Pluralsight: On why cloud skills acquisition is a continuous journey

James has more than a decade of experience as a tech journalist, writer and editor, and served as Editor in Chief of TechForge Media between 2017 and 2021. James was named as one of the top 20 UK technology influencers by Tyto, and has also been cited by Onalytica, Feedspot and Zsah as an influential cloud computing writer.

If you suspect that the cloud skills gap has not been lessened in recent years – or, indeed, has actually gotten wider – then take this statistic from Pluralsight into account. The online learning provider notes that, while 98% of customers the company has spoken to have started their cloud journey, only 7% have got the skills they need to go through with it.

To find out why this is, the company’s State of Cloud 2023 report is a useful reference point.

In short, it is not competence which holds organisations back, but complexity. As one map is mastered, another set of mountains appear ominously in the distance.

Take multi-cloud as an example: an Oracle study from this time last year confirmed that multi-cloud was the ‘new reality in enterprise technology.’ An overwhelming 98% of enterprises surveyed who use public cloud had adopted a multi-cloud infrastructure provider strategy. Throw in the exponential potential of AI and machine learning – ‘using that to find the extra edge’, as one CIO in the State of Cloud report put it – and it’s easy to lose track.

The good news is that companies like Pluralsight are here to help – but organisations need to know where they stand first of all. “It’s a journey, and it’s always going to be a journey,” explains Nick Bec, principal consultant of engineering transformation at Pluralsight. “You can’t think too far ahead, you can’t boil the ocean. It needs to be small, incremental steps.”

Pluralsight has two key offerings. With Pluralsight Skills, customers engage with online video learning content across myriad technologies including cloud, cybersecurity, software development, and AI. Pluralsight Skills also offers hands-on learning experiences such as sandbox environments and skills assessments to help identify gaps in knowledge for technologists. Pluralsight Flow is a platform which gives organisations insight through aggregating engineering metrics.

Bec explains why skills gaps are likely to occur – and the long-term problems they cause. Consultants and contractors will come in with a simple cloud migratory remit, do a lift and shift – without the hassle of tying a long-term strategy to it – and then leave the company to clear up the mess.

“What tends to happen is when a company goes through a transformation, for example they want to move to cloud, to get around the knowledge gap they bring a lot of contractors that have got experience in expertise in whatever vendor they’re going to move to, and will take all their applications and move them off to the cloud,” he explains.

“That’s fine, but those contractors are there for a finite amount of time; they’re not there forever, and it’s also quite expensive to hire a squad of contractors,” adds Bec. “And when they eventually leave, there’s a huge skills gap, and a knowledge gap as well.

“So what we tend to find is that whenever the contractors go, the [companies] almost revert to their old ways, whereby they’ve got the same situation, they’ve got the same applications they had before, all in the cloud, but there’s no way to really innovate, there’s no way to kind of go forward.”

The key is to deliver what Pluralsight calls ‘outcome-oriented solutions’ for successful cloud transformations. As Bec notes, this includes all of the workforce – moving from capex to opex models will have a significant effect on finance, for example – and ranges from the committed to the slightly more cynical. It all comes down to change management.

“You’re always going to have detractors and people that are stuck in their ways, and that’s always going to be the case, but we hold sessions with identified SMEs [subject matter experts], people that know what they’re talking about in different areas of the organisation,” says Bec. “When we talk about strategy, where you think you should be going, that tends to align with what their long-term goals are.

“We try to minimise disruption as much as possible by using these SMEs – we try to strike these detractors before it becomes an issue,” adds Bec. “The change management piece becomes a little bit easier because the questions are being answered; any frustrations, any worries they’ve got about the role, or what their new every day is going to look like. These questions have been answered before they even start their transformation journey.”

To emphasise how cloud maturity is a journey rather than a destination, Pluralsight has a Cloud Maturity Matrix for organisations, with 11 different functional areas scaled up across five different levels. Most organisations sit somewhere in the middle; beyond the basic lift and shift, but with work still to be done in order to get the best outcomes.

Bec is a keynote speaker at the Cloud Transformation Conference on February 15 where he will outline how companies can connect the strategic dots and iron out the creases further. “Cloud transformation is an evolving process that involves changing minds, and skill sets, and attitudes,” he explains. “It’s not as big and scary as they probably think it is. You start by focusing on one or two areas and that organically grows; so not thinking ‘we need to move everything overnight.’

“I want [attendees] to have a couple of ideas in their mind, so that whenever they do start the cloud transformation journey, [we’ve] given them a couple of little ideas to help them prepare, to make it go a little bit smoother.”

Picture credit: Pluralsight

Check out the upcoming Cloud Transformation Conference, a free virtual event for business and technology leaders to explore the evolving landscape of cloud transformation. Book your free virtual ticket to deep dive into the practicalities and opportunities surrounding cloud adoption. Learn more here.

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