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Prioritizing cloud literacy to overcome digital skills shortages

Article by Adam Beavis, Managing Director at Stax

Organizations view digital growth differently today compared to pre-COVID. The initial disruption in operations created uncertainty and necessitated cloud migration. However, today, with many countries now seeing COVID-19 as endemic, organizations have also adapted, and are prepared to manage disruption and transformation on an ongoing basis, with greater support from automation and cloud technologies.

According to an IDC study commissioned by Stax, the AWS-native cloud management platform, 56% of APAC enterprises consider advanced automation in organizational processes to be an outcome of lessons learned throughout the pandemic. What’s more, 23% of IT executives think that adopting automation capabilities will be crucial for a digitized organization.

That’s all well and good, but the current APAC landscape reveals a shortage of critical skills in the cloud, spanning everything from non-technical staff using cloud-based services to perform their roles, to the technical management of cloud environments. Both elements are key challenges for organizations that are struggling to retain the talent required for ongoing transformation.

Decoding the current skills landscape

Adam Beavis, Managing Director at Stax

The Australian market is feeling the pinch of the skills shortage with businesses seeking talent in cloud software management, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, business, and data analytics.

According to a report by Amazon Web Services (AWS) and AlphaBeta, 81% of workers surveyed in Australia reported that they need more digital skills to cope with changes in their jobs due to the pandemic. The ability to use cloud technologies is now the top digital skill required by employers and it’s a problem that expands beyond Australia with the APAC region requiring 5.7 billion people to be digitally skilled by 2025  to meet technological demands across industries.

According to IDC, 13% of enterprises consider the availability of relevant skill sets to be a critical concern for cloud management. In fact, 62% of APAC organizations believe that the lack of crucial IT skills has delayed their journey to digital transformation by an average of 11 months. Further, 65% believe that a lack of IT skills can also cause deployment delays.

The need for cloud literacy

Enterprises are still struggling with the foundational requirements of the cloud, such as security and privacy and the availability of tools to manage public cloud resources. Add to this the increased usage of the cloud to build and host applications and store data and IT teams face considerable complexity in managing these environments. This causes unnecessary issues including technical debt, deprecation, and drift which need to be addressed early to support digital growth. Given the impact of IT capabilities on an organization’s strategic plans, there is a real need to improve cloud literacy. Aspects like infrastructure resilience are at risk if we don’t.

Benefits of cloud enablement and training   

One of the best solutions to increasing cloud literacy is creating a training roadmap. This is an aspect that is often side-lined in business strategies because focus more on investing in new technologies than thinking ahead about how it will be used. The downside to this – and it’s a common mistake made by many IT-led technology projects – is that when the business is not informed, trained, or educated (beyond the basics) about how new cloud technologies will improve their day-to-day jobs, people will resume using the same traditional technologies that are familiar to them. In some ways, neglecting to upskill the business in cloud literacy is like building a new Ferrari and not having anyone around who knows how to drive it.

Optimizing new technologies, especially with the cloud, requires staff expertise that can be developed with appropriate training and constant upskilling. It’s important that this training is led from the top down. One of the biggest mistakes businesses make is to expect IT teams to drive the adoption. When in fact, once executive and board members lift their cloud literacy, it sets the tone for the rest of the business.

Organizations should invest in tools and resources that are designed to positively engage their current employees. Cloud enablement and training tools can increase an organization’s attractiveness to prospective talent, including, but not limited to, IT staff. This includes partnering with businesses that are cloud management experts. Engage with suppliers who can train staff with critical cloud skills, or whose technology helps remove redundancy,  can remove redundancy who can not only train staff, but be relied upon for their platforms, expertise, and knowledge to help keep these evergreen. This will free up staff from mundane cloud tasks to focus on leveraging their new cloud literacy skills for innovating and high-value work.

As per IDC’s research, enterprises that ensure comprehensive training in the cloud progress faster in their cloud journey. Enterprises that are in the cloud evaluation stage are six times more likely to move to the cloud usage stage where one or two workloads are on the cloud. Further, enterprises that currently deploy cloud in a limited capacity are twice as likely to move to the last stage of having a cloud-first or cloud-native approach within two years.

Organizations that enable cloud training can create a workforce of skilled cloud experts that provide crucial support in scaling up the business. Cloud experts are adept at identifying backend issues such as technical debt, deprecation, and drift, thus increasing operational efficiency, and saving costs. According to IDC, 67% of enterprises have already given more importance to training to address these skill deficiencies. As a result of such training, these organizations have experienced a 33% reduction in project delays, which means they can spend more time delivering on their missions and transforming end-user experiences.

The business case for skill development in the cloud has never been stronger. Every country is facing ongoing challenges in attracting and retaining the right talent – while navigating macroeconomic conditions that continue to squeeze the bottom line. To build and maintain the right teams, organizations need to prioritize employee engagement and growth. An enterprise that offers opportunities for employees to sharpen their skills in the cloud is poised to succeed – today and as we continue the move into a more hybrid world.