Make 2015 the year you set your engineers free
If that sounds alarming – let me just clarify. I’m not proposing you should dismiss them all so they can devote themselves to the more meaningful aspects of life – appealing though that may sound.
But if you are an MSP whose bread and butter business is NOC and Service Desk; and if you are having problems retaining highly skilled technicians – have you considered outsourcing these activities? In doing so, you could ‘liberate’ your engineers from much of the day-to-day ‘noise’ that is part and parcel of delivering these services.
Delegate the ‘donkey work’ to a partner like Inbay and you can redeploy your technicians on to projects that are more challenging for them – and of higher value to your company.
Tom Farre expressed this very well in an article as early as 2010: ‘If your technical staff spends too much time on the routine activities of systems monitoring and management – “watching the blinking lights,” …. they won’t be available for higher-value activities like architecting and implementing advanced solutions.’
Plus, if your engineers are bogged down and bored – with no opportunity to achieve their potential or to develop new skills with you – then they are more likely to respond to new opportunities elsewhere, leaving you with the expensive problem of rehiring and inducting new staff into the company – while ensuring that your client service levels don’t slip in the meantime.
Talking to many MSPs over the last year about their business challenges, staff retention emerged as one of the top three issues. And there is also a lot of concern about not using highly skilled resources cost-effectively – particularly in the light of the commoditisation of the ‘lower hanging fruit’ such as network monitoring and management.
Today, the smart MSP is looking to avoid a race to the bottom on price by focusing instead on value-add services. It’s a simple truth: if you are delivering greater value to your clients, you can charge more for your engineers’ time.
What are these added-value services likely to be?
Expansion of cloud services topped the 2014 Top Demand Drivers survey conducted by Autotask, followed by mobile connectivity and ‘always-on’ computing. Cloud deployment is exactly the kind of project to which skilled engineers could be deployed.
They could equally be focused on specialist consulting services – on implementation, migration and technology planning, for example. These are all higher-margin services than network monitoring and management and are the kind of activities that will extend and improve your company’s value in the eyes of clients.
And it’s not just about freeing up your engineers to add value through their technical abilities; they will also have time to hone communication and people skills, leaving them much better equipped to focus on building client relationships – identifying new opportunities and incorporating these into your services. This is essential if you are to move up to servicing larger clients with more complex needs.
No one wants to spend their days “watching the blinking lights”. If that is all that’s on offer, then you’re unlikely to hold on to your most skilled people.
But by outsourcing NOC and Service Desk, by investing in ongoing training and career development for your engineers, and by refocusing them on the emerging technologies and on building client relationships you will almost certainly increase their value to your business – and I guarantee you will have happier engineers who stay with you for longer.
 Metrics that Matter, Autotask, Results from 2014 IT Service Provider Benchmarking Survey
 Set Your Business Free, Tom Farre, Summer 2010