TruMethods Member Q&A: Why TruPeer is Like a Gym Membership

As the saying goes, “What you put into life is what you get out of it.” The same can be said about gym memberships, music lessons, and TruPeer.

“You first and foremost have to make time for TruPeer and it has to be a priority in your calendar,” said Roger Michelson, CEO of BNMC, a Woburn, MA-based MSP and TruMethods member. “We have assignments and special projects to get done and we have regular meetings to attend. Second, you have to participate in TruPeer and be valuable to your group and other business owners. Leadership and value go both ways and you have to demonstrate that value to your teammates.”

During this interview, he shared how TruMethods and its TruPeer program have helped him overcome business challenges, what MSPs should know about Smart Numbers, and the importance of proper business planning.

A lightly edited transcript of the conversation follows.

When and why did you join TruMethods?

BNMC joined TruMethods in January 2016 in order to change our business strategy and get some much-needed sales, marketing, and operations coaching to help grow our MSP. We were struggling in 2014 and 2015 to get beyond the $2-million revenue ceiling, and we were losing money in our business. We worked with Gary, Bob, and the team across several years and not only doubled the size of our business but have been profitable over the last four years.

How has TruMethods helped you with overcoming challenges in your business?

We first adjusted our pricing to an All-In Seat Price model and changed our sales strategy to adopt the TruMethods Framework. We worked hard to understand our numbers, costs, and leverage in the business and started tracking and reviewing our Smart Numbers on a monthly basis. This allowed us to make course corrections along the way and to slowly bring customers at the new price who were more profitable and a better fit for our business. We also had to work on our legacy customers to change their pricing models over a period of several years. Finally, we focused on business planning and worked to change a lot of the operations, introducing new processes and procedures and making sure we had the right team.

What is the value of TruPeer?

We joined TruPeer at the beginning of 2021, though I wish I had done this earlier. I have attended industry conferences for years, and I always valued meeting with other MSP owners to discuss their MSP business as well as share BNMC’s story, what is going right, what is broken, and what we have all done to help grow our businesses. TruPeer allows me to take this to the next level and work closely with a dedicated group of similar MSP business owners where we can discuss our challenges, achievements and struggles on a biweekly basis and work together to improve everyone’s business. Everyone is held accountable to achieving their rocks (goals), and we work inside and outside the meetings to collaborate and help each other.

What should MSPs know about Smart Numbers?

It is important to understand what is going on in your business, and Smart Numbers helps the business owner take command of their operation. For example, it is important to understand the Reactive Ticket Hours Per Endpoint (RHEM) in your helpdesk. If the RHEM is too high, then your help desk team is drowning in tickets and your operations and company will suffer. As you work to improve efficiency and lower the RHEM, your existing staff can complete more tickets and you can take on new customers with the same staff. This allows your company to grow and become more profitable. When we first started with TruMethods, our RHEM was quite high and we did not understand how destructive that was to the business. As we were able to take command of the help desk and become more efficient, we were able to improve our growth and profitability.

How has proper business planning helped your business?

We introduced Gino Wickman’s EOS business strategy (based on the book “Traction”) around the same time as joining TruMethods and learning on how to properly create and manage a business plan. We now have a process, a vision, and business strategy, which we follow based on the EOS and TruMethods frameworks which allows us to meet our goals. Without a business plan, you are really just shooting at the hip and you don’t always have the staff working together to meet your goals. The business plan allows you to figure out what you want to accomplish and then you set rocks and work through issues, both financially and operationally, to meet those goals. You also need to share your plan and vision with the entire team, so everyone is working together on the same plan. Business Planning is a process which you do consistently throughout the year to allow you to make adjustments as needed.

Top 3 vCIO Blog Posts in 2021 You May Have Missed

The vCIO process is one of the most important aspects of the TruMethods framework we teach to managed services providers (MSPs). The vCIO is responsible for relationship management, client education, life cycle budgeting, and more. Putting the wrong person in the vCIO role could prove disastrous for not only you, but also your customer.

