As companies migrate legacy systems to the cloud, a skills shortage has become apparent. These companies sign contracts with cloud providers such as Amazon or Microsoft, leaving their employees scrambling to adopt the skillsets necessary to run systems like Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft’s Azure, according to Clara Angotti, cofounder and president of Next Pathway, an automated cloud migration company.
“I think they soon realize that the skills gap is a very strong barrier for them to move to the cloud in any compelling manner,” Angotti said. “And hence they often will need support in both services and in tooling.”
In its “2021-2023 Emerging Technology Roadmap,” Gartner reported that the talent shortage is the largest barrier to adopting cloud-based technologies as well as other emerging tech such as machine learning and advanced analytics. Meanwhile, an IDC survey reveals that more than 70 percent of IT leaders worldwide consider the skills gap a top concern, and the cloud skill shortage is a key part of the problem.
The cloud skills gap involves a need for people with training in data management, networking and security, suggested Rahiel Nasir, associate research director, European Cloud at IDC UK.
“Wherever you get data management, wherever you get networking, wherever you get security, at some point you're getting cloud as well, so I think cloud specialists are required in all of those aspects,” Nasir said.
Another key aspect of the cloud skills gap is a need for technologists who can manage workloads in the cloud. This involves more than just simply placing workloads, software and infrastructure in the cloud, but also being able to manage the workloads and costs, Nasir explained. He added that third-party vendors are behind on the skills needed to work with cloud vendors such as AWS and Microsoft.
“Microsoft will farm out that knowledge eventually, but you know, you need to train the trainer before you can train the end user, as well,” Nasir said. Many companies also can’t afford candidates with the right skills; professionals with the right cloud knowledge will command high prices.
Employees often must learn new cloud and coding skills while being thrown right into migration, according to Angotti. “Most people's skill sets can be transferable to the cloud, but there's a major component of the cloud that truly is 100 percent new architecture, new coding languages, new principles,” she explained. “It requires almost a whole new set of skills in order to get you to the cloud and then managing the cloud.”
Here are five ways to address the cloud skills gap:
Hire a Diverse Team
Companies should offer opportunities to underrepresented technologists with a wide variety of perspectives and skills, according Tara Tapper, chief people officer at Cloudreach, a multi-cloud services company.
“This demand is made worse by the narrow pool of candidates available—diverse candidates had not been invited to the IT table until recently, which has put them behind in years of work experience and has caused a senior-level disparity, making the skills gap worse,” Tapper said.
Invest in Training and Education
Offer training programs that specifically address cloud skills. Many vendors such as Amazon Web Services, Google and IBM offer training in cloud computing. AWS has an AWS Academy program, for example. Self-paced training courses and labs for technologists allow them to practice their skills.
Cloudreach also offers a Talent Academy that provides accelerated, hands-on learning to help candidates from all backgrounds launch technical careers in cloud computing, Tapper said.
Prioritize Cloud Security
Security is a key aspect of technology, and that includes the cloud. Hire technologists who can keep cloud platforms secure. Companies such as Salesforce offer online resources to help technologists learn the skills they need to become a cloud security engineer.
Hire People Who Can Align Business and Cloud
Find technologists with DevOps skills who can align business workloads and the cloud, Nasir suggested: “Once you've got everything in the cloud, or everything you need in cloud, to move on to the next level you want your IT teams to be proficient in developing bespoke software, in order for you to continue with your digitalization journey… That's where DevOps comes into it.”
Nasir added that low-code and no-code software development will help organizations transfer applications across multidisciplinary teams in the organization who may or may not have a tech background. Overcoming the skills gap also involves upskilling, including training business teams such as the finance or human resources department on how to use cloud tools.
“Get buy-in from everybody across the organization as far as cloud is concerned, and that involves training them on the aspects of cloud that touch upon their day-to-day working lives,” Nasir said.
Look for Varied Cloud Service Model Experience
Organizations should seek out candidates who have experience in multiple cloud service models, Nasir advised. That includes public cloud, private cloud, multi-cloud, hybrid and on-premise infrastructure. Cloud experts help organizations choose which option to use and how to optimize costs.
The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated digital transformation and the movement of applications to the cloud. With these accelerated cloud migrations, cloud skills will be more in-demand than ever. Companies that can address the skills gap and handle cloud migrations at the same time will succeed in the “cloud wars.”
“The companies that have the most to win in this war are going to be creative in how they address the skills gap to make it easier for companies to get workloads to the cloud,” Angotti said.