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Why IT Leaders Should Make Cloud Training a Top Priority

As IT operations continue drifting into the cloud, it's important to ensure that organization personnel keep pace with the latest skills and practices.

Adam Burden, North America technology lead for business and technology advisory firm Accenture, has a firm opinion on cloud training. "All leaders should make cloud training a priority—it's a technology that's fundamentally reshaping every industry and [is] the main ingredient for digital businesses," he stated. In IT specifically, cloud fluency will be needed to deliver on the promise of digital transformation. "More broadly, being conversant in cloud technology will be needed to recognize opportunities and stimulate innovation across the enterprise," Burden added.

Burden noted that IT leaders shouldn't count on being able to hire their way out of the challenge of building a cloud-savvy organization. "Success will mean transforming the talent you have into the talent you need, and that happens through a comprehensive learning program that considers the learning profiles, point skills, certifications, and the enterprise-specific details that a digital enterprise requires."

For organizations of all types and sizes, cloud computing is fueling business differentiation in ultra-competitive markets while helping to accelerate the delivery of innovative customer-centric solutions. "If you're not making cloud training a priority already, you’re lagging and will find it hard to catch up," warned Angela Moynahan, director of technology learning for Liberty Mutual Insurance.

A Dramatic Shift

The cloud represents the most dramatic shift for IT organizations in a generation, observed Myke Miller, managing director and dean of Deloitte Consulting's Deloitte Cloud Institute. "The cloud is ... about a shift in innovation, speed, agility, and resilience, and if IT leaders believe cloud training is only for staff, they are likely missing the most important shift," he noted.

In fact, both IT and business teams need, at the very least, a fundamental understanding of cloud technologies and uses. The cloud is now affecting virtually every part of every business, said Gaëlle Bristiel, head of technology, Americas, at Amadeus, a travel industry technology provider. "It helps improve operational efficiency, it can positively impact the bottom line, and it enables companies to service customers more quickly and innovate in a variety of ways," she explained.

Building a Program

Building a cloud skills development program is like embarking on any learning journey: identify the learning objectives and roles, then develop and fine tune the curriculum based on desired outcomes and observed/measured results over time. "There's an abundance of cloud training material available in the market for IT leaders to tap into," Miller said. "Our experience with the Deloitte Cloud Institute is that it's critical to have a continuous improvement mindset and committed and engaged support from leadership."

Incentives can also be useful training tools, said Eric Newcomer, CTO at open-source technology provider WSO2, and former head of global IT architecture at Citibank. He suggested developing "a pyramid of expertise," an approach that allows individuals looking to ascend the career ladder to measure their progress against colleagues. A custom-designed training program targeting top developers and distinguished engineers is another way to encourage top talent to refine their cloud expertise, Newcomer added.

Moynahan said that Liberty Mutual recognizes that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to cloud training. "Over the last few years, we have ramped-up our learning opportunities to provide employees with a broad range of resources to meet them where they are; helping employees understand the types of skills they'll need going forward," she explained. "For hands-on practitioners, we've seen success with leveraging skill assessments, which place employees onto a self-paced learning path."

Moynahan pointed out that online labs and sandboxes are necessary to create interactive experiences that make exercises appear real for employees. "We also provide instructor-led training and workshops for more hands-on and deeper skill needs, and provide opportunities for employees to attend conferences, webinars, workshops, etc. to learn from others’ experiences," she added.

Liberty Mutual has also invested in internal engineering academies with the goal of making cloud training widely available to IT staff. "We’ve also prioritized business executive technical literacy training during the past couple of years, which has been a key contributor to accelerating our shift to the cloud and enabled a deeper level of collaboration between the technology and business organizations," Moynahan said.

Takeaway

Senior technologists, particularly those at the CIO or CTO level, also need to think about their own cloud training, which can be accessed via web instruction, publications, seminars, and numerous other channels, Newcomer said.  One-on-one contact with colleagues is yet another option. "I'm able to connect with my peers and network at the New York CTO Club, where we get together once a month and talk about our personal challenges and growth and have a peer-to-peer conversation to learn," he noted. "This way, you have insights from someone doing something completely different and bounce goals, worries, and ideas off one another."

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