While we’ve covered many topics on the TruMethods blog for vCIOs over the past year, a few stood out for a variety of reasons, including their timeliness. After reading the blog posts below, browse through our library of blog posts from over the past year to review other blogs you may have missed!

3 Tips for vCIOs to Create Strategic Business Initiatives

When creating strategic initiatives in the myITprocess Strategic Roadmap, it’s common to get pulled in the direction of creating initiatives that reference technology versus plugging into clients’ business initiatives. Recommendations can and should be a blend of business and technology suggestions, but should always reference a business case as to why the recommendation should be accepted.

A Metaphor for Continuous Improvement in Technology Alignment & vCIO

When it comes to proactive activities like Technology Alignment and vCIO, we either continue the discipline which allows for it to stay clean and efficient, or we fall off course which results in most of the work that went into it to unravel. The latter tends to take us back into focusing on reactive, lower value activities which permeate through the organization (similar to the weeds in the parking lot) and impact the company’s efficiency and profitability. Here are some key recommendations that TruMethods makes regularly in order to keep proactive discipline in place as MSPs implement and continuously improve upon the Technology Success practice.

Emotional Intelligence: The vCIO’s Secret Weapon

A lot of the business world for many years has revolved around the idea of being efficient and robotic to ensure we are as profitable as possible. And don’t get us wrong, being efficient is great and necessary to have a good business, but for so long the ‘softer’ skills have been neglected, especially in the tech world. The idea of understanding how we work as people and using that as a context to help others and ethically make money is relatively new.

Kaseya Looks Back on 2021 as Transformative Year with More IT Complete Enhancements Than Ever Before

From key acquisitions to new regional data centers, the company has continued to put its customers’ needs first—and has seen expansive growth as a result

Jan. 10, 2022 — MIAMI — Kaseya®, the leading provider of IT and security management solutions for managed service providers (MSPs) and small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs), announced today that the company grew by over 25%. Its continued revenue growth was driven by multiple strategic acquisitions and a continued focus on helping MSPs expand their businesses through sales and marketing enablement.

As MSPs and internal IT teams adjusted to new hybrid and remote work environments, Kaseya provided hundreds of deep workflow integrations that allowed IT professionals to work more efficiently and overcome business challenges around cybersecurity and compliance that grew in complexity throughout 2021.

“While 2021 saw economic recovery in certain parts of the world, IT professionals still faced incredible uncertainty as they navigated ever-evolving IT environments on budgets that continue to be stretched by a growing volume of new technologies,” said Fred Voccola, CEO of Kaseya. “We made two acquisitions that addressed key pain points for MSPs and SMBs, launched our Connect IT Community and released innovative new products like VulScan—all with a focus on helping our customers eliminate wasted time and stretch their budgets further. The IT Complete suite continues to be the gold standard for IT professionals in need of solutions that are truly automated, secure and priced right to ensure maximum profitability.”

The Kaseya family will continue to grow in 2022, with plans for over 1,300 new hires worldwide across its Miami headquarters as well as its offices in Dublin, Krakow and Sydney.

Corporate Momentum Milestones

  • Acquisitions of RocketCyber and TruMethods further strengthened Kaseya’s IT Complete suite of solutions. In February 2021, Kaseya acquired managed security operations center (SOC) solution RocketCyber to help its customers cut through the noise and respond to threats across endpoints, networks and cloud attack vectors. Through its integrations with Kaseya’s VSA, BMS and Passly solutions, RocketCyber users can easily deploy the solution across their environment and quickly create relevant incident tickets. In May 2021, Kaseya acquired the MSP industry’s leading business transformation organization TruMethods to allow MSPs to build more strategic relationships with their customers and increase monthly recurring revenue (MRR). Through the myITprocess ™ virtual CIO (vCIO) solution, FormulaWon ™ training and TruPeer ™ groups, MSPs can use proven methods to grow their businesses.
  • Connect IT Global hosted thousands at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Kaseya held its annual Connect IT event in October 2021 with a jam-packed schedule that included keynotes from experts like Kaseya CISO Jason Manar, cybersecurity management sessions and even a few laughs from popular actor Nick Offerman.
  • Kaseya launched the Connect IT Community to allow IT professionals to share best practices across the globe. The Connect IT Community is an online collaboration platform that enables individuals to use Kaseya products more effectively and network with IT professionals around the world. The Connect IT Community is the new home to Kaseya’s Automation Exchange, which includes hundreds of scripts that users can share, buy and sell.

