Sunday, March 30, 2008

Managed Services In A Month Revisited

September seems so long ago. Way back then, I posted a seried called "Managed Services In A Month." It was very popular. It still is.

But blogs are difficult to read because they're in reverse chronological order.

So I reposted the whole series over at That has also been very popular. In fact, we have the main page, SMB Conference Call page, and then Managed Services In A Month.

But I also get emails. You've requested this in book form so you can have it in a nice handy format.

You've also reqeusted it on CD so you can listen in your car.

And you've requested it in MP3 format so you can listen to it the rest of the time.

I've logged about 700 requests for this information. So, as a man of the people (the people with $20 to spend), I'm going to give you what you want.

The following are expected to ship May 1, 2008 at $20 each.
  • Managed Services In A Month - Book
  • Managed Services In A Month - Audio CD
  • Managed Services In A Month - MP3

You may pre-order them beginning today at $15. This is limited to the first 100 purchases for each product.

Two notes:

First, I'm not getting rich here. At $15 each, consider it a gift. You could buy me two beers at the next conference, or one of these. A very well respected member of our community thinks this should be priced at $49. But . . .

Second, this material is still available for download (for free) on the internet. That's not going away. But it IS more than 100 pages of material. So it might be inconvenient to read online.

Get it for free on the internet.

Or buy the book for $15.

Or buy the 3 CD set for $15.

Or buy the 140 minute MP3 for $15.

If you've gotten any value from the Managed Services In A Month series, consider buying the book, CD, or MP3.

And thank you for your support.

Check it all out at

SMB Summit Conference Call with Stuart Crawford and More

Mark your calendars for Friday, April 4th at 9 AM Pacific / 12N Eastern / 17:00 GMT.

I will be joining Stuart, Arlin Sorensen, and Brad Schow of Compudyne to discuss the specifics of the SMBTN Summit.

With luck, Erick Simpson and Matt Makowicz will also join us!

(This could be a very expensive phone call!)

The basic topic is: SMB Summit: Why do you need to be there?

For more info, including the call-in number, see

Stuart R. Crawford is the of Do You Have IT? and other books. He runs IT Matters Inc. in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

I think right now Calgary has snow up to the rooftops, so Stuart is stuck in his cabin and desparately needs human contact.

Help him by joining us on Friday at 9:00 AM Pacific.

Email comments or questions to [email protected].

See you then!

SMB Conference Call Notes

If you've missed them, please check out the past SMB Conference Calls at

There you'll find interviews with

- Vlad Mazek: Own Web Now, Exchange Defender, etc.

- Naseem Saab: CRM for small businesses (making money on CRM that works)

- Jeff Middleton: SBS Migration, future of SBS

- Zenith Infotech: Getting the most out of Zenith

- Mike Iem and Arlin Sorensen: SMBTN confernce

- Harry Brelsford: SMB Nation, Response Point

- Matt Makowicz: Sales, sales, sales

- Erick Simpson: Managed Services and more

and the future calls we have coming up:

Amy Luby (April 2): MSPSN, Managed Services

Tcat Houser (April 16): Exam Certification Success

Dana Epp (May 7): Scorpion Software and Strong Security at an affordable price


Anyway, if you haven't checked it out yet, please visit the page and tune in to our next SMB Conference Call.

Thank you.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

SMB Conference Call - Vlad Mazek

Just a quick note:

Don't miss today's SMB Conference Call with Vlad Mazek of Own Web Now.

9AM Pacific / 12Noon Easter / 1700 GMT

Details for the phone call are over at

Vlad is the founder and funder of the extremely popular SBS Show. He is also:

A user group leader
A Microsoft MVP
A very popular blogger
A Videocaster
Developer of Exchange Defender
Developer of Shockey Monkey
and more!

This call is limited to the first 300 folks who dial in. Sorry, I can only give away so much for free.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Important SBSC News - 8AM Today

I can't say what the topic is or they'll take away my left eye . . . but all SBSCs, and those interested in the SBSC program, should check out Eric Ligman's SMB Blog at 8:00 AM Pacific time today.

That's about 30 minutes from this posting.

