During the upcoming Labor Day holiday weekend, most leaders of managed service providers (MSPs) will turn their thoughts to IT staffing issues.

After all, the success of any MSP basically comes down to how they manage their IT talent. The difference between successfully launching and sustaining any IT practice comes down to the IT expertise of the staff that drives it.

Attracting top IT talent

Unfortunately, most MSPs have not been able to expand their practices as much as they might like, because finding and retaining IT talent remains a major challenge. Of course, this is not just an issue impacting MSPs. The biggest competitors MSPs face in attracting the best IT talent is not just other MSPs, but also end customers and IT industry vendors.

A recent survey of CIOs published by KPMG and Harvey Nash, an IT recruiter, suggests the IT skills shortages is now at its highest level since 2008. The report specifically identifies the area where skills are the most scarce as Big Data/analytics (44 percent), cybersecurity (39 percent) and artificial intelligence (39 percent). That scarcity of expertise is being experienced not just by internal IT teams, but also MSPs and IT vendors. 

Even more troubling from an MSP perspective, the report suggests CIOs are willing to spend more to acquire the right talent. The annual survey also finds more technology leaders reported higher increases in IT budgets under their control than at any time in the last 15 years. Almost half the respondents (45 percent) report seeing an IT budget increase compared to only 38 percent last year.

Ironically, the same survey also notes almost two-thirds (63 percent) of organizations now allow technology to be managed by lines of business outside the IT department. That means there’s not just internal IT teams looking for talent, but lines of businesses are allocating budget dollars to acquire IT expertise as well.

How MSPs can adapt

Of course, a significant segment of the IT dollars being allocated by internal IT organizations or lines of businesses finds its way into the pockets of MSPs. The issue is that more of those dollars would flow toward MSPs if they had enough talent on hand to service demand.

The question MSP leaders need to ask themselves is to what degree are they looking for a perfect “Goldilocks” job candidate that doesn’t really exist. Most job postings these days require candidates to have years of experience and armful of certifications to prove it.

Even if that perfect candidate exists, those same job postings often offer salaries what that perfect job candidate is already making elsewhere. All those job postings create the illusion of an IT skills gap that is much larger than it really is. The gap is created not by a lack of IT personnel, but by supply and demand expectations that are often completely out of touch with reality.

Savvy MSPs know their best bet is to create a culture that attracts IT professionals that want to continuously learn. All things being relatively equal from a salary perspective, IT professionals that are given the opportunity to continuously improve their skills will usually stay put. After all, much like other job sectors that rely on the enthusiasm of their recruits, working at an MSP needs to be viewed as being much more of an adventure than an actual job. The challenge MSPs face is making sure they are investing in the appropriate level of training to deliver on that promise.

TruMethods MSP Improvement Plan

Photo:  tsyhun / 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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