Closing the Skills Gap

MgdSvcs_webManaged services providers can deliver the expertise required for today’s game-changing technology innovations.

Enterprise organizations are quickly moving to cloud-based networks, embracing mobile platforms and mining big data with an eye toward increased efficiency, flexibility, productivity and customer satisfaction. Too often, however, they lack the in-house IT skills necessary to fully exploit these technologies.

On average, enterprises are realizing just 43 percent of their digital technology’s business potential, according to a global survey of CIOs by Gartner, Inc.’s Executive Programs. One major obstacle is the supply of skilled IT labor, which hasn’t kept up with technological innovation and has many companies scrambling to manage, monitor and maintain their IT infrastructure.

“In many cases skills gaps are a natural part of the IT industry due to the speed of innovation,” said Terry Erdle, executive vice president of skills certification at CompTIA. “The demand for new technologies can get ahead of the supply of workers who are well trained and credentialed in those areas.”

More than half of the IT executives responding to CompTIA’s global survey expressed concern about the quality and quantity of IT talent available for hire. They fear that without the right people with the right IT skill sets, they could miss the opportunity to gain competitive advantage from this new wave of technology.

Why Choose an MSP?

Working with a managed services provider (MSP) is a good way to close the skills gap and avoid falling behind. For a predictable monthly fee, MSPs provide access to expertise, skill sets and intellectual property that can be cost-prohibitive in the open market. Additionally, managed services allow organizations to offload some background IT tasks in order to better allocate their own internal staff resources for strategic projects and core business activities.

The business case for enlisting the services of an MSP can be summed up in these key points:

  • Focus. IT is critical to most business operations, but IT operational tasks are probably not among the core business activities that make the organization successful. Managed services enable companies to out-task basic IT functions such as maintenance, updates, security patching and more — allowing increased attention to management and strategic initiatives.
  • Efficiency. Managed services are delivered for a predictable monthly fee based on the work performed and the results produced. Organizations gain significant cost savings through greater productivity, increased uptime, more efficient operations and reduced personnel costs.
  • Flexibility. Managed services allow IT services to be ramped up or scaled down as needed to meet changing business requirements.
  • Expertise. Avoid the recruiting and training process — and gain 24×7 operations without staffing multiple shifts. Forget about job listings, interviews, job training or learning curves. With managed services, the outsourced IT team already has the skills needed to hit the ground running. And they’re available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to meet mission-critical requirements.

How to Choose

Just as IT infrastructure and corporate networks have become more complex, the process of choosing the right MSP isn’t as simple as checking off a list of services and finding the lowest prices. It’s about forming a strategic partnership that can truly elevate the organization in the eyes of customers, employees and other key stakeholders.

A good MSP will start by asking a lot of questions and doing a lot of listening. Beyond technology, the MSP needs to understand how the organization operates and its short- and long-term goals. Only after learning the ins and outs of the organization can the MSP conduct an effective evaluation of the IT environment.

This comprehensive assessment includes analyzing hardware, software, applications, security, processes, costs and how they impact organizational goals. A good partner won’t just recommend equipment and services but will be able to describe what each component will allow the organization to accomplish, how it will be accomplished, how long it will take and how much it will cost.

Roles must be specifically defined and mutually agreed upon, and realistic expectations must be set, in order to avoid confusion that could damage the partnership. What responsibilities are best kept in house, and what should be turned over to the MSP? While lines of communication must always remain open, there should be a clear procedure in place for reporting and responding to problems and offering feedback, verbally and electronically.

Trust, of course, is critical to a productive relationship with an MSP. A provider’s claims of expertise and quality must be verifiable through case studies and references. An MSP must be a trusted, strategic advisor — not just a technology expert.

If an MSP tries to win business by dropping prices instead of offering better solutions, it may be time to question the value of that provider’s services. Upfront savings are temporary. Real solutions will have a lasting impact on the organization.

Finally, it’s important to ensure that in-house IT staff understand the reasons for partnering with an MSP. The goal isn’t to make someone expendable. The goal is to allow employees to use their skills and talents in a way that enhances both the organization and their careers while helping the organization operate more effectively and efficiently. When everyone shares the same vision for the organization, the partnership with an MSP will be that much more effective.