2021 Innovations and Integrations

  • Compliance:
    • Compliance Manager for UK GDPR: This new module in Kaseya’s award-winning platform simplifies compliance with the UK’s sweeping privacy regulation and allows organizations to comply with both UK and EU GDPR requirements.
  • Security:
    • VulScan™ by RapidFire Tools: The newest solution from RapidFire Tools provides technology professionals with the ability to better protect their organizations from the growing threat of cybersecurity attacks. VulScan is a modern vulnerability scanner that automatically identifies and alerts users to critical security issues, enabling them to take action before they are compromised.
    • Enhanced protection against business email compromise from Graphus: Graphus introduced a new capability that uses artificial intelligence to stop both internal and external business email compromise attacks, enabling IT professionals to protect against the most common email exploit of 2021.
    • Customized emails and training kits in BullPhish ID: Because industry-specific phishing attacks continue to plague businesses, BullPhish ID allows IT professionals to create customized emails and training kits for simulations that mirror the types of attacks that are targeting their employees.
  • Backup and Disaster Recovery:
    • Canadian data centers for Unitrends and Spanning Cloud Apps: Kaseya began utilizing two data centers in Ontario and Quebec in 2021 to locally store data from its Canadian Unitrends Endpoint Backup and Spanning Office 365 customers, making it easier for them to comply with data sovereignty regulations.
    • Unitrends BackupIQ™ Integration with BMS and Vorex: This integration of BackupIQ’s artificial intelligence alerting with BMS and Vorex’s ticketing workflow automation enables organizations to cut wasted time on false alerts and backup remediation by up to 50%.
  • MSP Enablement
    • TruMethods’ myITprocess Reporting API and Default Initiative Templates: The reporting API allows users to extract data from myITprocess into a third-party reporting tool, providing MSP owners with the ability to drill down even farther into key metrics. Default Initiative Templates allow MSPs to use myITprocess to deliver strategic recommendations to new clients more easily using pre-populated strategic roadmap initiatives.
    • Powered Services Pro: New sales campaign kits and “done for you” social media posts as well as one-on-one coaching helped MSPs drive over $6.2 million in new MRR in 2021.
  • IT Documentation
    • Enhanced IT Glue Ticketing Experience Through Kaseya BMS and VSA: IT Glue has strengthened its integrations with Kaseya BMS and VSA to streamline the ticketing experience. MyTickets allows users to begin addressing issues directly within IT Glue, and the Affected Hardware feature pulls information about assets and their operating environments from across IT Glue, VSA and BMS so technicians can diagnose and resolve issues without leaving the ticket in IT Glue.
  • RMM/Endpoint Management:
    • VSA 1-Click and IT Glue: The VSA 1-Click and IT Glue integration allows individuals to use credentials stored in IT Glue when accessing remote devices, enabling technicians to avoid copying and pasting sensitive log-in information when initiating remote sessions.
  • PSA/Service Desk
    • myITprocess Integration with BMS: The integration allows myITprocess users to generate BMS tickets from within the myITprocess platform, removing the need for MSPs to switch between solutions when evaluating client environments.

