More companies, particularly SMBs and micro firms, are turning to IT service providers to augment their own IT departments, due to a growing IT skills gap.
By Elaine J. Hom
April 25, 2012
A recent study from CompTIA shows that there are major skills gaps in IT workers, with 56 percent of businesses saying their IT staff was only moderately close to where they wanted their skills to be. According to the survey, 39 percent of small firms and 48 percent of micro firms plan to leverage third-party IT services providers to meet the gap in their organizations.
In this interview with Bill Lucchini, COO of OnForce, which specializes in connecting tech contractors to businesses, Lucchini discusses the trend and how service providers can help meet this demand and close the skills gaps for SMBs.
ChannelPro-SMB: What is the biggest demand in terms of skills?
Lucchini: We do a lot of business doing work with Apple products – we get a lot of companies that bring us in for Apple implementation in a Windows environment. They have IT personnel who know Windows and can maybe fumble their way through, and small companies like the option of using Apple products.
We also see folks who might have an IT generalist on staff and they’ll hire us to augment for networking or for a Microsoft Exchange upgrade.
ChannelPro-SMB: How can IT service providers show their value to customers and capitalize on this opportunity?
Lucchini: We always advise our technicians to differentiate themselves. The key is to communicate. A lot of these guys in the IT field feel like it’s about how much you know about, say, VoIP. They forget it’s about showing up on time, communicating effectively, and giving the customer confidence that you’re going to take care of them.
The other part is to solve the problem, don’t just complete the task. Understand what the real problem is and make sure you’re giving them what they need. They may call you because they can’t print, but the problem might go deeper than that. Customers appreciate the full solutions rather than needing to call you every couple of weeks. It comes down to wrapping your skills with customer service – real customer focus will help you stand out from the crowd.
The study shows exactly why we’re in business. Service providers are instrumental in accelerating the launch of new products. If you have an internal IT staff, expecting them to know all new technology today is overwhelming – it’s hard to keep track of all of it. We’re seeing increasing specialization, meaning you need to tap into different experts. If you try to do that with a fixed employee base, it’s not viable.
ChannelPro-SMB: What are some trends you’re seeing among service requests?
Lucchini: Mobile device integration is big in company environments. Security around that is coming up quite a bit, too. We’re seeing more home automation and home security automation. That’s a trend that people have been talking about for 20 years and we are seeing more work orders related to it. The kinds of things we’re seeing are security systems, your TV, remote light controls, control heating systems, all integrated with your mobile device – the interconnection of the devices of the system in your home.