Go to

The SBSC Advisor Group heard about this yesterday. Got an email from Eric at 2:23 AM this morning that he's making the announcement at 8:00 am.

If he doesn't sleep in!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Tomorrow's Last Day For Discount

Matt Makowicz and I are putting on a great seminar as a pre-day for SMB Summit.

Sell and Execute Perfect, Profitable Projects

April 17th
1:00 PM - 5:00 PM
Omni Mandalay Hotel at Las Colinas
(Dallas, TX)

Get the details here:

But here's what's important right now:

Tomorrow -- March 15th -- is the last day to register for our seminar and receive $100 off your registration to SMB Summit.

Don't get me wrong: This seminar is well worth the price of admission. After all, you only need to save or sell one hour of time to pay for it!

But if you can also save $100 on SMB Summit, then that's even better.

So don't put it off any longer. The deal ends at midnight Friday. When Saturday rolls around it will be too late.

Act Now to secure your seat(s) at this seminar!

Register Now!

And pass this information along to a colleague who can use it!

See you there.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

SMB Conference Call with Jeff Middleton Posted

Just a quit note.
(Yes I can do that, too.)

The SMB Conference Call with Jeff Middleton has been posted. This call was recorded last Wednesday.

The details and download are here:

If you want to learn how SBS 2008 fits into the new Windows Essential Business Server "Family," this is the call for you.

Jeff explains the evolution from one server to two in SBS 2008 and from three to four in EBS.

Also, lots of good info on the SBS Migration / I.T. Pro conference in New Orleans.


Next Up: Naseem Saab from Results Software. Info on same page.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Special Webinar on Project Management

Tuesday 3/11/2008 - 3:30 PM Pacific / 6:30 PM Easter

Marco Verweg asked me to do a webinar for his SBS User Group in the Twin Cities. It took some coordinating, but we finally settled on tomorrow. We're making it available to voyeurs, if you're interested.

Q&A will be limited to the members of the Minnesota group, but you can peek in on the whole event.

Space is limited.

\Reserve your Webinar seat now at:

Free, although donations in crisp $20 bills are always welcome.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Final Thoughts on "Everything Channel"

I have to thank Bob Nitro for introducing me to XChange. I'd heard of it, of course, but didn't know what it was.

In a nutshell, "Everything Channel" (formerly CMP Media)'s XChange conference is an event that's about the Channel.

SMB Nation, SMB Summit, SBS Migration, ASCII, ICCA, etc. are all about the business and technology of being an I.T. Consultant.

They all have technology. They are all places to learn about new products. They all help us do our jobs better.

XChange is a different animal. It is all channel all the time.

Vendors pay for the whole fiesta of fun. And they expect attendees to attend every single event on their schedules. Each attendee is placed in a group and goes through the conference with that group.

The literature always includes a discussion of "How you can partner with us?" or "How to make money selling our stuff." One of the session evaluation questions is about how well the presenter articulated the value of their channel program.

The extended event (Wednesday to Saturday) is a real opportunity to give feedback to vendors.

At most events, companies send traveling marketing people. But XChange is filled with high-level Channel executives. These are the VPs in charge of partner relationships. General managers clog the hallways.

And they do more than give speeches. They ask for feedback. They want to know how they can do better.

And the awards are focused on the strength of the companies' channel programs.


Two other aspects separate XChange.

1) Ingram Micro and Synnex join D&H on the vendor floor. As an SMB consultant, I'm happy to see the D&H folks at lots and lots of conferences. They are great supporters of the SMB space and work very hard to be seen as the vendor of choice for SMB.

But it is great to see Ingram and Synnex here. They say they are interested in SMB. But the truth is, they're here because XChange has resellers of all sizes. And these two companies are here because the larger resellers are here. I would encourage them to do more than print up flyers that say "We love SMB." I encourage them to show up at a lot more of the conferences.

2) XChange is also unique in that it has a wide variety of resellers. There are one-man shops, companies like mine with eight employees, and major national corporations with many outlets. You see this variety at single-vendor partner conferences (e.g., SonicWall partner conference or Microsoft partner conference), but this is the only multi-vendor conference that puts the focus on the channel relationship.