Industry Recognition

Throughout 2021, Kaseya was awarded with top industry honors that highlighted its best-in-breed products, forward-thinking leadership and high-performing work environment:

  • Kaseya CEO Fred Voccola and CFO Kathy Wagner were recognized by The Software Report as a Top 50 SaaS CEO and one of the Top 50 Women Leaders in SaaS, respectively.
  • Kaseya Senior Vice President of Channel and Community Dan Tomaszewski and Unitrends Vice President of New Sales and Channel Management Adam Larrabee were recognized as 2021 CRN Channel Chiefs.
  • The Cybersecurity Excellence Awards provided 5 awards to Kaseya and its family of companies, including Unitrends, Spanning Cloud Apps, ID Agent and Graphus.
  • Kaseya received multiple Gold, Silver and Bronze commendations in the ChannelPro Reader’s Choice Awards for its Passly, VSA, BullPhish ID and IT Glue solutions.
  • Both the Stevie Awards and the Globee Awards recognized Kaseya as a top place to work in 2021.

Top 5 Cybersecurity Blog Posts You May Have Missed in 2021

Even though cyberattacks are hitting the news nearly every day, many businesses still aren’t taking cybersecurity seriously, which is bad news for them, but good news for MSPs.

The number of cyberattacks continues to rise. For example, there has been a 62 percent increase in ransomware globally since 2019, and a 158 percent jump in North America, according to the 2021 SonicWall Cyber Threat Report. There’s an ample amount of opportunity for MSPs to capitalize on selling managed security services.

Here are five blog posts on cybersecurity you may have missed in 2021.

Know Your Enemy: Creating Threat Profiles

When we think about risk, we treat risk with mitigations controls and safeguards, but a safeguard has differing levels of effectiveness. Strength of control needs to be much different depending on the risk. Understanding their behavior and emulating it. Are your controls operating effectively? Strength of control needs to map the capability of your threat actor. Using threat profiles is one of the top ways to figure out how your enemies operate.

Who’s Really Responsible for Your MSP Customer’s Cybersecurity?

Ask yourself this question: Who’s responsible for your customer’s cybersecurity? You or the customer? Does your customer expect that since they have you as their MSP, they won’t have a security incident? If so, you may have set very unrealistic expectations.

New FormulaWon Training Content: MSP Cyber Security

We added a new content track to our FormulaWon training portal called MSP Cyber Security. We’ve been talking here at TruMethods about having defined delivery areas and functions about process and metrics for a long time. Now, you can’t secure yourself or your customers without this level of command and without having a concrete MSP framework. This is a great opportunity for every TruMethods member.

Is Offering Free Risk Assessments to Qualified MSP Prospects a Good Idea?

MSPs are getting creative with their sales conversations. For example, some MSPs are offering qualified prospects free risk assessments in an attempt to move their sales discussions along. While this is a potential strategic tool to use with qualified prospects, be careful making assessments a part of every sale, as there could be unintended consequences.

Grow Your MSP Business with Security Awareness Training

With enough information gathered freely online or via low-level breaches of email accounts, criminals can craft email messages that are convincing enough to trick even somewhat skeptical employees. That means security awareness training must be part of a holistic security offering. This ensures that the investment the client has made in advanced security technology will pay off and generates revenue and business opportunities for the MSP.

5 Ways to Become a World Class MSP Using the TruMethods Framework in 2022

If you’re not a world class MSP today, make it a goal to become one in 2022. World class MSPs have command of their operations, are focused on sales, and most importantly, driven by process. The only way for an MSP to hit all three attributes of a World Class MSP is by following a framework built around standards and strategies.

At TruMethods, our process combines software, training and community. While there are many aspects to it, the framework is made up primarily of two components: developing standards and building a strong relationship with the customer.

We’ve covered the TruMethods framework in a variety of blog posts recently, but there are several you should reread if becoming a world class MSP in 2022 is part of your 2022 business plan.

What is the Difference Between Alignment and Documentation?

To some, it can be difficult to differentiate between aligning clients with standards and best practices and documenting client environments. MSPs should consider both areas significantly important but understand the difference between the two.

Have You Maintained the Essence of TAM Throughout the Pandemic?

In any business model, each role needs to do their job to the best of their ability. This has remained a principle of business since the beginning of capitalism. But how have things changed for everyone throughout the course of the pandemic? The Technology Alignment (TAM) role in particular could be seen as the role that changed the most in our MSP model, but the core of it remains the same.

