[Column] Corine Mbiaketcha Nana: Five essential steps to close the cloud skills gap in Kenya

The ability to find and retain cloud-savvy, IT staff continues to be considered as one of the key barriers to cloud adoption according to Oracle’s latest ‘You & IaaS’ survey.

The ability to find and retain cloud-savvy, IT staff continues to be considered as one of the key barriers to cloud adoption according to Oracle’s latest ‘You & IaaS’ survey.

As Infrastructure-as-a-Service adoption grows and the technology matures, the availability of staff with specialist skills is being surpassed by demand. The survey found that more than one-fifth (28 percent) of companies say that IT skills shortages have been one of their top issues in rolling out IaaS.

Closer to home, a research study by RANITP (Research Academic Network on IT Policy), Research ICT Africa and the University of Nairobi on the state of cloud service usage in Kenya, found that businesses highlighted DevOps, software development, system administration and networking skills as crucial for cloud delivery. In addition, they pointed out that information security, as well as contract and project management skills, are essential for migrating, maintaining and supporting cloud services.

No wonder, moving to the cloud is still deemed to be risky by some CIOs; but should it be?

The reality is that the bigger risk is not moving to the cloud, which is rapidly proving itself as easier to manage, maintain and secure than traditional IT environments. In particular, cloud services are vastly more secure than many on-premise alternatives, since leading cloud vendors such as Oracle invest in creating a highly robust security infrastructure that is continually patched and kept up-to-date. This level of investment in security can never be matched in an on-premise environment.

What I see from talking to CIOs across Africa is that the skills gap issue relates less to having cloud-specific skills; it is instead a mindset challenge.

In his Africa blog post, Frank Rizzo, partner, Technology Sector Leader for Africa at KPMG says cloud computing is not driven solely by technical experts any longer, but by business leaders looking to leverage it from an overall business perspective.

So what are the gaps and how can companies overcome them?

1. Hiring for the cloud era

Creating a team for the future will inevitably affect the hiring process. Rather than look for new employees from traditional, external sources – most likely direct competitors – CIOs should aim to recruit from cloud-native companies. These staff are used to handling data in the cloud and with the cloud skills required.

Once onboard, there are two main options for how to make the most of this talent. Use the new hires to fill the gaps and educate the rest of the team, or build a completely new team that’s cloud-first by design. This approach can motivate the business and act as a catalyst for innovation.

2. Internal talent

Don’t forget you already might have internal talent that has the potential to shine in a cloud world.  Holding or attending ‘hackathons’ or offering existing staff the opportunity to volunteer to take part in new cloud projects could give you the opportunity to spot skills you didn’t know the team possessed.

This is an approach that the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) is taking. To support its strategic drive to enhance service delivery to taxpayers, KRA deployed a new Customer Relationship Management Solution (CRMS) that provides it with a single platform to better understand customer needs and respond to their demands more quickly and efficiently.

KRA has been undertaking extensive staff training programmes to guarantee superior customer interaction management with taxpayers. Its CRM training is divided into four areas based on the role various groups play, including end-user, back office staff, and administrator training as well as the training of trainers. Change management initiatives and staff sensitization workshops are also carried out to create system awareness.

Another thing to consider is that some of the team’s existing expertise can be transferred to the cloud.  In some cases, new cloud services, in fact, mirror their on-premises counterparts, making the transfer of skills more achievable.

Re-training existing members of staff is also critical. There are a range of options to help organizations upskill their IT teams through training; from government programmes through to vendor academies, such as the Oracle Academy. The latter are useful for providing both the technical skill set required and the necessary security and compliance training.

3. Think big

Infrastructure cloud services enable businesses to operate elastically, at a vastly increased scale. This gives the company an amazing opportunity to change the dynamics of how they operate. Instead of just migrating individual databases, think bigger, consolidating the various data sets you have around the business into a unified dataset. There are multiple benefits of this. At a base level, you can have more applications per server and manage them all as one, and with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning becoming more widespread you can be prepared to take maximum use of these exciting emerging technologies by creating a single data asset.