You always hear that the hallway conversations are the best thing about a conference. That's true here, in part because I can talk to people who have a significantly different focus, or who are several stages above where my company is.

I shared a table with Ira Gray from Detroit during my executive sessions. Ira was asking Dell about why he didn't get a price break above 250 units for certain computers.

I've never had a sale of 250 units of anything that costs more than $10 each. Clearly, Ira has different concerns with vendors than I do. So I enjoyed spending four days chatting with him about business.

Overall, I get the impression that a large percentage of the resellers here see SMB very much as the vendors see it: It's another segment they can sell into.


If there's a DNA in business thought patterns, the SMB segment is probably the most diverse. The closer you get to the enterprise level, the more in-breeding there is. After all, there are fewer of them and they spend most of their time talking to each other.

At the same time, I'm happy to have the opportunity to see how the larger VARs operate. My company can use some of that DNA.

Overall, XChange has been a spectacular conference. Well run. Extremely well organized. Refreshing focus. Refreshing honesty from vendors. Great attendees.

And I'm going home with a suitcase full of squeezy toys.

What more can you ask for?

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Dell VP Falls on Sword

Day Three at "Everything Channel" -- the conference formerly known as XChange 2008 in L.A.

Still no coffee until 6 a.m. . . .

Energy fading . . .

This may be my last communication. Light fading . . .


Hey, guess what? Remember yesterday? Remember that Dell was Loser of the day?

Well, here's the award for . . .

Falling on Our Sword
Bravest Person at Show
Toughest Job in America Today

The awards all go to . . . Gregory Davis, VP and General Manager of Dell.

People brought rotten fruit to this presentation.

The basic message was: "OK. We've sucked in the past. We promise not to suck in the future. Help us make that transition together. We're really committed to the Channel. Those two earlier attempts? Let's forget that and start over."

I felt sorry for the guy.

"If we don't deliver and don't fulfill our promises, we want to hear about it."

And then he gave his email address: [email protected].

Dell promises that they'll focus on
- Margins for partners
- Protecting partners from direct Dell sales
- Rebates that are impossible to collect
- Financing opportunities
- Reducing costs
- Reducing energy consumption as a sales strategy


You gotta respect someone who's willing to stand up in front of a hostile crowd and say "We were wrong." I know in my personal life that it's hard to say I was wrong. I'm really only good at doing that with my wife because
1) That's where it's needed the most
2) I like being married more than I like pretending I'm right.


Mr. Davis made a great presentation and then proceded to open the floor to a lot of difficult questions.

For example . . .

Question: You say that you won't compete with us, but you mail flyers to my clients promising to to do direct support on all of their desktpops. [What the hell?]

Answer: Yes, we are selling managed services direct to your clients. It's all just part of the big mix of products we offer.

Follow-up question: So why should I trust you?

Answer: It's part of our overall plan.

After many years in business, I've learned to never say never. So let me say that I do not foresee snuggling up to Dell during this lifetime.


Having said that, you absolutely have to give snaps to a guy who is willing to stand up there and take this kind of abuse.

Having seen the Dell G.M. kissing ass in public, and having been at the Dell boardroom meeting yesterday, where the lower-level drones played the party line and sang the party song, I feel even more sorry for Mr. Davis.

I believe that, at the top, Dell is willing to give a real partner program a try. But it's a tough sell when the marketing people don't even acknowledge that there ever was a problem.

VARs are like elephants: we have long memories.

It's fine to fall on your sword and honestly try to start over. But we've all heard the old saying: "Screw me once, shame on you; screw me twice, shame on me."

No reseller will go into the new Dell partner program with a belief that it's all sweetness and light.

Will Dell succeed in this attempt at building a partner program? I don't think so. Why?

Because, they have notched out three basic territories. First, there's the extremely small purchase (one or two machines at a time). No one cares. Not even vendors.

Second, there's the $1,000 - $50,000 market. The WHAT? That's right, the market below $49,999.99. That's called the land of free for all. No protection. You're going to compete directly with Dell. That's just the way it is. So shut up.

