Arguably, whenever a new use case for IT is being considered, MSPs are presented with one of the best opportunities to engage the customer. In these circumstances, MSPs don’t usually have to contend with as much bias as relying on an existing internal IT staff to manage a process. In general, internal IT staff is overworked and lacking the skills necessary to be able to support new and emerging technologies.

The challenge in this regard is that the percentage of the IT budget that has been historically applied to new IT projects has been constrained. IT organizations typically spend anywhere from 70 percent or more of the IT budget on supporting applications and systems that are already deployed. A new survey of 400 customers conducted by Red Hat suggests that IT logjam is finally showing signs of breaking, thanks to increasing investments in IT automation. 

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The Red Hat survey finds that only 50 to 60 percent of the IT budget in 2019 is being allocated to legacy systems. That’s still way too high, but progress is being made as IT organizations look to free up more dollars in the hope of being able to invest in new applications. In fact, the Red Hat survey reveals a significant shift in terms of the top the three technologies that IT organizations are investing in. In this year’s survey, the top three areas ranked are IT operations automation, cloud infrastructure and security. Previously, IT operations automation was ranked third.

It’s apparent that IT organizations are now ratcheting up investing in automation to both reduce the cost of supporting existing systems, in addition to rolling out new initiatives based on technologies that are more complex. The survey notes that there is a sharp increase in the number of organizations relying on containers such as Docker to drive next-generation applications.

The unique opportunity for MSPs

Of course, IT processes don’t automate themselves. It takes a significant amount of expertise to automate IT processes across a range of applications and systems. The need for that expertise creates a unique opportunity for managed service providers (MSPs) that rely on automation to cost-effectively deliver their own services.

In addition to training the internal IT staff how to, for example, programmatically manage infrastructure as code, MSPs should be teaching internal IT teams how to automate as many processes as possible. That may seem a little counterintuitive because most MSPs rely on their automation expertise to show how much more efficient they can be than an internal team. However, it’s clear that IT organizations are going to invest in automation with or without any external help. MSPs should take the opportunity afforded now to additionally monetize expertise they have already invested in.

The most important thing for any MSP is to stay as close to their customers as possible. If MSPs become the most trusted adviser for driving IT automation initiatives, then new opportunities will emerge as money that was once allocated to legacy systems frees up for new projects. If MSPs wait for the internal IT operations teams automate processes without them, it’s only a matter of time before that IT team starts automating processes that it once relied on an MSP to provide. Like it or not, most internal IT organizations will try to automate a process provided by an external service provider long before they decide to automate one of their own. 

The challenge and opportunity for savvy MSPs is to first identify the processes that will be inevitably automated. After all, whoever controls the automation agenda will be in a much better position to discover the next big managed services opportunity.

Photo:  assistant / 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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