Digital transformation is a major challenge facing organizations in 2018. For most, the ability to successfully navigate the challenges of accelerating innovation and shifting market dynamics will be defined not by technology, but the capabilities and skills to carry those initiatives forward.\nIn the digital business landscape, the need for skilled practitioners to successfully migrate applications and architect secure cloud solutions has never been more important. Organizations in most industries are facing talent shortages that threaten innovation and profitability, with many enterprises looking for the appropriate skills from within.\nIn this era of rapid change, learning and development plays a key role in helping organizations adequately prepare for their digital transformation goals. Forward-focused enterprises understand that the solution to the current skills gap is an investment in training. However, as investment in training grows, the traditional approaches to learning and development will be put to the test and most will fail.\nIn this new paradigm, training requires a data-driven approach to keep organizations competitive. Here are three ways that taking a data-driven approach can maximize your training strategy.\n1. Get strategic\nUnfortunately, internal capabilities have not been able to keep pace with today\u2019s emerging technology. As many companies have discovered, not having the right skills isn\u2019t just a human resources issue, it\u2019s also a business problem, costing up to $258 million annually according to The Cost of Cloud Expertise Report.\nSimply making training available or encouraging vendor certification may amount to some skill acquisition, but doesn\u2019t build towards practical skills growth and business results. Today, the requirements for acquiring skills are too urgent and specific to be left to chance.\nInstead, training requires a data-driven approach to ensure that organizations can stay competitive and formulate an actionable training strategy.\nOrganizations need to know with confidence where teams stand, including which capabilities already exist, where the skill gaps are and how teams are progressing in their learning objectives across the specific technologies and domains that matter over time.\nA data-driven approach is necessary to ensure not only that training happens and teams are accountable, but how the development of competencies and progression over time.\n2. Get specific\nKnowing that you need to measure your organization\u2019s skills growth is not enough. You also need to benchmark what skills matter for your organization\u2019s innovation priorities.\nWith enterprise IT environments becoming increasingly customized and complex, organizations are diversifying their approaches to take advantage of cost savings, efficiencies and innovative services with skill-specific roles. This approach is corroborated by research firm IDC, whopredicts that more than 85 percent of enterprises expect to choose a multi-vendor, multi-cloud approach this year, and they will rely on a variety of roles and diverse skill sets to architect, implement and secure those deployments.\nSkill-specific roles demand a unique set of requirements for training where generic training fails. Because of the paradigm shift, companies want training plans that allow their employees to be immersed in real-world scenarios where they learn skills and best practices that enable them to solve challenges they encounter in their day to day roles.\u00a0 The most effective training is designed to fit the context of your tech stack, your internal policies and the role of each user within that environment.\nWhile there are common topics that will benefit multiple positions, each role has distinct responsibilities and skill requirements. For example, while everyone needs to know basic security principles, cloud security specialists and DevSecOps team members require deeper knowledge of all platforms and best practices to manage infrastructure. The teams working on your Amazon Web Services deployments will need broad platform knowledge and regular updates to keep up with that vendor\u2019s rapid release schedule. Some organizations are even employing customized certification programs to combine required industry knowledge with the custom requirements of internal environments, tech stacks and company policies.\n3. Future-proof skills\nIf your organization is not looking ahead to the skills you\u2019ll need tomorrow, you may already be behind. The speed of innovation in digital technologies like cloud computing, artificial intelligence and machine learning is continuously impacting the capabilities that companies need to develop to stay competitive. With the average shelf life of IT skills being fewer than five years, and even less for roles like software engineers, organizations may need to encourage upskilling as frequently as every 12 months. This recognition is already moving 85 percent of CEOs to deploy continuous learning programs.\nIn closing, the biggest roadblock is often just getting started, but training is an investment in your company\u2019s present and in your ability to grow and scale for years to come. Taking a data-driven approach is key for understanding organizational skills growth, identifying skills gaps and guiding employees towards success in the context of organizational innovation goals. Having a set benchmark and strategy for continuous learning allows teams to work toward a goal that benefits the organization in the long run.