To succeed in the cloud game, you must attract and retain the best people in your industry. In fact, investing in a strategic Talent Enablement program will pay dividends now and well into the future.
Organizations’ adoption of cloud services models has opened up new opportunities for business units to take advantage of the benefits cloud offers. With the swipe of a credit card, business unit (BU) leaders can spin up a public cloud environment and deliver industry-disruptive new applications in days.
On the whole, this is a positive development. BUs love the freedom, and IT leaders welcome the chance to shift non-core services to the BUs, and focus their own attention on more strategic projects.
But there is a trade-off. Application owners who create their own cloud environments also have the responsibility to manage them – and many do not have the skills to do it well. As a result, organizations are not leveraging the agility, cost savings, productivity and overall return on investment (ROI) that they envisioned from the cloud.
The solution is for organizations to get smarter – to find or develop the skills they need to get the most out of the cloud. Finding employees with those skills, of course, is difficult and expensive. Companies are struggling to attract and retain top talent, particularly in positions requiring advanced knowledge of cloud concepts. So, organizations are putting more of an emphasis on developing the needed skills organically, or leveraging outside cloud experts to provide learning services.
Today’s IT teams, whether they are in central IT or in the BUs, first need to undergo cloud training, to develop the skills necessary to perform their new cloud roles. Second, given the monthly introduction of new services from the three main cloud platform providers (Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform) and a plethora of third-party cloud tool providers, the learning needs to be continuous to stay abreast of the technologies. The third and most important element of this three-legged stool is the expertise necessary to understand the technologies – to know which ones integrate well with each other, and how to effectively build and manage these complex environments.
Launch a Talent Enablement Program
Organizations need to create a comprehensive Talent Enablement program to meet the unique demands imposed by the cloud. The program must focus on the roles that are most directly affected by cloud transformations, with skill development initiatives targeted at each specific role.
More so, the learning services need to be constantly available and provide the least amount of impact to the business. The days of being out of the office for days or weeks on end to attend training classes is no longer feasible. Various learning modalities, such as virtual instructor-led training (VILT), podcasts, webinars and progressive learning management systems (LMSs), are necessary to meet the needs of the learners and the business.
Move Beyond Certifications
If you work in tech, you have probably achieved, or at least looked into, programs that offer certifications on a particular technology. These are table stakes in the cloud game. They give people much needed guidance about the general capabilities of a platform like AWS, GCP or Azure, or the specific uses of a point solution offered by a third-party cloud provider.
But a Talent Enablement strategy needs to go beyond certifications. Just because you get trained on AWS does not necessarily expose you to tools for scripting, monitoring, abstraction and provisioning that you might need to manage tasks in a cloud environment. It does not prepare you to manage a project or to understand how other tools fit in with the AWS platform.
In our discussions with companies pursuing cloud projects, leaders point to a series of missing knowledge domains they say are holding back their momentum. Some are general, like having a baseline knowledge of cloud and understanding team roles and responsibilities. Others are more specific, such as: knowledge of governance and controls for basic hygiene; financial management of cloud platform spend; operations of cloud services calendars and scheduling; or application assessment for cloud suitability.
These skills are generally not covered in certification courses. But they can be taught inside organizations, targeting specific skill development plans to specific roles.
Enable New Skills for New Roles
Part of the challenge for companies moving to the cloud is that roles are changing. Just like yesterday’s cook is today’s culinary engineer, roles have evolved to encompass new tasks brought about by the influx of cloud into daily company operations. “One size fits all” no longer applies. The development of individual learning paths is necessary for each of the personas listed below. The following are nine personas whose roles have been most impacted by moves to the cloud.
We’ve also added a tenth persona: cloud business consultant (CBC). This new role serves as: the BU representative for operating cloud applications; the liaison with central IT, to maximize the value of cloud deployments; and the overseer of the financial, governance and business hygiene of cloud applications within the BU. As central IT federates more non-core services to the BUs, the role of the CBC becomes even more critical.
These ten personas need individual curricula focused not only on their own job but on how cloud factors affect the jobs around them. Again, this is more about how to build, implement, integrate and manage the technologies, as opposed to just understanding how these technologies work. Business analysts need to know how their cloud is built. A storage architect needs to understand security around the storage and architectural patterns as well. The cloud architect needs to understand different types of repeatable patterns in the cloud. Developers need to know those patterns too, so they can develop apps based on those patterns.
Each persona should understand how the cloud works and how they can strategically master tasks associated with their job. Instead of reacting to cloud outages, they should learn how to proactively plan for them, and then manage them when they happen. They should know the ins and outs of automation and how to leverage tools correctly. They should gain a thorough understanding of all the people, processes and technologies affected by the organization’s move to the cloud.
The Action – Build Your Talent Enablement Program
Organizations can no longer afford to send their people to training that takes them out of the office for extended periods of time. New approaches to learning, including individual learning paths and progressive LMSs are necessary to effectively provide modular training to learners. Moreover, the acceleration of technological change and the scope of change requires large numbers of people to be supported throughout the process of continuous change.
Cloud projects can transform organizations – if they are done well. To properly manage their cloud environments, organizations need to equip the people most affected by the projects with the skills they need to do their jobs. These people may not have been cloud experts when they started their new roles, but they need to be experts now. The net result is that an investment in a strategic Talent Enablement program will pay dividends now, and for years to come.