2016 Year in Review

2016 has been an interesting year in regards to IT. Money was spent on IT in predictable areas, but the year itself felt a bit differently than previous years. In what ways? As always, organizations are spending money on their IT needs, but they are being much more prudent about it. And frankly, I don’t blame them. 2016 was a year of making sure that money was cautiously spent and when it was spent, ensuring that value was realized on those investments. That is what we’ve seen.

And you know what? I think it’s a good thing. When organizations are a bit more careful and concerned about their IT spend it means they are concerned with and demanding value from their investments. It means not just spending for spending sake. By demanding value, their partners (solution and services providers like us) are forced to step up and provide it. If as a partner you don’t have a strong value proposition and differentiator, then believe me, your customers will notice, and they might question why the work with you. They look to work with partners that provide value (value as defined by their needs) and I feel we are in a buyers’ market for IT solutions and services.
There are a lot of areas this year where we’ve seen customers focused. Below is a list of the areas that I’ve seen. By no means an exhaustive list, but will give you a flavor of what we’ve seen this year. A big theme is value. I could write and entire blog post on each of these—some I have in the past and some I will in 2017—so here is my high level list of three of them.
Cloud 
No surprise here. I feel that 2016 is a year in which customers are truly putting plans in place for moving to the cloud. Even customers that years ago told us they would never move the cloud are evaluating, developing strategies, and asking for help in their move to the cloud. And I don’t mean SaaS here—everyone’s doing that to some degree—but IaaS and PaaS. Customers are asking what applications and workloads to move and where to start. We see the focus on newly developed apps that are being written specifically for the cloud and then focusing on moving legacy workloads and apps at a later date.
It makes sense and is a great place to start. We also see customers letting their older technology expire in terms of usefulness and instead of buying new technology, are making plans to move those workloads to the cloud. Many customers don’t want to invest in new technology, so I think you will see this trend continue to accelerate for 2017.
Operational Efficiencies and Realized Value 
Firms spend heavily when it comes to IT. It makes sense, as businesses are so integrated and dependent upon it. Organizations are concerned around the value of their investments, and they are right to do so. Every year IT managers ask for a lot of money to spend on IT. That investment needs to pay off. So this year we see customers asking the question: has my investment paid off? Does what I’ve invested in show true value to the business or I am no better off than previous years? Are my resources trained and up to speed to support these new environments? Is my ecosystem of partners there to support me when I need? And on top of it all: how can I save money?
Gone are the times when it was acceptable for a firm to spend heavily on a new IT project (technology, software, etc.) only to see much less value realized when it’s actually implemented. People are fired over that today. Customers are demanding that their investments provide real value.
Spending less on Infrastructure and more on Software and Services 
To compliment and augment my point above, we see firms spending more on services and software, then on the underlying infrastructure technology over the past year. And it’s no surprise. Gartner says that firms will spend almost 6 times as much on services versus infrastructure technology and almost 3 times as much on software versus infrastructure technology. Gartner’s study can be found here. This shows that customers are truly concerned about making sure that their technology investments are driving value. If not, then why spend so much on the services and software associated with it?
This trend will continue. IT is and always has been tools to help a firm do what they do better. If IT doesn’t do that, they why invest it in it? Firms are sending a lot of money to ensure that IT helps them be better at their core business function and rethinking their spending if it doesn’t.
What does this mean for you? 
What does this mean for you and your IT spending in 2017 and beyond? It means your strong partners stand already to ensure you get the most out of your investments in IT. That spending money makes sense, but do it prudently and be cautious to ensure you are receiving value, as defined by you and your firm. And that value needs to be tangible, not theoretical. As you adopt your cloud, security, operations, support, and resource, initiatives, engage your partners to help you realize that value. Good partners have seen this over and over at similar firms to yours and can help.
So 2016 was an interesting year. We’ve seen it focused upon how to drive and squeeze the most value possible out of investments—in the technology, software and services dollars spent. IT is continually tasked in helping firms make money versus just being an operational function. This will continue to evolve as well. The move (race, crawl, whatever you want to call it) towards the cloud will continue to change the dynamics of how we all do things. Firms will redefine their operational versus capital budget needs for IT, have the need to repurpose their people who focused upon infrastructure towards other areas, and continue to figure out how to provide more value when spending the same or less money. As I said earlier, it’s all a very good thing overall and made for an exciting 2016 and makes for an even more exciting 2017.
There are so many other areas to discuss which I will do in future posts, but these are some of the things I’ve seen this year.
Wishing you IT and overall success in 2017.
Andy Jonak

