Depending on who you talk to it can seem as though MSPs are the answer to everything or the worst idea ever. Most people’s opinions fall more reasonably on the spectrum, but where you land likely depends on what your role is and how you interact with an MSP. Procurement professionals are more obvious champions while hiring managers and suppliers might give mixed reviews. If you’re an IT manager working with an MSP you’ve certainly got your own opinion – a bane, a boon, or a little of both?
An MSP can help bring costs in line, standardizing procedures that save a company both time and money. Streamlined, transparent processes can provide both supplier and buyer with efficiencies and cost savings and are a good benefit from a well-run MSP. Programs track the activities associated with hiring and managing contract employees and a company can reduce time, effort, and ensure consistency in process and quality across departments this way. There are areas where this can be done fairly easily without sacrificing quality. But there are also areas with more complex contingent workforce needs that require a deeper understanding and flexibility to work effectively within an MSP model and IT is absolutely one of those. IT department heads and hiring managers may try to work around an MSP with SOWs, but more and more companies are expanding their programs to include these and other types of contract or contingent labor.
So you can’t avoid the MSP, nor should you, really. The best thing is to figure out how you can work most effectively with your company’s program. The answer is by knowing what some of the common problems can be for IT managers and the ways to successfully combat them.
- Too few IT firms on the approved list –MSPs are tasked with reducing the number of suppliers, often with good reason. Economies of scale in purchasing can provide savings, often significant ones. The larger your company, and the more growth it has recently experienced (especially if you’ve acquired another company), the more likely you are to have duplicate suppliers. The problem is when the approved supplier list is pared too far back and is dominated by one or two large firms expected to provide talent across the spectrum. For a specialized area like IT this can spell disaster. A good program will include specialty niche firms for the departments that need them.
- Lack of communication with IT staffing suppliers – Some MSPs prohibit contact between suppliers and hiring managers, acting as the go between. To be sure, some managers prefer a gatekeeper and some ground rules that ensure that all vendors have the same opportunities for access are also a good idea, but completely preventing direct communication doesn’t work, especially in IT. Understanding the nuances of a position’s requirements and getting accurate feedback on submitted candidates is critical to success. There is no substitute for direct contact in these instances. When IT is not a core competency of the company but a necessary support department, procurement or program personnel may not have deep knowledge and experience with finding IT talent. Recruiters at an accounting firm are great at finding and evaluating accountants but may not be familiar when it comes to finding the best software developer.
- Rates that drive away quality suppliers and talent – One of the most important things to understand are the current market and salary for each job and how to price things in a way that is fair and equitable to both the company and its suppliers. IT is different from Administrative Support and both are different from Warehouse Manager or Call Center Specialist. The marketplace for IT talent is especially fluid and competitive. Programs try to lock rates in for several years. Again, it may work in some areas but not necessarily well in IT. You may have run into the issue, trying to hire a software developer in 2014 using a rate card set in 2012. It may also be based on categories that apply company-wide, taking little account of the differences between an IT project manager and a sales manager. If this is the case, you’ll likely lose talent to others.
So what should you do?
- If there is a seat at the table, take it. Whether it is as the program is being designed, or afterward on an ongoing basis, if you are asked for your input, give it. Be open and honest about what you need but look for opportunities for compromise. Change can be upsetting and it can seem at first that what the program may ask of you is unreasonable but if you keep an open mind you’ll see there are benefits and you can embrace the best parts of the program while also making your case for the things you want to change.
- Make sure that the issues above are addressed. Be sure that you have permission to contact your IT staffing firms as much as you feel is necessary. It’s great to get the efficiencies of using an MSP but don’t give up all your involvement or input. Automation and software are tools to achieve efficiency, not substitutes for human involvement and judgment.
- Understand how the whole system works. Where do you need to put in extra effort to reflect your requirements accurately? For example, take extra care with job descriptions to ensure they ask for what you really need and aren’t boilerplate language. Take time to develop a good relationship with the onsite program manager and recruiters. Help them understand your IT needs better. This way, when they are acting on your behalf, they’ll be doing so with knowledge and facts, surefire ways to more success.
Remember – it’s not all bad news. A good MSP can help you. It can provide structure and efficiencies that save money and time, both things that you can use more of. A smart procurement department and a good MSP can help everyone involved meet their goals. Developing good working relationships with them is the best way to ensure you reap the benefits and avoid the pitfalls. Good luck!
VP of Recruiting