Skills shortage: will it hamper the take-up for cloud?

Advice Mark Samuels Jan 28, 2013

How are enterprises looking to move to cloud going to attract people with the right set of skills to help that move?

The IT skills gap remains an intractable challenge for CIOs – and the lack of high-quality technology professionals, especially in the fast-growing area of cloud computing, means concerns for business leaders are only likely to rise.

Research from Randstad Technologies suggests the UK will face a shortfall of 33,300 technology workers by 2050. The survey says key factors for the shortfall include skills shortages, an ageing workforce and restrictive migration policies. Supply of IT workers, then, is likely to be restricted.

To make matters worse, the demand for technology professionals will rise as the supply continues to fall. The IT market is expected to grow by 1.1 percent to 2.7 percent through 2020, according to researcher IDC, and cloud-related skills will represent almost all growth opportunities in technology employment globally. The IDC research suggests the demand for cloud computing will grow at six times the rate of IT skills overall. So how are CIOs are coping with the ever-increasing demand for IT staff, particularly for employees who are comfortable working with the cloud?

IDC research suggests the demand for cloud computing will grow at six times the rate of IT skills overall

Tullow Oil CIO Andrew Marks says an honest appraisal of the state of the IT market is a prerequisite to any discussion about cloud computing skills. He estimates about 90 percent of what is often described as the cloud is actually more like outsourcing. This is both in terms of the technology used and in terms of the approach to people and resource management. Cloud services, however, can be deployed quicker than outsourcing arrangements, and such speed creates a new risk. The key to IT cloud skills success, says Marks, is communication.

"There is a growing recognition among CIOs that, if you run a service somewhere outside the company, your external providers do need to talk to each other," he says. "Creating meaningful conversations between different cloud providers can be complicated. But, just as in the case of outsourcing, it’s not impossible. The starting point for successful discussions will be familiar to CIOs who have managed a portfolio of external sourcing providers."

Like outsourcing, much of the work associated to cloud projects - again, Marks estimates about 90 percent - can be accounted for by traditional service management techniques. The differentiation in terms of great cloud skills comes from the remaining 10 percent of effort. Employees, here, focus on coalescing cloud providers and creating useful conversations for the business.

"That’s a technical skill, and it is about bringing people together and working out how you can put square pegs in round holes,” says Marks. "Tullow uses a number of software-as-a-service and cloud-based applications. I’ve found that, if you put your internal infrastructure specialist with the cloud providers, you make the right conversations happen."

Marks says any in-house cloud specialist needs to use conversations with suppliers to ensure processes, systems and information are integrated. "The providers are often happy to talk and try and find common ground," he says. "But you really need a cloud specialist in your business to make sure there’s a common infrastructure. And that is where organisations can really benefit from specific forms of on-demand management."

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