Software to service: addressing the cloud skills gap

Students at a digital skills workshop working off of macbooks and notepads

Written by Juliet Morris, Talent Expert at UKCloud

Hindering the public sector’s cloud adoption journey is the lack of digital skills—a concern voiced by 25% of central government organisations. While the digital skills gap is widely discussed in the SMB and enterprise space, it’s important not to overlook the public sector. Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) initiatives designed to address this should be adapted to tackle the needs of the public sector as much as the private one.

Addressing this plays into a step-change in IT department culture and digital transformation. At the heart of making transformation happen is delivering better value IT for UK taxpayers. The first wave of citizen facing digital services has ensured that technologies such as cloud, mobile and digital are much more widely accepted. Yet the cloud has not yet disrupted the bulk of the public sector’s IT which is most often locked into on-premises facilities or long term outsource agreements.

The benefits of modernising these traditional IT systems (or replacing them with software-as-a-service) will far exceed the benefits seen to date, but what worked for the first wave of transformation, won’t be enough for the next wave, which is behind the rise of the concept of multi-cloud enabling customers to use the right cloud service for every workload, whether IaaS, PaaS or SaaS.

Rather than forcing IT organisations to re-skill in order to benefit from cloud, a true multi-cloud platform enables existing skills and capabilities in traditional technologies such as Microsoft, Oracle and VMware to be applied to the cloud. This buys more time for public sector CIOs to develop the skills and capabilities required for more modern and digital approaches. Another approach is for public sector CIO’s to buy into the innovation and specialism inherent within IT service providers by replacing DIY bespoke software with outcome-based software services (SaaS).

IT service providers invest significantly in dramatically different skillsets that are unfamiliar to most existing IT teams and are radically different to what they have become accustomed to. For most organisations, adapting to a DevOps mindset with Infrastructure as code and CI/CD (continuous integration/development) will require an intake of expensive contractors, or rapid and expensive up-skilling of existing staff who are then at risk of leaving for the lucrative contract market. Rather than competing with commercial businesses, public sector organisations can simply tap into these capabilities by consuming ‘as-a-service’ – whether that’s Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) or Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). This way, public sector can focus on outcomes – delivering better public services.

Government departments are not without ambition when it comes to improving digital skills and increasing the use of IT to cut costs and enhance services. But there are obstacles to these goals being achieved which may not realistically be overcome without a different approach. The problem of digital skills is one which impacts both public and private sector organisations and is likely to be a multi-billion pound burden on the economy unless action is taken, although the precise details of what needs to be done are up for debate.

A new generation of digital skills is leading the charge, fuelling innovation and potential cost savings. Early career opportunities through Apprentices, Graduates and Placement Students further enable the transformation toward digitisation and the sector is seeing a greater focus on diversity and inclusivity through programmes like ‘Women in STEM’.

There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution to addressing the skills gap.  What doesn’t work is ‘importing’ these skills from the large global cloud platforms that don’t invest in significant UK operations. What does work is to harness existing skills – soft skills, leadership, technical ambition – and capabilities through familiar technologies inherent within multi-cloud. Tapping into the skills and innovation within UK GovTech service providers also enables you to make the shift from a traditional approach to a more outcome-based approach.

This article was originally published here as part of techUK’s Cloud week.

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