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How to Address the Cloud Skills Gap

There's one area preventing digital transformation success: a lack of cloud skills and talent. IBM Consulting shares three ways to address this challenge.

4 Min Read
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More than two years after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world has dramatically evolved into an environment dominated by digital products and interactions. Businesses have responded by turning to technology — such as a widespread adoption of cloud computing — to meet the demands of their customers and employees. As part of this cloud adoption, businesses have learned that a single public cloud is rarely adequate for their uses, leading many to embrace a hybrid cloud strategy. In fact, we recently unveiled new market research with the IBM Business Institute for Value that showed more than 77% of respondents have adopted a hybrid cloud approach to help drive digital transformation.

Mastering hybrid cloud is recognized as the path forward — we see that across industries and around the globe. Yet, as I speak with business leaders who are going through a transformation, they consistently identify one area preventing them from success — a lack of skills and talent. Our research also found that 69% of respondents said they lacked the necessary cloud skills — leaders simply do not have the right talent to manage these complex environments, and it's causing them to get stuck in their cloud transformation journey.

If you think about the way companies are structured now, each cloud also generates its own operating silo which in turn constrains the efficiency and effectiveness of how people work. To truly be successful, you need to find ways to break down those silos and free people to do their best work.  As leaders look to meet these challenges, here are three things to help address the cloud skills challenge:

Related:Best Practices for Moving to a Multicloud Strategy

Reframe the Talent Problem as an Operating Model Opportunity

By "operating model," we're concerned with the way a business unit fulfills a request from a customer, and we're concerned with the way the IT organization fulfills business unit requests for IT services.  We recommend to start to design the operating model so that you're making the very best use of the people you have now.  You want to eliminate sloppy operating model design as "bad systems beat good people every time" like W. Edwards Deming warned us about.

This becomes worse in today's multicloud hybrid environment when cloud operations are just cobbled together from pieces and parts of skills, practices, methods, and workflows. Work gets done in small, bespoke pockets and silos across the enterprise.

In another IBV survey, we found 84% of executives acknowledged their enterprise struggles in eliminating silo-to-silo handoffs, and 78% of executives say that an inadequate operating model impedes successful adoption of their multicloud platform.  Therefore, start with designing the work required for hybrid cloud operations first and adjust your organization chart second!

Related:Cloud Adoption Will Fail Because of the Skills Gap

Develop a Clear Skills Strategy

Many large organizations on the path to digital transformation and cloud adoption find themselves saying something like: "Based on how we're operating, we need 100 engineers with specific skills and experiences, and we only have 25 of those engineers. So we have a skills gap that is getting in the way of successful transformation/adoption."

When transformation and adoption programs get to that point, the response is often to try to trouble-shoot the problem by trying to hire more engineers. Troubleshooting might help tactically, but we do not believe you can trouble-shoot your way out of this talent challenge.   Your skills strategy needs to acknowledge (i) the need for widespread fundamental cloud skills, (ii) the need for a skills-proficiency framework and (iii) the need for a cross-disciplinary model, to guide the hiring, reskilling and upskilling actions.  This way you can empower your people with the skills and experience they'll need to thrive in a hybrid cloud operating model.  Tailor training to the specific work required by the op model and not vice versa.

Leverage Strengths of a Partner and Empower a Cloud Center of Excellence

Hybrid cloud operating models have many moving parts, and most enterprises don't have a lot of experience with operating model design and execution. If you try to tackle operating model design, roadmapping, and implementation all at once, it can be overwhelming. We recommend leveraging the strengths of a partner to create a Cloud Center of Excellence (CCoE) to house cross-disciplinary subject-matter experts, from both your companies, who will define and lead the transition to a new operating model and working practices.

Varun Bijlani is Global Managing Partner, Hybrid Cloud Transformation, at IBM Consulting.

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