Third, there's the $50,000 and above. Here you get deal registration. And no competition from Dell.

If you're in the SMB space, that means you will never be protected from Dell. Unless you start making $50,000 deals. In which case, you're not in the SMB space any more.

Bottom line: I applaud Mr. Davis and Dell for trying. Really.

But they don't remotely understand where their market is, or where their partners need to be.

Attempt #3 at a partner program will be simply die a slow death.

I won't go so far as to say (as some have) that the presentation should have been followed by the music to "Jive Talkin" by the Bee Gees.


The day's Best Presentation award goes to Belkin.

They put on an "academy awards" presentation with a Marilyn Monroe look-alike (who was quite excellent). They had foot-tall plastic statues to give to award winners as they introduced a huge amount of information in a short period of time. The presentation was very well prepared and very fun.

The theme continued into the evening as their reception had a live DJ and a photo op corner where attendees could get their picture taken with Marilyn (or each other).

It was a day of contrasts. It started with a national corporation struggling with the difficult relationship (they created) with the channel.

It concluded with a fun party by a vendor who has a great reputation (which they created). As a result of their easy, relaxed relationship with the channel, Belkin literally came to the show to party with their partners. No one had to talk business with Belkin at the party because Belkin takes care of business every day.

As the Bible says: You reap what you sow.

Friday, March 07, 2008

VARs Care More Than Vendors

Day Two at "Everything Channel" -- the conference formerly known as XChange 2008 in L.A.

The hotel: OMG. Nice rooms. No coffee in the room. OK. I can live with that. But no room service until 6:00 AM ???????

I like to get up and get some reading, some writing, some relaxation, and maybe a bit of work done -- before 6:00 AM.

Mumble, grumble.


So yesterday I mentioned that Technicians are from Mars and Vendors are from Venus. We don't talk the same language. We don't walk in the same circles. We have different "corporate cultures."

So the highlight of yesterday, for me, was the keynote by Robert Faletra, president of Everything Channel.

Robert is in an interesting position. He's putting on an even paid for by vendors and focused on VARs. In a way, he's a bit of a consultant to the channel industry.

His presentation was enjoyable because he was able to hold a mirror up to the community -- both vendors and VARs. A few key points:

1) Yesterday, everyone (vendors and vars) was asked to present what we love and what we hate about the vendor/var relationship. 100 out of 250 VARs responded. And truth be told, most of us did this at tables, so participation was almost 100%.

Three vendors out of 100 responded.

[Insert excuse] [Insert excuse] [Insert excuse]

I don't care what the excuses are. The message is pretty clear. Vendors "need" VARs, and will acknowledge that they need VARs. But they don't feel that they have anything at stake. We - the VARs - participate because we feel that we have something at stake.

Now I can't blame them.

A software vendor doesn't need to pay much attention to CDW, as long as they can sell the goods. So all these little VARs are just so many flies in the air.

Let me be clear: Vendors DO care. They just don't know how to express it. When they stand up on stage and talk about their commitment to the channel, they all sound alike. If they've made stupid mistakes, they push the reset button and want us all to forget the past and just focus on the future. What else can they do?

Robert focused on three major complaints from the VARs:
  1. VARs want deal registration so we're not undercut by larger resellers or inside sales
  2. VARs want support in English
  3. VARs want lots of free training

No surprise, everyone who has a new deal registration program is mentioning it at every opportunity.

Gosh, tech support in English? That's really 40% language, 40% competence (or perceived competence), and 20% wanting jobs in the U.S.

We've probably hit the bottom and bounced a bit on this issue. Language training is going up, competence is going up, and some jobs are coming back to North America.

Training got the most feedback from the crowd. Faletra's commentary was that we should all suck it up and pay for our own training. After being beat up by the crowd he backed down and admitted that

1) Vendors shouldn't use training as a profit center.

2) When a VAR pays for someone to take off a day or two, travel all day, stay in a hotel, AND pay out the nose for the training, that's too much.

3) If a vendor wants us to learn their new solution stack, learn their key new product, and learn how to sell it all, some kind of compromise makes sense.


