality check: This client will not be using Server 2003, Exchange 2003, or SQL 2005 in three years. January 1, 2010 all of this will be very old technology.

And we can't push upgrades just to push upgrades. If Microsoft gave these folks everything they wanted for free, they would still have the costs of my labor plus downtime per desktop and potential downtime for servers just to install it all. So we don't push every update that comes down the road.

No matter how you slice it, this client is looking at a minimum of $200,000 for tech support over the next three years. Probably closer to $250,000. They can be disorganized and spend more, or they can coordinate it all into a grand scheme and spend less.


We meet with this client once per quarter. 1-2 hours to discuss things at the highest level. Specific issues like response times and why Jane can't change her Outlook signature are left for another meeting. This meeting is designed to build a technology Roadmap. In the next three years we'll only have 12 of these meetings, so they need to be very productive.


Here's what we're doing this Fall:

1) We're holding a Technology Roadmap "Summit" for all of our clients, even those not eligible for the quarterly freebie. We're providing coffee and muffins. We're presenting the roadmap concept as something _they_ should do. But, of course, if they want help they'll call us.

2) I ordered ten copies of Patrick Colbeck's little book "Information Technology Roadmap for Professional Service Firms." P.J. will arrange a discount if you buy five or more copies. Anyway, here's the plan:

The first five copies are for me to distribute in the next few roadmap meetings I do with clients. The other five are give-aways for my seminar.

I'm basically test-driving Patrick's theory that my clients will read the book, bring me some questions, and be softened up to the whole process. The book is very good from a techno-goober perspective and most consultants could learn a thing or two abou technology planning. I do have to say that the font is way too small for most of my decision-makers. And the flow of the discussion may be above the commitment level they want to put into the process.

But the bottom line is, I don't care if they read it. It's a great give-away and provides a wonderful intro to many concepts I never get a chance to discuss with clients. So I can rely on the book and present the material even if the client hasn't read it. Perhaps it may pique their interest and they'll read the book. No matter how you slice it, I don't have to sell much product to make this $29 investment pay off. With ten give-aways, I need to sell less than two hours labor to break even.

Haven't seen the book on Amazon yet. As far as I can tell, it's just available at

3) Follow up will be to take the best roadmap example I can find and anonymize it for use in advertising to future prospects.


Your first objection: Wow! that's a lot of work. And you give it away. You're an idiot.
Answer: Maybe I'm an idiot. I charge clients who are not under contract. This $2,000 value is now available for the low-low price of $999. But very often they sign a contract in order to get this for free. Also, remember that I'm not a sole proprietor. This is hard work and requires that you step away from the help desk. It may be very difficult to implement if you're still in the trenches. My job description is to do sales, marketing, and general B.S. -- mostly not billable.

This idea's not for everyone. If you can swing it, you should give it a try. If you've ever had a "difficult" discussion with a client because you over-spent a budget you didn't know they had, then you should definitely give this a try.

1 comment:

  1. Some good ideas there... We do something similar for clients with contracts that do a certain amount in revenue per year with us. Our plan is less of a 5-year "roadmap" than it is a 1 to 2 year planning/budgeting document, but it's certainly a good idea to start getting them thinking longer-term. One of the biggest challenges we face is getting clients thinking about more than the "today", so it sounds like you've got a good system.


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