More and more businesses are moving their on-premise IT infrastructure to the cloud to increase agility, cut costs, and reap the many other benefits that cloud computing can provide.
If you’ve considered a move to the cloud, you’ve likely spent a lot of time thinking about migrating applications, deploying cloud servers, transitioning databases, and other technical aspects.
You may also have calculated the cost savings you could realize from moving to a cloud provider like AWS, Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud Platform.
But have you thought about how a cloud migration might impact your IT employees and your company’s hiring processes?
The soaring rate of cloud adoption has created human resource issues that many companies overlook.
Hiring qualified cloud engineers and architects has become very difficult, and companies have had to adapt to ensure their staff has the relevant skills to take full advantage of the cloud.
What does this mean for your business? How will this affect your current and future IT staff? What processes need to change and what do you need to do to ensure your employees have the right skills and qualifications?
In-Demand Cloud Skills and the Talent Gap
As more and more companies move to the cloud, traditional IT roles have been disrupted and will continue to change.
Conventional data center manager jobs, where engineers are responsible for setting up servers, maintaining hardware uptime, and monitoring data center power and temperature levels, are becoming less prevalent.
New and different cloud computing-centric skills are now necessary.
LinkedIn identified the most sought-after skills desired by global employers, and “Cloud and Distributed Computing” skills topped the list for the second year in a row.
Additionally, Cloud Foundry and ClearPath Strategies surveyed 845 IT professionals who highlighted the growing need for cloud skills such as:
- Deploying on a specific cloud infrastructure
- Microservices architectures
- 12-factor applications
Furthermore, 64% of the Cloud Foundry survey respondents agree that there is now or will soon be a developer shortage. And 57% of the respondents have had a hard time hiring developers with the required skills.
These worries were further confirmed in Softchoice’s State of Cloud Readiness survey, where 53 percent of IT leaders claimed they struggle to acquire the necessary skills to support cloud initiatives within their organizations.
The broad and constantly changing set of skills that is needed to excel in a cloud environment may be the culprit of the hiring issues currently facing the industry.
Stephanie Tayengco, Senior VP of Operations at Logicworks, agrees that businesses are struggling to find well-rounded cloud engineers. Tayengco highlights:
“You need the skills of a seasoned systems engineer, knowledge of the full range of possibilities of the public cloud’s native services and tooling, and a DevOps approach to managing configurations and infrastructure, and software deployment and integration.”
The need for IT staff to constantly deploy servers and monitor data centers is going away. Instead, these employees are spending more time architecting cloud solutions, understanding how technology fits into the larger company strategy, managing vendors, and communicating internally and externally. Thus, businesses are also adding management and business skills to their list of must-haves.
In essence, companies are looking for unicorn engineers, and they’re having a tough time finding them.
How to deal with the cloud staffing problem
The cloud staffing problem is real, and many companies just don’t know how to address the changes in skill set and how to hire to fill these gaps in expertise and experience.
A thorough analysis and tactical plan is the foundation to dealing with the potential staffing issue caused by moving to the cloud.
Planning a full migration of on-premise infrastructure is both daunting and complex, and it seems like many IT leaders feel like they don’t know where to start. According to the Softchoice survey, 54% of the respondents believe their teams struggle to form a cloud strategy. And we imagine that of those who do plan, many leave human resources out of the equation.
Here are some steps that you can take to create a comprehensive plan and ensure your cloud migration has all of the resources and staff that you need to be successful.
1) Analyze your current situation
The first step is to perform a thorough analysis of your organization’s current applications, infrastructure, skill sets, and resource and budget levels to get a better picture of the skills and capabilities you’ll need to execute a successful migration to the cloud.
The first part of the assessment is to identify which applications will be moved to the cloud, determine the associated migration timelines, and audit your current infrastructure to get a better idea of the scope and scale of the migration.
Some questions to ask include:
- What applications are best fit to move to the cloud? Starting with a smaller, less mission-critical application may be a smart move.
- What is the current level of storage you’re using and what types of storage do you use?
- How much data do you create and store on a daily, monthly, and yearly basis, and how fast is that growing?
- What kind of databases do you employ?
- What does your networking environment look like?
- What kind of analytics programs do you currently use?
After you perform your app and infrastructure audit, you should take a close look at the skills of your current IT team on both an individual and collective basis.
This will give you a good idea of the developers and IT staff who might be initially impacted by the cloud migration and the speed at which you’ll need to augment their skills or add to the team. More on this soon.
Finally, take a look at the level of resources that you have dedicated to building or managing the specific parts of the apps and infrastructure to be migrated.
Questions to ask here include:
- How much money have you spent and do you continue to spend on physical servers?
- How many employees are dedicated to maintaining your data centers, and how much do you pay them in aggregate?
- What hidden costs are involved, such as real estate, physical security for data centers, power, HVAC, and others?
- How much do you pay for server management software?
- What other resources are dedicated to maintenance and upkeep of your infrastructure?
A comprehensive analysis will provide the foundation of the human resource changes you need to make for your cloud migration.
2) Identify gaps in skills and resources, and create your staffing plan
Now that you know what to do and what you have, you can determine what you need.
You may find that your staff is well qualified to manage data centers, when what you now need is for them to manage cloud vendor relationships.
Maybe some members of your IT staff are very strong in deploying servers. Now you’ll need them to gain knowledge in deploying serverless architectures instead.
You may also find that your current team is too small to properly execute your cloud migration. Or maybe your team is too large, with a collection of skills that requires an update to better fit a move to the cloud.
Some of the IT management costs that you outlined in your current situation analysis may now be unnecessary, and they can be re-allocated to hiring new employees and training current staff.
This step is where you determine what skills your company needs, how many employees are required, and what you have to do to get there.