TruMethods Member Q&A: Rethinking the MSP Business Model with TruPeer & myITprocess

When something’s not working, it’s time to reevaluate what you’re doing. There’s bravery in asking for help. And after you do, you’re oftentimes rewarded.

A Metaphor for Continuous Improvement in Technology Alignment & vCIO

Although some people have returned to the office at this point in the pandemic, there are still many people working from home. Of the companies that are still working from home, their office parking lots have not seen nearly the amount of activity that they once did. At one point after TruMethods went to work from home, I drove past an office parking lot in town and noticed mother nature was taking over.

Emotional Intelligence: The vCIO’s Secret Weapon

A lot of the business world for many years has revolved around the idea of being as efficient and robotic as possible to make sure we are as profitable as possible. And don’t get us wrong, being efficient is great and necessary to have a good business, but for so long the ‘softer’ skills have been neglected, especially in the tech world. The idea of understanding how we work as people and using that as a context to help others and ethically make money is relatively new.

Haven’t Created Your MSP Sales Plan for 2022 Yet? Here’s What to Consider

If you’ve been a TruMethods member for a while, you’re more than likely in the process of creating your sales plan for 2022. In fact, if you’re a World Class MSP, you probably already have a plan ready to go for the new year. But if you’re new to TruMethods or have been having a rough year, you’re probably focusing your efforts elsewhere.

While it’s great to have sales goals, they must also be reachable. Without a sales plan in place, your salespeople will struggle with hitting their sales goals. A sales plan ensures there is a path for them to follow.

There are three things you should consider before creating your sales plan for 2022 if you haven’t already started the process.

Putting your sales situation into perspective

Before creating a sales plan for your business, you need to first put your sales situation into perspective. What does that entail? Simply put, getting your numbers together. What’s your churn rate? What about required changes in revenue mix, average monthly recurring revenue (MRR) and all-in seat price (AISP)? You also want to look at your salespeople’s close ratios, what your sales team is doing to create clear separation in the sales process, and whether your salespeople are presenting too early to prospects. The more data you can pull together, the better the plan will be.

How did your sales team fare in 2021?

Then assess how your sales team fared in 2021. Did your salespeople reach their MRR goals? If they didn’t, why didn’t they? What about new clients, average MRR, non-recurring revenue (NRR) and the AISP of new clients sold? How much in new MRR did your salespeople generate in 2021? When evaluating your organization’s 2021 sales results, your goal should be to look under the hood of your business to determine where your salespeople can improve and help them with getting there in 2022.

What’s in your sales pipeline?

Your salespeople must have access to a well-organized prospect database if you want them to sell successfully at the right price. If they didn’t generate enough MRR in 2021, your prospect database may need some work. First, look at how many companies are in your database. What do you know about them? Did you categorize them into buckets? After that, it’s time to evaluate growth. How much did your prospect database grow over the course of the year? How could you have grown it faster? And finally, what size should your list be? How many suspects and prospects are in your database? Keeping your database up to date and clean is key to selling more MRR at the right price.

You should already be well into the sales planning process for 2022, but if you’re not, today is the day to begin putting your sales situation into perspective, assessing how your sales team fared in 2021, and tweaking your sales pipeline for 2022.

4 TruMethods Member Q&As You May Have Missed in 2021

We have the luxury of speaking with hundreds of TruMethods members about their day-to-day struggles and well-deserved successes. We always learn something new and interesting whenever we meet (whether it be in person or virtually) with our MSPs. We always look forward to sitting down with a new member or catching up with someone who’s been following the TruMethods framework for years.

While we unfortunately don’t have the time to sit down with all our members for in-depth conversations, We’ve had discussions throughout the year with many of them, some of which we’ve published on the TruMethods blog and have impacted the way our members think about running an MSP in world where the IT threat landscape is ever-changing.

Here are four TruMethods member Q&As you may have missed in 2021.

