Why vCIO Programs Fail
The industry is changing, you need to evolve or be left behind by your clients. The next step to MSPs is vCIO, but how do we get there?
I have spent the last few years coaching MSPs on how to create successful vCIO programs. There is a consistent message across every single MSP:
“We want a vCIO program but have not be able to get it going”
I want to dive into why this is happening and what you can do about it. But first some history:
Technology has been around since before the wheel, helping us do things easier. When computers first came around they were used to help process data more efficiently. Businesses used these devices to solve problems and disrupt industry. When we first started out you could make a killing doing PC support because everyone was trying to use this technology they didn’t understand.
Then as more professionals entered the marketplace and technology needs evolved we shifted focus to mostly server and network support with PC support still being a staple because labor for that is now very cheap. Then things started moving off premises as business applications moved to the cloud. What this means is there is less infrastructure to maintain on site and it is more and more common to see larger companies outsource IT support.
So what we have seen is support move from PCs to Servers to the Cloud. Now what?
While technology used to be something that companies used to differentiate themselves or create unique opportunities, it now plays a critical role in their business. Things that are critical to organizations, are managed strategically, at the executive level. Your clients are making strategic IT decisions today, the problem is often times they don’t have the right people utilizing the right information to make those decisions. Strategic MSPs deliver services that allow them to take a seat at the table to help manage technology to meet the needs of the business. In other words you need to bring strategy to the table. This is what the vCIO does. But you already knew this, otherwise why are you reading this blog? What you want to know is “How do I get there?”
Here is the problem I keep coming across: MSPs think that strategy is desiging out a product life cycle.
While this is a great best practice, you will end up losing customers if you focus on it.
Your customers don’t care that you have a plan for upgrading firewalls on a schedule, nor do they care about your plans to deliver next gen products. What they care about is the same thing you do: Making Money.
In order to do this you have to do something that most IT professionals avoid like the plague. “Business Strategy” You know, all those boring business classes that you make fun of and meetings with random people that go nowhere, you need to learn it and apply it to technology. You get to become a manager. This means regularly scheduled meetings that focus on business talk.
I often refer to myself as a business consultant with a technology focus. The reason for this is because I need to present what I do to business leaders. They understand the business consultant, they are someone who helps a business solve problems. I just do it from a technology standpoint.
By setting the table like this I am able to get them to focus on strategic sessions that do not talk about technology but rather what problems are facing the business as a whole. I do this through 2 main items:
Project Discovery: SWOT strategy sessions but any business strategy framework will do. You just need to learn about the client’s problems and opportunities facing their business.
Audit: The next thing you do is learn their technology and business. Some standard audit will do, just as long as it is consistent. I recommend a technology stack audit and Porter’s 5 forces analysis for the business audit.
Once these are done put this all together and pitch your technology solutions and explain the SPECIFIC business problem it addresses. If you ever say “Because it is getting old” you are losing your client. If you mention firewalls or servers...you are going to lose your client. What you need to say is “We will allow sales staff to process more clients by implementing technology to increase their access to the salesforce platform” THEN you can mention the technology that will do this. Maybe it is a virtual workspace, or maybe you are implementing a more robust WAN, it doesn’t matter at that point because you have already won the customer over.
Technology is a business augmentor.
This is the core message you need to get to your clients. You want to frame everything you do in this light. By understanding their business and technology, you will be able to pitch solutions that will deliver a service that makes a difference. Your clients will brag about how you helped them disrupt their industry, develop a world class classroom or break through the glass ceiling.
In the end, stop talking about technology’s gadgets and gizmos. Start talking about business strategy and how to make your clients money!