The role of the IT department is shifting dramatically. While today’s IT professionals must still maintain and support mission-critical technology assets, they are also being asked to enable business transformation through increased agility, productivity and profitability.

Although IT pros generally relish the opportunity to become more involved in the business, they are struggling with how to effectively adapt to their expanding role. Limited manpower and budget resources are stretched thin. According to the 2018 Insight Intelligent Technology Index, 87 percent of IT decision-makers say traditional workloads inhibit their ability to develop and launch new strategic initiatives.

This is one reason why organizations are increasingly looking to managed services providers (MSPs) for support. According to the Insight Index, more than three-fourths of companies dedicated a portion of their IT budget to managed services in 2017. Of those budgeting 20 percent or less to managed services in 2017, 52 percent said they are likely to increase their investment over the next 12 to 24 months. Meanwhile, Gartner predicts that managed services spending will reach $985 billion in 2018, a 5.5 percent increase from 2017.

That’s not surprising. Multiple industry studies illustrate that managed services directly address key business and IT challenges. For instance, organizations looking to roll out new applications and services to support digital transformation initiatives frequently report they lack the manpower and resources necessary. Day-to-day tasks often overwhelm in-house IT staff, preventing businesses from adequately linking their IT operations with business processes.

According to the Insight report, 51 percent of IT leaders surveyed said that competing demands and lack of resources limit their ability to support the organization’s strategic goals. Another 35 percent said that they are limited by legacy processes, practices and operations that have not evolved. They also say resources are being diverted by shadow projects that get shifted from other business units (26 percent) and by hastily executed projects involving cloud strategy, architecture or platform selection (24 percent).

By supplementing in-house talent and assuming responsibility for day-to-day operational tasks, managed services arrangements can help IT leaders balance the imperative to both manage and transform their businesses. However, the best MSPs can do much more than handle maintenance and support tasks. They can deliver strategic value by bringing experience and manpower to bear on high-priority initiatives designed to streamline workflows, enable innovation, enhance communication and improve decision-making.

An IDC survey found that businesses utilizing managed services for strategic initiatives were able to streamline application implementation, increase operational efficiencies and ensure consistent service delivery. By focusing manpower on high-value projects, these organizations were able to add functionality to existing technologies while also supporting the transition to new technologies that could expand their reach into new markets.

IT systems are no longer simply business tools — they are often the prime movers of business. Organizations are increasing their reliance upon IT to enhance innovation and drive productivity. They are rolling out wave after wave of new applications to support an increasingly mobile workforce. They are utilizing more cloud-based platforms in conjunction with in-house infrastructure. A managed service provider can play a vital role in this evolution by bringing experience and manpower to bear on high-priority initiatives.