Quarterly Business Reviews (QBRs) may not be something your organization takes into consideration when working with your internal I.T. department or partnering with an I.T. services provider, but they are an extremely essential part of your relationship. QBRs allow for increased operational efficiency, improved profitability, and more, all from an in-depth review of your technological infrastructure.
Recently, I sat down with NetGain’s Adrian Funk, a Consulting Engineer with over 15 years of experience, to discuss what Quarterly Business Reviews are, how they benefit your business, and what you should expect from them. Adrian and the NetGain team have put together countless QBRs for clients across a variety of industries.
What is a Quarterly Business Review?
The primary goal of a Quarterly Business Review is to examine a client’s entire infrastructure, and make sure the technology that’s implemented in their environment follows industry standards, best practices, and will support the business’s overall strategy and goals now and into the future. It’s a deep dive into the organization’s I.T. infrastructure, from basic networking to more complex long-term strategies, which gives an excellent viewpoint into the client’s environment, and helps the client understand why and how to proceed with their technological planning. As technology evolves, so does the review process in order to stay current.
What are the business benefits of a QBR?
The main reason a QBR is recommended for all businesses is to review efficiencies, which boils down to profitability. As I mentioned earlier, another major benefit is that the I.T. department gains an intimate understanding of the client’s environment. If a QBR is not completed, then the I.T. relationships are merely maintaining the system. When a QBR is executed, we become extremely familiar with the client’s technological environment, to a degree that we would not get if we were simply maintaining it.
When going through these reviews, it is an exhaustive check. We’ve had up to 200 questions in a single QBR that uncovers environment vulnerabilities and areas for improvement, as well as opening discussions for solutions that provide a better fit, or solutions to existing needs that have not been considered previously. These can often increase operational efficiency or even cut costs in certain situations.
How is the QBR Done?
We develop all our questions in-house at NetGain, and those get updated constantly based off industry changes. We review items like the firewall, storage and server environment, phone systems, and much more.
We explore the end user environment as well. When the organization that serves as your help desk also completes a business review, it allows for ticket analysis and trend comparisons. This pinpoints the main pain points for end users and allows for remediation at the source of the problem. Over time this process can prevent unnecessary reactive issues in the client’s overall environment.
Security is a number one concern for all business leaders and an entire section of the QBR is devoted to I.T. security. The first and most important parts of this process are to determine what an acceptable risk is to the client, and what their budget is for security. Think of it as the lock on your front door. You have your normal lock, and then you can add a deadbolt, as well as other locks. But that doesn’t do any good if you leave your window open. So, there’s multiple facets that must be reviewed when we go through the QBR to understand the client’s security stance and to make recommendations that align with their budget expectations.
Disaster recovery is another essential part of an organization’s I.T. strategy. Inevitably, things will go wrong, so having a plan in place for when they do is extremely important. Backup and disaster recovery solutions are reviewed in the QBR. This includes examining the disaster recovery plan, reviewing if the plan has ever been tested, and auditing the test of the plan to know what worked and what can be improved. This can spark new conversations about how to improve this area of their I.T.
While this is not an exhaustive list of everything included, it does give you a better understanding of a QBR and its goals. The QBR is a very data-driven process that examines all aspects of the client’s technological landscape so strategy, budgets, and adjustments can be planned as needed.
What should a client’s expectations be regarding outcomes of a Quarterly Business Review?
The I.T. world is always changing, which means business technology needs to change as well. It’s important to continually review and understand where you are from a technological standpoint.
A QBR typically takes about an hour of the executive’s time to review the results. The review is broken into eight sections. Each section and question are weighted differently depending on the impact to your business. And the format makes it easy to understand. Each individual review point is rated on a green, yellow, and red scale that correlates to an overall section rating as well as an overall score. The report spans from networking to storage and server environments, end user environment to backup and disaster recovery, security to operational controls, and more. As vulnerabilities or critical areas for improvement are identified, they are added to a list of areas of concern, with actionable recommendations to protect or improve these areas. This remediation list is for you and your I.T. team to discuss and work together to determine the appropriate action that is needed based on suggestions from I.T., budget allocations, and your company’s business needs and objectives.
Typically, cost projections for recommendations are provided for future I.T. budgeting. The key here is that the WHY is already explained throughout the process so it’s not just another random number thrown out. A strategic plan with budgetary numbers is likely be the final expectation to come out of a Quarterly Business Review. By the end of the review, the client knows exactly where their I.T. infrastructure stands across the technology spectrum and how it supports their business strategy and goals.
Why do you personally recommend Quarterly Business Reviews to clients?
From our standpoint, we’re able to protect the client to a greater extent. It’s a trust but verify situation. For instance, if we’re looking at expiration dates for warranties for a service or hardware, we want to ensure this information is correct with the vendor they’re using. If it’s not, it affects future plans and budgets, as we project out for the next three to six months what the company is looking to purchase such as hardware, software, licensing, etc. This logic can be applied across the spectrum to the client’s entire infrastructure.
A sometimes added bonus of the QBR is that new ideas are often discovered during the examination process that could benefit the client, such as re-purposing things they already own, or new solutions that could be operationally useful.
Is a Quarterly Business Review Common Practice for Most Managed Services Providers?
NetGain is one of a few Managed Services Providers who goes beyond maintaining their clients’ environment and conducts Quarterly Business Reviews as a standard practice. It’s important as you review potential partners to ask if they conduct these types of assessments and what exactly it contains.
The three most important aspects that your organization should get out of a QBR are:
• Exhaustive examination: As I said, every part of the technological environment should be investigated.
• Budgetary planning: Understand what projects, improvements, maintenance, and more will cost you so that you have a clear understanding of your strategy and how to move forward.
• Actionable items to continually improve your I.T. infrastructure: I.T. is never stagnant. Your QBRs should help you keep up with the constantly changing landscape.
If executed properly with the elements above, QBRs will add a great deal of business value to your relationship with your I.T. department.
Quarterly Business Reviews are an extremely beneficial way to delve deep into all aspects of your organization’s technology to make sure you are up-to-date and prepared from a wide variety of points, whether it is from a security, budgetary, or efficiency standpoint.
If you would like more information on partnering with an MSP that proactively uses technology to benefit your business, contact NetGain today!
Tech Talk Series: NetGain has a variety of subject matter experts on aspects across the technological spectrum. In our series, Tech Talk, we gain insights from these experts to bring you insight and understanding on topics such as security, I.T. infrastructure, and more.