4. Data orchestration

Businesses are increasingly seeking to become data-driven. IT teams need to stop looking at data and processes as systems issues and instead regard them as profit opportunities. This means thinking about how business information can be turned into actionable insights that lead to customer engagement and profitable growth.

5. Advanced data management

Data is the new oil for businesses: a huge source of potential wealth if mined, refined and distributed well. A core skill for enterprise IT teams is, therefore, how to store, manage and transport data. This means extending skills beyond technology to include data governance and compliance capabilities.

Any enterprise that’s serious about leveraging the cloud to innovate and grow needs to have these skills entrenched in their IT teams. It is therefore vital that organizations go about building cloud-ready teams in the right way.

If enterprise IT teams can close the cloud skills gap, the rewards will be well worth the effort. The renewed, high-performing team will quickly demonstrate value to the C-suite and other key corporate stakeholders while enabling a core competitive differentiator for the business.


Corine Mbiaketcha Nana, Managing Director Kenya Hub covering East, Central and West Africa at Oracle.

[South Africa] Routed Signs Expansion Agreement for Ubersmith Subscription Business Software

Routed, a vendor-neutral cloud infrastructure provider in South Africa has signed an expansion agreement to take further advantage of subscription business management software from Ubersmith, an INAP (NASDAQ: INAP) company, to further enable its fast-paced growth.

The company is a model of efficiency using the Ubersmith software suite to automate pay-per-use billing to reduce the chance of mistakes in a manual process, as well as centralize customer information including client contracts. It bills clients on a pay-per-use model and sells its solutions through partners, such as internet service providers (ISPs) and managed service providers (MSPs).

Ubersmith provides the flexibility for Routed to efficiently bill large enterprises as well as smaller MSPs. In addition, all of Routed’s customers use the Ubersmith software Client Portal for easy access to information on the services they’re using.

Based in Cape Town with data centres there as well as in Johannesburg, Routed’s vendor-neutral cloud hosting platform is built using VMware technology — specifically vCloud Director stack. The company takes advantage of Ubersmith’s built-in integration with vCloud Director, as well as QuickBooks so that clients’ usage data is pulled into the billing system.

“The Ubersmith software is ideal for the kind of subscription billing we do and the business model we have while integrating well with other applications and infrastructure, and remaining open for the future as needed,” said Andrew Cruise, managing director of Routed. “It makes our lives easier, helping our people in billing, customer service and sales work efficiently to handle the growth today and prepare for the scalability needs of our business tomorrow.”

Future plans at Routed include expansion of the Ubersmith software to include the Sales Manager and Order Manager, which provide workflow tools and automation from the initial quote to account setup, provisioning, billing and more.

“We are pleased to partner more deeply with Routed to help enable its cloud business and its ability to launch and support high-quality services with great efficiency,” said Kurt Daniel, CEO of Ubersmith. “We’re pleased to play a role in Routed’s success in South Africa and beyond as they take further advantage of the full range of turnkey usage-based billing, infrastructure and operations capabilities we offer to their organization and their customers.”

www.routed.co.za

www.ubersmith.com

[Column] Karl Reed: The customer’s journey to the cloud

Migrating to the cloud is no longer the complex process it once was. Thanks to the evolution of technology, moving from an on-premises environment can be done much more efficiently than before.

Migrating to the cloud is no longer the complex process it once was. Thanks to the evolution of technology, moving from an on-premises environment can be done much more efficiently than before. Even attitudes towards this strategic shift have changed, says Karl Reed, Chief Solutions Officer at Elingo.

Going the cloud route does not require a big bang approach. Instead, organisations can phase it in over several months (or years even) as their budget and business processes allow.

In the past few years, accessibility to the cloud from an Internet and capability perspective, as well as the speed to deployment, has changed for the better. In fact, Elingo’s recent experience shows customers are approaching the company wanting to migrate instead of needing the hard sell.

