The future looks bright for cloud technology - John Baxter

According to Accenture’s most recent UK Tech Talent Tracker, cloud computing skills are in demand and account for 40 per cent of UK tech jobs advertised. As we are about to enter a mega cycle of innovation fuelled by cloud technology, alongside advances in the likes of 5G and artificial intelligence, this is both exciting for Scotland and a skills challenge that we all must face.

Cloud technology is critical to change, and the pandemic emphasised its value when the need for resilience and agility was paramount. As a consequence, cloud is rapidly becoming an operating model, not simply a single static destination - and businesses are doing this while their industries and organisations are in flux. It’s akin to a ship rebuilding its engine, retraining its crew and somehow trying to maintain its speed and course through a ferocious storm.

Far beyond conference calls, and accessing files, using cloud technology companies are seeing how they can transform how they interact with customers, partners and employees; how they make and market their products and services and how they build and operate their IT systems.

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Cloud is also helping organisations grasp the value in the recent explosion of business data to derive competitive advantage through new insights that support decision making and innovation.

In short, cloud can drive cost reductions, re-engineer knowledge, enable rapid experimentation and indeed help many organisations - whether a large corporation or start-up - reach their sustainability goals. This is critically important for Scotland as it continues to develop its tech economy.

Yet, despite this, some organisations’ cloud migration strategies have fallen short of expectation, while others have stumbled at the starting blocks. A recent Accenture survey found that 63% of companies fail to capture the expected value from their cloud investments.

In the same survey, a skills shortage is seen as the top barrier to achieving cloud value, having been ranked highest by 54% of CEOs. Other top barriers include IT and business misalignment (40%) and the complexity of business and organisational change (39% overall).

Cloud adoption can be daunting and is often seen only as a technology issue when its impact is actually far wider. Organisational structures, culture and the requirement for new capabilities are all important, meaning that finance and business teams must be brought in at the start and leaders must prioritise their people as much as the technology.

All the Cloud providers make training simple with access to free on-line training and virtual sessions. It opens the door for everyone to be re-trained in cloud, which is also vital for bringing in the wider skillsets that will ensure the technology evolves ethically, sustainably and remains anchored in the real world. And with the market for technical skills ever increasing, up-skilling and re-skilling existing employees has to be a consideration.

Cloud migration, therefore, must be approached as a people opportunity and will be critical as organisations need to build a workforce better positioned to drive cloud-enabled value. With the right investment, we found that employee productivity and cross-functional collaboration and communication increases more than two-fold. Cloud migration was far faster (1.9x) bringing enhanced organisational agility and improved customer service.

This is a role where the Scottish tech sector can play a significant part. Developing cloud capabilities provides access to highly skilled jobs. It also creates a firm foundation for people to have long term careers in the world of technology. Closing the digital divide and providing everyone with good connectivity is also high on the agenda, there is another opportunity to reach out to people outside Scotland’s main cities.

Those that champion cloud technology through their people culture create a ‘test and learn’ environment which embraces continuous learning; one that is more likely to develop future talent at scale. So, while there is a huge business imperative to accelerate cloud transformation, fostering skills that fuel cloud value can help ensure people are ready to deliver for what lies ahead.

John Baxter, Technology Lead, Accenture Scotland

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