The decision to rely on a managed service provider (MSP) often comes down to the IT skills, or lack thereof, any organization has at hand. The more complex the IT environment, the thinner the level of expertise that can be reasonably be attained and maintained by an internal IT team.

In fact, many internal IT teams are nearing a breaking point, according to a new survey of 500 IT professionals with data center, server, and cloud infrastructure responsibilities working at organizations in the U.S. and Canada. The survey was conducted by Precision Sample, on behalf of INAP, a provider of application hosting services.

The survey finds that over half of respondents (53 percent) feel they are playing anywhere from two to five roles inside their organization. Just under a third (27 percent) play five to ten roles, while 13 percent play a different role within their organization every day. 

What makes things even more challenging, is that this comes at a time when the rate at which IT environments are being transformed has never been higher. The INAP survey reveals 37 percent are refreshing their IT skills monthly, while only 11 percent do so on a weekly basis. Three quarters of those surveyed are engaged in some form of continued learning or training on at least an annual basis. A full 71 percent admit they could use more training on all the different types of server and cloud infrastructures that their organization either currently uses or plans to soon use.

MSPs can rescue mismanaged internal IT teams

As organizations expand their reliance on IT to drive successive waves of digital business innovation, many of them are not making the appropriate levels of investment in their people. Organizations are deploying new applications and platforms, while assuming the internal IT team will just magically figure out how to make them work.

In many cases, the rush to modernize processes in a way that will impress shareholders borders recklessness. The only thing worse than being viewed as a laggard is introducing a so-called innovation that flat out fails. More than a few MSPs have been benefiting as of late when they find themselves being called in to clean up the subsequent mess. 

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Savvy MSPs are trying to get ahead of that inevitable crash and burn IT innovation cycle. While trying to exploit the limited internal IT resources the organization does have to the breaking point, many business executives don’t always have a high degree of confidence in their internal IT organization. They would prefer to not incur the expense of having to rely on external IT expertise and they usually find that internal IT teams are always more than willing to tell them anything they  want to hear.

However, in their hearts, business executives know that the odds of an internal IT organization driving a successful IT transformation on their own is minimal, primarily due to a lack of training. Most internal IT teams are so busy trying to keep existing systems running that there is little time for training.

MSPs now have a two-fold opportunity. First, they must let the business owner know a viable alternative exists. Next, MSPs need to find a way to interact with the internal IT team, while minimizing any perceived threat to their continued existence. IT egos are fragile — when slighted the IT staff will look for every opportunity to undermine the MSP.

When presented with the inevitable need for external help, most IT organizations will lean one of two ways. One half will want to dump what they perceive to be the most mundane, routine tasks on an MSP. The other half will want to hire an MSP with expertise in emerging technologies they would like to learn. Each MSP needs to decide where on that spectrum they want to focus their effort based on the skills of the team they can hire and retain. Whatever the path chosen, internal IT teams may not necessarily be welcoming MSPs with open arms, but at the same time, most of them have probably never been more open to working with an MSP than they are today.

Photo: New Africa / Shutterstock

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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