Mindset shift

Contributing to this enabling environment is the upcoming arrival of several multinational data centres in the country. Granted, it might only account for approximately 20% of the reason businesses are considering migrating. But, combined with more user-friendly technology, the market is ripe to start benefiting from this natural technology progression.

Perhaps, most importantly, the business mindset is changing. A year ago, decision-makers were still apprehensive about the cloud. Fast forward to the present and they are less resistant about moving. Now, they are much more open towards cloud discussions reflecting trends elsewhere in the world.

The country is basically there; we are fast approaching a time where every organisation will be connected to cloud in some form or another. Just consider how all your personal information is already stored in the cloud. It is only natural that this will start extending to business data as well.

Regulatory needs

Furthermore, the regulatory environment is also playing its part in getting companies to migrate. The likes of the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) create complex environments. Fortunately, the cloud fully supports it and provides local businesses with a significantly more secure environment than if they had to build it themselves.

Given how the compliance requirements for cloud service providers are significantly more complicated than for ‘standard’ businesses, they do everything in their power to ensure the safety, reliability, availability, and accessibility of cloud-based offerings, systems and data.

Unique approach

With every customer environment and requirement unique when it comes to the cloud, service providers must be able to adapt their processes to accommodate. For example, expectations from an insurance company will be different to that from a courier business in terms of cloud migration and offerings. So, even though there is still complexity involved in making the transition, it is not insurmountable.

One of the most appealing things for any business when it comes to the cloud is the return on investment that is on offer. For one, the cloud enables the company to manage spend on a monthly basis instead of a massive upfront payment.

Secondly, there are the savings that companies do not even realise they are getting. Just like every computer in the business needs power, software licences, access to the Internet, and so on, so too do on-premises servers. Furthermore, these servers need to be maintained and upgraded every few years. Even the air-conditioning units in the server room need power, maintenance, and so on, continually adding to the cost of on-premises solutions. With the cloud, there is none of that.

Given the ease of use and speed of deployment, the cloud will soon become the default approach for many local organisations. The cloud is already everywhere. Now is the time to capitalise on it.

Karl Reed is the Chief Solutions Officer at Elingo.

Public cloud services will enable organisations to accelerate digital transformation in South Africa

The increased utilisation of public cloud services and the additional investments into private and hybrid cloud solutions will enable organisations in South Africa to focus on innovation and accelerate the pace of digital business transformation. This is according to the IDC report, Economic Impact of IT & Microsoft in South Africa. In turn, the report says this will help businesses generate close to R81 billion in net revenue over the next four years.

The Intelligent Cloud is the enabler of true digital transformation, enabling businesses to transform their existing business models into digital business models, thereby improving operational efficiency, empowering employees, enabling richer customer engagements, and transforming and innovative products and services.

According to Ashleigh Fenwick, Head of Communications at Microsoft, the IT the IT sector in South Africa is expected to grow at a five-year compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.25% to reach R175 billion by 2022.

‘’This growth is fuelled by public cloud growth – the cloud market is expected to reach R11.53 billion by 2022, representing a CAGR of a whopping 21.9%. This could potentially lead to 119k nett new job opportunities,”  he said.

Fenwick was speaking when he announced that Microsoft had pushed the launch of its two data centres in South Africa to 2019. Located in Johannesburg and Cape Town, said it is targeting cloud services growth on the continent. These data centres are expected to deliver the Microsoft Cloud, including Microsoft Azure, Office 365, and Dynamics 365 to Africa. They had initially been set to be launched in 2018.

While the software market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 2.9% over the next 5 years, the cloud market in South Africa is expected to grow at 21.9% to reach R11.53 billion. The increased adoption of cloud services in the country will create 112,000 net new job opportunities in the economy by 2022, driven by the benefits of cloud computing, such as lower capex, efficiency, scale, and flexibility.

Cloud computing has taken off dramatically across Africa’s major markets. Its benefits are however being experienced very differently in each region – as are its budget allocations.

www.microsoft.com

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