IT Business Needs Closer Collaboration
Outside major cities, doing business in services is difficult—even in digitalization. However, service providers can surmount these obstacles if they work together. This is a way to minimize risks and combat the skills shortage in the field of services.
In the age of digitalization, even providers of related services face considerable challenges. That is why Tobias Rudolph, managing director of Proservia Field Services GmbH, wants to step up collaboration with other service providers. That way, all involved can pool their strengths so that they can meet customer needs as effectively as possible, work in a more agile way, and potentially create more business.
Mr. Rudolph, you are the managing director of Proservia Field Services (Proservia FS for short), which is the IT service subsidiary of ManpowerGroup company Proservia Deutschland and operates on a local basis, never far away from its customers. How relevant are field services in this day and age? How do they fit into the overall concept of Proservia as a managed IT service provider?
Answering that question means looking at the situation as a whole. First of all, I would like to put the relative sizes of our companies, Proservia and Proservia Field Services, into perspective. With more than 7,000 employees in Europe and with sister companies such as Experis at our side, Proservia definitely has substantial clout on the international market. However, because of our relatively short history in Germany (starting with a carve-out from the former HPE Enterprise Services, now DXC Technology, in 2016), our profile on the local market is still a little lower than we would like. Despite that, it is important to know that we are already working hard for our customers at almost all major DAX-listed companies from a number of relevant sectors.
But back to your question. Generally speaking, we think of field services as all relevant IT work that requires actually going to customers’ premises. As a rule, this means user-focused service business relating to areas such as end user, break/fix and lifecycle services. Or, to put it another way, on-site service is used for incidents and service requests for hardware and software, both in offices and at data centers.
In addition to operational field services, Proservia FS offers consulting in related matters and can take on specific (local) responsibilities, such as in software support.
How important is Proservia Field Services within Proservia Germany?
We are embedded in our parent company, which means that we are able to access shared resources and direct our strengths toward the respective core area of expertise.
For example, we share the same sales and account teams, which means that we avert potential conflicts of interest or inefficiencies in exchanging information.
We also work within the same infrastructure, which enables us to avoid incurring unnecessary costs. We are happy to pass these commercial benefits on to our customers.
Our extensive portfolio allows us to offer customers services that they may not even have thought about at first, all from a single source. That, coupled with the power of ManpowerGroup, one of the world’s largest providers of solutions relating to personnel recruitment and transformation, opens up room for thinking in entirely different categories that do not necessarily have to be specific to IT. This makes us very appealing as a partner, especially for the Germany’s formidable small and medium-sized manufacturing sector.
What do you think the challenges are for IT service providers on the market in Germany right now?
Naturally, that is a very complex problem, and we don’t have the time to answer it in full here. I’d like to focus more on the part that relates to on-site services for customers.
Technological change in an era of digitalization means that we need to be able to deploy appropriately trained employees to visit customers. IT systems generally run more stably than they used to, and options for remote assistance have gotten much better and, in some cases, even become the default choice.
Looking at it another way, that means that many on-site providers find themselves facing a capacity problem, especially outside major business regions. At the same time, they are operating in an extremely cost-sensitive and aggressively priced environment. Added to which, the current situation on the labor market is making it very difficult to find skilled employees in the first place.
So what needs to be done? Personally, I am convinced that finding a solution that works for customers is possible only if service providers give serious thought to new collaborations and working more closely together.
What do you think are the benefits of such cooperation between IT service providers, and what forms could it take in an age of digitalization?
I think that the potential benefits are actually quite obvious. In “weak” regions, why not pool responsibilities, join forces and share customers?
I know of many people in the industry, sometimes from shared stints at other companies where teamwork functioned well and people trusted each other. You also know what to expect in terms of salaries at various companies and in particular regions, and the same goes for prices as a result of a range of competitive situations.
With regard to contracts, it is always possible to find solutions to minimize risks relating to capacity utilization, service level agreements and the like if trust has not quite fully built up yet or if financial conditions in the contracts make it necessary.
Why shouldn’t we help each other out with customers A and B and yet still enter the bidding process as potential competitors for customer C? I don’t see any contradiction there. Of course, it does require partners to deal with each other openly and with a sense of commitment.
What are your goals for the near future?
None of us is here just for the fun of it, of course. It’s about customers and business. I naturally want to create growth and generate profits, ideally without having to take too many risks. That is exactly where I think there is potential for a collaborative partnership model, especially given the conditions created by the current skills shortage in IT.
What would you like decision-makers at IT service providers to take away with them from this?
I would love it if the thoughts I have talked about here were to prompt one or two people at least to consider new ways of working together with supposed competitors. The Fourth Industrial Revolution, digitalization, and the ways in which technologies in all sectors are developing more quickly all the time call for new approaches to services.
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