Digital transformation has become a priority for many organizations and in conjunction, cloud adoption is on the rise. Organizations who have a broad understanding of the cloud and the vision behind transformation strategies are positioned to fully maximize not only their cloud investment, but also their investment in their most important asset: their people.
According to IDC, 91% of organizations have adopted or plan to adopt a digital-first business strategy. Modern cloud-based technologies are at the center of these strategies, helping businesses to achieve outcomes such as increased organizational agility and efficiency, lower operational costs, and the ability to experiment and innovate quickly to accelerate time to market.
However, migrating to the cloud can appear a sizeable undertaking for many organizations and requires new skills and new ways of doing business. With 85% of organizations reporting deficits in cloud expertise, more leaders are smartly investing in training their existing staff to close these skills gaps.
So how do you develop cloud skills across your workforce that will help achieve your digital transformation goals? I’ll share five critical steps that will set your organization on a path to achieve its goals through investment in your existing talent.
1. Identify the skills gaps present in your organization
According to recent research by Accenture, a majority of IT decision-makers say their teams don’t have the cloud skills to meet current or future needs. When asked to assess the level of risk that poses to business objectives, 77% characterized the risk as medium to high, with only 1% saying that skills gaps pose no risk.
In devising your plan to train your workforce, an initial step is acknowledging and identifying the specific cloud skills gaps within your organization. To ensure teams build the right skills, consider the cloud initiatives you have planned for the next 12–24 months and what expertise and cloud competencies the organization needs to accomplish these initiatives. The AWS Learning Needs Analysis, a self-assessment tool, can help determine what your unique training goals should be.
When the engineers at RHB Bank Berhad (Singapore), a full service bank with seven branches in Singapore, needed to enhance its skill set to deploy and innovate in the cloud, Clara Lee Hui Theng, Head of Technology and Operations, partnered with AWS Training and Certification. Together, they built a training program to support the bank and team members’ goals of developing AWS expertise and certifications. A skills assessment helped them learn which basic skills teams needed and identify courses for their employees to attend. They started with essentials training to build a common understanding of the cloud and create executive alignment. Through a combination of formal classroom training, workshops, and on-the-job training, their engineers acquired the skills they needed to build and run applications on the cloud.
2. Develop a large-scale, formal training plan
Once you’ve pinpointed your gaps, formulate a future-focused skill development plan to lean in to the areas that address the needs of your employees and your cloud initiatives.
Absa, one of the largest financial service providers and cloud adopters in Africa, wanted to upskill employees on cloud technologies to help identify more opportunities within their businesses, and create more efficient, scalable services and solutions for customers.
Cloud is rapidly becoming the norm for large companies, a trend that was accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which prompted a step-change in digital solutions. Accelerating cloud adoption will have a significant impact on Absa's ability to innovate, offer new value propositions, and play a meaningful role in our customers' and clients' experiences.”
—Andrew Baker, Group Chief Technology Officer, Absa
To support its cloud transformation, Absa has launched an internal cloud incubator program via the AWS Skills Guild, a comprehensive cloud-skills training program to help large enterprises accelerate their cloud adoption journey and build cloud fluency for their employees. Absa’s cloud incubator will equip more than 1,500 staff across Absa’s operations with advanced cloud computing skills this year. As a result of the formal AWS training, employees will have the confidence to innovate faster and experiment more to drive broad-scale cloud transformation across the business.
3. Involve the entire organization to build cloud fluency
When an organization is investing in technology, it is an investment in the future of the business. IDC conducted a study on the value of cloud skills training for organizations and found that organizations that invest in comprehensive training see significant benefits over those that invest in minimal training. In particular, the study found that comprehensively trained organizations are 80% faster to adopt cloud, 4.4x more likely to overcome operational and performance concerns, and 3.8x more likely to meet cloud ROI requirements.
One of the most effective ways is to invest in comprehensive training is through foundational cloud training for all staff and deep technical training for IT staff. When teams speak the common language of the cloud and understand its capabilities, you can radically transform your organization through faster decision-making and innovations that benefit customers. We call this cloud fluency.
Kmart Group Australia initially invested in cloud training for IT staff to improve data and analysis capabilities in order to predict consumer buying habits for improved demand forecasting. The training resulted in vast operational improvements and their best sales growth, and teams across the business began to ask for cloud-enabled solutions. It quickly became clear that a crucial part of the journey to the AWS Cloud was providing all their employees with cloud skills.
Like Absa, they invested in an AWS Skills Guild program, and within the first year, they had trained 1,400 IT, retail, and head office staff across Australia using a combination of digital, classroom, and hands-on experiential training. AWS Certifications were earned across the business—from technical teams to executive assistants, store managers, finance, inventory staff, and even the CEO. As a result of the organization-wide cloud training, employees across teams can more easily collaborate and translate customer needs into solvable issues for technical staff.
