Are You a Leader or Laggard When It Comes to Cloud Transformation?

By Chad Mack, Director Cloud Product Marketing, Dell Technologies

Is your company a leader or a laggard when it comes to cloud transformation? I recently interviewed two experts who pointed to cloud skills as a key differentiator.

Broadus Palmer—a career coach who helps individuals transition into the tech industry through his company, Level Up in Tech—joined Shelley DeMotte Kramer—founder of marketing consulting agency V3B, which conducts tech-focused research. Together, they offered insights on Dell Technologies’s Digital Transformation Index (DTI), providing essential takeaways that point to a need for deeper partnerships between employers and employees as they work together to transform organizations from the inside out.

Companies Are Embracing Cloud at Record Rates

2020 sparked an even bigger rush to embrace cloud computing as businesses awakened to the flexibility and functionality of its as-a-Service model, said Kramer. However, that was just the beginning, she added, and not the only transformation organizations are instituting. Kramer has seen companies move beyond the initial rush to remote work as they mature their approach to digital operations to give employees a more flexible working experience, shifting enterprise workflows into cloud-based applications that workers can access from anywhere.

The DTI found that 80 percent of businesses fast-tracked at least some digital transformation programs since the beginning of the pandemic. Given one in two employees now works remotely, empowering these team members was a top priority for businesses while reinventing digital experiences for employees and customers was another. Impressively, 96 percent of Digital Leaders say their ability to collect, analyze, and act on data has made it easier to adapt and survive.

A Lack of Skills Poses a Big Challenge

Companies need employees with cloud-specific skills to accelerate their digital transformation, explained Palmer. “They need to understand infrastructure as code, configuration management for automation, containerization, serverless architecture, and orchestration,” he said.

“These cloud-native tools are going to be the trend for 2021 and beyond.”

– Broadus Palmer, Career Coach & Mentor, Level Up in Tech

The other critical skill is cybersecurity, he noted. Remote workers will be at the front line of cybersecurity attacks, so developing frameworks to protect them will be top of mind for companies as they migrate to the cloud. Some companies are further along the cloud transformation path than others. The DTI revealed that only 6 percent of companies are digital transformation leaders, with these qualities ingrained into their DNA. In fact, more than half (55%) lack a mature digital transformation plan. Furthermore, one in four business leaders surveyed as part of the DTI said that the lack of in-house skills was a barrier to digital transformation.

This skill shortage creates opportunities for new industry entrants. Palmer has seen a 300% increase in queries from people eager to explore careers in the cloud.

Cloud Employees Must Bring Their A-Game

With companies struggling to understand the cloud, the most successful employees must offer extra value, advised Kramer, calling for technology workers to bring an open mind to their work.

“The industry needs people who are innately curious and who love problem-solving. And then people who are adept at and interested in teaching others.”

– Shelly Kramer,  Principal Analyst and Founding Partner, Futurum Research

To make themselves more valuable to employers, technical workers must be more than cloud administrators or developers—they must be cloud consultants, added Palmer. He advised them to research the technical challenges that companies are facing with digital transformation projects and how to solve them.

“You must get that expertise so not only you can design and submit decisions for your infrastructure but you can also back it up,” he explained. “You should be able to defend why you chose a certain cloud service to use over another.”

Build Deeper Technical Partnerships

Together, companies eager to bridge the knowledge gap and employees eager to fill it create a valuable opportunity, Palmer said. Between them, they can create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. That takes more constructive partnerships that will give both parties a fulfilling, active presence in the cloud. It also means that companies must focus more on guiding new technology workers as they find a place in the organization.

“What does support look like for me as a cloud worker?” he asked, pointing to upskilling as a key area that workers will need help with. “Are you going to throw me to the wolves? Or are you going to take time and help me build the skills I need to be taught right?”

It’s Time for a Creative, Long-Term Approach to Recruitment

“Enterprises in large part stepped away from a focus on training over the last decade. That’s coming around to bite them a little bit,” Kramer observed. Companies can nurture a powerful new technical workforce by training them in applied cloud skills.

Trainees should also be more diverse. “This is a great opportunity for women and other underrepresented people to be able to step up and fill some of these roles,” she added. “I think that’s incredibly exciting.”

Compassion Is Key

Organizations must learn to support employees through challenging times, Kramer said. “It’s important to understand employee well-being and mental health. And as leaders within organizations, not taking that for granted, because people are not okay,” she urged.

Almost half of the DTI’s survey base worried that their teams are at risk of burnout from trying to adapt their IT strategies during the pandemic. They’re also battling with the personal challenges of working from home, including the demands of families and social isolation. Organizations can help cope with these demands by fostering better communication with remote workers and supporting flexible working arrangements.

Prepare for Constant Change

“I think that employees that are focused on transformation, in general, and cloud, in particular, need to be adaptable, flexible, and comfortable with constant change,” Kramer said.

As part of this change, companies must help employees to be ready for hybrid and multi-cloud models, Palmer added. This means developing an understanding of cloud-agnostic tools which can span necessary environments. Furthermore, an awareness of what technical conditions make on-premises systems more appropriate is essential to transformation.

As the pace of change accelerates, human adaptability and ingenuity are becoming more important than ever. How is your company partnering with cloud-aware employees to embrace digital leadership? Are you a Digital Leader or Laggard? Find out by taking Dell Technologies’ online assessment and compare yourself to your peers.

To listen to the full interview, play the video below.