TruMethods Member Q&A: Rethinking the MSP Business Model with TruPeer & myITprocess

When something’s not working, it’s time to reevaluate what you’re doing. There’s bravery in asking for help. And after you do, you’re oftentimes rewarded. Jimmy Huber, president and founder of InfoTech, spoke about how he has implemented what he’s learned from TruPeer, what TruMethods provides that other vendors can’t and how myITprocess has helped him with developing a repeatable client process that is the basis for high-value relationships.

TruMethods Member Q&A: Process is the Key to Success

Processes must be put in place if you want your business to succeed. We at TruMethods work with you to accomplish just that. Paul Barnett, CEO of Network Depot, a Reston, VA-based MSP and TruMethods member, revealed why he believes TruMethods is so valuable, shared his thoughts on the TruMethods methodology, and highlighted his favorite feature of the myITprocess software

TruMethods Member Q&A: Why Structure in Peer Groups Matters

You don’t join a peer group to network with people in your industry. You join one to learn and overcome the challenges you’re facing. And the only way a peer group can help you with that is by being organized and providing you with the right content. Jason Buckley, Partner at Jasco Technology, a Las Vegas-based MSP, revealed how TruPeer is different than other industry peer groups, what he’s learned from being a member of our peer group, and how other MSPs can benefit from TruPeer.

TruMethods Member Q&A: ‘The Number One Thing I Hoped to Change was Me’

Joining a peer group takes a lot of courage. While being in a peer group can benefit you in many ways, the process usually isn’t for the faint of heart. Peer groups are designed to give you tough love when it’s warranted. Being open minded is key to your success in any peer group. Hoyt Hagens, president of ProMission, a Meridian, Idaho-based MSP with customers in several industries, revealed how he was willing to be vulnerable and make changes to improve business results, how TruPeer (TruMethods newest peer offering) has made him more accountable, and what MSPs considering TruPeer should know about the industry-leading peer group.

Hackers Up the Ante on Ransomware

Earlier this month, international consulting firm Accenture became the latest target in a string of high-profile ransomware attacks when the LockBit group claimed to have breached the company’s servers and threatened to release its data.

According to a CRN report, Accenture confirmed the attack, but downplayed the scope of the damage: “Through our security controls and protocols, we identified irregular activity in one of our environments. We immediately contained the matter and isolated the affected servers. In addition, we fully restored our affected servers from backup. As a result, there was no impact on Accenture’s operations or our clients’ systems,” Accenture wrote.

It’s not just big companies being targeted. Every type of organization, from small IT firms, municipalities and school districts to big multinational corporations, is in the crosshairs as ransomware attacks become more aggressive and costly. According to a report from security consultant Unit 42, the average ransomware payment climbed 82 percent to $570,000 in the first half of 2021, up from $312,000 in 2020.

An analysis by Barracuda found that a small number of ransomware gangs are conducting many of the attacks. Per the data, of the ransomware attacks between August 2020 and July 2021, REvil accounted for 19 percent of attacks, and DarkSide was behind at 8 percent.

In the past 12 months, Barracuda researchers identified and analyzed 121 ransomware incidents, a 64 percent increase in attacks year-over-year. Attacks on corporations accounted for 57 percent of attacks, up from 18 percent in 2020. Infrastructure-related businesses accounted for 10 percent of attacks.

Hackers are also changing their methods. In the past, these attacks relied on malicious links and attachments, similar to traditional malware. Now, hackers are using more complex phishing schemes to steal credentials to access networks and applications. Over the past year, with more employees working from home, web-based applications and web portals have been leveraged for these attacks. For example, in the Colonial Pipeline attack in May, criminals used the stolen password to a VPN account to break into the network.

No One’s Immune to a Ransomware Attack

MSPs must employ new strategies and technologies to protect their clients and themselves from these pernicious attacks. There are several methods that will help mitigate the damage and reduce the risk of a successful attack. Security measures should be targeted at reducing the risk of a successful attack, minimizing the damage if the ransomware is deployed on the network and avoiding paying the ransom.

