Lack of talent the biggest risk to cloud computing

All you have to do is glance at the IT-related want ads these days to recognize the explosive demand for cloud computing skills.  Hiring for cloud computing expertise continues to grow at 61 percent year-over-year, according to a January report from Wanted Analytics, a talent research firm.

According to the report, over the past 90 days, employers and staffing firms have placed more than 10,000 job ads that included cloud computing skills and experience as requirements.  Those ads came from more than 2,400 companies in that 90-day period, which ultimately pushed cloud-hiring demand 61 percent year-over-year.

An updated report in July found that cloud computing is still a long game for many enterprises and government agencies.  Indeed, as demand continues for cloud computing skills, employers are likely to see these jobs becoming more difficult to fill.

From the report: “More than 2,400 employers across the US are currently competing to attract candidates.  This heavy competition will contribute to hard conditions and a longer time-to-fill.  In fact, cloud computing jobs remain online for 44 days, meaning that it is likely that Recruiters will spend more than 6 weeks on average filling these positions.”

The demand clearly outpaces supply.  In June, the number of online job ads jumped to over 18,000, and is expected to go much higher in 2013 (see graphic).

Source:  Wanted Analytics

So, how are enterprises to compete for cloud computing talent?  Are there enough cloud computing experts to go around?  Will this limit our ability to move enterprises into the cloud?  Here are some answers to those questions…

There are about five cloud-related jobs chasing each qualified candidate.  This gathered from speaking with other cloud computing specialists, those who are tasked with recruiting cloud computing talent, and organizations who are seeking cloud computing talent.  This deficit exists for a few key reasons:

  • Cloud computing has moved quicker than expected from talking and planning, to development and implementation.
  • The general value of cloud computing is understood at the boardroom level.  The expectations to leverage cloud computing is coming from the top-down, thus accelerating urgency.
  • It is clear that the time to value is much lower with cloud computing technology than with traditional approaches, thus budgetary pressure to get initial cloud computing systems up-and-running continues to increase.
  • There is a lack of solid cloud computing training with enough detail and experiences to make the individual of immediate value to the IT organization.
  • Large consulting firms cannot gather and/or create cloud computing talent within the larger firms to support their existing client-base.

The result is that many organizations settle for those without the right experiences and skills, or they pay a premium when the right candidate is found.   The former seems to be the default, as budgets and salary guidelines limit many hiring managers.  Therein exists the problem, and the risk that the first generation of cloud-based systems will be misfires as less-than-qualified people drive the projects into the ground.  Unfortunately, I see this happening already.

We’ve seen this movie before.  Over-hyped computing concepts (such as the rise of the Web, client/server, data warehousing, ERP, etc.) become the new way of doing things and enterprises scramble to create or find the right talent, inside or outside of the organization.

What’s different about cloud computing is the scale of the systemic change to enterprise IT that will likely be the result.  There is a huge gap between where enterprise IT is now and where they need to be in a few years.

While the problems of finding talent around the emergence of new technology is much the same, the sheer size of the problem may mean that it takes years before the skills catch up with the technology.  This issue alone will severely limit our ability to move into the cloud, and, in many instances, will actually damage IT as new cloud projects crater.

It’s not hopeless.  Enterprises can do a few things to insure that the talent exists for them to be successful with cloud computing.  This includes:

  • Create an in-house training program, splurging on the most experienced instructors.  Be careful.  The old adage “those who can’t, teach” is alive and well in the world of cloud computing.
  • Create an effective mentoring program. One of the most effective ways to transfer knowledge is not to page through hundreds of slides, but to embed an outside expert with your initial cloud computing project teams.  Learn as you go.
  • Splurge on talent. In many instances you’ll have to pay cloud computing experts more than you make…deal with it.  While that’s a difficult thing for many hiring managers to do, it could be the right thing to do, strategically, to inject the right people into the mix.  The ROI should still be there.

The lack of cloud computing talent clearly limits the ability of enterprise and government IT to begin some migration to private or public cloud-based systems.  However, with a bit of planning and a willingness to spend some money, many enterprises should be able to manage through the shortage.