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Resourcing: The hidden risk in cloud transformation projects

One of the greatest benefits of cloud is the immediacy of it all. Being able to provision servers in minutes has done away with so many of the old constraints on application migration programmes.

But while we can now take storage-on-demand for granted, taking resource-on-demand for granted is a mistake too many still make. It might seem like an obvious point, yet many still forget it: you can’t dial talent up and down like you can your server provisioning.

It is a costly mistake. Organisations that aren’t aligning their L&D and recruitment strategy to their application migration plan are increasingly likely to suffer significant delays in their programmes, with some organisations even deferring their cloud migration.

This is what should happen:

Your teams devise the application migration or transformation plan, clearly defining what resources and skills will be required – and when. To your HR and talent acquisition (“TA”) teams, this information is like gold-dust, enabling them to start work making sure the right skills are available by developing internal talent and planning external hires .

However, what really happens is:

A month before migration activities start, HR and the TA teams are asked to go out and find people to fill the gaps. What ensues is a panic-driven approach to hiring and the very real possibility that you’ll end up in a last-minute auction for contractors with all the other companies who’ve also taken this for granted.

In their defence, HR and TA teams will rightly cite the industry-wide dearth of skilled cloud folk. But is any of this really an excuse for such a seat-of-the-pants approach?

The skills shortages in such ‘niche’ IT areas are not new and might arguably be simply a symptom of a general failure inside organisations to plan ahead, to invest too little in their people and to place too much faith in the recruitment market to provide.

We read so much – and correctly so – about the problems with a reactive resourcing approach.

What’s needed is an active skills development strategy that looks at what your organisation is doing from a technology platform perspective, maps its skills base against it and then gets to work bridging the skills gap that this exercise reveals.

By developing your own (or ‘growing your own’) staff, you’ll increase staff retention and save money from not having to continually replace key staff (we’ve all seen the numbers as to how much this costs). There is help out there for every organisation looking to do this.

Having identified the skills gaps and the people who can fill them, lots of tools can map their learning and development on Cloud technologies. E-learning is a useful but under-used asset. A lot can be done depending on the nature of the individuals you are working with through module learning.

Accreditation is also important to plan for when it comes to a resourcing strategy for cloud solutions and cloud architecture in a corporate setting. Again, some great e-learning providers can help here, such as A Cloud Guru (see here) offering up-to-date and great value training.

When it is necessary to look outside the organisation for talent, some basic common sense applies. Engage with the right people, with the right skills, as early as possible. You also need to be thinking about your communication strategy, and how you are going to remain relevant and of interest over a period of time.

I also encourage all the technical hiring managers I work with to show flexibility in their hiring criteria. A lot of corporates have overly-rigorous acceptance criteria but a flexible approach can pay dividends – let’s say that a candidate has 75% of what you are looking for, then they should be able to take up the other 25% fairly easily.

Simply put, if you align the application migration plan as early as possible with your resourcing strategy in this way then your organisation will have one eye on your internal talent while it keeps the other eye on the recruitment market to meet any internal gaps that do arise.

As Drew Firment – cloud expert and former Technology Director for Cloud Engineering at Capital One says – “achieving critical mass of cloud fluency is the only way an organisation can sustain a transition into a new operating model”.