As the foundation for its “ Top Strategic Predictions for 2018” report, the global research and analysis firm Gartner listed 10 “Strategic Planning Assumptions.” Among them was the prediction that by 2021 more than 40 percent of IT staff in a typical enterprise environment will be “versatilists” holding multiple roles, “most of which will be business-related rather than technology-related.”
No wonder CIO contributor Paul Heltzel listed “Retraining” as one of the “12 biggest issues IT faces today” in a recent column. Not only do technology workers inside an organization need to keep existing technical skills sharp, they need to acquire new business “ soft skills” at the same time. No easy task, as technologies for cybersecurity, mobility and the cloud continue to evolve at a rapid pace and emerging tech, such as artificial intelligence (AI), increasingly creeps into business applications.
That’s why more and more businesses large and small across the spectrum of industries are turning to Managed Services Providers (MSPs) for outsourcing or supplementing IT requirements. As technologies develop and diversify, MSPs keep pace and sustain a technical focus difficult for most other businesses to muster.
But how do you recognize an excellent MSP? In another CIO article, Heltzel lists the traits of “indispensable IT pros.” We picked five of those qualities that we believe describe indispensable MSPs:
- Curious Nature
Indispensable MSPs feature technicians with a persistent drive for picking apart processes and systems to learn their inner workings. When technologies such as blockchain emerge, the best technicians don’t wait for the next round of training. They begin researching and reading on their own initiative not only to deepen their MSP’s collective skill set, but to anticipate your questions when the time comes.
- Lateral Perspective
Digital technologies such as mobile devices and cloud platforms have the power to make vertical markets horizontal and horizontal markets vertical at a dizzying pace. For example, analysts estimate that more than 1.6 billion people worldwide will buy goods and services online this year. By 2021, this group of “digital buyers” is expected to exceed 2 billion. Indispensable MSPs recognize the role technical skills play in accelerating this digital transformation of business by connecting and customizing new systems to work in concert.
- Trouble-Shooting Prowess
Indispensable MSPs don’t just solve problems; they hunt for them. In a cybersecurity environment, for example, where cybercrooks are inventing new social engineering techniques and forms of ransomware every month, the best MSPs watch the news to learn about new threats and then test your systems for vulnerabilities before attacks occur.
- Teaching Skills
As we’ve argued many times in multiple posts, awareness and education programs should be among your company’s primary defenses against cyber assaults. Indispensable MSPs not only support your training efforts, they contribute to them by providing you with information from the field and reinforcing best practices as they interact with your staff.
- Relationship Acumen
Per CompTIA’s “IT Industry Outlook 2018,” today’s businesses must be “primed and ready for the ‘as-a-service’ world.” “From desktop-as-a-service, software-as-a-service, infrastructure-as-a-service, and beyond,” CompTIA researchers write, “the cloud has ushered in an era where any conceivable type of technology solution can be delivered much like the utility services that power your home.” So, indispensable MSPs cultivate strong relationships with software and hardware vendors in these ecosystems to simplify and expedite your interactions with these critical layers of technology.