If you limit yourself only to recruiting and retraining your in-house IT teams, you’re missing a trick. Your vendor partners can be a valuable part of your skills mix.
Are you using your vendors as a source of skills?
Use of third-party vendors as service providers in the realm of IT is not new — in fact, it’s extremely widespread. But you may not be evaluating and utilising your vendors from the perspective of how they can help you address skills shortages.
As CIO, your goal is to deliver the best value to the business: the most effective outcomes, sustainably, for the lowest cost. In certain circumstances, recruiting or training are the optimal solutions. In others, engaging a vendor might be the right strategic approach — especially if you look at the big picture.
'Managed services’ is a less loaded term than outsourcing, although it has the same benefit of giving you access to skills and results without bringing on board additional headcount. And you can often find managed services covering certain strategic activities, even with cutting-edge technologies.
In research we recently conducted as part of the Cisco IT Operations Readiness Index, we asked 1,522 senior IT leaders from around the world how they used vendors for activities related to analytics and automation of their IT infrastructure. Most organisations used vendors to perform multiple key tasks in this value chain, from data collection and aggregation to reporting and remediation. The more advanced organisations (which we called “pre-emptive” organisations) used vendors more extensively.
For many organisations, as we have seen, data analytics is a key growth area for skills — the best organisations are realising that, while they need to employ data scientists and fill other roles, they can also engage outside vendors to contribute to performing many strategic tasks.
Engage outside experts for technology transitions
Skills crunches often occur when you’re looking to run a significant technology transformation — say, a network upgrade or opening up a new Security Operations Centre (SOC). In these situations, you’ll find yourself lacking both cutting-edge technology skills, but also capacity — possibly only for a duration of a few months or quarters.
Whether it’s top-level strategic consulting from a Big Four firm, or a more tactical engagement for new technology deployment, a third party provider can give you temporary access to specialist expertise without you having to hire or train for it. You may also get the benefit of an external perspective, best practice methodologies, and other intellectual property. And a quality vendor will work hard on knowledge transfer, onboarding and documentation during the project, thereby contributing to your reskilling goals at the same time.
The benefits of sourcing expertise from outside vendors extend beyond simply the access they give you to skills, anywhere in the world. Depending on how your business manages and reports on IT costs, you might find it beneficial to spend budget on vendor experts than on in-house headcount, as well as the ability to scale capacity when needed.
Push the boundaries of engagement models
But alternative sourcing models don’t stop there. Alongside traditional outsourcing and managed services contracts, many vendors offer staff augmentation services, where experts in specific skills, technologies or development languages come and sit onsite as an extension of your team. Platform or marketplace models give you access to crowdsourced talent on a temporary or ad hoc basis, without the formality and friction of recruiting an individual contractor.
Percolate, a marketing technology software as-a-service (SaaS) company, tried many different approaches to recruit software engineers (including opening new offices and employing remote workers) but struggled with the talent gap. It partnered with a company called Andela, which gives companies access to developers in Africa as a distributed extension to their engineering teams. “We are in constant competition … and the pool of qualified people to join our team never seems big enough. When we decided to move forward with Andela, I was sceptical at first … so we decided to try a pilot with them. We brought on two engineers into a team that was already pretty distributed … the pilot went really well, and we got to know Eric and Angie and they became a part of our team … From there, we scaled up to 6 developers from Andela and we couldn’t be happier with the arrangement.” Zach Haehn, VP of Engineering, Percolate9
Cisco offers a full lifecycle of professional, managed, support and training services across the technology landscape. To find out more about these services, check out our website.