The skills gap is slowing the ability of Singaporean organisations to accelerate business transformation activities, impacting the pace of cloud adoption as a result.\nAccording to IDG Research - in association with Amazon Web Services - the skills gap is hampering the progress of cloud deployments for 45 per cent of businesses in Singapore.\nWith a further 74 per cent of organisations classifying talent development as \u201ccritical\u201d to future growth, a multi-faceted strategy must be deployed to address ongoing talent challenges in the cloud.\nSkills in Singapore\nIn assessing the local market, David Herrera, senior vice president and leader of Public Cloud at DBS Bank, observed that demand remains \u201chigh\u201d in relation to recruiting cloud expertise.\n\u201cIt\u2019s very difficult to find experienced resources,\u201d he said. \u201cThe reason could be that the big cloud providers are focusing now on corporations as customers and these companies require a large amount of resources compared with SMEs.\n\u201cToday, most of what we are talking about is focused on artificial intelligence [AI], machine learning and deep personalisation. But we tend to forget that to be able to execute these technologies we need foundation skills, such as security and networking.\u201d\nOn occasions, Herrera said the focus centres around developing \u201ctop notch skills\u201d while forgetting the immediate need to \u201ccover basic skills\u201d.\n\u201cThere is no standard recipe to attract and retain staff, but I see that if you are able to provide a very challenging environment with a set of latest technologies you will have better chances to keep the right resources with you,\u201d he advised.\nTaking the conversation further, Sujith Kumar, director of solutions at Getronics, observed that Singapore is currently in \u201cstronger shape\u201d from a cloud skills perspective than 24 months prior.\n\u201cThis is mostly due to increased adoption of cloud and cloud-related technologies by customers,\u201d Kumar said. \u201cSingapore is not only a leader in Asia Pacific but a leader globally in terms of cloud adoption.\n\u201cDue to this increase in adoption, most companies are trying to up-skill or cross-skill their existing employee base to provide the most optimum support in terms of cloud services and solutions.\u201d\nTraditionally, Kumar said most businesses were focused on enhancing expertise specific to infrastructure-as-a-service, billed as the \u201cneed of the hour\u201d during the earlier days of cloud implementations.\nFast forward to 2020 and such prioritises have changed due to the heightened importance of running business critical workloads in the cloud.\n\u201cThis requires a different level of skill and approach,\u201d Kumar acknowledged. \u201cThe cloud skills in-demand currently are machine learning, artificial intelligence [AI], data engineering and serverless architecture, which represents a shift in focus from previous years.\n\u201cCompanies today are up-skilling or cross-skilling employees either through in-house training or by partnering with larger public and private cloud providers to leverage learning modules.\u201d\nIn contrast, Nagaraja Kharvi, vice president of eCommerce at Singapore Post, cautioned that efforts to accelerate skills development remains hampered by an inability to keep technology projects on city-state shores.\n\u201cSkills are not evolving because Singapore is outsourcing all technology efforts to other developing countries such as India, Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines, where developmental costs are very low,\u201d Kharvi added. \u201cBut the usage of cloud skills is increasing every day because cloud is the future.\n\u201cCloud is not the end but the beginning for all future success and it\u2019s a way to make things faster. While cloud skills are being used in Singapore at a high-level, most of the developmental skills still go to low developmental cost countries.\u201d\nTaking the conversation further, Ben Kellas, regional IT director at Aimia, reported a change in technology approaches from educational institutions in Singapore, amid increased focus toward the evolution of cloud.\n\u201cThis isn\u2019t limited to just Singapore, we are seeing this happening elsewhere,\u201d he added. \u201cBut the key challenge in Singapore remains attracting and retaining key talent, especially when the market remains extremely competitive.\n\u201cWhat is even more challenging in a client solution business like ours is finding the right balance between the business and technology priorities because we want to invest in the new, maintain the current, and sunset the legacy - all which requires our \u2018cloud\u2019 resources to be spread across the good, the bad and the ugly.\u201d\nSkills challenges\nBusinesses in Singapore, and the wider region, are adopting cloud to improve processes and develop innovative products.\nYet as outlined via IDG Research - surveying 150 IT professionals across Australia and Singapore - challenges remain in \u201cfinding and retaining\u201d the right skills to extract the most value from cloud.\nAccording to findings, both technical and non-technical skills are critical in maximising the benefits of cloud deployments, yet skills shortages continue to \u201csignificantly hamper\u201d such efforts.\nCurrently, only 15 per cent of businesses consider IT employees to be \u201ccompletely prepared\u201d for cloud adoption from a skills standpoint. Meanwhile, the most difficult skills to find and source internally include big data and analytics (35 per cent), security (31 per cent) and business intelligence (29 per cent).