Navigating the cloud migration journey with the right skills

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As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect our lives, and many Asian countries are still battling high daily infection counts, our reliance on the internet has become more pronounced than ever. 

The way people have used technology to find innovative solutions to the challenges presented by the pandemic has been remarkable. Organizations worldwide have transformed operational cloud initiatives into strategic necessities for their survival. Faced with the need to pivot rapidly to new ways of operating, companies have been forced to accelerate their digital transformation, rapidly adopting cloud technology – and learning fast that it is no longer business as usual, and it may never be. 

Yet, amid the speed to pivot, organizations need the right skills to benefit from the array of capabilities that the cloud offers. 

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The first step: Securing HR and IT alignment

Organizations can’t digitally transform by pushing a button and letting the cloud take over. A range of digital skills are required, and workers with these skills are in short supply. A recent study by AlphaBeta Research, commissioned by AWS titled “Unlocking APAC’s Digital Potential: Changing Digital Skill Needs and Policy Approaches“, covered six Asian countries – Japan, South Korea, India, Singapore, Indonesia, and Australia. It found  the number of workers applying digital skills in these countries will have to increase five-fold (from 149 million in 2020 to 819 million in 2025). Similarly, the research notes that the number of workers needing advanced cloud skills is expected to triple.

Many companies in our region are still just starting to understand the complexities and specialization needed to effectively manage a cloud environment. 

Cloud technology is still relatively new. It emerged as a new technology field around 15 years ago, and the advances in cloud capabilities like machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) have evolved so rapidly that it’s understandable that many organizations, while eager to adopt the latest technology, don’t know where to start. 

Many companies also have no idea what a cloud-first organization looks like – how it’ architected, built, operated, and what human resources are needed for it to function correctly. How many workers are needed? Which skills? How to find these workers? 

To address these questions, companies need to create strong alignment between their IT and human resource (HR) teams. This ensures hiring, training, and management is carried out in a synchronized and carefully considered way that results in cloud-ready teams. This will not only enable teams to upskill and stay relevant in today’s digital world, but help organizations to thrive. 

Adopting a cloud-first mindset

Once organizations have crossed this first hurdle, they must adopt a cloud-first mindset – cloud must be the foundation of their IT strategy to reap the maximum benefits that hyperscale compute power presents.

Traditional on-premises IT infrastructure has many failings that the cloud addresses, such as improved energy efficiency, reduced emissions, lower cost, agility, scalability, security… the list goes on. In terms of the skills needed, traditional on-premises infrastructure requires specialized workers who each take care of a siloed part of the IT infrastructure. Individual teams or workers with their toolbox of skills separately handle compute, storage, networks, security, applications, server maintenance, hardware, Operating Systems (OS), virtualization software and software updates, and patch management. 

With a cloud infrastructure, the service provider manages these tasks, which means the roles that previously handled these duties can evolve into cross-functional cloud engineer functions, with multiple potential specialties.

Identifying the right skills 

There are several roles that are most in-demand when it comes to cloud skills. In the AlphaBeta study, cloud architecture design consistently emerged as the top in-demand skill. As the amount of data grows, the cloud’s architecture needs more careful design and high levels of security. Another advanced cloud computing skill is the ability to help organizations transition from on premises-based to cloud-based infrastructure. This is expected to become more critical, especially in non-technology sectors like manufacturing, learning, and retail. 

Other forms of digital expertise that complement cloud computing, including cybersecurity skills and AI and ML capabilities, are also becoming more important. In all the six countries studied, the research found that the average worker will require seven new digital skills by 2025, including knowledge of data mining and data science techniques, and the ability to create large-scale data models.

Resources are at hand to help companies and individuals bridge the skills gap and establish the right team for the cloud. AWS is committed to equipping individuals and organizations with the knowledge they need to realize their cloud goals and move their company – and careers – forward. This includes more than 500 free, on-demand online courses to help build knowledge and expertise, with many courses available in multiple languages. AWS also collaborates with educational institutions and local governments to provide students workers access to cloud training.

Easing the transition

Once migrated to cloud, organizations need to consider how to best reskill workers who previously managed on-premises infrastructure. The good news is that most on-premises skills are easily transferrable with training, and retraining legacy workers is the best option to nurture innovation in organizations. To fully unlock the potential of cloud capabilities, upskilling existing IT staff is essential, and the cloud presents opportunities to innovate in ways that are interesting and refreshing to many traditional IT workers. Companies must also educate themselves on their cloud readiness and talent capacity and have a clear picture of the makeup of their IT team. A learning needs analysis can help with this – allowing companies to make the right decisions about who can be reskilled, and where their workers can add the most value in this new digital world.  

Migrating to the cloud is not a one-click solution to a company’s digital challenges. The right skills are required, and many of these skills are a few short trainings away for existing, traditional IT staff. This journey needs careful planning, the right team, and a clear destination. With these, the path to digital transformation becomes clearer and easier to follow.