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The single most important thing for managed service providers (MSPs) to do is to align their technology skills with their customers needs. After all, most IT organizations are only going to look outside for help when they can’t do a job themselves. A new Voice of the Enterprise report from 451 Research, commissioned on behalf of Polyverse, a provider of tools for securing applications, unsurprisingly finds that the number one skill in short supply involves server/systems administration (43 percent).

After that, the report suggests there is a profound change afoot in terms of what skills IT organizations need next. For example, coming in two percentage points after servers/systems administration is DevOps (41 percent). It’s clear that the way IT organizations manage IT is starting to fundamentally change. Instead of relying solely on Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) frameworks, IT organizations are now embracing best DevOps practices that require developers and IT operations teams to work more closely together.

That change is also starting to have an impact elsewhere. The survey finds that the most chronic skills shortages are software-defined networking and virtual machine administration, tied at 39 percent. Right on the heels of those two skills is container administration at 37 percent. That data point comes on the heels of a report from, which finds that adoption of Kubernetes clusters to run containerized applications is occurring at unprecedented rates.

Modernizing the IT management process

IT organizations don’t transform overnight, but it’s apparent that IT organizations aren’t acquiring technologies that require them to develop new skills. The entire IT management process is being modernized. MSPs need to make sure the services they provide within the context of those processes remain relevant. For example, DevOps processes assume developers are going to take more responsibility for managing and securing their applications on an end-to-end basis. The degree to which any one organization will decide to fully embrace that principle will vary widely. But as developers take on more responsibility, they expect to be able to invoke services via an application programming interface (API). However, services that present them with a complex graphical user interface — that users need to learn — will most likely  be ignored. 

In some cases, MSPs may find themselves introducing DevOps processes into their client base. In other cases, they will find themselves being asked to supplement that transition. If an MSP’s entire approach to IT is rooted in ITIL-based processes, they will soon find themselves struggling to hold on to customers that are in the process of rethinking how they manage IT altogether. At the crux of those efforts is the realization that as the organization depends more on software the only way to make the business more responsive to customers is by transforming the way IT operates.

In addition to investing in acquiring their own DevOps skills, MSPs would be well advised to initiate DevOps conversations with their customers as we head into 2019. No two DevOps journeys are quite alike. If MSPs don’t start the conversation, chances are very high that they will wake up one morning to discover that their customers have moved on without them.

Photo: Dylan Gillis/Unsplash

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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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