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The IT Skills Gap and What Do About It

Nick Cavalancia

This is the third blog in a four-part series intended to help small and midsize organizations understand the challenges of managing technology and why they should consider outsourcing to a Managed IT Service Provider (MSP).

The one constant in IT is that it’s always changing; new technologies, compliance mandates, cyber threats, and business initiatives all make the management of an organization’s technology an ever-moving target. The small and midsize business (SMB) has an even tougher time, as they are faced with an additional challenge: the IT skills gap.

The IT skills gap refers to a gap between the IT skills needed in your organization and your team’s existing expertise.  There are two main drivers of the IT skills gap: 1) global shortage of IT talent with skills in emerging technologies like cloud, cyber security and mobility, 2) the unique challenge of smaller organizations that can’t afford to hire multiple IT specialists.

Businesses large and small need IT experts to help make the transition from current technologies and methods of operation, to newer tech that will propel businesses forward. SMBs have a particularly hard time making the transition largely because of an IT skills gap.

There are several reasons why the IT skills gap is so wide for SMBs:

  1. Evolving Technologies – The rate at which Information Technology is developing is faster than ever before.  Important technologies that drive SMB growth and profitability, such as cloud, security, virtualization, and mobility all are seeing rapid advances in functionality and affordability.  SMBs with small – or part-time – IT teams struggle to access the expertise required to keep up.
  2. Complexity - Technology has become so complicated that no single person has all the expertise required to properly transition the business, drive adoption, and ensure security and compliance – all while managing daily operations and supporting end users. Your one IT person has finite bandwidth and competencies that that are often stretched to the breaking point.
  3. Certification isn’t Expertise – Just because your internal IT team or consultant is certified in a particular technology, doesn’t mean they have sufficient real-world experience in helping your business leverage modern technologies to make the jump to newer and more innovative ways of operating.
  4. Budget – SMBs naturally have smaller IT budgets and staffing than their enterprise counterparts.  This can often translate into not being able to afford hiring the range of experts required to support today’s IT environments.

So, what’s the impact of the SMB’s IT skills gap?

  • Security risks – Only 14% of small and midsize businesses report they have the cyber security skills required to keep them protected.  Security threats are exploding as bad actors take advantage of IT vulnerabilities.  More and more, hackers are targeting smaller business as they are “softer” targets that are easier to exploit.
  • Unpredictable IT costs – Without an experienced set of hands at the helm of your new IT initiatives, SMBs should assume that there will be some unknowns around the amount of time and expense needed to implement new technologies.
  • Insufficient business agility – In many cases, SMBs will simply choose to remain leveraging older technology that inhibits their ability to dynamically respond to the needs of customers, partners, and customers.
  • Reduced ability to compete – Customers have come to expect even the smallest business to have modern tech in place that augments the customer experience. Lack of agility and the ability to implement modern systems equates to an inability to stand toe-to-toe with the competition.

Simply put, SMBs must look for ways to both meet their current IT needs and address how they will take advantage of emerging technologies that transform business performance

How, then, should you work to address the skills gap?

Addressing the IT Skills Gap

Some SMBs choose to address the gap with a “time and materials” consultant that provides ad hoc services.  While beneficial to seek counsel from someone with much more experience, IT is an ever-moving, ever-changing target that requires a team of experts with many areas of specialization.  For example, achieving effective security and data protection requires unique skills, tools and daily attention and effort.

For many small and midsize organizations, the right answer is to outsource to a Managed IT Services Provider (MSP) whose core competency is IT, and can enable you readily close the IT skills gap.  Look for an MSP that can:

  1. Protect Against Security Risks – look for an MSP that has a strong managed security practice, understands compliance and data privacy best practices, and leverages the latest security tools like Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) and Security Information Event Management (SIEM).
  2. Demonstrate Use of New Technology – the right MSP has already evolved the IT of customers like you to leverage the cloud, virtualization, mobiles devices, and more.
  3. Simplify Technology Complexity – the right MSP has a vision for your business, looking for ways to use new evolving technologies, but in a way that makes usage straightforward, streamlines management, and reduces costs.
  4. Exhibit Expertise and Experience – Just having a customer or two on some new tech isn’t enough. Inquire about the MSPs expertise and care teams, looking for certified techs with plenty of projects under their belt that will help your business do the same.
  5. Deliver a Cost-Effective Service – One of the benefits of using an MSP is that you should be seeing a reduction in the overall cost of both purchasing and managing your technology.  The right MSP should be able to offer a tailored solution that meets your IT needs and your budget. They will have invested in best practice tools and automation in order to deliver enterprise-level IT at price points that work for smaller organizations.