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Not too long ago, more than a few managed service providers (MSPs) would hire IT talent anywhere they could find affordable resources. But in the current geopolitical climate, those options are severely constrained.

The biggest impact has been the result of the war in Ukraine. IT professionals residing in Russia are caught up in a conflict that continues to drag on. Now, there’s word that IT professionals from North Korea have been representing themselves as freelance workers in the U.S. when all along, they have been funneling payments for their services back to the North Korean government.

Geopolitics complicate talent acquisition

Tensions, meanwhile, continue to mount in both the Middle East and China, while in the U.S., immigration remains a pertinent issue. The days when hiring IT talent based solely on merit wherever it happened to be found are basically over as the globalization of IT services becomes more limited. MSPs must think through various issues that could suddenly make the IT talent they have hired unavailable for reasons beyond their control.

The first issue that any MSP needs to address is verification. Contractors that have been hired may not have fully disclosed commitments and obligations that might either limit the amount of time they can devote to a project or, more troubling still, conflict with the business interests of a customer that wants to be certain their intellectual property isn’t being shared with rivals that are funded by nation-states engaging in espionage.

In fact, MSPs should expect that if customers haven’t already asked for it, they will soon want the identities of anyone working on their IT projects to be verified. That shouldn’t be much of a problem for MSPs to provide, but it will add one layer of bureaucracy to the contracting process.

MSPs must shift priorities

In the meantime, MSPs must focus more on their recruitment efforts locally. That may not necessarily be bad because it’s easier to manage IT personnel in the same office. However, it also tends to be more expensive, and the biggest cost of providing any IT service, as most MSPs know, is labor. There are, however, more than a quarter of a million IT professionals that have been laid off in 2023 by technology companies, so the available pool of IT talent should be significantly greater.

Marketplaces such as Andela Talent Cloud that are using data science and artificial intelligence capabilities alongside traditional skills testing to identify candidates best suited for IT positions are also gaining traction so finding IT professionals with specific skill sets might also become easier.

Each MSP will need to decide where and when to hire or contract IT talent, but it’s apparent the world in which MSPs operate is fundamentally different than what it was a few short months ago. The challenge and opportunity now is how to navigate those changing tides to improve the quality of IT services that can be delivered in the most profitable way possible.

Photo: metamorworks / Shutterstock

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Mike Vizard

Posted by Mike Vizard

Mike Vizard has covered IT for more than 25 years, and has edited or contributed to a number of tech publications including InfoWorld, eWeek, CRN, Baseline, ComputerWorld, TMCNet, and Digital Review. He currently blogs for IT Business Edge and contributes to CIOinsight, The Channel Insider, Programmableweb and Slashdot. Mike blogs about emerging cloud technology for Smarter MSP.

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