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How to Weather the Cloud Skills Shortage

If your company isn’t focused on digital transformation, you’re falling behind—and putting your organization at a tremendous disadvantage. Here’s what you need to know about the cloud skills shortage and how you can survive (and thrive) despite this labor shortfall.

Toptal Research

If your company isn’t focused on digital transformation, you’re falling behind—and putting your organization at a tremendous disadvantage.

AWS

In a recent TechTarget survey, more than two-thirds of IT leaders said their companies were in some phase of digital transformation, and nearly half have formal projects underway.

By taking significant steps to migrate to the cloud, organizations are becoming more flexible, collaborative, scalable, efficient, and secure. In short, it’s one of the best transitions you can make for your company to ensure a more sustainable future.

There’s just one problem: Digital transformation requires highly technical skills—including specialized expertise many companies do not already have in-house.

The cloud skills shortage is growing, making it increasingly difficult to find the right talent using traditional methods of sourcing and recruiting.

Not surprisingly, 63% of senior executives say a talent shortage is one of their organization’s major concerns, according to Gartner, Inc.’s Emerging Risks Survey for 2019, even overtaking risks such as “accelerating privacy regulations” and “global economic slowdown.”

This is for good reason. A deficiency of IT talent can exacerbate other issues, hindering your organization from keeping up with the competitors’ digital growth, adequately protecting data, and managing compliance.

While the technology skills gap paints a gloomy future for organizations who don’t yet have the right talent in place, there are a few steps you can take to weather the storm.

Here’s what you need to know about the cloud skills shortage and how you can survive (and thrive) despite this labor shortfall.

Cloud skills

The 7 Most In-demand Cloud Skills

From Netflix to McDonald’s, Airbnb to Samsung, many of the world’s biggest brands run at least some portion of their business operations on AWS. It’s not just global enterprises that benefit from this comprehensive cloud provider—over one million small to mid-size organizations across a broad spectrum of industries leverage AWS, too. When so many companies are competing to acquire AWS-certified engineers, the talent landscape can become a war zone.

Before we delve into how your enterprise can overcome the many challenges associated with the scarcity of cloud technology talent, let’s take a look at the seven cloud skills you’ll need to hire for in the first place.

Architecture

Adopting serverless architecture allows your developers to build scalable services that can be easily patched and upgraded. It’s generally cheaper than a server-based design, and developers won’t have to manage underlying infrastructure when building or running an application. However, before your organization can enjoy the many benefits of serverless architecture, you first need resources to deploy and configure its design. They should have experience rolling out and using AWS Lambda, Amazon’s serverless computing platform.

Blockchain

Over the past several years, blockchain technologies have grown beyond cryptocurrency use cases and now provide organizations a trustworthy, verifiable ledger to maintain a record of their transactions. AWS offers users AWS-Managed Blockchain for setting up, deploying, managing, and scaling blockchain networks and ledger-based applications. To make the most of this service, you need someone who understands how blockchain technology works and can ensure your company is following best practices.

Security

Cloud security is a hot topic. For a long time, security concerns prevented organizations from moving to the cloud. Today’s cloud providers offer a much more advanced level of security than most businesses could ensure themselves. While your provider may do most of the heavy lifting, your security is a shared responsibility. In other words, you need IT professionals who understand what it takes to keep your cloud data safe. Ideally, they should be a Certified Cloud Security Professional (CCSP) and experienced in using AWS security tools. Professionals with the AWS Security Specialty certification are also incredibly valuable.

Migration/Multi-cloud Deployment

Migrating business processes to the cloud can help your company save time and energy on routine tasks like database backup and maintenance. While it can help simplify your business operations, the act of migrating is anything but straightforward. If the person or team in charge of the migration process isn’t highly skilled, your business runs the risk of encountering unplanned downtime. Inexperienced IT professionals could also create vulnerabilities, which could be exploited by cybercriminals. If you plan to deploy processes across multiple cloud platforms, be sure the talent you select has experience with all of the providers you’ll use.