First, assume that you and your clients will be targets. As we have seen over the past several years, MSPs have become prime targets, and hackers are not picky about the type or size of the organization they go after. Second, educate your clients and your employees about the risks so they will be prepared to implement the appropriate security measures and come up with a response plan when there is an attack.

Best Practices for Minimizing Ransomware Damage

You must accept the mindset that at some point, you will become a target—it’s just a matter of when. The next thing you need to do is to set a goal of not paying the ransom. With the goal set, you then need to implement the following procedures:

Leverage advanced security tools to prevent credential loss. Train employees and clients on how to spot phishing emails and how to report them. Use advanced AI-based solutions to analyze email and network traffic for unusual patterns that might indicate an attack.

Utilize password and security strategies to protect applications and network access. Encryption, multifactor authentication, password management, and web application security can protect both internal and hosted applications. A Zero Trust Access approach that requires validating each user at each endpoint is much more reliable than a traditional VPN—and with more companies adopting remote work and work-from-home models, this will be critical.

Use role-based rules to limit user access to only the applications and data necessary to do their jobs. Evaluate the type of data being stored—is all of it necessary? How long should it be stored? Is there particularly sensitive or valuable data that should be protected using more stringent measures or advanced encryption? 

Employ robust backup and data recovery procedures. Multiple backups housed outside of the network will make it easier to avoid a ransom payment. Regularly test disaster recovery procedures to make sure that the business can be up and running quickly in the case of an attack. 

The ransomware problem isn’t going to abate any time soon. Therefore, MSPs should secure their networks and work closely with clients to prepare them for an inevitable attack. You cannot stop a ransomware attack from happening, but you can disrupt them and minimize the damage using these best practices.

cybersecurity ebook

Have You Maintained the Essence of TAM Throughout the Pandemic?

In any business model, each role needs to do their job to the best of their ability; this has remained a principle of business since the beginning of capitalism.  But how have things changed for everyone throughout the course of the pandemic?  The Technology Alignment (TAM) role in particular could be seen as the role that changed the most in our MSP model, but the core of it remains the same.

The core of the TAM role consists of two main sides: math and process.  The math of the TAM role shows the TAM and their team the measurable drivers of their role and how it impacts the business as a whole, while the process has action items like steps, tasks, and different priority levels.  Before Covid, the TAM already could have had difficulty in finding a way to attach the spirit of their role to the results of the Technology Success process because ‘we’re just answering yes/no questions’.  The struggle came even more into focus when we all were forced to move to an entirely remote environment.  

What is wrong with doing the TAM process remotely?  Well in theory, we can be just as successful doing our assessments remotely as we are in person.  But it makes it more difficult to be visible to our clients, to hear valuable feedback that employees often provide off the cuff, and the relationship with the client isn’t as easy to establish.  Onsite reviews are ideal to get the best outcome from our alignment process, but we can still put steps into place to make sure we do everything we can to get the most value from our remote visits.

Holding regular meetings at the start and end of a TAM’s day is one of the best ways to maintain a healthy and working technical relationship.  While some clients may not want to do this, it is our job to convince them of the value of these meetings.  It should be a brief meeting, no longer than 10 minutes, have a measurable agenda, and they should focus on business-oriented value.  Meeting with people over video calling functions like Zoom can help make more of a human connection.

In addition to communication with the customer it is vital to continue intra office communication regarding TAM visits.  There should be documented expectations of TAMs, a schedule they really stick to, and edges on the relationship they have with the clients.  We would rather overcommunicate than under communicate throughout a crisis, and the pandemic is still a crisis event for so many; we need to make sure the abundance of communication extends internally as well as to what we tell our customers. 

