The cloud-enabled workforce: Prepping IT staff for success

Experts predict nontraditional skills will be essential for the cloud-enabled, next-generation IT workforce. To succeed, employee training and development will play a big role.

In the world of IT, change is the new normal. Consider cloud computing: The cloud is not just changing how IT works, but also driving a shift in desired IT skill sets.

Modern-day IT staff needs to acquire a new set of domain skills for process automation, architecture, resource optimization and cost management to drive cloud-based initiatives, according to a recent guide published by the Cloud Standards Customer Council about how to help grow and develop a cloud-enabled workforce.

Fostering a cloud-enabled workforce also helps drive agility, efficiency and transformation, said Jeff Boleman, cloud lead and cognitive architect at IBM and a contributor to the guide. Boleman cited a CEB survey that forecasted a dramatic increase in the need for security and cloud hosting skills, making the development of a skilled, cloud-enabled workforce more pertinent than ever.

"It's really about training, because, at the end of the day, you are owning what you do as a company; you need to be responsible for it and take charge of it," he said during a recent webinar.

Developing a framework for cloud skills training: Six steps

Any strategy for ongoing cloud skills training should ideally align with the organization's cloud transformation plans or an existing cloud strategy, said Lisa Schenkewitz, executive IT architect at IBM and a co-contributor to the guide. 

The first step to develop a cloud-enabled workforce requires understanding the existing culture. This necessitates an awareness of organizational values and the way people interact, as well as a basic understanding of what it is like to actually work in the organization, Schenkewitz explained.

"You can use that knowledge as a framework to understand other aspects of the company, such as how easy is it to change IT processes ... and [get] a basic understanding of what it is to be on the cloud on the leadership level," Schenkewitz said.

The next step is to understand the skills that are needed. Traditional IT skills might not be required in the new cloud environment, she said. Non-IT skills that might prove valuable include contract management, business process change and accounting experience, as well as domain knowledge for operations in the cloud, like DevSecOps, IT frameworks and IT governance processes, she said.

Adopt a consistent, intentional program to communicate, celebrate, sustain and embrace the habits of ongoing skills training.
Lisa Schenkewitzexecutive IT architect at IBM

Step three is to understand the organization's existing skills and where the gaps exist. When talking to different team members, consider questions such as what existing skills can be used, whether there is an opportunity or desire for retraining and what skills are missing entirely, she suggested.

Organizations can then move on to understand and identify what needs to be remediated in order to be successful. Once a complete examination of the skills and process gaps is done, a plan can be devised to remediate them, she said.

Remediation planning and execution comes next. Schenkewitz advised looking for ways to effectively engage current team members and develop ways to attract new talents and skills, like offering internships and apprenticeships.

The final step is to be ready to embrace change.

"It's going to be an ongoing rollercoaster ride," she said. "But the most important thing to remember is to adopt a consistent, intentional program to communicate, celebrate, sustain and embrace the habits of ongoing skills training."

Best practices for cloud skills training

William Van Order, fellow emeritus, Lockheed MartinWilliam Van Order

Letting IT take a key role in crafting some of the cloud education programs is essential, according to William Van Order, computer systems architect and fellow emeritus at Lockheed Martin in Bethesda, Md.

Apart from taking advantage of the wide range of knowledge-sharing tools in existence, he encouraged companies to "leverage as much of what you find out of the box in terms of training content," but customize that basic training to fit their needs, added Van Order, who also led the development of the guide.

Recognizing the accomplishment of those who are willing to take control of their career development is also paramount, he said.

"Make sure that you integrate learning and knowledge training objectives into the performance objectives of your key staff so that you can measure that and recognize that," he said. "That really sends a positive message to the workforce."

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