Loser of the day: Dell

In my focus group (mid market), Dell simply sent the wrong people. They wanted to wave their hands and make us all forget the past. THIS version of the reseller program is serious. It's here to stay. And you should just shut up and get on board.

Smallest deal for deal registration: $50,000. That should be enough to get your feet wet. Oh, and annual sales need to be $200,000 if you want to participate as anything other than a "registered" partner.

I had to agree with the VAR next to me. She thought they were arrogant. HP kicks Dell's ass and they only require $100,000 for their serious partner program.


Absent without leave: Microsoft.

Microsoft isn't listed in the program material. Not in the program. Not on the vendor floor. No demo room.

But yesterday, their logo magically appeared on the screen. I suspect it's related to winning a handful of Channel Champion awards. It would suck to be a big winner and not have your name on the screen.


Everything Channel continues to kick butt.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

XChange is Everything Channel

Day One at XChange 2008 in L.A.

The day started with an airplane ride, of course. Hopped in a cab to scoot over to the hotel.

Traffic Traffic Traffic.

Result: The SMB Conference Call started in a taxi and finished in a hotel lobby. Ya gotta do what ya gotta do.

Thanks to Jeff Middleton for a great interview! When this audio is posted to, please tune in and get a hint about the strategies for SBS 2008 and the server formerly known as Centro.

On this conference call, we also broke the news from Bob Nitrio that XChange had changed their name to Everything Channel. So, after advertising XChange for months, I need to go do some edits.

Then I hopped on an interview with U.S. News and World Report. See previous post.

So, by the time I checked into Exchange, I'd been "on the clock" for about six hours.


Why The Channel?

Some people - including some of my very good friends in the SMB Community - rail against evil vendors at our conferences. So why do 250 of the most successful consulting companies in the U.S. want to go to a four-day event that's 100% vendor presentations, 100% pimping, and 100% full court press from the likes of HP, Dell, CA, Symantec, IBM, etc.?

"Everything Channel" is different from every other event because vendors are basically paying money to get feedback from the channel. They also take the opportunity to make major announcements to the channel.

Our community tends to talk about our love/hate relationship with Microsoft. But the truth is, we have similar complex relationships with all of our vendors.

At my table, the talk started out pretty clearly focused on loyalty -- loyalty that goes both ways. Consultants want vendors to stop selling direct to our clients. Vendors want us to join their program, participate fully, and stay for the long haul. Of course this paragraph represents a massively complex set of intermingled relationships.

Some vendor screw-ups were evident in my conversations. Symantec was extremely late coming up with a decent channel program for small VARs. Sonicwall's partner portal is so screwed up that VARs basically go around the process, register all the devices to themselves, and cut Sonicwall out of the client relationship. CA has been begging for our business for three years, but there's so much history that they just can't overcome a reputation for horrible service.

Buzzwords here are:
  • Margins
  • Broader solutions
  • Increased services
  • Market share
  • Easy to buy/sell
  • Deal Registration
  • Best of Breed
  • Single Source
  • Upsell and Cross Sell

Everyone knows: switching brands is very difficult for a "trusted advisor." Our clients trusted our decision to go with Brand A. How do we make the switch to Brand B? How often can we do that?

One of the most interesting things about the relationships here is that Technicians are from Mars and Vendors are from Venus. Why? Well, look at who we are: The large vendors are multi-billion dollar corporations. The small vendors are multi-million dollar corporations. Meanwhile, the large VARs are multi-million dollar companies while the small VARs have less than a million dollars in sales.

We don't talk the same language. We don't walk in the same circles. Both sides are made up of plain old human beings. But both sides know that their "corporate culture" is different and their perspective is different.


Best First Impression

Fortinet wins the award for best first impression. When I got off the elevator, three beautiful people in safari outfits were handing out keys that might unlock a fortune. Go to the Fortinet suite and try your key right now.

So I walked past every other vendor's room and went to the Fortinet room. It was amazing. Total jungle make-over. Every inch of wall and floor had been covered with jungle-themed material. An eight foot (non-inflatible) giraffe. Plastic snakes. Sales people in safari shorts handing out jungle drinks in hurricame glasses. I had the non-alcoholic version. It was barely after noon and not yet lunch.

