The Cloud Skills Gap: the number one barrier to digital improvement?

With two thirds of businesses saying the right Cloud skills will be critical to help them reach full digital maturity, how can they find the best people... especially with BREXIT around the corner?

The IT industry has always struggled with skills shortages for emerging technologies. But the explosive growth of Cloud services has resulted in a more acute shortage than normal.

For many early adopters, Cloud services promised new (and significant) cost savings – not least because they were able to downsize their own datacentre teams. But it quickly became apparent that the Cloud-native approach would not work in every scenario, as evidenced by the growth of Hybrid Cloud deployments that combine on- and off-site resources for increased availability, resilience, and security.

The Cloud has brought increased staffing costs
These Hybrid services are invaluable for helping businesses meet their digital improvement objectives, but they may not have resulted in the expected staffing cost reductions. Although many operational roles have been taken over by the Cloud providers, organisations now require more employees with Cloud skills. And because of the growing numbers of businesses that have joined the exodus to the Cloud, the limited number of suitably skilled professionals are now in great demand.

Which means that salaries continue to rise as well. According to IT JobsWatch, salaries for Cloud-related jobs have risen by 5% in the last year, with the average specialist commanding a remuneration package worth £60,000. There is no sign of this upward trend ending any time soon either.

Investing to save
Like most other strategic imperatives, investing in Cloud services is absolutely vital to realising the full savings available over the long term. Obviously, this means securing access to the skills that can properly build and maintain efficient, cost-effective Cloud services – rather than simply replicating existing infrastructure in the Cloud.

This probably sounds quite trite – after all, Cloud skills are particularly expensive at this time of peak demand. But so are improperly configured Cloud applications. There are plenty of examples of businesses who fail to realise the full cost savings available and brand their Cloud projects a failure as a result.

Trying to keep employment costs low(er)
Historically, the most cost-efficient way to obtain new skills is retrained internally. But at a time when business success is measured by the speed with which it can react to change, the lead times associated with this approach are unacceptable. Training and experience take time, which means delaying important strategic projects until you have the right blend of skills in place.

But given the complexity of a typical Hybrid Cloud environment, the required level of expertise may take years to acquire. This delay dramatically reduces your return on Cloud investment and could see you losing market share to better prepared (or less spend-averse) competitors.

Plugging the gap
If Cloud projects cannot be delayed, and budgets do not allow for hiring permanent staff, the only viable option is to partner with a suitably experienced Cloud expert. Obviously, this will involve investment, but the costs will more than repay themselves on two fronts:

First, there will be no need to delay strategic Cloud projects. Work can begin immediately on deploying applications and infrastructure that will help your business achieve its growth targets and digital improvement goals.

Second, third party consultants can help your business avoid the many pitfalls that prevent your Cloud projects achieving maximum returns. In fact, their experience will give your own projects a head start, allowing you to avoid many of the (relatively expensive) mistakes associated with early adoption.

According to one recent report, 38% of adopters run into problems with Cloud pricing, usually because they do not fully understand the schemes used by providers. As the report's authors state: “While cost savings may be a key benefit of Cloud, the current pricing models under which they operate are difficult to understand.” A well-experienced consultancy will be able to help you cut through the confusion and maximise savings.

Time to act now
For the CIO this creates a headache. Not only must they identify suitable Cloud training for internal candidates, but they will also need to find a partner to assist in the interim. Unfortunately, this is not an issue that can be relegated in importance – the search for both must begin now, or strategic growth targets will almost certainly be missed.

Key takeaways:

  • Cloud skills are in short supply – and therefore very expensive
  • The skills shortage shows no signs of abating
  • Internal training is great – but slow
  • Waiting to train your employees in Cloud skills could cost market share
  • Consultancy presents a short (and long) term answer to the skills crisis

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