COVID-19 has a mix of implications for IT staffing trends, creating permanently remote workers, shifting demand for skill sets and changes in the gig economy.
The reopening of the economy, which is continuing in some areas of the U.S. and being put on pause in others, has created a considerable degree of uncertainty for the IT labor market. But some signs seem to point toward a steadying of the business climate.
A CompTIA report published this week noted that 84% of tech firms surveyed in June reported receiving new-customer inquiries, compared with 83% in the industry association's April survey and 76% in its March survey. The June survey polled 231 CompTIA members, a group that included managed service providers (MSPs).
CompTIA cited customer interest in fields such as cybersecurity and cloud computing, "perhaps indicating that the business environment is stabilizing."
The CompTIA report also found fewer technology companies postponing interviewing and recruiting for new positions (25% in June versus 32% in April) and fewer laying off full or part-time staff (13% in June versus 17% in April.).
As for hiring, CompTIA said 14% of the tech companies surveyed in June plan to onboard new staff.
1901 Group, an IT services and solutions provider, is among the companies looking for new employees. Brendan Walsh, senior vice president of partner relations at 1901 Group, said "We were hiring before the pandemic, have been hiring and onboarding new hires during the pandemic, and are currently hiring as the recovery takes shape."
The company, based in Reston, Va., is a business partner of the Virginia Ready Initiative, which aims to help unemployed people in Virginia find jobs. Through the initiative, 1901 Group will provide job interview opportunities for participants in the VA Ready Scholars program, which offers workforce credentials through 23 Virginia community colleges.
1901 Group works with both private sector and government sector customers.
Tricia LongVice president of marketing communications, 1901 Group
"With the impact of the pandemic, the stakes are even higher in workforce strategies and changing the way federal government is building a workforce today," said Tricia Long, 1901 Group vice president of marketing communications.
With regard to skill sets, 1901 Group is pursuing soft skills and technical expertise in new hires. Long said the company is "always looking for people with a passion for learning and for providing high levels of customer service and customer satisfaction." On the technology side, 1901 Group is emphasizing knowledge in cloud engineering, AI and machine learning, cybersecurity, software development, and program/project management.
CompTIA's June survey, which polled service providers on the top areas in which they received new-business inquiries, found that in addition to interest in cloud and security, respondents cited managed services or outsourced IT services; consulting to help clients go virtual; and communication, collaboration and AV technologies.
IT staffing trends: More remote work
Employees, whether existing workers or those just coming on board, are more likely than in previous years to have remote work as an option. Respondents of CompTIA's survey ranked "letting more employees stay working remotely" as the top long-term business change stemming from the pandemic. Sixty-five percent of the CompTIA members polled cited that particular IT staffing trend.
Seth Siegel, partner at Infosys Consulting, part of multinational Infosys Ltd., published a workplace-of-tomorrow report 10 years ago, finding only about a third of office space was used during any given day. The report also noted a productivity boost for at-home workers. Little changed over the next decade, however. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
"COVID has caused companies to revisit concentration risk," Siegel said, defining that term in the workplace context as housing "all employees in the same physical space."
Tech organizations managing an expanded remote workforce might need to reinvent the way they assess employees on the job. Siegel said showing up at an office will no longer suffice as a success metric: "How do I approach measuring the success of employees and how do I measure productivity?"
To measure the effectiveness of remote employees, organizations need a firm grasp of what employees actually do and then focus on quantitative goals -- generating revenue goals, for instance -- and qualitative objectives such as cultivating leadership skills.
Tech companies should also focus on remote work as an integral part of organizational culture to help ensure employee success, Siegel noted. Technology plays a role here. Siegel recommended companies require employees to turn on their laptop video cameras for face-to-face communications. This approach "drives a human connection," he said.
A dwindling gig economy?
Another IT staffing trend: Economic uncertainty could make the gig economy less attractive for tech workers. Siegel said companies cutting back on personnel typically start with free agents.
"People want some level of security and safety," he said.
OpsRamp expands cloud monitoring for service providers
OpsRamp, an IT operations management software vendor, based in San Jose, Calif., that partners with service providers, is offering expanded cloud and synthetic monitoring in the latest release of its product.
The new release provides support for 22 additional AWS services, including AppStream, Cognito, EventBridge, GuardDuty, Lex, OpsWorks and SageMaker. Overall, OpsRamp offers more than 140 integrations across public cloud platforms such as AWS, Google Cloud Platform and Microsoft Azure.
