Last week, my colleague Dawn McCartney, wrote a piece about business reviews and what they should entail. I’d like to continue that conversation.

Whatever you call them, regular business reviews with your MSP provider are probably part of your annual diary. But are these meetings truly effective in driving ongoing improvements in performance aimed at meeting your overall company objectives?

For the sake of this article, let’s assume that you are doing these reviews on a quarterly basis, so I will therefore refer to them as QBRs — quarterly business reviews.

Over the years I have seen many organizations undertake QBRs without meaningful purpose. An effective QBR takes time to prepare and undertake, let alone committing the time to complete any actions that result. So the first thing to ask is “Why are we doing a QBR and is it really worth it?”

Done properly, QBRs will reward you ten-fold the time invested in them. Done badly, your time would probably have been better spent doing something else.

There are two key objectives in undertaking effective QBRs:

  1. To benchmark current program performance and agree mutual short/midterm performance improvement commitments
  2. To work on developing your program’s “maturity”

I am a great fan of the 80/20 rule and recommend that the QBR does not lose sight of the need to develop overall program maturity. So assign 20% of the review time to this purpose. When we refer to program maturity, it’s nothing to do with the age of the program or its current performance, but rather its ability to deliver well in the future regardless of what the world throws at it. How is it structured to foster continuous improvement? It is important to understand the difference between program performance and program maturity.

Refresh. For the main part of the QBR, you should review your program goals and objectives, ensuring that these are aligned with your overall business strategy. I have seen QBRs where the same data sets are referred to year after year, whereas the overall needs of the business have changed many times. If your business strategy changes as a result of economic, political or other market influences, then you should review your program goals, objectives and data points on a regular basis to ensure that they remained aligned with the business.

Time. You should take time assessing the metrics against which you benchmark your MSP and spend your time assessing how this data can help you improve future performance. Don’t spend any time looking back unless that time can be used to positively impact future performance. My recent article on tracking the right data to improve performance will provide some guidance. You may well be measuring service-level agreements and key performance indicators, and in the interests of efficiency, you might want to refer to my recent SLA/KPI article as well.

Keeping score. Create a weighted scorecard and benchmark your MSP against this and listen to what your MSP has to say in terms of how you as an organization are performing. QBRs should be a two-way partnership and there is much to learn from an MSP provider that delivers comparable services to other organizations whose programs might be performing better than yours as a result of their own internal efficiencies.

Focus. Do not get side-tracked but remain focused and agree on those key actions that will achieve mutually beneficial performance improvements and remember to document the key points of the QBR and circulate these after the meeting.

Keeping priorities aligned with your overall business strategy and having an 80/20 split in time between short/mid-term performance improvement commitments and developing your overall program maturity are the hallmarks of truly effective program reviews.