Automation

As technology charges forward, business reliance on automation will only continue to expand. Automating specific IT duties and workflows can help increase operational efficiency, save resources, and enhance security while freeing up your team to focus on more mission-critical tasks. Once you’ve begun automating various menial efforts, it can be a game-changer for your business—but first, you need someone to set it up. In this case, it’s crucial you find a professional who has automation scripting and programming experience.

DevOps Engineering

DevOps engineers are a critical link between your IT staff and your developers and will help oversee code releases from both perspectives. This ensures your organization has the support it needs for its continuous app delivery and integration processes. When you’re migrating to the cloud, it’s helpful to have a DevOps engineering professional to streamline your process—ideally, someone with both development and SysAdmin experience, plus an AWS DevOps Engineer certification.

Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI)

After years of uncertainty regarding how enterprise organizations would apply AI and machine learning, we’re finally on the cusp of significant advancement. Over the next few years, machine learning will only become more critical to business operations. That’s why it’s essential you bring in talent to help manage distributed applications in the cloud. These professionals should have a robust data and science background, as well as the AWS Machine Learning Specialty certification. They should have experience in technologies such as Amazon SageMaker, AWS DeepRacer, or AWS DeepLens, for example.

Knowing the skills you need for the not-so-distant future can help you better shape your hiring practices today.

Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence

The Cloud Skills Gap Is Looming

Today, it’s no longer adequate to simply run applications in the cloud. To get the most from your cloud platform investment, outpace competitors, and ensure you’re well prepared for the future, your organization has to retain the best tech talent. And as organizations face a deluge of cloud-based IT demands, they’re encountering a drought of talent.

The Cloud Skills Gap Is Looming - Statistics

Why is the technology skills gap so large? There are three primary causes:

Technology Is Evolving Faster than Ever Before

Never in the history of employment has technology been changing at such a rapid clip. The pace of innovation isn’t likely to slow anytime soon. That means jobs that exist today didn’t exist even 10 years ago, and new positions will continue to develop within the next decade.

Even with a new crop of professionals graduating every year, it’s not enough to meet the growing needs of organizations. Likewise, demands on existing employees are always morphing to meet expanding expectations.

To keep up, IT leaders must ensure their employees are continually enhancing their skill sets, which means setting aside time for skill-building and continuing education. As you’ve probably experienced, finding time for professional development isn’t always easy.

Employers Are Failing to Properly Attract the Right Talent

Tech hiring practices are in dire need of an overhaul. In many cases, overwhelmed IT leaders and strained HR managers aren’t effectively collaborating and discussing the organization’s real needs. As a result, current job postings don’t always align with company requirements, and descriptions are ambiguous and poorly defined.

Not only does this make it more challenging to attract top candidates, but it also means you’re not always bringing in talent with the right certifications. Given the high costs associated with recruiting and hiring tech professionals, bringing the wrong people aboard can be an expensive endeavor.

In the US, tech salaries average 66% higher than other occupations, and in some cases, it’s even higher.

The national average full-time salary is about $47,000, whereas the average salary for a cloud engineer in the US tops $120,000. The Bureau of Labor Statistics

It’s a Candidate’s Market

Tech employees today have no shortage of options. Demand is outpacing supply across nearly every industry, including financial services, manufacturing, government, nonprofit, retail, and healthcare. Most high-paying tech jobs are concentrated around major cities, which leaves a significant disparity between rural and urban markets.

In today’s business climate, when every company is effectively becoming a tech company by relying more heavily on technology, the competition for highly skilled technology professionals will only grow more intense: 75% of HR professionals report having difficulty recruiting candidates due to the skills gap.

75% of HR professionals report having difficulty recruiting candidates due to the skills gap.

In short, if employers aren’t wowing candidates with competitive pay, benefits, flexibility, and a thriving culture, those professionals will look elsewhere.

It’s a Candidate’s Market

How Can IT Leaders Weather the Storm?

As an IT leader, you’re continuously bombarded with bleak news about the cloud skills shortage (and tech skills gap in general) but given few legitimate resolutions.

To help, here are a few concrete solutions to help your organization survive the shortfall and prepare for an even more tech-reliant future.