Most vendors had horrible, boring, tables with monitors. Yawn.

But thumbs up to Fortinet for putting a lot of work and creativity into their presentation.

At the end of the day, we're all just humans playing a game called business. As with any game, we ought to be having some fun!

Interview on The Economy

Got an interview request from U.S. News and World Report. The ping was that they needed some juicy quotes about how the recession is affecting us and our clients.

I said I can't talk about that. See We're not having a recession!

I said I could discuss recession-proofing strategies.

The reporter was interested.

So yesterday we did a half hour interview.

But try as I may, he wanted to find an angle of pain.

If he has already decided what the "story" is, he won't use my quotes. :-) But maybe he'll use me for a little balance.


I don't understand why the media want to talk us all into a recession. This morning I turned on CNBC. What's the story? Target same-store sales are up. Walmart same-store sales are way up!!! Walmart's dividend is 95 cents a share. That's huge.

And how is this presented? "Well, maybe Wal-mart isn't an indicator of how this sector is going."



I hereby declare that the recession is over.

Avoid putting your money in home-building and mortgage stocks.

Other than that, just get back to doing what you do for a living.

Do your job extremely well.

And turn off the news.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Jeff Middleton Spills the Beans

Jeff and I have been exchanging emails about what we'll discuss on tomorrow's SMB Conference Call.

Just got the final "wish list" from Jeff. I hope we'll be able to get it all in!

We're going to try to cover:
  • The IT Pro Conference 2008 (of course)
  • The Matt and Karl pre-day event
  • SBS 2008 and EBS -- 1, 2, 3, and 4 server configurations
  • General discussion of migration and adoption strategies
  • Big announcement from SBS Migration regarding new products and price structure for 2008 -- SCOOP: First Public Announcement
  • Double Big scoop: What Jeff's up to in the Community
  • Jeff's travel plans -- including some serious international travel
  • Whatever else is going on this year

As you can see, this could be a three-hour call. But we need to keep it to one hour.

So check out the details at

And join us Wednesday 3/5 at 9:00 AM Pacific Time.

Please tell your friends. We've been getting more and more attention on these calls. We're trying to build a real resource for the community.

I'm traveling Wednesday, so it will be a remote broadcast for me.

Stay tuned.

Monday, March 03, 2008

SBS Partner Event Kit

Here's something that's not new, but you might have either missed or forgotten about. A few weeks ago, on the SMB Conference Call, Mike Iem mentioned the SBS Partner Event Kit.

This is a box full of good stuff that you can request for your marketing event. Some of it you have to send back (like the Monitor!), but some you get to keep (like the collateral).

The kit is designed specifically for a trade show or conference. But, with a little imagination, you can stretch it to other events.

To request that the box-o-goodies be mailed to you, email [email protected].

The SBS Event Kit includes:

- Windows Small Business Server 2003 table banner (white 6ft long x 3ft wide)

- Windows Server 2008 table banner (white 6ft long x 3ft wide)

- Windows Small Business Server 2003 standing banner (7ft high x 2.5ft wide)

- Flat screen monitor with cables for demonstrations

- Three collateral holders with 75 copies each of the Small Business Server Datasheet and the brochure “Big Breakthroughs for Small Business” (Windows Server 2008 collateral will be provided as we get closer to the launch date)

The measurement on the box is 27" x 43" x 23", weight is 138 lbs. Note that you'll be paying to ship this back.

Note: You also have the opportunity to buy a banner with your company logo for $99. Not a bad deal. Consider this: You can go to any Kinko's and order any banner you want for $6 per square foot. So a 3' x 6' banner is about $108.

If you want a 3'x6' banner, fine. Or you might prefer a 2'x4' for only $48.


Once you send email to [email protected], you'll get an email back that requests the following details:

- Partner Name
- Event Name
- Event Date
- Expected attendance
- Shipping Address

IF the kit is available on your date, you'll get details.

But you need to plan ahead. Results vary by region, but you'd be hard pressed to get the kit for a March show.

