The cloud skills gap is growing. According to IT Pro, in fact, this talent deficient has doubled in the last two years as companies search for skills across multiple cloud disciplines to shore up multicloud solutions, develop new applications at scale and provide the necessary foundation for secure remote work. And the problem appears to be getting worse — as noted by Information Age, 90 percent of organizations now say the digital skills gap is “big, quite big or huge.”
So where does this leave companies? With cloud services now critical for basic business functions, how do they shore up staff without sacrificing agility or security? Some organizations have turned to ad-hoc hiring to help bridge the gap, while others are doubling down on high-quality qualifications.
Let’s dive in: Do cloud certifications matter, or is ad hoc hiring the shortest route to more effective IT?
The Ad Hoc Approach
Cloud computing offers big benefits, no matter your business size. From cost control to scalable resources, increased agility and improved disaster recovery, there’s something for everyone in a cloud-first environment.
But the rapid maturation and diversification of cloud offerings has created a paradox: To effectively leverage new infrastructure, platform and software solutions, companies need IT professionals with both the knowledge and experience to integrate services at scale. For example, consider the rapid rise of IaaS adoption — according to data from Amazon, IaaS deployments increased by 410% over just three years as cloud-based environments became more reliable, powerful and customizable.
As noted above, however, the uptake of new cloud services now outstrips the number of skilled cloud professionals. From Azure and AWS trained staff to Cisco cloud networking and Google Cloud certified experts, there’s a disconnect between the demand and demographics.
To combat this challenge, many companies have opted for a more ad hoc hiring approach that focuses on trainable mindsets and personal characteristics over specific cloud computing skills. It makes sense; if staff display a natural aptitude for IT and willingness to learn why not bring them on board, train them in-situ and develop cloud strategies as needed?
This approach isn’t without advantages, especially in the short term. By shoring up staff and upskilling them as required, it possible for companies to quickly deploy new cloud services, especially as basic integration becomes less hands-on and more focused on end-user satisfaction.
The Long-Term Training Benefit
Unfortunately, the ad hoc advantage only extends so far. Here’s why: As cloud deployments shift from surface-level solutions that streamline resource assignments and help organizations scale up on-demand to more in-depth and complex initiatives focused on big data analytics, intelligent security services and robotic process automation, missing skillsets become critical barriers.
Consider the entry-level Amazon certification: AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner. This qualification focuses on the fundamentals of AWS deployments including the key value proposition, infrastructure requirements, architectural principles, key services and common use cases. While it’s not a requirement to deploy basic Amazon services such as EC2 compute instances or container-based storage, this certification is critical for long-term cloud planning.
Let’s examine the practical example of hybrid cloud services. While Amazon offers some hybrid integration, other services such as Azure offer better support. Under an ad hoc model, cloud spending could spiral out of control thanks to mismatched services and support. Trained AWS or Azure professionals, meanwhile, can quickly identify shortfalls and recommend best-fit solutions.
The Certification Challenge
While cloud certification matters for your workforce — and your bottom line — earning more in-depth qualifications such as the AWS Solutions Architect, Azure Database Administrator Associate or Azure IoT Developer Specialty can prove challenging for even skilled IT staff.
In a recent Medium piece, IT expert Greg Farrow describes his efforts to complete the AWS Solutions Architect qualification using a combination of professional experience and online learning resources. It wasn’t an easy task — he notes that after initial weeks of excitement, he and another colleague on the certification track “lost our mojo” and eventually stopped studying altogether.
Getting back on track required both motivation and determination, but Farrow also discovered a critical insight: Studying simply to pass wasn’t enough. Instead, he shifted his approach and aimed to become an expert.
This is the real value of cloud certifications for your workforce. While the material and knowledge gained through coursework and testing can help boost the immediate impact of cloud deployments, the expert mindset delivers long-term advantage. Unlike the ad hoc approach, experts can assess current conditions, identify specific needs and deploy solutions at scale to deliver on long-term cloud potential.