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Five keys to closing the cloud skills gap for UK business

By Adrian Alleyne, Digital Storyteller on 28/03/2017

Filed under Digital Transformation

cloud skills

Highlights from our new Microsoft Cloud Skills Report

It’s clear to most businesses across the globe that their future relies on the cloud. For many, it’s the driving force for the fourth industrial revolution. The Cloud powers the apps and systems that are redefining the way that businesses engage with their customers, empower their employees to be more productive, optimise their business processes, and create entirely new products and services. But how ready are UK businesses for this cloud revolution? In our new study of 250 mid-sized to large UK organisations, we found that there’s a wide gap between those who have the right skills and those who don’t. Here are five key findings from our report:

Cloud Skills are critical to transformation:

We asked participants how important cloud skills were to transformational success and the response was clear – more than 80% said either they were important. Indeed more than half (57%) went further to state they viewed cloud skills as critical to digital transformation. Given that business initiatives such as the Internet of Things (IoT), machine learning, advanced analytics, blockchain, and servitization are all reliant on the cloud, it’s no wonder that businesses in the UK recognise the importance of these cloud skills to their success.

Finding the right people is a challenge:

One big challenge facing our survey respondents, though, was finding people with the right skills. 38% of those who had been involved in recruiting people with cloud skills in the past 12 months said it was difficult to find the right skills. Where gaps exist, companies are looking close that gap by a combination of three methods: retrain their existing staff (60%), use external partners (53%) or recruit new people with cloud skills. The approach of utilising people currently outside of their companies may be a bit of a challenge for the reasons laid out below.

Expectations on cloud skills availability are misinformed

While nearly half of our respondents (48%) believe it will be easier to recruit people with cloud skills in the coming years, the data suggests that finding these skills is actually getting harder. In fact, last year marked the fifth consecutive year of a rising UK skills shortage, particularly in the technical engineering and specialist technology roles into which cloud skills fall. Even as the number of people with the right skills grows, the demand for those skills will increase at a faster rate. This means it will likely become more difficult to find people with the right cloud skills, and with the rules of supply and demand being what they are, companies competing to recruit that smaller pool of talent can expect to pay a premium to hire people with these very in-demand skills.

Paying a partner premium

Paying a premium isn’t just limited to recruiting new employees – it applies to businesses looking to fill the skills gap with partners. A majority of our respondents say that formal cloud certifications are important (63%) when selecting partners to provide cloud-based consulting or services. Furthermore, when engaging staff for important cloud projects, almost half (48%) say they’d expect to pay more for resources with relevant cloud certifications: in many cases this means an extra £300 or more per day.

Gender imbalance is a problem

A third costly issue is gender imbalance. As our CEO, Cindy Rose, noted recently when we look at technical work teams those with a more balanced gender mix found they were more likely to adhere to project schedules, have lower project costs and achieve higher employee performance ratings. However, in our report on average the gender mix amongst technical IT staff was 20% female, 80% male. Only 21% of respondents said the female mix within their organisation was 40% or greater. Beyond the social implications of this imbalance (though it is an issue that Microsoft is examining) it’s also holding UK businesses back in their digital transformation journeys.

Next steps to the cloud

The degree to which UK businesses will adopt the cloud will vary, but I think it’s safe to say there will be a strong correlation between those that address their cloud skills issues and those who will achieve long-term success. In our Microsoft Cloud Skills Report, we delve deeper into the challenge and provide examples of what companies can do to find, train and retain the right talent.

Download the full report here

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