If the kit is NOT available, you'll get an offer to receive the collateral for free. DO IT! This is good fodder for your next mailing.


You will also receive an email pointing you to the following great resources:

- and More!


The bottom line is: If you have an event or marketing program in the works, send an email and see if the SBS Partner Event Kit can help you look better -- and close the sale!

Thanks, Mike.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Project Golden Rule

The core of our business is flat-fee I.T. service. But there's also plenty of "project labor." Project labor is simply billable, hourly labor. Because our service agreement doesn't cover adds, changes, or moves, we will always have a certain amount of labor that's billable.

In The Super-Good Project Planner, I talk about defining the "Scope of Work" for any project. This is really the golden rule of project labor.

Don't Let Your Scope Creep

One of my very first clients was a nice guy who couldn't focus on a job until it was complete.

We agreed on the job to be completed, and on the price. But when the day came for me to set to work, he had a whole list of additional work. One task he heaped on the pile was to look at his home computer. But I refused to do any work until I'd completed the list we'd agreed upon.

The day was spent with one distraction after another. And finally, when it was over, he was furious. Yes, I'd solved all his problems. But I was way over the three hours I'd quoted. Of course I'd done everything except clean the bathroom floor!

We wrestled a bit and met half way.

But then the exact same thing happened again. I wrote him a goodbye letter and bought myself one of those big, fat, oversized markers. And ever since then I try to draw a very clear line between what's included and what's excluded; what's covered and what's extra; what's inside the scope of the project and what's outside the scope of the project.

Most people think that defining the scope of the project is simply about keeping track of hours worked on the project, and hours added outside the scope.

That tracking is essential if you want to get paid for all of your hours. But focusing on the scope of work goes beyond that. You want to actually define "the project" so you can bring it to a conclusion. To the extent possible, you want to set aside all that other labor while you work on the project. Thus, the project is completed in a timely manner.

When the project's done, you can tie a ribbon around it and invoice the client. But, most of all, you can define clear boundaries around the project.

Define the Scope

When you define the scope of the project, you should do so in writing. It doesn't have to be a long, detailed explanation. If you use Autotask, Tigerpaw, Shockey Monkey, or some other ticket-tracking system, you should have a title for the job and a one-paragraph description. For example:

Title: Install Firewall for new ISP

Description: Install and configure new firewall. See firewall installation checklist. Verify connectivity. Point outbound traffic to new gateway address. Reconfigure DNS (for in-bound traffic). Re-direct Exchange Defender for email filtering. Test all functionality. Disconnect old ISP.

How can this go wrong? Let me count the ways! Clients tend to look at technology as a series of function-based boxes. Once the function works, they ignore it and leave it alone. So, when you want to make changes, you're opening the box. And once it's opened, the client wants to do all related work.

For example, they might take the firewall job as an opportunity to install the BlackBerry server. Or move the web server. Or make that major change you've planned for email domains. Or rack the servers!

Whatever the suggestion is, you must say these words over and over again: That's outside the scope of this project.

We've all had great success installing a firewall and moving to a new ISP. We've also had the move from hell, where everything that could go wrong did go wrong. If you've also moved all the servers, unplugged and replugged every wire, and installed a new email filtering configuration, this could be the longest day of your life.

Q: What's the first rule of troubleshooting?

A: Change one thing at a time.

It is extremely important that you focus on the job you came to do. Be successful. Show the client that it works. In this way, you completely avoid the scenario where the client starts second-guessing whether the primary goal was accomplished before all the other jobs made troubleshooting so complicated.

Install the firewall. Test. Be 100% successful. THEN see if you have time to get started on another job. But don't ever put yourself in the spot where you have to troubleshoot a new firewall and new spam filtering at the same time.

When you have limited and well-defined projects, troubleshooting those projects is also limited and well-defined.

And that means profitable.

For the client, this process will always save money. After all, if you limit how much troubleshooting you need to do, you limit the number of hours required. If you keep each job isolated and self-contained, you limit the number of hours required.

Speak in Human Terms

One final tip for getting client buy-in for this process: Speak as a business person and not a techno-goober.

