Bridging the skills gap with network operations centers

| By: Jeff Bishop

The industry is constantly evolving—and so is your business. As you grow and adapt to changes in the technology landscape and the expanding needs of your clients, you may begin to notice an increase in skills gap between your employees and new demands from your clients. However, even though your clients’ needs may be expanding beyond what your current staff can support, it is not always feasible to increase your workforce due to talent or cost limitations.

So how can you overcome a widening skills gap and IT talent shortage to expand your capabilities and achieve scalable, high-margin growth? By implementing a network operations center (NOC), security operations center (SOC), or help desk.

What is a NOC?

A network operations center, or NOC (pronounced “knock”), is a centralized location where IT technicians directly support the efforts of remote monitoring and management (RMM) software. Because automation is a huge force behind operational efficiency for technology solutions providers (TSPs), NOC teams are heavily utilized in the managed IT services space to assist with these operations, acting as a tremendous driver of service delivery.

These technical teams keep a watchful eye over the endpoints that they monitor and manage, independently resolving issues as they arise and taking preventative steps to ensure specific issues do not occur. NOC teams are also heavily involved in high-level security actions and backup and disaster recovery (BDR) efforts, ensuring 24/7/365 uptime for a TSP’s customers.

What are the responsibilities of NOCs?

NOC engineers and technicians are responsible for monitoring infrastructure health, security, and capacity on a clients’ environment. They make decisions and adjustments to ensure optimal network performance and organizational productivity.

When any action or intervention from the TSP is required, NOC technicians can create alerts (or tickets) that identify and categorize the issue based on severity, alert type, and other criteria. Depending on the relationship between the NOC and the TSP, technical teams can then work together to resolve the problem (and identify its root cause to prevent future issues).

How do NOCs improve my business operations?

1. Heightened user experience
When operating at peak efficiency with a managed IT service partner, an end user isn’t even aware of the NOC’s presence. NOC technicians coordinate only with the TSP or solution provider they’re supporting—never directly with an end client. This creates a user experience where the TSP can seamlessly deliver world-class support and problem resolution with seemingly boundless resources.

2. Cost-effectiveness
Even while fully staffed, it can be difficult to meet the peaks and troughs of demand while simultaneously preparing for the maintenance of everyday IT tasks that need to be carried out. In addition, while maintaining a profitable, growing business, the fixed labor and infrastructure costs of building an in-house NOC, SOC, or help desk team could potentially be cost prohibitive if they are large or all-encompassing.

TSPs should consider partnering with a third-party NOC who can take on most of the technical work that needs to be done in a growing TSP practice. Instead of an unwieldy in-house operation, a NOC acts as an extension of the TSP’s existing workforce, leaving a TSP’s primary technical staff to focus on high value, high ROI projects.

3. Efficiency
Using a NOC is a more efficient, cost-effective option than hiring technicians to bridge the skills gap. For many TSPs, it is extremely difficult or simply impossible to staff their business with enough techs with the right skillsets to grow their business profitably. Given the great demand for these technicians, the right technicians command a salary that has also grown commensurately, making profit margins even more difficult to achieve while attempting to staff at scale.

4. Closing the skills gap
There is always a certain degree of growing pains that come when embracing innovation in your business. Partnering with a NOC eliminates the skills gap by offering all the resources a TSP would need in their technical staff for a flat fee each month. As your TSP’s business grows, more resources are added to scale, protecting margins while delivering round-the-clock results.

Getting started with a NOC

Continuum Assist™ is purposefully designed to allow TSPs to scale for success by leveraging a deep integration with our NOC. As a TSP partner acquires more clients and subsequently more endpoints, the support they receive from our NOC technicians scales as well—and at a rate that accurately meets the needs of service delivery requirements without any of the costs associated with infrastructure, technology, training, benefits, and more tied to an in-house staff.

TSPs who utilize a NOC are never investing in or paying for unutilized or unproductive labor—they can scale it up or down as needed to meet service level agreements, and multiple SLAs allow TSPs to decide exactly how they’d like to leverage the NOC on a per-site basis. In addition, the total cost of ownership over time is far less than hiring to scale.

Furthermore, using a NOC is not just about managing your employee’s time and capacity. Overall, TSPs do not see direct profit from the tasks that would be characterized as routine, recurring, or mundane. These lower-level tasks are part of most basic service packages and are not significant drivers of revenue or profit, regardless of how frequently they’re taking place. No matter how many or how few need to be performed for a client, the technology service provider does not see any profitable returns for performing tasks that simply “need to be done.”

NOCs allow TSPs to take on clients that they wouldn’t typically have capacity for, creating efficient scalability and freeing your staff to focus on client relationships and business development. To learn more about how to leverage a NOC or other ways you can scale your business more efficiently, check out our eBook, Scaling for Success Part I: Solving for Staffing, Skills and Growth.