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Upskilling employees is imperative to truly become a cloud-first enterprise: Industry leaders

The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed organizations to adopt cloud technology, and upskill their employees to ensure business continuity

The COVID-19 crisis has thrown up an unprecedented challenge for organizations across the world. Apart from having to move their workforce to work-from-home overnight, businesses have realized the potential of cloud technology, which is now more necessary than ever before. A large majority of the enterprises are now investing in resilient systems that can scale on demand. However, among the many problems that companies are facing during this time, the dearth of good cloud engineers is one challenge. Along the same lines, industry leaders spoke to DataQuest about the obstacles that enterprises faced while adopting the technology, and why companies must train employees for a cloud transformation.

The COVID-19 crisis has undoubtedly pushed companies to adopt cloud overnight. What were the main challenges that organizations faced while doing so?

“COVID-19 is pushing for organizations to embrace custom learning solutions in new tech like AR, VR and ML etc. One of the main challenges is deciphering how to up-skill employees in highly complex technology stacks via remote. The relatively new tech usually enjoys a very small set of SMEs and a lot of proactive effort needs to come in from employees passionate about the tech to eventually learn and experiment with it – however, aligning organizational priorities with individual priorities is extremely important. Let’s look at how this alignment could manifest – An education company’s perfect solution for a pandemic-like situation is an AR classroom where customers’ can continue to learn in a simulated classroom. For the software solution provider who’s won the bid to deliver this AR application – the need cascades from the demand team to the delivery team. At the delivery level, it becomes an organic opportunity for the organizations to scale up their AR and MR (Mixed Reality) capability. This ‘scaling up’ should align organizational needs with employees’ own growth as well,” said Jaydeep Chakrabarty, capability development lead, ThoughtWorks.

Executing remote upskilling programs is easier with software like Zoom and Microsoft Teams. The requirements are mainly familiarizing people with the tools and designing courses for remote-only platforms. At Thoughtworks, leveraging remote-training means we are moving resources that would otherwise be spent on arranging for physical classrooms, travel and logistics to investing in courses designed to be remote-ready. COVID-19 threw us the challenge of becoming remote-first or rather, remote-must. We accepted the gambit and over the last 3.5 months, we’ve worked hard to realize evolving capabilities” he added.

When it comes to cloud technology, are there enough skilled employees in the field?

“When attempting to quickly transition to the cloud, it is important to realize that not all “cloud” is created equal. Different considerations must be made for private and public cloud, and SaaS. For example, building a new application in the public cloud the right way can be complex, costly and definitely not something that happens overnight. Adding to the difficulty is the fact that good cloud engineers are in short supply. When resources like this are in high demand, organizations have to think carefully about how those resources are deployed and what programs are in place to develop the right skills for where the technology is going, not where it has been.

In the mode where cloud adoption needs to accelerate, it’s important for the organization to focus skills development on the internal resources that are going to build the applications that are the most strategic to the business – transaction processing systems for example. For those applications that are required but not a competitive differentiator, data protection is a good example, enterprises can get to cloud faster when they use SaaS. In this model, someone else has done the difficult work for you and you can use lower-skilled resources to meet the needs of the business. This is particularly effective in pandemic times since you don’t need physical access to sites to get up and running quickly,” said Sandeep Soni, GM and vice president of engineering – India operations, Clumio.

What must the priority be for companies in the post-COVID era?

“Becoming a cloud-first enterprise must be a top priority for organizations to outmaneuver the uncertainty and transform it into a competitive strength, especially with remote working and flexible IT models becoming a necessity today. At Accenture, cloud continues to be a key focus area and we are constantly revamping our learning programs to enable our people to be cloud conversant and develop deeper proficiencies continuously. For instance, we recently launched Cloud Elevate, a new learning program for our people at the Advanced Technology Centers in India, to prepare them for the future with requisite knowledge and hands-on experience on key cloud platforms and get recognized as cloud certified experts,” said Mahesh Zurale, senior managing director, lead – Accenture’s Advanced Technology Centers in India

How do these skills align with their new business priorities and the need of the hour – cloud adoption?

“As India’s enterprises raced to the cloud there were few challenges that got in their way. Cloud environments are software and internet-based, so setting up was as easy as downloading software or an app- something all of us can do quite easily.

The real challenges they faced were – what to buy/rent, where to get it, and how it works. All of which was made easy by companies who provided unlimited user and free offers of our cloud services to get them up and running and provide the breathing space required to fully examine and plan their future cloud requirements.

There was little impact on our daily operations during COVID-19, as Nutanix was already well-practiced in ‘Work from Anywhere’ with strong policies, procedures and governance in place. Hence, our teams were able to focus on providing customers and partners with advice and counsel on the best cloud strategy to upgrade their infrastructure to prepare for their cloud journey.

As cloud technology is not new and removes the complexity and knowledge required of hardware-based IT infrastructure, the advantage of cloud is that it removes the need for specialists and puts the power in the hand of the generalist. So ‘copy and paste’ replaces installation of hardware, testing and downtime. Cloud actually allows companies to reduce their IT staff and reallocate them to the frontline support- something that was in demand during the height of the pandemic.

As companies look to adapt their requirements for the future, their staff skill requirements are also changing. They are looking for more software and application skills as well as a host of personal qualities that flat, cloud-based organisations require – such as a proactive mindset; being open to change, staying flexible and adaptable in picking up and combining new skills, and searching out for where the future leads- these are just as precious assets.

Combined, the technical disciplines and the personal traits are establishing an adaptable and driven workforce, with simple, secure and adaptable technology to match. The new business reality will see India’s enterprises doing more with less and using tech to add value and free resources for the greater benefit of the organisation,” said Sankalp Saxena, senior vice president and managing director – operations, India, Nutanix.

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