Your internal process might say something like "Configure one-to-one network address translation and redirect port 442 traffic from the insecure WAN IP to the primary server LAN IP."

Blah blah blah blah, Ginger.

What does the client want to know? You're going to properly configure the firewall, document it, and test it. That actually means something to the client -- and it's worth paying for.

  • And setting up a new service has to be done after the firewall is properly configured, documented, and tested.
  • And setting up spam filtering has to be done after the firewall is properly configured, documented, and tested.
  • And racking the servers has to be done after the firewall is properly configured, documented, and tested.
  • And moving to a new web server has to be done after the firewall is properly configured, documented, and tested.
  • etc.

So, you see, defining the scope of the project does a lot more than protect your revenue for a specific job. It improves success on the current job, and all those other jobs. It improves success on all jobs. It improves your relationship with the client. It saves the client money. It reduces downtime. It reduces the need for troubleshooting.

It's the golden rule of project labor.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Open Value Subscription in One Lesson

OVS - Open Value Subscription - is now "real" in the U.S. (Some form has existed in Europe for awhile.) We've sold our first deal, although we can't officially order the licenses until Monday.

So, pull up a barstool, grab some peanuts, and let me give you the OVS philosophy we're using. Feel free to throw your nutshells on the floor.

1. The Very Small Business Problem in a Nutshell

For our example, let's look at a business with ten desktop PCs and one Small Business Server. They can get into licensing because the SBS box has six points minimum (one for the server and five for the CALs).

But office is another story.

Riddle me this: A small business with ten computers and ten copies of Office has purchased how many copies of Office?

Answer: Probably at least fifteen copies. Over the course of ten years, twenty copies wouldn't be unreasonable. Why?

Very small businesses buy one, or two, or three computers at a time. They buy Office OEM, Office full box product, and the occasional upgrade. They replace each computer every three or four years, but each of these Office versions cannot be moved from one computer to another.

So they keep buying Office again and again. Even with OEM versions, the total amount spent on Office for each user far exceeds what they'd spend with license versions.

So, in a nutshell, small businesses need a way to get into a licensing program.

2. The Small Biz Licensing Paradox in a Nutshell

Wouldn't it be great if we could get the whole office on Office Licenses? Yes.

But (see item #1) the office has already bought Office. If we sell them Office again, we just rub salt into the wound.

MS Office is perhaps the most over-priced product in the history of the universe. And, as we've seen, licenses have been structured so that each user ends up over-buying it several times.

So, no moral human being could ask a very small business to pay full price (even the license price) for a product they've already bought more than once per desktop.

And so the paradox is: How do you get these desktops on a licensing program, which is in their long-term interest?

3. Open Value Subscription in a Nutshell

Now comes Microsoft's OVS program. It looks like this:

- Client must buy licenses for all PCs (company-wide licenses). Minimum is still five.

- Client will make three annual payments for the licenses. The SKUs are labeled "One year of . . .." Of course, each year is about 1/3 the full price.

- For the first year only, client will receive a 50% discount for all existing valid licenses -- whether OEM, full box product, or upgrade. These are called "up to date" or UTD SKUs.

- After the client is on OVS, they must remain "company-wide" with licenses. So, if they buy a new PC, they install a new copy of Office. If they drop a machine, they obviously uninstall a copy of Office. There is a SKU for a month of the subscription, so you can make these machines legal.

- On the anniversary date, clients "true up" or "true down" their licenses. That is, if they've added machines, their annual payment goes up. If they've dropped machines, the annual payment goes down.

4. Selling OVS, in a Nutshell

How many times have you heard a client voice frustration because they can't move Office to the new machine and that they've already bought the product over and over again?

When a computer dies, you install the License on the new machine. When a machine is upgraded/replaced, you install the License on the new machine. When a machine is stolen, you install the License on the new machine.

When a new version comes out, you get it. No questions asked.

You make even, stable payments. No more spikes.

The license program grows and shrinks with your business. You buy what you need as you "true up" each year.

You get a 50% discount for the existing licenses -- even if they're OEM.


We already move clients to licensing when we can. OVS will make that move a lot easier.

In a nutshell: we love it.