Conduct a SWOT Analysis to Determine Your Hiring Needs

Performing a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis is an excellent way to assess your current standing and identify methods for boosting hiring success.

SWOT Analysis

Identify Which Positions Are Best In-house vs. Outsourced

Something interesting happened at Google in 2018. For the first time in the organization’s 20-year history, independent contractors outnumbered in-house employees.

This certainly isn’t limited to Silicon Valley. There are a few reasons the tech giant and other major companies are hiring agile talent. First, these employees generally don’t receive benefits like healthcare or retirement savings, so it can help keep costs down. Second, it’s helpful when you need to scale up support for a short-term project. It can also make it easier to attract top talent in a competitive market when professionals aren’t ready to commit to one employee full-time.

However, not every role makes sense to outsource. Before you begin the hiring process, you need to determine which cases call for an in-house position and which projects or tasks can potentially be outsourced.

Recognize the Advantages of Agile Talent to Widen Your Pool

For generations, organizations have relied on contractors and freelancers to handle all sorts of tasks and duties. Agile talent, on the other hand, is a special classification of contractors. In most cases, these professionals handle high-level strategic or technical work and may come aboard either full-time or part-time, on a temporary or project-only basis.

Agile talent complements your existing resources by offering skills you may not have in-house but don’t need to hire full-time. This gives you access to a wider pool of talent and allows you to scale your workforce up or down as quickly as your organization’s needs change.

While it can take several weeks or months to find, hire, and onboard an in-house employee, you can find and engage agile talent in a matter of days. By bypassing arduous and time-consuming recruiting and hiring processes, you can tackle critical tech projects faster and quickly bring your organization up to speed. Plus, once projects are complete, you don’t have to worry about finding new ways to get value from your hire. Agile talent can work on a per-project basis—meaning you only have to bring them in when you need their expertise.

Three Examples: How Real Enterprise Organizations Are Leveraging Agile Talent to Meet Their Tech Skills Needs

Three Examples

Cleveland Cavaliers

In 2016, the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Golden State Warriors to take home the NBA Championship—their first title in the franchise’s history. It was also the first major sports championship win for the city in more than 50 years.

During the playoffs, the franchise recognized it needed a better way to engage its fans around the world who couldn’t participate in these big moments in person. Because they needed to build an immersive and interactive online fan experience within a short timeline, the Cavaliers turned to a pool of well-vetted agile talent. These highly skilled professionals helped the franchise quickly bring its vision to life.

Bridgestone

Second only to fuel and labor, tires are one of the highest costs truck fleets face. Heavy usage means tires wear out fast, but Bridgestone came up with a solution: To help maximize each tire’s life span, the company developed a retreading solution. The brand also developed a plan to track, measure, and streamline the entire retreading process.

To ensure their new product would be usable, they needed to construct an easy-to-navigate user interface. To help meet their goals, Bridgestone turned to agile talent with expertise in user experience and user interface. By partnering with a cloud-based agile talent provider, the company was able to source the talent it needed to create a highly intuitive, effective product its customers love.

CSR Limited

Construction supply industry leader CSR Limited realized its customers’ needs were shifting, and they needed to evolve to stay competitive. To meet customer demands, the brand decided to build a custom solution that would allow users to oversee deliveries, track inventory, manage invoicing, and more.

To create this solution, they needed developers, animators, analysts, and others with a highly specific background. These professionals were not only difficult to attract—they weren’t easy to find in the first place.

By expanding search to agile talent across the globe, CSR quickly found the exact high-quality resources they needed, including professionals who fit within the existing team culture.

Moving Forward

Scaling and maintaining your organization’s success amid a cloud skills shortage can feel like running against the wind. After all, it takes a substantial amount of talent to modernize a company and ensure you’re set up for continued success on AWS. Sourcing the right in-house talent is time- and labor-intensive—it can force you to put off critical projects and fall behind your competition. That’s why one of the best ways to weather the tech skills gap is to invest in agile talent.

By expanding your search and partnering with a global network of agile talent, you can find the experienced and proficient professionals you need to overcome technical obstacles, complete projects faster, and ensure you’re well prepared for whatever the future holds.

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