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Managed Services Momentum Shifts to Mid-Market

While traveling across North America in recent weeks, I've heard about the same two-part trend from multiple sources: Some small businesses are reducing their IT service contracts and delaying outsourcing decisions. But on the flip-side, mid-size businesses are accelerating their move to managed services. These trends are pretty easy to explain.

Consider this: 18 percent of small-business owners in October said they were at risk of going out of business because of economic conditions, up from 9 percent in August, according to an American Express survey involving 602 businesses with 100 or fewer employees.

Even worse:
  • 79 percent of small-business owners said sales are decreasing.
  • About two-thirds of the respondents said the tightening of credit has affected their business.
  • 51 percent said they have had to tap personal assets in order to pay business expenses.
With those concerns in mind, it's increasingly difficult for small business owners to focus on their IT strategies. They're so consumed by cash-flow issues, that they overlook the fact that managed services can deliver predictable, reliable IT services at a fixed monthly cost.

Let me be clear: Small business owners should embrace managed services as a way to improve their own cash flow. But many entrepreneurs will hesitate to do so because they are afraid to make any long-term financial commitments in today's economy.

Mid-Market Managed Services Boom
In stark contrast, mid-size businesses are accelerating their move to managed services. I hear this again and again from CXOs within mid-size organizations, and from managed service providers themselves.

The explanation is simple: Mid-size companies are eager to trim costs. Big, sprawling on-premise application projects are out of fashion. Instead, easy-to-deploy software as a service (SaaS) engagements are the rage.

But that's not all. Mid-size companies are investing in managed security, managed storage, and other basic services that no longer require full-time internal IT employees.

Yes, some mid-size IT staff members are going to lose their jobs as companies outsource more functions to managed service providers. But that was a trend even before the recession kicked in.

Fearless Migration to Managed Services
Instead of fearing managed service providers, IT staff members should closely evaluate their skill sets and develop expertise in such emerging areas as unified communications, telepresence and open source applications.

Nobody is immune to the recession. But mid-market IT managers who keep their skills sharp will mitigate the risk of losing their jobs, and wind up working more closely than ever with managed service providers.