Not Investing in Your Employees Can Cost Your Organization Dearly

Training Employees About Cloud Computing

Esther Shein

With a well-documented shortage of IT professionals, many organizations are turning inward and training their own staff as a strategy to help fill gaps, especially when it comes to cloud computing. Cloud Academy is a vendor-neutral learning platform that helps train enterprises. It also teaches individuals cloud technologies, from the fundamentals to DevOps to migrating to the three large cloud platforms (AWS, Azure, and Google).

Andrew Larkin is the head of content and an AWS specialist. He spoke to Enterprise Mobility Exchange on the best approaches to training, and the most highly sought certifications.

Enterprise Mobility Exchange: What are the biggest roadblocks enterprises face when it comes to digitally transforming their organizations?

Andrew Larkin: The biggest roadblock is often just getting started. People at all levels of an organization can see the benefits of digital transformation including the speed, agility, and the economics. It is exhilarating to see business transformations at organizations such as Thermo Fisher, which used the AWS cloud to create a scalable and secure research platform. Another example is SunCorp, which was able to launch a working virtual data center in under three months. You hear about these amazing transformations in the market and then you go back to the office and ask...where do we start?

There are a lot of great resources such as blogs, whitepapers, workshops and case studies, in addition to best practices such as the AWS Cloud Adoption Framework and The Cloud Transformation Maturity Model. These resources can simplify parts of the transformation journey, but organizational leadership still needs to define and drive the plan for how you will go about transforming your business. Transformation requires change, and change requires altering your current state to become the desired state. How you go about driving this change is the business problem Cloud Academy works to solve.

Digital transformation requires both operational change and a new approach toward how you provision and use technology. It’s as much about practice and behavior as it is about resources and technology. Once you get the operational processes right, every other step becomes easy. Additionally, you also need to ensure that everyone (including technical teams) understands the fundamental best practices of using cloud services and company guidelines. You need to also ensure operating checks are in place to maintain security and compliance at every level of the organization.

Most of the operational changes required to transform how the business operates aren’t likely to happen overnight, and it will require sustained executive support and a willingness of teams to challenge the status quo and break through barriers. For all these reasons, operational change requires your organization to have a baseline knowledge of cloud skills and best practices.

(According to consulting firm Capgemini, half of enterprises believe the lack of training and skills gap reduces their competitiveness. Rackspace reported that a lack of cloud expertise is costing organizations $258 million dollars annually. Furthermore, many companies have no idea how to address the skills gap, which delays innovation and market advancement.)

EME: Are you seeing an uptick in the need for training existing employees? If so, why?

AL: Cloud is not a “learn once” technology. With over 1,000 new feature releases from AWS alone in 2017, the reality is that all employees need continuous training to ensure they keep up to date with services and best practices. External studies show that not investing in employees can cost $11 billion per year. With the cost of hiring a technology employee well into five figures, most organizations are looking to build digital skills that are strategic to their roadmaps.

Executives want training strategies that enable their organizations to customize training content in a way that is highly specific to their technology stack and innovation needs. The ideal training plan will allow a team lead to build a training plan around a vendor certification, for example, and also include courses or labs very specific to their role or department. As a result, the team is encouraged and challenged to complete the training with a suite of engagement tools, and the team lead has access to visual reporting tools that show and compare the team’s engagement and current skill assessments.

EME: What are some of the ways they can re-skill employees to prepare them for digital transformation?

AL: We’ve noticed that when training is positioned as a “perk” or a “should do,” the training often doesn’t get done. Employees need guidance and to be personally motivated to engage in continuous learning. On the other hand, when comprehensive training is implemented, companies see increased engagement. This tells us that learning is best done when there is an end goal in mind, whether that’s to increase employee skill set, prepare for an upcoming project, or to achieve a baseline level of cloud skills for an organizational transformation project. Every enterprise also has specific challenges, given their technology stack and priorities. Re-skilling employees should be a practical endeavor with an emphasis on actionable skills and outcomes.

EME: What type(s) of training is/are most in demand?

AL: I see a lot more demand for how to use cloud services together to solve business problems. Teams want to be immersed in real-world scenarios where they learn skills and best practices that enable them to solve challenges better in their day to day roles. One example is using services such as Amazon Macie, AWS CloudTrail, and AWS Config together to help achieve GDPR compliance. Another example is how to apply deep learning frameworks such as neural networks and TensorFlow to solve business problems, an area of our focus. There are many additional opportunities to learn how to use and apply these new services to solve traditional business issues, including the application of Agile and DevOps best practices.

EME: What certifications are the most popular (or most commonly sought?)?

AL: Cloud vendor certifications (e.g., AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform) are generally a first point of focus for organizations adopting cloud. Certification is encouraged by the vendors because they show competency with using and applying cloud services to create innovation. The AWS Solution Architect Associate remains the most sought-after certification and we are also seeing increased demand for the Microsoft Azure certifications, in line with increased adoption.

EME: What are some best practices for leading a digital transformation?

AL: There are three key best practices I encourage teams to follow when planning and implementing a transformation project:

1. Encourage Collaboration: Digital transformation involves everyone within the organization. It’s important to create an effective collaborative environment where teams feel heard and individuals feel motivated and empowered to take ownership of the task at hand. Many transformation tasks will involve cross-team collaboration, so understanding the roles and responsibilities of peers is important to success.

2. Engage in Quick Wins: Many CIOs may feel pressured to innovate and move to change too much, too soon. Instead, it’s better to focus on quick, impactful wins that prove concept and build confidence. To do this, executives should narrow the scope of projects and stay focused on changes that can drive value.

3. Address Skills Gaps Now: No one is a cloud expert at birth, and technology is evolving faster than ever before. Enterprises need to be constantly evaluating where their current skills are on the cloud curve, and what new skills may be needed for you to reach your target state.