Research studies published across the world show a massive take-up of cloud computing, driven by a wide range of technological and commercial factors, notably the requirement to work with big data analytics.

With estimates as high as 88% of organisations using cloud computing in one form or another, the success of the new digital paradigm can scarcely be in doubt. Even though half (52%) of UK CIOs surveyed by Robert Half view increased security risks as the biggest challenge associated with moving IT systems to the cloud, eight in 10 (82%) say the economic benefits of cloud technology outweigh the potential risks.

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The general shift to a greater digital focus is underpinned by this move to cloud computing. The vast majority (94%) of senior IT executives believe technology will play an important role in business growth in the year ahead. The main areas where technology will add value are through driving process or employee efficiency (cited by 32% of IT directors) and improving customer transactional experience (45%).

The main way in which businesses are working to achieve these improvements are through cloud adoption (34%) and virtualisation (29%), business analytics and intelligence (31%), mobile solutions and application development (both 24%).

Approximately 88% of organisations are using cloud computing in one form or another

So cloud will play a huge role in driving business performance and growth in the year ahead and is already an important element of any IT strategy. Yet whenever there is wide scale adoption of new technology platforms, demand for the skills required to work with those systems begins to rise and, alongside that, salary expectations for roles in key positions of responsibility as at least in the short term there is usually a skills shortage.

ICUK1601 copyAccording to Robert Half’s research with CIOs, the huge rise in adoption of cloud computing initiatives is already driving organisations to employ greater numbers of cloud experts. Almost half (41%) of IT directors said that they would hire additional staff to support cloud initiatives in the next 12 months. Of these, permanent employees would make up 17% of new hires, while contractors or interims would make up 24%, helping to fill the cloud skills gap.

As well as hiring new cloud experts, IT directors are investing in training and education to bring their current teams up to speed. Almost half (49%) say that they deliver in-house training and development, while a third (32%) invest in external training courses and 30% provide webinar and e-learning. A quarter of companies deliver on-the-job training while a fifth (20%) rely on previous experience in another company.

The fact that so many companies are investing in cloud initiatives as well as training for their teams means that there are rich opportunities and a clear career path for IT professionals with cloud skills.

In our experience, the most important attributes in demand are demonstrable experience and a solid track record. If a company does not provide training, employees should take the initiative in self-study.

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When talking about the skills needed for cloud support specifically, virtualisation and understanding the full information related to this, such as different storage technologies (SAN, NAS, DAS), networking (including its related technologies) and backups and replication (also including its related technologies) will be key for success. As Cloud involves a lot of technologies, professionals are well versed in a variety of them while looking to specialise in at least one aspect will progress in their careers. For those looking for certification, VMware VCP, EMC Proven Professional, CCNA and any related to Veeam and Zerto will stand employees in good stead.

With such a high proportion of companies planning to hire additional staff in this area, it’s clearly a good time for professionals to focus on cloud skills as well as security around cloud initiatives and across the technology function.

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Neil Owen, UK Director, Robert Half Technology Neil Owen is director of Robert Half’s Technology division and is based in London. Founded in 1948, Robert Half is the world’s largest specialised recruitment firm and member of the S&P 500 index. For more than 14 years Neil has been employed within organisation’s London operations, starting as a resourcer focusing on banking and capital markets, and holding roles of increasing responsibility, including London director. He has witnessed all phases of the employment and economic cycle first-hand and is an expert on the recruitment trends within the accounting, finance, financial services, information technology and administrative fields. Neil holds a business degree from the University of Wales and is actively involved in the local business community. His in-depth knowledge of the recruitment industry and senior management experience has resulted in the authorship of numerous workplace and employment-related articles as well as regular commentary with regional and national business media. A former international athlete, Neil annually participates in an annual triathlon benefiting the company’s corporate charity. Founded in 1948, Robert Half International is a recognised leader in professional recruitment services and is traded on the New York Stock Exchange. With more than 350 locations worldwide, Robert Half International has consistently ranked number one in our industry on FORTUNE® magazine’s list of the “World’s Most Admired Companies.” (FORTUNE, March 22, 2010). For more information visit www.roberthalf.co.uk.