SolarWinds: Challenges, Opportunities for MSPs in Tech Skills Shortage

MSPs and in-house tech pros alike struggle to keep their skills set up-to-date with evolving tech landscape.

Kris Blackmon, Head of Channel Communities

March 26, 2019

4 Min Read

IT management software provider SolarWinds on Tuesday released the findings of the its “IT Trends Report 2019: Skills for Tech Pros of Tomorrow” study on the state of skills and career development for technology professionals, including MSPs and MSSPs.

The survey found that over the last year, most tech pros have prioritized systems and infrastructure, security management and hybrid IT skills development. Moving forward, many will focus on developing skills in artificial intelligence (AI) and big-data analytics, hopefully leading to careers in the lucrative data science and coding fields. But despite these lofty goals, three-quarters of tech pros surveyed say if constraints around budgets and time don’t improve, they can’t say they’re confident in their ability to manage future innovations.

This falls in line with findings from the SolarWinds MSP “2018 Trends in Managed Services” report, which revealed that only one-quarter of partners consider themselves managed-service experts. Two-thirds of MSPs surveyed claimed only basic managed-service skills.

But there is promise in the report for MSPs, too. The survey found that a full 49 percent of SMB tech pros are somewhat to completely unconfident in their ability to manage IT environments in the near future with their current level of skill. This, of course, is a well-known opportunity among MSPs that focus on the SMB market and realize that internal IT departments have enough struggles just keeping up with password resets and on-boarding new employees, and need help in actual infrastructure management.

Still, MSPs shouldn’t rest easy. The professionals surveyed reported that in the last year, they’ve spent the most time and energy training in areas that partners consider prime opportunities like systems and infrastructure management (47 percent), security management (41 percent) and hybrid IT deployment/management (41 percent). Approximately the same number said they had plans to develop skills around hybrid IT deployment monitoring and management (47 percent) and security management (46 percent) in the next three to five years.


SolarWinds’ Joe Kim

“The findings are…in line with our view that the most critical problem we need to help tech pros solve today is the reality of the hybrid IT landscape — this applies to all tech pros whether on-premises, managing hybrid infrastructures, SaaS-based, or MSPs,” said Joe Kim, executive vice president and global chief technology officer, SolarWinds. “The way SolarWinds has always addressed and will continue to address these realities is through our deep connection to tech pros across the IT infrastructure. We are committed to understanding the needs of our customers and making their jobs easier as business technology continues to evolve.”

The pros surveyed also named software-defined everything, data science and analytics as skill sets they feel pressured to master in the next three to five years as companies’ data repositories grow far past their current abilities to make sense of the vast amount of information, and AI and machine learning play a bigger role in business.

But in-house talent and managed service providers alike find it difficult to …

… carve time out for the additional training and professional development they need to keep pace with enterprise technology. Eighty-three percent say their day-to-day IT tasks eat into time they set aside to learn new skills.


Expedient’s Jon Rosenson

Time is certainly an issue for many MSPs, whose founders and CEOs often wear too many hats to devote precious hours to additional, time-intensive training. But for those shops that can make it work, there’s real opportunity in the skills development frustrations of both in-house IT professionals and competitor partners as businesses look for sources of advanced capabilities. Making investments in existing staff professional development can often be far less expensive than hiring talent with the desired skills, as well, adding one last big incentive for MSPs to buckle down and smarten up.

Training and skill development is an important attribute of the workplace experience at managed service provider Expedient, which is also No. 7 in the 2018 MSP 501 rankings.

“We’ve established a robust learning and development program that encourages our team members to participate in training and certification that’s relevant to their current role, or to one for which they aspire,” says Jon Rosenson, senior VP of strategic initiatives at Expedient. “We also have a tuition reimbursement program for individuals pursuing a degree while they’re working. We find that some of our most successful leaders in the organization adapt well to continuous change and embrace the opportunity to explore new technology and approaches to challenges.

About the Author(s)

Kris Blackmon

Head of Channel Communities, Zift Solutions

Kris Blackmon is head of channel communities at Zift Solutions. She previously worked as chief channel officer at JS Group, and as senior content director at Informa Tech and project director of the MSP 501er Community. Blackmon is chair of CompTIA's Channel Development Advisory Council and operates KB Consulting. You may follow her on LinkedIn and @zift on X.

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