Make sure your Staffing Firms know more than just Staffing

I’ve written about Staffing firms throughout the years. I’ve talked about how important they are, how they often get a bad rap (particularly within the IT world) and what firms should look for when they are choosing a Staffing firm for their IT needs. This month, I want to talk about that a bit more. Really, Andy? More about IT staffing? Absolutely, especially since I am a bit biased on the topic (I oversee an IT Staffing organization as part of my responsibilities) but I also believe that organizations that use staffing firms can receive more value if they truly understand the firms they work with. That’s what I want to talk about (or some that know me would say, lament on) this month as I believe it’s very relevant and just as important as ever. I actually believe it’s more important know than ever before.

As I’ve said in the past, Staffing firms can provide a lot of value, especially within the IT world. What’s unfortunate though is that that the staffing industry and Staffing firms in general have been labeled as commodity type entities and providers. “Everyone provides staffing”, or that’s the common perception with customers. This isn’t me speculating here, this is what customers tell me all the time. They feel that many of the staffing firms that they work with are “body shops”. And yes, this is the term that they use—their words, not mine.

Well, if everyone provides staffing, how can they all possibly do it well? They can’t. I believe that this perception from the organizations we work with is driven by working with staffing firms that provide staffing services in many different areas and not just IT. They provide clerical people, accounting people, HR people, oh, and IT people as well. I believe that this drives the commodity perception. These companies do things very well (many have been around for decades) but what many of them do not do is specialize only in IT. And that is a key point in changing that commodity perception with customers—specialization.

A good staffing firm should bring value in the staffing services they provide that you couldn’t receive internally either through your efforts, your hiring managers, or your HR personnel performing the services. It sounds so simplistic, but it’s so powerful. A good staffing firm needs to become an extension of you, your team, your HR department, and your firm. If they don’t they why use them? This is something I’ve been declaring for years. They also need to know much more than just staffing. Of course they need to know how to staff people and the staffing business overall—that’s their job. Without that they wouldn’t be talking to and working with you. But how well do they know IT and IT staffing? That’s my point here.

Our firm, Vicom, has been working within the IT world for over 34 years. Or only focus is and has been the within IT. So when it comes to staffing, where do you think we specialize? That’s right, only IT. To illustrate how that drives value: when it comes to our staffing division, I have a Staffing Practice Manager that has been staffing IT positions for decades and a team of IT specific recruiters. He has a worldwide reputation in working with and in his ability to provide CCIE’s and Cisco certified technical resources. He is well known within these circles. In fact, CCIE’s come to him so that they can be placed by him because he knows the industry and their world so well. If you had a choice between picking a firm a staffing firm that provides “bodies” and one that focuses on IT and has candidates seeking them out to be placed which would you choose? That’s why specialization works.

I say this not necessarily to impress you (words are just that, words; I believe in actions to prove it), but to impress upon you how important it is to work with firms that specialize in what are you looking for, which, if you are reading this blog is solutions, services and staffing for IT. That specialization will give you what you need in terms of resources and, most importantly, value.

So make sure that your staffing firms know more than just staffing. If it’s IT competence that you need, make sure that they have a long history, experience and personnel that focus on and specialize in IT. Due your diligence with them to ensure you are getting the value you need. And you know what? They will step up to the task and prove to you why a great staffing firm knows much more than just staffing.

I’ll step off of my soapbox, but only until next month.

Andy Jonak

ajonak@vicomnet.com