A new paradigm for cloud training

Leading enterprises have recognized that building skills from within is the best long-term solution to contend with the current skills gap, which is why a new paradigm for cloud training is needed.

security training ts
Thinkstock

By 2020, nearly two-thirds of all enterprise IT infrastructure and software spending will be on cloud-based offerings.  

As more companies move to the cloud, having the right skills has evolved into an enterprise core competency. Not surprisingly, many companies are finding themselves facing a shortage of the very capabilities they need most.

To stay competitive, organizations must ensure that their internal capabilities are able to stay ahead of the innovations their businesses face. Hiring is only a short-term solution to what is essentially an ongoing business problem.

The long-term solution is ultimately rooted in learning and development from the inside out. Here are four best practices that your company can implement for a new training paradigm.

Treat the skills gap as a dynamic business problem

The cloud is a $153 billion industry that continues to increase in value every year. Cloud computing is not a plug-and-play technology. While spinning up an instance on AWS, Microsoft Azure, or other public clouds is easily done, an organization’s ability to truly leverage cloud solutions depends on the skills of cloud solutions architects, network engineers, and DevOps engineers.

The lack of experienced and skilled practitioners has tangible business consequences. A report by cloud vendor Rackspace found that 71 percent of IT departments believe their organization has missed out on opportunities to increase revenue, estimated at $258 million per year.

Like any other business initiative that impacts your bottom line, your cloud training must align with your strategic goals in ways that are measurable, scalable, and repeatable across the business. Training must also be strategic through the creation of training plans that are role-specific and oriented for skill sets demanded in the future. And, training should be built into each manager’s objectives alongside business goals. No matter how you do it, cloud skills must be treated as an ongoing business challenge—and opportunity—because your organization depends on it.

Simply making training available is insufficient on its own

Most organizations already provide access to some learning opportunities, either through corporate learning management systems or through an annual training allowance. Today, the options for learning and development are plentiful. Online learning platforms have course offerings in the thousands and most technology vendors offer their own instructional arm to help end users learn and adopt their offerings. However, there’s just one problem: just making training available doesn't lead to good results.

Training based on good intentions is rarely successful. When training does happen, how can you measure skill acquisition if you’re only able to verify completion? In a world where an enterprise’s ability to be competitive depends so heavily on its workforce, learning and development can’t be left up to chance.

Instead, organizations need to guide skill development in the right direction. A structured approach guides consumption of the right content, assesses how teams are performing, measures skill acquisition and analyzes progress. Finally, since cloud computing is always evolving, it’s important to build a culture of continuous improvement to stay up to date as a matter of practice.

Don’t just settle for certifications

While platform and technology-specific certifications are good for providing foundational knowledge for a single platform, being able to understand additional best practices and implementation details is important. As organizations increasingly choose multi-cloud strategies, the environment where skills will be applied will be increasingly complex, requiring expertise in a wider range of platforms and technologies.

Certification doesn’t go far enough in preparing teams to operate on the job in the context of their environment and tech stack. Teams may pursue certification as part of a larger training initiative to get members on the same page or to gain deep knowledge of a technology or platform. Some organizations are taking the concept one step further and building specific tracks that align with the intricacies of their stacks, internal policies, and procedures to deliver customized certification programs and employee onboarding.

Address the full range of stakeholders

Today, organizations are using the cloud for more than just cheaper storage and processing power. They’re leveraging its benefits to address different business use cases such as big data, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. Meanwhile, while most business teams purport to understand cloud, the majority of business teams simple don’t.

As a result, the cloud’s growing relevance to the business means that the need for cloud training extends beyond technology teams. A report from research firm IDC found that organizations benefit when they train comprehensively for cloud across the organization and to all stakeholders.

Everyone will need to learn the fundamentals of using cloud services in your business, but the most effective training is training that is based on and relevant to the learner’s role in the organization. Business professionals in non-technology roles will need to be able to “hold a cloud conversation" in order to interface with other teams or to sell solutions more effectively. Teams already working in the cloud need deeper level training in the context of implementation and the areas where they will be contributing. Given the dynamic nature of cloud technologies, all stakeholders will need continuous training to ensure that progress is aligning with desired future-state targets based on industry and technology to keep skills current.

This article is published as part of the IDG Contributor Network. Want to Join?

NEW! Download the Fall 2018 digital issue of CIO