Saturday, 11th July 2020

Cloud means more cloud: Upgrading the legacy workforce

The cloud is redefining how we think about the design, development and deployment of services and applications. However, the movement away from on-premise and physical data centres is also creating a revolution in the IT workforce. By Steven Sell, capability manager at KCOM.

As businesses begin to feel the benefits of cloud adoption, the natural trend is towards consuming more cloud services and solutions. IT professionals working in this evolving landscape are, therefore, having to reskill and adapt to changing business and technology priorities. Coming up with a cloud strategy is a great first step towards cloud adoption. It is critically important that you have the expertise within the workforce to make this strategy a success.

Continuous adoption, continuous improvement

Migrating to the cloud is not a matter of one-off adoption. It is a steady process of moving to a platform - or platforms - that enable you to continuously advance your business.

The major drawback of legacy infrastructure is that it can be slow, expensive and problematic to keep up to date.Cloud adoption provides real-world solutions to address these legacy attributes with quicker deployment times, reduced run costs, reduced management overheads and improved governance capabilities at its core.On this basis, cloud adoption can be used as a vehicle to remove business risk and provide a future proof platform for future improvement opportunities.

To illustrate, if a business started their cloud adoption journey next year, it could achieve significant cost savings very quickly and deliver some level of risk reduction against aged infrastructure and applications.Whilst this would be a fantastic achievement for any organisation, the real benefit for the business is being in a position – with a strong cloud foundation – to start taking advantage of all the opportunities available within a cloud environment.

The cloud offers continuous opportunities to secure, govern, monitor and optimise your business with tools and features capable of reducing your time to market and delivering greater business agility.Therefore, a business which does not harness the opportunities within the cloud will soon fall behind those which do.

The cloud continues to evolve in terms of size and capability with new features being released at a rate of knots.Keeping abreast of technology enhancements and translating this into business opportunity is critical for any forward-thinking business.

Cloud adoption is a journey and every business will take this journey in a way that is right for their business. Many customers who are well established in their cloud journey began a cloud adoption strategy with some initial on-premise migration activity into an infrastructure-as-a-service.

As the benefits of the cloud were recognised so did our customers appetite to consume more cloud with further adoption into platform-as-a-service consumption. ‘Some businesses are even starting to realise the benefits of function-as-a-service with enhancements within Serverless technology and real opportunities to explore significant cost savings, increased scalability and reduction in operational overheads. This trend of greater cloud adoption naturally allows the business to focus more on its core business objectives and customer experience and less on IT problems, risks and management overheads.

By its nature, the cloud encourages and facilitates rapid change, innovation and progressive cloud adoption. It is, therefore, critical to evolve your workforce as part of this journey and work with trusted advisors within the cloud environment to maximise the impact that cloud can have on your business.

The need for versatility

The spread of the cloud is fermenting major changes in the makeup and behaviour of enterprise IT teams. In a legacy model, teams are typically reactive. The workflow boils down to waiting until something goes wrong before investigating, resolving the problem and restoring the system. Legacy IT teams tend to be segregated into different competency areas – including hardware, apps, networks and data – with little or no overlap.

The cloud, however, enables improved tools and governance, allowing teams to become more proactive. Employees are able to devote more of their time to optimising performance, monitoring behaviours and looking for opportunities to reduce footprint and costs. The result is improved resilience as you go, with less downtime and greater levels of continuous optimisation.

Alongside this increased agility comes the need for wider experience and broader skillsets. The emphasis on improved efficiency also increases the prominence and importance of a DevOps culture – the practice of developing ever-faster development cycles and more successful deployments. As more deployments are deliveredthrough DevOps-focused teams, the barriers between those supporting the systems and those developing the systems are broken down, allowing for faster adoption and optimisation of the solution in parallel to new development activities to deliver new features. As a result,IT teams evolve over time to deliver increased versatility and proactive controls in support of the entire cloud solution.

Gartner predicts that by 2021, 40 per cent of IT staff will be made up of these ‘versatilists’ as the popularity of on-demand infrastructure continues to grow. Unlike with legacy technology, this does not mean that IT personnel trained in the old methods will be left behind, but it does suggest significant integration and training challenges lie ahead for many organisations.

Managed disruption

When an industry or company advances slowly and organically in line with regulation and competition, we call it evolution. By contrast, when a company decides to force change to deliberately push industry boundaries, that’s called disruption. While disruption has the potential to propel businesses to become industry leaders, if not handled properly, the process can be as negative for the innovator as it is for their competitors.

The rapid rise of the cloud has certainly caused disruption for many organisations. Managing this disruption effectively will be crucial to the success of any cloud strategy. Undertaking a cloud adoption journey in-house can be time and labour-intensive as well as costly. Unless you have a motivated, agile and highly-trained workforce, it is not advised to go it alone.

In reality, most organisations have a mountain of legacy technologies and ways of working they need help to climb. It is possible to get a cloud server up and running, but to integrate it with an entire system requires the resources, coding, management and expertise many companies do not have.A managed service provider can help manage the transition for you, ensuring success of your cloud adoption strategy and exploiting opportunities within the cloud to maximise the return on investment.

Another way to mitigate disruption is by bringing your current workforce up to speed and by training them to be more versatile. It is possible to fill in the gaps with new hires, but more sustainable in the long term is to develop and broaden exiting skillsets, while breaking down the silos holding you back in the present.

Cloud adoption is not an event and should not have a defined end date.Cloud adoption is instead a journey with key milestones aligned to your business strategy and objectives.The cloud is constantly advancing and presents the opportunity for your business to continue to evolve and remain competitive.If you continue optimising and upskilling then keeping up with the pace of change pays for itself. Ultimately, wherever you are in your cloud adoption journey, it pays to have outside help and to ensure you bring your current people along for the ride.

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