Staffing/training tops the list of challenges facing MSPs, many of whom are struggling to recruit the technical talent they need and retain the people they do bring on board. This is an issue that affects MSPs of all sizes and it can be a severe restrictor on growth.
Capacity planning is problematical for most organisations – and the MSP business model is no exception. However carefully you plan the expansion of your business, the unexpected addition of a new customer with a large number of users and/or complex requirements can totally disrupt your existing support operation. Conversely, the unanticipated loss of a major account can leave you overstaffed and scrambling to replace revenues.
When just-in-time hiring can be just too late
So when do you bring in the new skills and additional resources you need to grow your MSP business? Do it well ahead of time based on anticipated growth and you incur major up-front expense before new revenues begin to flow (the funding gap). Leave it too late and your current support team will be overburdened, having to onboard new clients while trying to maintain high service levels to the existing base.
When demand for tech talent exceeds supply
The ‘when to hire’ dilemma has been exacerbated in recent years because demand for ‘tech talent’ now regularly exceeds supply. It can take a very long time to bring in the specific skill-sets you need these days – as confirmed by CompTIA in their latest IT Industry Outlook report: fifteen percent of respondents to this survey believed hiring would be “significantly more challenging” in 2018, while 33% expected it to be “moderately more challenging”.
Top 5 factors contributing to a more challenging hiring landscape in 2018
- Competing with other tech firms for talent
- Finding workers with the right soft skills
- Finding workers with the expertise in emerging tech fields
- Rising salary expectations
- Insufficient pool of talent in region/locale
When certain skills are particularly hard to recruit
Certain service/technology areas are particularly prone to skills shortages, as shown in the chart.
Source: CompTIA, Assessing the IT Skills Gap, May 2017
Certainly from my own conversations with MSPs, it seems that engineers with security-related skills are especially thin on the ground – a major problem for MSPs, given that increasing numbers of SMBs are looking to their MSPs to provide security services.
Some 80 per cent of SMB respondents to a 2017 SolarWinds MSP survey were planning to change the way they managed security in the following twelve months, of whom 49 per cent were planning to outsource their security for the first time.
So security represents an enormous opportunity for MSPs – provided they can resource the new services.
When customer expectations are increasing
SMBs want more from their MSPs: more complex new services such as layered security, cloud and BDR, delivered not just as a minimally viable offering but as a full-service solution. They also expect out-of-hours and 24/7 support – all of which means even greater demands on pressured MSP resources.
So given the often unpredictable nature of the MSP growth path, combined with the challenge of finding the right people – particularly when it comes to resourcing the new in-demand areas, what should MSPs be doing?
The first thing is to make sure you are covering all recruitment bases effectively, for example, by encouraging referrals from existing staff and identifying potential hires at industry events and networking groups – although this may not be productive in the case of high-demand skills.
You certainly need to try to improve staff retention if staff churn is a persistent problem. Make sure your qualified engineers are deployed on challenging work, commensurate with their skills and experience and give them the opportunity to progress and learn new skills.
And don’t forget the other options available to help you resource your growth, diversify into new business areas and gain ‘on-demand’ access to additional skills for specific projects or when your own team is overburdened. These can make a difference quickly.
Partnering for NOC
An effective NOC is an essential component of growth. But in-house NOC can be costly to set up and run – and a drain on resources too.
A NOC partner is a qualified third-party who will take on the NOC infrastructure and skills burden on your behalf, looking after the proactive monitoring and maintenance requirements of your clients cost-effectively and professionally.
Partnering for NOC can resolve your ‘when to hire’ dilemma. You simply increase usage with your partner as you grow and onboard new clients, getting access to the skills you need, as and when you need them.
When you partner, your team will be increased by a whole pool of technicians, 24/7/365 if needed, who will be available to cover holidays, sick leave and ‘double up’ during busy periods.
And not just any old technicians, but a team of highly experienced people with up-to-date certification and training in the latest, in-demand technologies and tools.
When it comes to client project work, it’s just not feasible to employ full-time staff to cover every skill you may potentially need. That’s why it makes sense to partner for delivery of some project services.
Your partner will have made the required investment in skills, so you can access their pool of qualified and experienced resources to plug expertise and resource gaps, whenever you need them and with no long-term commitment.
This allows you to:
- Offer a broader range of services
- Complete more projects, more quickly
- Free up your own engineers for higher value activities
Typical projects our own team carry out include
- Office 365 migration
- MS windows server deployment and migration
- Active directory deployment and migration
- MS Exchange server deployment and migration
- Virtualisation projects(VMware, Citrix, Hyper-v)
- Back-up and storage, device configuration or migration
- End-user profile migration
Remote staff augmentation
If you are looking to augment your team but you don’t want to hire additional in-house resources or can’t find the skills you need at a price you can afford, then remote staff augmentation is an option you should consider.
It is much more cost-effective than hiring additional engineers to staff your NOC and Service Desk – and unlike the outsourcing model, you will enjoy dedicated resources, sourced and selected to your exact specification.
Your partner takes on the recruitment challenge and will also take on all aspects of HR management for that resource moving forward. You schedule and manage their work as you would with your own staff.
If you are struggling to grow your customer base or increase the services you offer because you can’t find the people you need to support this activity – think about partnering.
Partnering offers a cost-effective way of accessing the resources you need to deliver high-quality service, without the cost and headache of recruiting, onboarding, training and, unfortunately, all too often, having to replace staff.
Contact us or chat now to find out how Inbay can help MSPs break the recruit-retain-replace staff cycle.