OpsRamp's synthetic monitoring, meanwhile, locates bottlenecks across multistep transactions and correlates transactional performance -- page responsiveness and timeouts, for example -- with conversion rates, completion rates and other business metrics.
GreenPages Technology Solutions, a hybrid cloud services provider and systems integrator based in Kittery, Maine, has standardized on OpsRamp as its cloud management platform, which it offers to customers on an as-a-service basis, GreenPages CEO Ron Dupler noted. In addition to that managed service, GreenPages also implements the OpsRamp tool set as a turnkey offering to help enterprises transform IT operations, he said.
Dupler said he likes where OpsRamp's evolution is heading. "The biggest thing I like in this release is the continued move toward cloud and synthetic monitoring," he said.
He noted that OpsRamp's new features will help the product look at the application layer to determine how apps are performing, a consideration that will become increasingly important in the cloud world.
In addition, Dupler said the new release's alert sequencing explainers and syslog event integration bolster OpsRamp's AIOps component. He said AIOps has become more important recently as IT departments aim do more with less amid budget constraints. He added that GreenPages is using OpsRamp on AIOps engagements as customers look to streamline operations and automate incident resolution.
Service providers have been developing AIOps practices in recent months.
- Tech Data said it will invest about $750 million in digital transformation initiatives now that Apollo Global Management has completed its acquisition of the Clearwater, Fla., distributor. The initiatives, to be carried out over the next five years, will focus on "automation, platforms and analytics" that let the company be more responsive to channel partners, Tech Data said. Apollo in November 2019 agreed to acquire Tech Data, fending off a competing bid to do so.
- Pythian Services Inc., an IT services company based in Ottawa, launched a set of professional services around Google Cloud. The offerings focus on the planning, migration and management of specialized workloads in Google's public cloud platform. The Pythian services include support for Google's Bare Metal Solution. Pythian said it is offering its Roadmap Assessment services for Oracle-to-Google migrations for free for a limited time.
- NWN, a service provider based in Waltham, Mass., rolled out an integrated suite of managed unified communications and collaboration services. The offering, dubbed Officeanywhere, is built on Cisco Webex. Officeanywhere integrates cloud voice, video calling, messaging, networking and security components into a single managed platform.
- Alibaba Cloud is partnering with managed SD-WAN provider Aryaka Networks. Under the arrangement, the cloud provider will offer Aryaka's SmartServices portfolio through its Alibaba Cloud International Marketplace. In addition, Netbank, which works with both Alibaba Cloud and Aryaka as a reseller partner, will offer services in China.
- SolarWinds, an IT management software provider, said it is providing more resources and support for MSP in the expansion of its customer success initiative. Updates include a 24x5 global customer care team, an expanded onboarding team and new partner advisory groups.
- Green House Data, a digital transformation consulting and managed IT services firm based in Cheyenne, Wyo., said it is working with Zerto to accelerate digital transformation projects "centered around hybrid cloud resilience and multi-cloud application migration."
- Aircall, a New York company that provides a cloud-based voice platform, entered a partnership with Chicago-based master agent and technology distributor Telecom Brokerage Inc. (TBI). TBI this week also partnered with 360 SOC to offer its SOC-as-a-service platform with managed detection and response service.
- SyncDog Inc., a Reston, Va., company, is partnering with distributor Ingram Micro, which will offer the ISV's mobile security software through its Cloud Marketplace.
- Tradeshift, a supply chain payments and marketplaces company based in San Francisco, launched a new partner program, Partner Next, which replaces an earlier channel initiative. Tradeshift said its existing 50-plus partners will transition to the new program, while it seeks to grow its partner ecosystem into new territories, market segments and category verticals. The program encompasses five partner categories: advisory/consulting, implementation, reseller, independent software vendor and business process outsourcing.
- Hunters, a Tel Aviv-based provider of autonomous threat hunting technology, raised $15 million in Series A funding to build out its offering and expand North American operations. As part of Hunter's go-to-market strategy, the company will seek to enable service providers to use its platform, a company spokesperson said.
- Aerospike Inc., a Mountain View, Calif., company offering real-time NoSQL data technology, unveiled partnerships with SmartScape and ASK Corp., both in Japan. Aerospike said it has doubled headcount, customers and revenue in the Asia-Pacific region in the last two years.
- Digital consultancy Perficient said it has earned Google Cloud Premier Partner status.
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Additional reporting by Spencer Smith.