Blocking Innovation: How to Address the Skills Gap in the Cloud


Today’s technology workplace is a fast-moving place with AI, cloud-native applications, microservices, Kubernetes, containers, hybrid and multi-cloud environments, and much more. Cédric Gégout, VP of product management at Canonical, thinks companies who close the skills gap the fastest are able to take advantage of the benefits of newer technology, better serve their customers, and take market share from incumbents. 

The World Economic Forum estimates that, by 2025, 50% of all employees will need reskillingOpens a new window due to organizations adopting new technologies. In a McKinsey Global Survey, 87% of executives reported that they were experiencing skills gapsOpens a new window in the workforce or expected them within a few years. 

The creation – and filling – of gaps like these has played out over every generation of technology. People in the tech industry are well accustomed to it, and even though we’ve seen it before, we’re seeing it play out in the cloud infrastructure and application spaces again. In 2023, 48% of respondents to a cloud-native technology survey reported “lack of in-house skills / limited people power” as the main concern when adopting cloud-native technologies. It is estimated that five years from now, more than two-thirds of skills considered important in today’s job requirements will change.

In a world where we rely heavily on our phones, the data they need, and their underlying cloud infrastructure, addressing the cloud skills gap is vital for success – particularly within financial institutions, telcos, manufacturing, and industrial companies. 

Understanding Your Skills Gap

GartnerOpens a new window has written that “the cloud skills gap has reached a crisis level in many organizations.” How can a C-level executive understand if and where skills gaps exist? Ask this question: If you want to launch a new application, how long will it take? If your answer is “I don’t know” or “a long time,” then you likely have a skills gap. If your ops team is constantly being summoned to put out fires, you probably have a skills gap. If this team is backlogged and has no time to help build or deploy new applications, you probably have a skills gap. Organizations with skills gaps usually have a lot of technical debt. Talk to your engineering team members to pin down specifics – where are the gaps, what are the missing skills, and what is needed to fill the gaps. 

Why You May Have a Skills Gap

For additional perspective on a potential skills gap, think about the waves of digital transformation the workplace has seen during the last 20 years. In the early 2000s, virtualization emerged. That gave way to infrastructure-as-a-service or platforms-as-a-service infrastructure in about 2008. Then, around 2014, containers and containers-as-a-service were added to the mix. 

Now, people are looking into operator lifecycle management of applications, serverless computing, multi-cloud, and AIOps (AI-driven infrastructure operations). Implementing a multi-cloud strategy can boost productivity and save costs, but only when implemented effectively and securely. Multi-cloud deployments extend the surface of attack and the threat perimeter. According to Pluralsight, only 8% of technologists surveyed in 2022 had extensive experience with cloud toolsOpens a new window , even if 75% of organizations that use the cloud started adopting a multi-cloud strategy. There is a significant gap between execution and the ability to execute. Each of these waves created skills gaps as new layers of technology were added on top of each other. And this new technology either builds upon previous generations or fundamentally changes older technology (or both).

As the newest generation of technology is added, developers, engineers, security professionals, DevOps team members, operations teams, and more must continually learn and master these new technologies. This is the only way companies can derive the most benefit from these new technologies. Meanwhile, newer technologies (and waves) are being released more frequently. The time from “bleeding edge” to “mainstream” is getting shorter with each wave. We can think of these waves as continual building blocks (infrastructure and/or application). 

Newer organizations (or organizations with smaller skills gaps) often “skip waves”, for instance leapfrogging directly to containerization and other modern technologies.  

See More: 5 Skills for Networkers Living in the SASE World

Skills Gaps in the Cloud-native Space

A skills gap is the delta between the current capabilities of your employees and the capabilities of the top 10% of the workforce. It is the combination of know-how, new technology, and modern infrastructure architecture that helps drive innovation and enables companies to dramatically seize market share. The larger the gap, the larger the probability that your company will no longer reach its competitive goals – unless specific skills are learned, acquired, or improved.

For example, Kubernetes (the open-source system for deploying and managing containerized applications) is widely considered to have “crossed the chasm” into mainstream adoption. Being cloud-native, microservice architecture and Kubernetes together enable significant cost reduction and improvement in service delivery. In short – your applications perform better, and your end users are happier. However, in many industries, cloud-native is yet to be adopted.

Besides moving to cloud-native approaches, in hopes of reducing costs, enabling more data-intensive applications (machine learning, for example), and providing faster service improvements to customers, companies are moving toward a hybrid cloud model. The Kubernetes and cloud-native operations report revealed that 83% of respondents are using either hybrid or multi-cloud infrastructure. Ask around, and you’ll see combinations of bare metal, virtual machines, and Kubernetes running on underlying layers of public and private clouds. Both Kubernetes and hybrid clouds require skills that are not heavily present in many organizations.

Organizations are struggling not only with using Kubernetes but also monitoring and securing their cloud-native technologies. Once their new deployments are up and running, how should these companies be monitoring them? How do they roll out updates (without breaking anything)? How do they know which processes can and should be automated? How can they transform operations activities into shared and reusable scripting packages? How can they leverage open-source communities to benefit from operations and the integration code developed and verified by specialist practitioners?

How far along the learning curve of these new technologies are your employees? Given your current tech, what new product use cases are described as “impossible”? How long does it take your teams to bring new technology to market? How familiar are you with the distribution and maintenance of open-source software? All of these questions help you to assess your position on the learning curve — and the size of your skills gap. Even if you believe that your organization masters the latest skills, you could be surprised by your findings.

Addressing Your Skills Gaps

So, how can organizations close the skills gap? There are always online courses or training sessions led by experts. One particularly effective way is simply to just get started. If a small team within your organization works on using new technology to solve an existing problem, excitement will spread throughout the organization. Create opportunities for your team to apply new technologies to new projects. Sometimes this approach is more effective than an employer-mandated training course. 

Another approach is to partner with a vendor that is closely familiar with cloud-native technology, multi-cloud deployments, infrastructure automation, and open-source communities. This partner, serving as a trusted advisor, can manage the infrastructure or applications for people as they upskill. This advisor can guide team members, helping them familiarize themselves with specific practices and technologies and can help curate and support the required open-source software.

In terms of hiring new talent, look for a willingness to learn. Yes, mastery of frameworks, skills, and languages is good (and sometimes, picking up a new skill is easier if you have mastered several others). But willpower and a commitment to learn is a prerequisites to success in today’s technology landscape. Ask the candidate if they have contributed to open source projects. How have they learned by doing? How are they taking action and being proactive about learning new technologies?

As cloud-native technologies continue to gain mainstream momentum, smart organizations should work to stay one step ahead of any skill or talent shortage. Sharing is caring. That’s why open-source communities are the best place where innovation happens. Partnering with the right open-source provider can help you thrive and sustain your business growth. The above guidelines can help you plan today to meet tomorrow’s transformative technology innovations.

How are you addressing the cloud-native skills gap? Share with us on FacebookOpens a new window , TwitterOpens a new window , and LinkedInOpens a new window . We’d love to hear from you!

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