The Cloud Talent Drought Continues: Forbes Article Series by Ntirety CEO Emil Sayegh
May 18, 2020 by Cali Thompson
The Cloud Talent Drought Continues
Originally published in Forbes in early March 2020, our CEO Emil Sayegh examined the IT talent drought businesses across all industries were facing even before the full onset of COVID-19 hit. IT professionals with cloud experience that are also at the forefront of emerging technologies have been hard to come by well before remote workforces became the norm.
As time progresses and businesses face ongoing adjustments to maintain productivity and security, the cloud talent drought continues. Emil’s deep dive to the IT talent shortage and strategies to navigate it are more insightful than ever for the current business landscape.
The Cloud Talent Drought Continues (And Is Even Larger Than You Thought)
We are in the midst of a talent drought within the IT market that is plaguing enterprise organizations, causing business bottlenecks, competitive disadvantages, security issues, and compliance risks. This drought is only amplified by the industry-wide movement to cloud-native technologies — a trend that is not getting smaller. Global spending on IT is projected to reach $3.9 trillion in 2020, an increase of 3.4% from 2019 (Gartner).
Advanced cloud and security skills are in higher demand than ever before; however, there is a significant lack of qualified, skilled professionals to support this movement towards innovation, especially in non-tech related industries such as manufacturing, transportation, travel, and education. Recent data shows that 63% of U.S. organizations anticipate the IT skills gap to widen, and 59% expect this talent shortage to continue in the next two years (Ceredian). The bottom line is that companies in non-tech-industries are crunched for qualified cloud and IT talent to meet their expansion goals, and the outlook is not optimistic. According to a recent 2020 Challenges in Cloud Transformation survey report, the IT talent shortage is a leading corporate concern, with 86% of respondents believing it will continue to slow down cloud projects.
Here, I’ll examine the industry forecast that expects this shortage to affect business for years to come.
The 2020 Skills Shortage
Recruiting and retaining technology staff has become increasingly complicated, particularly in non-tech industries such as manufacturing, fossil fuel, and transportation. These businesses suffer from a double whammy: not only are they dealing with a shortage of IT skilled talent, but they are offering positions in industries considered “unattractive” for prospective tech talent looking to build an IT career.
Gone are the days where a steady base of skilled IT talent can meet an organization’s technology needs for years on end. Tech giants, such as Facebook, Google, and Amazon, are creating a giant vacuum for talent, offering attractive, super-competitive benefits packages. Furthermore, even if a business were to find a pocket of smart, qualified IT talent, the pace of cloud innovation, new business pressures, and the need to evolve have made the ability to keep that talent relevant over time an impractical reality.
Fueling Business Transformation
As part of the digital push, non-tech businesses are trying to transform their IT systems in every way possible, embracing new, cutting-edge cloud technologies that promise greater efficiency and value. While these new technologies underpin a wave of business advantages, without the proper talent to keep things running and support this new infrastructure, companies are left idling on the sideline, wondering how to better participate in this era of digital transformation.
New roles and skills expectations are appearing faster than recruiting can keep up, with organizations under compliance requirements, like HIPAA and PCI, facing even more significant challenges. The recently enacted California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) is a blaring example of a technology regulation that California companies across all industries must quickly understand and comply with, at the risk of facing penalties. Unfortunately, most are still operating with internal IT teams unfamiliar or unprepared to do so.
The IT skills required by a given organization are usually unique. Still, nowadays, most non-tech businesses need a minimum set of technical talent to cover the following core mission-critical skill sets:
Cloud Computing and Architecture
IT Governance and Compliance Management
Business Intelligence and Database Management
Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Implementation
The skills required by a given organization are usually unique. Some organizations may even need talent well-versed in all these skills while still requiring as little staff as possible.
The latest IDC 2020 projection indicates that the time for action is getting short for CIOs in the digital era. Execution struggles, competition, and market forces add to the struggle to emerge as a transformed business. But there are three strategies that organizations are employing to help alleviate this increasingly prevalent issue of finding skilled IT professionals to cover those core mission-critical skill sets, and support their business objectives.
3 Steps to Address the Cloud Talent Drought
The digital era has created a plethora of projects, along with a deadline compression for CIOs. In addition, a recent CIO survey shows that 65% of respondents feel that hiring challenges are hurting them and their industry.
Lost opportunities continue to pile up, along with lost revenue and rising costs. So, what can CIOs do to manage this growing talent deficit?
A balanced, three-pronged solution is in order, taking into account serious investment in the training and retention of critical-skilled tech employees, automation, and a modern outsourced services strategy. This approach enables businesses to embrace the changing landscape and invest in their internal talent while simultaneously intelligently leveraging outside resources.
A new practice called “upskilling” — the process of teaching current employees new skills to minimize talent gaps — has become an increasingly critical solution for employers looking to boost the capabilities of their teams. With thousands of new product and feature releases per cloud platform emerging each year, tuning up and updating cloud skills is essential to employee success.
While these programs take time to set up, the industry is witnessing positive pushes to manage workloads and advance technologies in critical situations via training programs that aim to upskill existing talent. Another often overlooked benefit of upskilling is that it creates a positive culture of learning in the organization.
From the days of Henry Ford, automation remains an eternal companion to repetitive low-value tasks. Ford transformed the way automobiles were assembled, standardizing, and then later automating the entire process. The world of IT reached this inflection point with the introduction of Artificial Intelligence (AI), with AI technology focusing on repeated actions and results, creating an opportunity for scalable and less people-intensive operations to take hold.
Automation and AI are tantalizing solutions for standardized tasks, although they are also crunched due to lack of talent. Industry reports speculate that there is a market demand for millions of AI professionals, while just a few hundred thousand individuals exist worldwide. As crazy as that disparity seems, it reflects a valid deficit, highlighting an opportunity for skilled AI and outsourced service providers to close task gaps.
Modern IT outsourcing offers a seamless extension of the internal IT team, contracting out projects to experienced providers that are better-equipped and up-to-date with skills supporting the newest IT technologies such as cybersecurity, infrastructure management, AI, and database management. To be trusted, third-party providers must have a thorough understanding of the expectations of non-tech based clients and should operate with customer-centricity, transparency, and trust. Aside from being adept with a broad spectrum of technologies, outsourced providers should also be prepared to transparently share risks with their clients, as this is the key ingredient to a successful partnership.
The enterprise is already doing some of the obvious, with basic training and efforts to retain current staff. However, the IT industry must continue to step up to the realities of talent shortages by rapidly expanding their training to include cloud technologies, while also investing in cloud automation and outsourcing critical IT skills to trusted cloud ecosystem partners.
Cloud Talent Opportunities
As the industry adapts to the technology skills environment, changes will continue to emerge. The enterprise is already on track with training and retaining staff; however, building a culture of rapid development and rewards and strategically partnering with expert service providers like Ntirety are two important parts of an intelligent approach to help achieve better technology outcomes.