3) Invest in employee development
Some cloud-centric skills may be clearly missing from your team, and hiring new staff to fill these gaps may be the first thought that pops into your mind.
Before you start recruiting externally, look inside your company first to see who is willing and able to learn these new, necessary cloud skills.
Existing employees have proven their loyalty and value, they have in-depth industry knowledge, and they’re already familiar with the inner workings of the migration plan and organization as a whole. So they’re well prepared to deal with these changes and lead you through the cloud migration.
On the other hand, new hires are expensive to recruit and onboard, and they’ll have to adapt to a new culture and environment before making an impact.
The Cloud Foundry study confirms the trend of companies opting to train or “up-skill” existing staff to internally develop the necessary skills, with over 60% of respondents preferring to train existing employees rather than hiring or outsourcing.
And the learning doesn’t stop there. As cloud technology rapidly changes, the required skills will also change, and a robust training program will help current and future IT employees adopt new technologies.
Thus, dedicating a portion of your budget towards staff education should be one of your biggest investments, and looking internally should be your first instinct to bridge the skills gap.
Two companies, Aricent Group and Enterasys Networks, did just that. Both chose to utilize the talent of their existing IT staff by increasing the amount of training and moving them into different roles to accommodate their migration to the cloud.
Aricent Group increased employee training hours by 50% and transitioned some of its IT staff into business analyst and architect roles.
Enterasys Networks shifted its staff’s focus from data center operations to business analyst, application developer, and user support roles. Now, the team spends more time teaching business users about cloud tools and monitoring trends in emerging cloud technologies.
You can also create incentives for your staff to pursue cloud training and align this training with performance reviews so they are motivated to learn new skills and expand their knowledge.
Finally, keep your staff well-informed about relevant industry and networking events, and encourage them to attend. Learning how other companies use the cloud is helpful, and you may be able to adopt these best practices.
Your current IT employees are extremely valuable assets that should be continually developed during your transition to the cloud.
4) Recruit new employees or partners for missing skills
You may find that there are skills that you still have to acquire, or that you need to increase your staffing levels to properly execute your migration.
At this point, you’ll have to either hire new staff, outsource some of your migration tasks, or both.
This can help your company by introducing new skills into your talent pool and bringing in a fresh perspective to ensure you’re taking the right approach to your cloud migration.
But, as mentioned before, the skills for which you need to recruit now may be very different than what you’ve looked for in the past. So you’ll have to better understand what skills to search for and how to properly assess these skills.
And the competition for cloud engineers and architects is fierce, as they are in very high demand. Not only are your competitors likely recruiting similar candidates, but the big cloud providers like AWS, Microsoft, Google, and others are fighting for these experts as well.
Thus you will certainly have to step up your recruiting game. That might mean increasing base salaries and bonuses, adding perks, providing increased training and education, and more.
If you’re looking to an external company to partner with on your cloud migration, make sure that you look for one that has the right skills and experience that will fit with your company.
This consists of analyzing their past cloud migration experience, assessing the types of clients whom they’ve worked with, finding out about their certifications, and more.
Whether you hire or outsource, a thorough analysis of skill set and fit with your company is critical.
5) Create a culture of experimentation
When migrating to the cloud, things will move fast and you’ll likely have a lot of employees learning on the fly.
Your company should try to create a culture of experimentation and embrace this “controlled chaos.”
Experimentation breeds innovation, and innovation is the key to keeping up with customer demands and staying competitive in the market.
In this transitional time, your staff should be encouraged to run experiments, tackle tasks that they may not be familiar with, and use new tools that may have never been used before.
After all, one of the key benefits of the cloud is the agility and speed in which companies can build and launch new products.
A culture where experimentation, testing, and failure are embraced will go a long way to increase innovation with cloud computing.
6) Create new governance and management processes
While a culture of experimentation is important, a system of checks and balances still should exist to make sure the train doesn’t go off the rails.
New governance and management processes are part of a successful cloud strategy and will ensure that teams are aligned to effectively govern the size, design, architecture and security of these new cloud-based systems.
Overall, your system of IT governance should include techniques and policies that measure, control, and define:
- How your systems will be managed
- The organizing principles and rules that determine how your organization should behave
- How people will work together across departments to achieve your business goals
More specifically, your governance policy may include guidelines for specific items such as the development change control process, standards for design of infrastructure, resilience, backup / disaster recovery, monitoring infrastructure and applications, programming standards, and security standards.
With robust governance policies in place, you can avoid issues like integration problems, security vulnerabilities, and overuse of resources.
7) Communicate your plan to your staff
Your staff will know that migrating to the cloud will cause changes, some of which may be extremely impactful to their careers.
So it’s best to be very open and honest with your team from the beginning about how these changes will affect the organization and each individual.
Let your staff know how they fit into the big picture, the importance of their role, and why it matters to the team and organization.
Lay out all of the details about changing roles, processes, and systems.
You may get resistance from some of your staff. Try to empathize and truly understand where this discord is coming from and deal with it head-on.
Transparent and consistent communication is extremely important and will help ensure everyone is on the same page during this time of change.
Human resources are a huge part of a cloud migration, yet many companies don’t take the time to create an HR plan.
A thorough plan will address how many employees are necessary to handle the migration, what skills are needed, and whether to hire new staff, train existing employees, bring in a partner, or all of the above.
Additionally, culture shifts, new processes, and increased communications are all necessary to take full advantage of a move to the cloud.
Cloud developers are in high demand and skills sets are continually changing. Are you ready to deal with the cloud staffing problem?
Hopefully this article will help your company address your HR needs as you move to the cloud.
What are your thoughts about how cloud computing is impacting the IT department? Have you seen similar issues regarding staffing and hiring? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.