AOL Instant Messenger. BlackBerry. Flash. MySpace. Gawker. Some things aren’t meant to last forever. The graveyard of history is filled with once indispensable technologies, platforms and products. The cycle of innovation and obsolescence is what drives us forward—ever onward, ever upward.
We at Kapta would like to consign another item to that scrapheap: the quarterly business review (QBR).
Once ubiquitous in the world of account management, the QBR has outlived its usefulness. While for decades it played a vital role in the relationship between account managers and clients, the QBR was a convention of a different—slower, less connected—era. The world has changed, but the QBR has not changed with it. To borrow Nietzsche, The QBR is dead, and we—society—have killed it.
Let’s shed a tear, sprinkle a handful of dirt, and raise a glass.
QBRs once made sense
To celebrate the demise of the QBR is not to deny its former importance. Just the opposite. In the world they were born into—a world of landlines, fax machines, and postal service—QBRs were responsive and timely. Earnings and sales reports happened on the quarter, and so did board meetings. The QBR fit the pace and schedule of business.
At the same time, business itself looked very different. It was hierarchical and rigid, not networked and nimble. It had closed doors and silver-haired CEOs, not open office plans and twenty-something marketing officers. In this era, QBRs were tactical and unidirectional: they offered an account manager a bit of face time with their client—a chance to “prove their worth” to the guy (and it was almost always a guy) in charge. A good QBR was a slide deck that reminded a client everything the account team had done for them in the past three months.
We now live in a very different world—a world of Slack, texts, and emails—and move at a very different pace. Headlines break overnight. Products go from obscurity to necessity in a week. Businesses evolve not by the month but by the minute.
The CEO now wears jeans and a hoodie and works from a couch in the corner, next to the intern and the kombucha keg. “Business casual” means socks and sandals. Hourlong meetings have become 15-minute stand-ups.
We shouldn’t be surprised, then, that the QBR has become a running joke. In our age of hyper-connected, on-demand everything, why make clients wait three months for an overly formal, low-value meeting that no one asked for and everyone dreads?
With so much technology at our fingertips, time has become our most precious commodity, the thing we never have enough of. Ironically, QBRs are both too slow and too long. They don’t happen often enough, and when they do happen, they drag on interminably.
Kapta has a better way
As we’ve written in the past, QBRs suck. How do we know? Because we asked clients directly. They told us things like:
- “I ask my vendors for 4 charts and they show up with 55 PowerPoint slides.”
- “I’ve started delegating these meetings to my staff because they just aren’t important to me.”
- “Who says these meetings have to be every 90 days? Sometimes I need a vendor communicating with me much more often, sometimes much less. But they never ask how I want to work with them.”
We at Kapta don’t intend to improve the QBR but to bury it forever. Forget quarterly reports: we’re helping Key Account Managers do continuous management instead. If QBRs are a one-way flow of information, Kapta is a two-sided conversation. It’s designed and built with relationships in mind.
Imagine if, instead of QBRs, clients had a platform where they could get the information they wanted, when they wanted it. Imagine if, instead of Excel files and desktop folders, Key Account Managers had a platform where they could track a client’s strategic goals and the specific action items required to achieve them. Now imagine all that functionality in a single platform, with Key Account Managers able to customize the level of visibility between themselves and their clients.
That’s the future we envision and the product we’re building.
Imagine a product that’s strategic, not tactical
Kapta allows Key Account Managers to keep their finger on the pulse of client relationships, share information on demand, and be in control of action items. It helps them answer the fundamental question that drives future business: “What are my client’s strategic goals and how am I serving them?”
One feature we’re particularly proud of is the is the Action Plan, which helps Key Account Managers break down a client’s strategic goals and then plan, organize, and track the steps needed to get there.
The Action Plan allows you to clearly link all your work and activities to the customer’s most important business goals, so you can see exactly what your team is working on—and why. This gives you total visibility into all the moving parts of managing a large, complex customer. And best of all, it’s done in real time.
With a QBR, the Key Account Manager waits until the end of the quarter to gauge her team’s progress and then scrambles to assemble report that’s less about the client’s goals than it is about keeping their business. With Kapta, both the client and the Key Account Manager can see from day one what the account team is doing to meet the client’s strategic goals and track, in real time, where the account team is ahead of or behind schedule.
By maximizing the flow of information, Kapta minimizes the chance of unwanted surprises. It allows Key Account Managers to keep sight of their client’s top-level goals—their final destination—while helping them spot the obstacles—the potholes, red lights, and traffic jams—in their way.
Kapta is an evolving technology
Like any tech company, we’re constantly evolving our product and expanding its functionality, hacking new features and killing off lousy ones. We’ll never be “finished,” because finished products are obsolete ones.
We bring to Kapta the same values a Key Account Manager brings to her clients: curiosity, collaboration, and a spirit of service. We can build a pretty good product on our own—but we can’t build a killer one. For that, we’re going to need a little help. Your help.
Key Account Managers:
- What are your biggest complaints or worst headaches when it comes to QBRs?
- If you could kill the QBR forever, what would you offer your clients instead?
- Is your organization ready for a post-QBR world?
Leave your comments, rants, or suggestions below. Let us know you if agree or, better yet, tell us why we’re wrong.
The QBR is dead. Let’s get this wake started.