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5 Ways to Improve Your MSP Service Level Agreement (SLA)

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5 Ways to Improve Your MSP Service Level Agreements (SLAs)

SLAs are the foundation of your MSP business. They are essential to building strong client relationships and must be clear, reasonable and well-constructed.

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Struggling with IT Staffing? How to Handle the Talent Gap

Posted March 17, 2014by Jacque Rowden

help-wantedIf keeping high-quality employees around were easy, then the saying “good help is hard to find” never would have taken off. Yet, every managed service provider (MSP) can appreciate the problems associated with hiring and retaining the best technicians, salespeople and help desk staff. Although all industries face these challenges to some extent, IT staffing particularly has become a real concern. Let’s take a look at some numbers.

The problem isn’t a lack of talent:

  • The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports unemployment in the tech industry was just 3.5% at the end of 2013. That's half the nation's current average unemployment rate of 7%.
  • Technology consulting, which includes the design of computer systems and related services, added over 54,000 new jobs in 2013 alone, and currently employs 1.7 million workers.
  • Unemployment rates are improving for tech-related positions from software development to database administration and more. Fewer than 2% of network architects are currently unemployed.
  • Firings and layoffs in the tech industry are at a record low.

 

In fact, it’s the high value placed on these positions that’s created an “employees” market (versus “employers” market) when it comes to IT staffing, leading many techs to keep job-hopping in response to increasingly competitive offers.

  • 42% of hiring managers report that more on-staff IT personnel are voluntarily quitting, says Channelnomics, quoting a survey from Dice.com. This is an increase from 33% a year ago.
  • BLS data shows that an average of 474,000 techs per month quit their positions in favor of better prospects. This is an increase just from the first half of 2013, when that number was only 402,500.
  • IT staffing firms saw a 15% increase in aggregate revenue growth last year, according to Pulse Survey reports. IT temporary staffing represents the strongest performing sector of the market.  

 

Clearly, finding technical talent has become incredibly competitive among companies.

 

The Staffing Paradox

While IT staffing may be up overall in terms of numbers and availability, that doesn’t mean that it’s simple for MSPs to find talent, let alone retain it. Regardless of the generous number of opportunities that currently exist, MSPs can’t always compete with larger IT departments in terms of salary and benefits.

There are a few solutions that may be able to help:

  • Outsourcing: By outsourcing tech needs to a third party, you are no longer responsible for finding and retaining your tech staff, which is one of the largest hidden costs many MSPs don’t always notice. When you outsource, you only pay for what you use, which allows you to be more competitive in pricing, because you’re not on the hook for several full-time (high) salaries. Outsourcing is also more scalable to your business, and saves you from searching for and training new staff yourself.
  • Help Desks: A help desk (or help desk) offers a white label solution for top-tier tech support that incorporates many of the same benefits as completely outsourcing. It’s easier for Help Desk companies to compete for top technicians and they staff appropriately for seasonal IT demands. Utilizing a white-labeled help desk helps eliminate a number of staffing headaches many MSPs deal with. Here are some questions to consider when outsourcing your help desk.
  • Network Operations Center (NOC): A strong NOC can take care of the heavy lifting so you can support more devices with fewer technicians. A NOC acts as an extension of your team and again, allows you to pay for what you use, instead of taking on risky staffing costs.

 

In the end, what’s most important is for you to focus on growing your business, not getting tangled up in recruiting and training talent. Outsourcing is an ideal alternative that allows you to do just that. It isn’t that there aren’t great opportunities in IT—there absolutely are. It can just be hard to compete with larger companies for the technical talent needed to deliver on your IT services. Instead of being bogged down with staffing your business, work on finding new sales and growth opportunities for your business.

 

What have you found helpful when it comes to finding new talent for your business?

 

White Paper: The Case for Outsourced Help Desks
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Jacque Rowden is Continuum's Help Desk Senior Director. The Help Desk supports more than 20,000 MSP clients. She has been managing global IT support teams for more than 20 years. In 2008, her Help Desk was one of two finalists for ICMI's "Best Small Contact Center in the World." She is a regular speaker at user group meetings and industry conferences on topics including Agile Service Management and Service Desk Careers.

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