As enterprises shift to modernize applications, a company’s most important asset is talent performance to back it up.

Aparna Sharma, GM, Managing Partner, Hybrid Cloud Services,

August 10, 2023

4 Min Read
Cloud computing technology concept
ScimanSky via Alamy Stock

Transformative technology is rapidly evolving how enterprises operate -- from AI to real-time insights and data to cloud-computing -- innovations are enabling companies to pivot strategies instantaneously and stay ahead of the curve. But if the right IT foundation isn’t established, and technology architecture maturity doesn’t meet the levels needed to innovate, companies can’t reap the benefits of these technologies.

That’s where modernization comes in. Business leaders are increasingly recognizing the benefits of building and maturing products and features in the cloud, but as a recent study found, less than30% have actually taken the steps to modernize their end-to-end workflows. The same study cites skills as one of the top barriers to modernization within organizations -- in fact, leaders feel only 8% of their technical employees have the experience working with cloud-related tools.

Why does this disconnect exist? One aspect of this is the sheer volume of people needed -- and not enough engineers to fill that capacity gap. Technology is constantly innovating rapidly, shifting the skills landscape rapidly with it. This makes the shelf-life of the skills needed to accomplish goals much narrower. Years ago, hiring developers with the skills to prompt code generated by AI wasn’t at the forefront for example, but now, it’s imperative to business success. And with the current buyer’s market, organizations are hard pressed to find the right skills at the right time.

To make skill development a top priority and overcome these barriers, organizations should start by bringing skill development back to sprint zero. Here are three ways to do it.

1. Champion a culture of learning – and make it a grassroots campaign

Ten years ago, nobody was talking about Kubernetes and today, it’s at the forefront of conversations about the cloud. We’re having consistent conversations about prompt engineering -- a term we weren’t hearing years ago. What will be next and how do you start to plug any future-thinking skills gaps?

First, champion a culture of transformation where skill development is a grassroots campaign across the entire organization. One of the only constants in life is the need to adapt and continue to learn as the world around us is evolving. Although we don’t know what we’ll be learning in four years, all levels of your company -- from interns, to employees, to managers, to executives should have the necessary learning tools to be excited about it.

Companies that imbed learning throughout their culture are the ones creating revolutionary outputs.

2. Empower employees to reinvent themselves – and give them the tools to do it

The path to employee empowerment is best paved with learning experiences that are personalized, design-led, and map out ways for clear cross-skilling within the organization.

Think of your employees as the consumers that they are outside of your business: how can you deliver them digital experiences that make learning fun, empower them to keep a pulse on what’s the next sizzling opportunity, and facilitate a way for them to get there? Ensure their learning paths are hyper personalized, assessed frequently, and delivered in easily consumable formats such as short form video or content that can meet them where they are during the workday.

Employees are more likely to stay with a company that’s committed to skill development, and retaining great employees should be priority for enterprises in today’s business environment. Action on a commitment to cross-skilling and carve out time for employees to craft their expertise in “hot” skill areas in an agile way without disrupting their current productivity, putting them in the driver seats of their futures. Look for mechanisms to create gravitational pull (i.e., rewards that map to career development) and stack these new skills for less atrophy, allowing employees to achieve their own desired outcomes while future proofing your business in turn.

3. Lean on partners to complement your team’s skills

Championing a culture of skill development within your own organization will take your far in your journey, but modernizing applications on the cloud requires certain IT skills that can be niche, time intensive, and distract from existing operations. Know when to be flexible -- what needs to be core to your team versus what can be more transient. To provide talent pools that fill temporary shortfalls during the most intense phases of the process and acquire the best practice insights, look to external technology and service partners that bring specialized skills to the table.

Partners can also help your employees get up to speed on the IT environments they’re working on, which promotes a “you build it, you operate it model” that companies can deploy after partner collaboration is complete.

In the end, working with partner ecosystem to achieve goals can do wonders for your modernizing, complementing your team’s skill sets while still allowing your in-house team to build new technology and keep operations running smoothly. By investing in both your team’s success and knowing when to lean on partners, you can build critical capabilities that set your team -- and your tech systems -- with a stronger foundation for success long term.

About the Author(s)

Aparna Sharma

GM, Managing Partner, Hybrid Cloud Services, , IBM Consulting

Aparna Sharma is the leader for Cloud Modernization and Development Services at IBM Consulting. She has had significant experience in driving large transformation engagements, integrating Run and Change to transform businesses. She sets the strategic direction for next-generation digital transformation and modernization themes to drive high impact outcomes for IBM clients. She has a proven track record in helping clients develop new applications utilizing the IBM Garage Method and cloud native development approaches to realize the full potential of their digital initiatives in the enterprise. Aparna leads teams in sales, go-to market strategy, solutioning and delivery across all markets.

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