It is that time of the year when businesses work feverishly to close out the end of the year, and business owners and executives eye the coming year for its challenges and rewards.
One of the benefits in specializing in technology staffing exclusively for the MSP and VAR community is the opportunity to both observe trends in this highly competitive industry, as well as listen to the challenges business owners and executives are looking to conquer each year.
1. Demand for technology services provided by VARs and MSPs will continue to grow in 2017 and beyond. One potential game changing influence is the IoT (Internet of Things). IoT is impacting technology and businesses in unexpected ways, creating new service and support demands, and especially in areas of information / data / systems security.
2. Qualified technology candidates will remain difficult to identify and attract in 2017. Why? One major reason is U.S. based middle schools and high schools continue to churn out less and less STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) prepared high school graduates capable of immediately moving into technical trade schools; or 2 year and 4 year universities which ultimately feed the technical employment base.
3. Continued accelerated technology changes and new products will present service offering challenges to smaller VARs and MSPs who do not respond with enhanced internal staff educational offerings. There is always a lag between when a new product or service becomes the next hot commodity, and when sufficiently experienced and skilled technical staff become available on the job market.
4. Strategic service offerings will continue to grow with reasonable pricing flexibility, while “basic, keep the lights on” services such as email, data/file backup, and even phone services will continue to feel pricing pressure going forward in 2017. Many existing clients will clamor to “do more with in-house, non-technical staff” whose technological skills and confidence grows with each generation; combined with web-based learning tools which continue to provide alternative self-help avenues.
5. It is almost impossible to be overinvested in developing new or expanded Security Practice offerings. In 2014, Gartner predicted that more than half of business in 2018 will use security services firms that specialize in data protection and security infrastructure management to enhance their security postures. With the exponential growth of mobile computing and the age of IoT (only initially defined in 2013), even that forecast could be low. Experts predict that by 2020 there will be over 50 billion IoT devices; all of which could potentially contribute to the challenge of ensuring data / information / systems security.
6. Cloud-based service offerings are both friend and foe. While cloud based offerings provide MSPs and VARS lower entry costs for new and existing service offerings, it also brings increased competition from highly specialized, single or dual service providers who can potentially reduce or eliminate direct sales costs, and therefore operate efficiently at lower margin rates than historical VAR / MSP overhead.
7. If (and we believe it will) the economy continues to remain fundamentally strong, mergers and acquisitions will continue to grow, as larger or more aggressive firms decide it is more effective to acquire customers and market share through acquisitions, than grow through a purely organic growth strategy.
8. Mobile / remote / home office workforce employee flexibility will continue to rise in importance. Work environment flexibility continues to rate more important than salaries (although that is never far behind when it comes to accepting a new position). The younger workforce recognizes you can call or email anyone, from almost anywhere these days. Work is increasingly performed at the home after normal business hours, and the original “digital natives” are moving into management and beginning to significantly influence workplace culture and business norms.
9. VAR Staffing’s Top 3 projected most difficult search assignments in 2017 will be:
• Industry experienced sales professionals with verifiable quota performance
• Azure Architects
• Networking Professionals with CCIE certifications
10. And President-Elect Trump’s business impact? Your guess is as good as mine. Let’s just hope his policies are well grounded, and the U.S. economy remains strong in 2017 and beyond.
There you have it. Best of success in 2017!