Don’t lose your head in the cloud

Whether your IT team has the skills and experience to realise full ROI from a cloud project is often overlooked

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Don’t lose your head in the cloud Staff need to be prepared for the opportunities and challenges of the cloud through industry recognised certification, says Thibodeaux.
By  Todd Thibodeaux Published  November 20, 2013

Whether your IT team has the skills and experience to realise full ROI from a cloud project is often overlooked, says Todd Thibodeaux, president and CEO of the global IT association CompTIA.

Executives in the Middle East are in a buoyant mood! Many countries are enjoying a positive economic climate; in fact CompTIA’s annual International Technology Adoption and Workforce Issues study shows that the majority of executives in the region expect business to improve in 2013. They are also ready to spend, with 86% planning to increase investment in IT products and services as they seek to enhance competitiveness.

Technology investments this year are closely aligned to supporting key strategic business priorities. This means the boardroom is keeping a closer watch than ever on how IT spending delivers results in reaching new customers, improving staff productivity, and enabling the business to innovate more efficiently. Cloud solutions may still be an ‘emerging technology’ to some, but its influence across all of these strategic areas means that it is already being enthusiastically evaluated and adopted by the majority of companies in the region. Ahead of the global trend, we found that 62% of executives in the Middle East are currently experimenting with or deploying cloud computing solutions within their organisation.

The business case for cloud often stacks up convincingly, but businesses also need to carefully consider the changing demands upon the skills of their IT team. Cloud architectures represent significant structural shift for the business and failure to implement and manage the whole solution correctly can create costly operational inefficiencies, not to mention gaping holes in corporate security.

The critical skills gap

The innovation-led nature of the IT industry often means that demand for new IT skills outstrips supply in the marketplace. As new technologies move from invention to mainstream application, opportunities are created for those that invest in keeping their skills up to date. On an organisational level it also means that the demands on the IT team need constant reassessment, as do priorities for training and recruitment.

Our research shows that, whilst Middle East businesses are beginning to embrace cloud strategies, 40% of executives say finding the right expertise and experience is hampering progress. This places a lack of skills in the top three hurdles to adoption, alongside challenges of the region’s slow or unreliable internet infrastructure and data security concerns.

So although companies are in a position to recruit IT staff – and many intend to in 2013 — a critical skills gap in the Middle East market has clearly emerged; one which is described as an ‘extensive’ problem by a third of respondents in the region. The question is: what can individuals and companies do to turn this trend around and build the right capabilities for the cloud computing era?

Right time, right place…right skills

Having the right skills, in the right place, at the right time is the key to many a business challenge. In technology, it pays to keep abreast of industry developments and invest in ongoing professional training. Through our research we are pleased to see that 94% of IT staff in the region having engaged in some form of IT training in the last 12 months, favouring classroom instruction, e-learning courses and industry conferences.

This is good news for executives in the region that are looking to recruit, but how do they verify the quality of training in which the professionals are engaging? We believe the critical factor here is industry-led certification, which provides a benchmark for the skills delivered through training and accreditation. In other words, it offers assurance that the training has been aligned with the skills and requirements that are in demand in the real world. With this benchmark it is easy to evaluate the capability of your team, or the quality of a prospective candidate. This is always important, but never more so that when venturing into new territory. Knowing your staff meet an industry approved skill level is hugely important for introducing cloud technologies – not to mention for your own peace of mind.

In fact, regional executives agreed that they are increasingly looking for formal accreditation and the value placed on industry certification is set to rise over the next couple of years, delivering benefits not only to the companies but also to the professionals that invest in their skills. It certainly pays off, as staff with IT certification are generally seen to perform at a higher level than their non-certified colleagues, and considered more valuable to the organisation.

Improving IT skills in the workplace

We’re seeing a renewed interest in skills training already this year. Companies and individuals realise that growth of an individual’s industry knowledge gained through training and certification helps the whole team, and we strongly recommend looking for accredited programmes as a focus for investment.

With emphasis on certification set to increase in the Middle East region over coming years, now is the time for executives to assess what skills their teams have and what they need to support a competitive business into the future. Cloud technology is on the horizon, if not already being explored in your business today, so make sure you are confident that you have the right foundation of skills and knowledge in place.

CompTIA’s International Technology Adoption & Workforce Issues study is based on a survey of more than 1,250 business and IT executives in countries around the world, including Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in the Middle East. The survey was conducted online in February/March 2013.

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