“For my team, the impact of SPARK [the internal name of their AWS Skills Guild program] has been impressive. From a technical standpoint, by having the digital development teams achieve their AWS Certification, we were able to look at how they were managing infrastructure and reduced their development and test infrastructure costs by 70%—within a few weeks of certification,” said Michael Fagan, Chief Technology Officer, Kmart Australia. “Likewise, new ideas on storage management, including incorporating spot-buy strategies, led to a 90% reduction in storage costs. Daily deployments increased by more than 300%, with a steep reduction in rollbacks. We are seeing incredible improvements in our digital teams—our time to release features decreased by more than 60%. These are great results for our business, and cost savings we can pass on to our customers. But more than that, we’ve seen a shift in our culture. Staff across the business are expressing that Kmart is a more exciting place to work. They understand and appreciate their value to the business, and are being given the skills that will carry them—and the Kmart Group—into the future.”
4. Build a core team of cloud experts
To accelerate cloud training adoption, enlist a core team of cloud experts within your enterprise to help scale cloud proficiency to the entire organization. Many organizations are establishing these groups as a sharing mechanisms that complement their formal training programs, helping to build on current knowledge while incorporating the new. Known by a variety of different names—Cloud Enablement Engines (CEEs), Cloud Centers of Excellence (CCOE), or Cloud Enablement Teams—these small teams are comprised of cloud experts drawn from different roles within the organization—such as developer, network engineer, database administrator, or security or finance expert.
This team creates excitement and sets the tone for your organization’s digital transformation cloud-skilling efforts. Leaders from the team evangelize and institutionalize best practices and frameworks and manage the organization’s leap to the cloud. They lead from the front, earning industry certifications, driving cross-team learning opportunities, and spearheading cloud migration projects.
German telecommunications company Deutsche Telekom IT GmbH (DTIT) discovered that by training specific teams, adoption and execution of the digital transformation was more achievable. As it began an initiative to push at least 60% of its applications to the cloud, DTIT identified three major roles within the company that could benefit from specialized training: systems operations, architecture, and development.
DTIT employees enlisted in courses from AWS Training and Certification relevant to their roles within the company. Systems operations personnel learned how to create automatable and repeatable deployments of networks and systems on AWS in the Systems Operations on AWS course. Architecture personnel learned the fundamentals of building IT infrastructure on AWS in the Architecting on AWS course. Development personnel learned how to develop secure and scalable cloud applications in the Developing on AWS course. Ultimately, this team of trained individuals helped scale training throughout the organization and drove excitement about adopting, building, and innovating with the cloud.
DTIT didn’t just seek to impart specific technical knowledge of AWS to its operations, architecture, and development teams, they also pursued a broad foundational understanding of the cloud and AWS for its non-technical employees by using courses like AWS Cloud Practitioner Essentials.
“About 40% of the participants were from nontechnical roles. We believe it is critical for these team members to have a working knowledge of AWS and understand the possibilities of the cloud,” said Örs Cseresnyés, Vice President of Telekom IT at DTIT Solutions Hungary.
Additionally, DTIT sees the impact training can have on its recruiting efforts. “People who join our company here in Hungary are looking to get trained in the most cutting-edge technologies, including technologies on AWS. It’s an added value on the job market if people see that we can offer this,” added Cseresnyés.
5. Foster a culture of continuous learning
In my 25 years of experience creating IT education and enablement programs, I have seen that building a culture of continuous learning across an entire organization promotes innovation, business success, and employee engagement. Cultivating a culture of learning and investing in developing people accelerates digital transformation and allows innovation to happen more organically.
A culture of continuous learning is one where people have permission and are actively encouraged to learn and experiment without fear of failure. Instituting this culture starts at the top. Senior leaders should align on and commit to employee development being a business imperative and priority.
Investing and creating a culture of continuous learning not only helps employees deliver their best and most creative solutions, but also drives greater staff retention and satisfaction. A recent study from Enterprise Strategy Group found that 96% of IT decision-makers agreed their decision to support AWS Certification improved the employee retention among cloud-focused staff.
During its migration to the cloud on AWS, TracFone, a mobile telecommunications provider with over 20 million subscribers, invested in employee learning and development to build cloud fluency and a long-term culture of continual learning. They started with a one-time approach to cloud training, but it was not a scalable model. Although TracFone employees had strong technical skills, they needed to develop cloud skills for building on AWS and wanted to provide cloud fluency to put everyone on the same page. They decided to give nontechnical employees cloud skills too and turned to AWS Training and Certification to develop a formal, phased plan.
The learning and development of your people is one of the best investments you can make for your company. Offer your employees comprehensive training capability on AWS so that you can skill up both in technology and in mindset. You’ll move further in your journey a lot quicker. We have a cross-functional skill set where we’re all responsible for the entire pie—from finance to security to technology. That helps the entire organization deliver better, faster, and more efficiently for our customers."
—John Jackson, Director of Cloud Migration and Strategy, TracFone
We've seen time and time again that organizations can achieve successful digital transformation by building their workforce's cloud skills. The people you have today are the people you need for tomorrow: They’re the experts on your organization and your customers, and they understand your company’s mission and areas of opportunity to innovate on behalf of your customers. Lean in to your workforce to empower them to help modernize your organization and to fulfill the needs of the future through digital transformation.