Microsoft study warns of difficulty organisations face in attracting cloud skills

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.

More than one in three companies admit it has been either ‘difficult’ or ‘very difficult’ to find specific cloud skills for their organisation, according to a new study from Microsoft.

The dreaded ‘cloud skills gap’ has been long reported by this publication – ‘the trend will continue further through 2013’, this reporter once warned – but in the Microsoft report, titled ‘Closing the Cloud Skills Gap’, only 31% of the 250 respondents polled said they have recruited for cloud skills over the past 12 months. 8% of overall respondents said it was ‘very difficult’ to find the right skills, compared with 30% who opted for ‘difficult’.

One contributing factor to the continued malaise is that companies are being forced to think ‘beyond their established business models’, Microsoft notes; for instance, Rolls-Royce now sells flight miles as opposed to aircraft engines, and RAC is a pre-emptive vehicle maintenance service as well as offering roadside assistance.

“Those organisations that are forced to stall their transformational journeys due to a lack of skills will find themselves facing significant challenges,” the report notes. “Indeed, they may find that by the time they are able to meet the demands of both customers and employees, the market has moved on, rendering them irrelevant.”

It’s not as if organisations are setting the barrier especially high either: only 8% say recognised cloud certifications were ‘essential’ when recruiting, compared with 27% who say they are ‘highly desirable’ and 45% ‘nice to have’. That said, if most people’s job hunts are anything to go by, ‘highly desirable’ usually means ‘you probably should have it’; and as the report notes, “those people that do have certifications will enter the interview room with an advantage.”

The study also looked at closing the gender gap within technology firms; 22% of companies with 250 to 999 employees said they had zero female contingent, although on the plus side not one organisation with more than 1000 employees opted for 0%; the most popular bucket was 30-39% (26% of respondents).

Ultimately, the study argues that while there is still work to be done, the figures can be spun in a positive light for those who want to move into the industry. “Whilst the data outlines the challenges that many organisations face, it should make for positive reading for those interested in pursuing a cloud career or for businesses that already offer cloud consultancy to other organisations,” the report notes.

“With demand outstripping supply, those equipped with cloud skills can be confident that their talents will be required for the foreseeable future.”

When it comes to gaining those cloud skills for an organisation, the best advice is to plan ahead and prepare for as many situations as possible. “You can’t move to the cloud until you understand fully the shape of your current IT estate and the applications which support the organisation,” wrote Eduserv’s Andrew Hawkins in this publication last year. “Mapping these will allow you to understand areas which are compatible and incompatible with a cloud operating model ahead of time.”

For individuals looking to beef up their talents, IT learning organisation Firebrand Training offered its five key in-demand skills for 2017 back in February, citing database and big data, application security, enterprise cloud migration, containers, and cloud enterprise application development. Naturally, Microsoft wants to be at the forefront of enabling businesses, outlining its commitment to train 500,000 digital specialists and 30,000 public servants by 2020.

Elsewhere, Microsoft announced that its UK Azure data centres are now compliant with the Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standards (DSS) certification, outlining the move as ‘crucial’ for storing customers’ financial details. The news comes at an interesting time, especially given reports elsewhere over problems with AWS provisioning in its UK base.

You can read the Microsoft report in full here (no registration required).

Read more: The top five in-demand cloud skills for 2017

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