Vendors Need to Evangelize Partner Services

Vendors need to help convince enterprises to leverage channel-led business process outsourcing to avoid dealing with the IT talent shortage and make their businesses more efficient.

By Larry Walsh

Recent headlines recount something simply remarkable in the modern era: zero unemployment in one class of skilled professional – specifically, IT security professionals. Vendors, solution providers, and end user organizations are struggling to attract and retain security professionals. The shortage is so severe that even bad security professionals have job security.

Security jobs are not the only tech jobs proving next to impossible to fill. Data analysts, cloud professionals, software developers, and operational professionals are in short supply around the world. According to U.S. government statistics, the number of open technology jobs is virtually equal to the number unemployed people.

The shortage starts in colleges, with the relatively low number of students choosing to pursue education and training in certain fields related to STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. While 34 percent of undergraduate degrees are awarded to people in hard sciences, less than 3 percent of bachelor’s degrees are in computer sciences, according to the Digest of Educational Statistics.

Simply put, the education factory isn’t producing enough product because of a lack of raw material – namely, willing and engaged students.

The IT skills shortage isn’t just a U.S. problem either. Even countries seemingly rich in IT talent, such as India and China, are suffering from the same problem. China, which has more students studying abroad than any other country, has incentive programs to repatriate those being awarded STEM degrees, ensuring talent doesn’t escape to other parts of the world.

And the IT talent problem is only going to get worse. Nowadays, every company – car manufacturers, home appliance vendors, health care providers, civil engineering firms – is competing for IT talent and putting pressure on the labor pool. Vendors can help “sell” partner-led services by evangelizing their value to end customers.

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In a recent conversation with an IT director at a major truck manufacturer, I heard about another problem for enterprise IT departments: the effectiveness of vendor sales.

This IT director told me that his department runs into serious system design, management, and cost problems because vendor sales teams are exceedingly effective at “going around” IT departments by making the C-suite and line-of-business managers the target of their sales pitches. As a result, product purchases and implementation directives are flowing downhill to IT departments without thorough consideration of how these deployments will affect costs and operations, he said.

Now, I won’t criticize vendors or solution providers selling to the C-suite. In fact, I told this IT director that he and his peers need to get better at thinking outside the box and creating systems that enable the business to perform better. Too often, IT managers look only at making their existing infrastructure work better to make their lives easier.

But the two problems got me thinking: Perhaps it’s time for vendors to start using their power and influence to evangelize solution provider services.

The fastest-growing segment of the IT services market isn’t cloud infrastructure, cloud-based applications, or managed infrastructure services. It’s business processes as a service, such as human resources, application development, travel management, expense management, accounting, legal, procurement, and more.

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Most C-suite executives and business owners don’t want to think about their IT infrastructure. To them, it’s a cost center, even when it’s enabling critical business functions. Managers – executive, sales, and operations – are more concerned about building and selling their product than the underlying systems and IT functions. The answer is to offload more IT-based functions to service providers.

Vendors do offer valuable services, but partners often have either broader, multifaceted capabilities (network, security, storage, etc.) or laser-focused professional services (human resources, accounting, procurement, facilities, etc.). If vendors can reach around IT departments to influence business management on product sales, they should do the same for solution providers and advocate leveraging the scalability that comes with channel-led services.

IT services are likely the most viable and cost-effective means of closing the IT skills gap and labor shortage, especially since the problem is only going to get worse. Vendors need to help promote how solution providers can solve the human capacity issues of the end customer.

Larry Walsh, The 2112 Group

Larry Walsh is the founder, CEO and chief analyst of The 2112 Group. Follow him on social media channels: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn.