Mind the gap: Addressing the IT skills gap in a software-defined era

One of the most common roadblocks IT leaders encounter as they modernize their data centers is a gap in the skills and knowledge required for moving to virtual and cloud environments.

According to Windows IT Pro’s 2015 IT Skills & Salary Report, one in five IT decision-makers is having difficulty finding skilled talent for cloud initiatives. Most often, recruiters are looking for candidates with skills and certifications in Amazon Web Services, open-source tools such as Linux, configuration management systems such as chef and Puppet, programming platforms such as Ruby, Perl and Python and development operations.

But because many of these tools and platforms are new — AWS formalized its certification less than two years ago — demand for employees with these skills is outpacing supply. According to McKinsey, by 2018, supply of IT professionals with the requisite skills will only meet 50 to 60 percent of enterprise demand.

That makes it difficult to find the right skill-sets in job candidates. Instead, “IT organizations are trying to retrofit their own people,” according to Cloud Technology Partners consultant David Linthicum. Most of the time, reassigning existing employees will require a heavy investment in training and certification.

According to a 2014 EMC study, 84 percent of IT managers believe in-house cloud architecture and design skills are critical, but only 14 percent believe they have the necessary skills in-house. The story is similar for virtualization — 94 percent believe in-house skills are critical for building virtual environments, yet only 35 percent believe their teams have the necessary skills.

There are several training and certification programs available — most vendors offer cloud, virtualization and automation training and certification to organizations who purchase their products. For IT organizations planning to train existing employees, availability and extent of training will be an important purchase consideration. InformationWeek lists some of the latest certification programs for cloud architecture, deployment and configuration, including offerings from Rackspace, Red Hat, VMware, IBM and others.

According to InformationWeek, growth in these areas has already created 400,000 new IT positions in the U.S. And even as more organizations invest in training for their employees, many will still find they need to hire new people. In addition to new skills, the march toward SDDC requires a new way of thinking about IT, which can be difficult for employees who have spent their entire careers following traditional models.

Mark Bowker, a senior analyst at ESG, tells the story of an IT leader who faced pushback and skepticism from his existing team. “He ended up with a new hire out of college, who wasn’t biased, and put that person in charge of the cloud strategy. The younger person was responsible for the day-to-day management and now his team is starting to walk a little faster in respect to the cloud.”

For IT leaders who take the new hire approach, Bowker says communication is key. “It’s important to educate people that it’s not about your job going away but embracing new ways to consume IT infrastructure.”


For more details on designing an effective SDDC strategy, download Stratacloud’s ebook.


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About the Author

Lanier Norville

Lanier has been writing and editing for online publications for more than six years. Before joining StrataCloud, she led the content team at AirWatch, where she launched the AirWatch Blog and anchored AirWatch TV. Lanier has also served as the chief editor of TechNation and other magazines. She has worked with Pulitzer Prize-winning author Rick Bragg and has won several writing awards of her own. She is passionate about storytelling, emerging technology and the way software increasingly shapes our world.