\nDespite recognising that a \u201crelatively mature\u201d cloud industry exists within Singapore, Cheng Hwee Tan, director of IT at Covenant Evangelical Free Church (CEFC), said a \u201cretooling of skills\u201d must be actioned to maximise market potential.\n\u201cReturn on investment is not always clear with no tangible business advantage demonstrated,\u201d Cheng Hwee added. \u201cThe perception is to use cloud vendors to solve a business problem but why do we need heavy investments? Do they help overcome our competitors?\n\u201cUnless there is a strategic vision to reinvent the business, the best course is to be strategic through your choice of building the right cloud technologies, both foundational and those needed in targeted new projects. And also, focus on winning mindshare at CXO and board levels.\u201d\nEchoing Cheng Hwee\u2019s observations, Khalid Nizami, director of IT at ECOLAB, believes the slow pace of cloud skills development can be pinpointed on four key areas, spanning business buy-in; security; a lack of strategy and cost.\nAccording to IDG Research, budget constraints (48 per cent) and change management issues (45 per cent) are cited as the leading obstacles in providing training for IT employees.\n\u201cBusiness buy-in is crucial, especially for senior leaders,\u201d Nizami said. \u201cBut the decision-makers in many cases are still old school and hence selling new technologies remains a challenge.\n\u201cSpecific to security, there has been a lot in the news about organisational data being hacked which has put off many businesses from making a decision about cloud. As a result, building out cloud skills has taken a back seat.\n\u201cMost businesses also lack a clear strategy and thought process regarding how they intend to transition people from traditional data centres to managing data in the cloud. And then there is the cost of migration to the cloud, not just from a dollar point of view but also the wider impact to business.\u201d\nDue to the advancement of technology in such a short period of time, Kumar of Getronics said the ability to keep resources focused on specific solutions is also stalling efforts to up-skill the workforce.\n\u201cBusiness model changes require an agile change in technology which therefore means that, every person and engineer needs to be constantly adapting and trained for the latest trends and technologies in the market,\u201d he outlined.\n\u201cOne of the biggest challenges today is not just the shortage of talent for cloud applications, software development and operations, but also for technical architecture.\u201d\nAccording to Kumar, technical architecture represents a \u201ccore area of expertise\u201d in the designing of complex cloud-based services, expertise which \u201cclearly lacks\u201d in Singapore.\n\u201cThe easiest work around is to import talent from other markets, but with visa regulations that approach is becoming more difficult each day,\u201d he added.\nSkills strategies\nAcquiring the right talent remains an ongoing process for Singaporean business in the fast-paced world of cloud, with demand for new and emerging skills heightening rapidly.\nAccording to IDG Research, 85 per cent of organisations are \u201cactively addressing\u201d the skills gap, embarking on a journey of resource transformation.\nTo combat a slowing down of skills development in Singapore, the onus is also on CIOs to shape new strategies around enablement and up-skilling, as a way of maximising cloud investments.\nAccording to Kellas of Aimia, this can be achieved through adopting a multi-layered approach, starting with \u201ctempting the team with new technology\u201d.\n\u201cThis could be via proof of concepts and hackathons which can then be used to support the creation of business cases and whitepapers,\u201d he advised. \u201cBefore we look at new resources, we also want to sanity check ourselves and the internal team to ensure we have looked inside before going outside.\n\u201cWhen eventually searching for new resources, we don\u2019t constrain ourselves to industry verticals or specific project experience like we might have in the past - we need to think outside of our box sometimes.\u201d\nCreating the \u201cright environment\u201d within an organisation is also key, according to Cheng Hwee of CEFC.\n\u201cCulture is crucial which is helped by recruiting the right people to do the right jobs with room for growth,\u201d he said. \u201cRemember, the best people are \u2018volunteers\u2019. If they are good, they can easily find another place to work.\u201d\nKumar of Getronics recognised that different strategies must be applied for retaining and attracting talents at each levels of the ecosystem, from a developer to an engineering leader.\n\u201cA one fix for all solution doesn\u2019t usually apply in all the cases,\u201d he clarified. \u201cSome of the better ways to retain talents is by clearly showing and defining their career path based on their area of interest.\u201d\nSuch guidance is endorsed by IDG Research, which advises that \u201cno single strategy will eliminate the skills gap\u201d, instead advising CIOs to focus on \u201chiring new talent, training, certification and leveraging managed services\u201d.\nTo summarise, companies are currently embracing a mix of strategies, with effective training worthwhile for both internal and third-party cloud management.\nAccording to findings, 68 per cent of companies are using third-party service providers for cloud deployments, while 78 per cent are managing implementations internally.\nIDG Research - in conjunction with Amazon Web Services - was fielded among IDG\u2019s audience in Australia and Singapore in 2019, with all qualified respondents working in an IT related function.