We have been using a very basic management tool called the 10 Point Exercise, where the goal is to channel client issues into a defined consulting "product" rather than just having discussions pro-bono….getting people together to ask specific questions, getting everything out on the table and developing a plan.
It’s easy to learn and it turns IT tech guys into business advisors in 20 minutes. Most importantly though it let them charge for their knowledge instead of giving it away. Let's see how...
We aren’t going to teach how to use it here. You can learn and practice the 10 Point Exercise in many ways: you can sign up for the free trial in our MSP 2.0 Business Academy and learn the process, or better yet, jump into the MSP 2.0 Quickstarter Group Coaching session and practice live with us.
Our focus now is on how it can be used to turn your free advice into something that both helps the client and generates revenue.
Create a process to solve problems
Let's imagine we run into our client who happens to have an issue with their IT, people or systems and are actively seeking advice. Of course we engage and try to help them. However, we do not have a process; so we miss the chance to understand the root problem together, from the start. We probably sit down with the client several times, as we’re often their Trusted Advisors for IT, and we don’t want them to go somewhere else. Ironically this can mean both that they don’t get immediate value, and we don’t get paid for that service.
Now imagine you have a process to turn vague issues and problems into tangible results. When next you discover one of these issues just say: "This is a perfect place to have a 10 Point Exercise!" This means sitting with a few people and doing a quick and easy exercise.
There are telltale signs to identify the proper 10 Point Exercise for solving the problem based on their scope and goals. We need to keep end goal in mind: what we want to achieve.
Usually when these issues/opportunities for improvement arise there are differing perspectives. While there may be agreement on the symptoms, there is no alignment about what causes the problem, so no clear diagnosis. This is vital to get at the beginning. 10 Point Exercise questions like these can help: “What are the most common reasons our employees spend so much time searching?”, “What are the underlying causes of the low productivity of office workers?”, or “What are the most important issues behind our apparent problems with working together as a team?”
Solve a problem
Our goal now is to find how we can solve the given issues. We have alignment on the problem, we’ve defined it, but we do not have a strategy to solve it yet. There are methods that work on a general level. Questions like this can help: “What are the next steps we can take to solve the internal communication problem?”, “How can we ensure we solve the team productivity problem by the end of this month?”, or “What specific actions can we take to reduce time-wasting document searches?”
We need to clearly identify a business opportunity out of this issue, and what we need to do to capture it. Questions like these can help: “How can we improve our internal processes?”, “What is the best way to leverage our current IT tools for better collaboration?”, or “What actions should we take to make sure we can develop the service on time?”
The goal in this is to be aligned with the team on what we need to achieve at the end of the given IT project. Regardless the type of IT project and before anybody jumps in and starts planning, we know what success means to every stakeholder. Questions may include: “If we think about the Document Management project, what are the deliverables we expect from this?”, “What exact results are you looking for at the end of the productivity improvement project?”, or “How would you define the success of the collaboration project?”
Now we need to make decisions and have a commitment to particular solutions, the scope of projects and needed deliverables. Questions may include: “Which collaborative solution are we choosing for implementation?”, “What are the expected deliverables and priorities for the productivity project?”, or “Which application should we use for internal chat?”
The more complex the problems the more sessions involved. We can start to clarify the issue with an Alignment session, then have a Problem Solving session and then jump into a Project Visualization. The sequence can be 2-4 sessions in a row, or on an improvised schedule as it progresses. There can be a natural sequence here. The outcome of one session can be the input for another. As we move forward we have to set expectations about how far we need to go in certain exercises.
If the team is bigger, we need more of the same exercise and to aggregated results. Do the same exercise in smaller teams and compare outcomes. Afterward, summarize the results and present that to the board.
Nice, but how do we make money?
Most of the time we are going to charge for these sessions. On one hand, we can do it ad-hoc, but we think it’s best to have prepaid packages of 5 x 10 Point Exercises, or part of the vCIO engagement.
If we see that one session takes 60 minutes of our time not including travel, prep and follow-ups, a session can easily cost us $250-$400.
We should demonstrate the exercise in real life first, so as to prevent the client from seeing it as a cost. We want them to see it instead as a great investment to solve problems with an outside party. Being unaligned, spinning the wheels and having arguments last for weeks, are very inefficient ways to solve IT problems. The $150 to $400 we are asking for the exercise has a significant return.
An IT related project can easily cost the client tens of thousands, plus applicable internal utilization of resources. Having a 3-4 session sequence of workshops can leverage that investment in a big way. Having more precise projects, better alignment and more teamwork is worth the investment and can get rid of unmanaged, ad-hoc projects.
Learn and use the 10 Point Exercise, to create an entry type Virtual CIO service. The service leads you naturally to formulate and close more projects. Your time will be monetized, and your clients will come to expect to pay for reliable and prompt solutions. They’ll get a process to solve problems while you get funding for spending time with them as a vCIO.
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