Standards, alignment, and compliance are essential in today’s technical world.  We cannot keep our clients truly secure without the TAM role assessing client environments on a regular basis.  We have to be even more vigilant about our processes while working remotely is required, and it also helps to be prepared for a future where remote assessments are the norm.  We cannot let a decline in visibility by the client impact our efficiency at any of our roles, but for this one in particular it would be absolutely disastrous; often our compliance practices are the only thing keeping our customers safe from a major hacking event that would make all of our lives miserable.  If we make sure the essence of the TAM role is fulfilled, we are one step closer to true Technology Success.

Request My Demo

Emotional Intelligence: The vCIO’s Secret Weapon

A lot of the business world for many years has revolved around the idea of being as efficient and robotic as possible to make sure we are as profitable as possible.  And don’t get us wrong, being efficient is great and necessary to have a good business, but for so long the ‘softer’ skills have been neglected, especially in the tech world.  The idea of understanding how we work as people and using that as a context to help others and ethically make money is relatively new.  

Using emotional intelligence as a vCIO can come in quite handy; once we know the communication tactics available to us on an emotional level to connect with others, we can more easily frame our technical findings into a business recommendation that the client will actually listen to.  Gary has learned if you don’t cater to emotional pain, things often don’t close or don’t get accepted.

We are also in an odd social climate right now.  Companies are going back to work more normally and opening up and meeting in person, and it feels strange after 15 months of being almost entirely sequestered.  People are starting to understand more how valuable and comforting human connection is, so many TruMethods members are starting to reach out to their customers in more of a ‘how are you doing as a human’ way as opposed to just a straight business meeting.  Additionally, we are all interested in going out and doing SOMEthing with some semblance of normalcy, and in a group, and this can be something we can take advantage of to get our customers to see us in a more human way.  People are going to be much more likely now to be a part of your wine tasting or movie night and do other activities that make it easier to build a relationship than they were before everything closed down

Additionally, sometimes efficiency can actually get in the way of the relationship.  If the only interaction we have with our clients is jumping straight into the agenda and only entirely task-driven it can actually put some people off.  While no one wants to stereotype, oftentimes the people who are drawn to technical work are not always the same people who like to chit chat, check in, and to whom small talk comes naturally.  We have to remind ourselves that our jobs will be easier and more enjoyable (especially from the customer end) to soften those edges and appeal human to human.

So how do we quantify this? We can still put a process with edges around the process of reaching out casually to our customers.  Playbooks can have vCIO unique touches, dashboards can be created, and tasks can be made in PSAs to remind us to reach out and keep track of when we last spoke to someone.  Just because a ‘softer’ skill is involved doesn’t mean we can’t have ‘harder’ edges around the activity required.  It will also benefit the entire team if there are copious notes taken about the relationship in some kind of program so if the current vCIO is incapacitated in some way, another team member can take up the relationship. 

How do we actually talk to people and start that conversation? The easiest way to start a conversation is to find something in common with the person you are speaking with.  Most people are going to light up by talking about their kids, pets, or sports.  We could even go on their LinkedIn and see the things the DM posts about or is interested in and try to work those things into the conversation.  

Another thing to consider is to reflect the way the client communicates with your own style. People like people that talk the same way that they talk.  If you’re a fast talker and the client talks more slowly, slow your pace down. Try to reflect your body language to look like theirs.  All of these things will build familiarity in the client’s mind (whether they realize it or not) and not only foster a more personal connection, but soften them to the idea of a larger project they may not have been open to before they got to know you as a person.

While people skills might be something that doesn’t come easily to all, everyone benefits from having a few things up their sleeves to connect with their fellow humans.  Understanding yourself, understanding a bit how others work, and paying attention to the personality of the person you are speaking to will go a long way to ingratiate others to you and your ideas.  While it may seem a little nefarious to use tactics that are basically manipulative to sell something, sometimes it is necessary to get the client to see the value in what we have to offer and the projects we are suggesting.  It is with great care and delicacy that this writer says in this case, the end justifies the means.  As long as we continue to keep the client’s needs and wants in the forefront of our conversations, our minds, and our suggestions, all these tactics are helping us do what we do, but better.  Emotional intelligence will only help you as a business person be the best team player you can be.

Request My Demo