Generation Data: the future of cloud era leaders

In an Internet minute, more than 41.6 million WhatsApp messages and 188 million emails are sent, whilst 3.8 million search queries are run online. If you were to plot these data points on a graph and track them over the space of six months, unsurprisingly they would be growing at an exponential rate. Yet, despite data in many ways being the beating heart of nearly every decision businesses make, we still live in a world in which little emphasis is placed on developing data-driven skills at an early age. To support the younger generation in focusing on developing data and technology-led skills, businesses have a responsibility to think about how to show them what a career in tech could offer them.

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As technology-led innovations continue to shape the future of our workforce, we need to reconsider talent development to ensure that it encompasses some of the key technologies set to improve workplace productivity and efficiencies, with cloud paving the way for a new way of working.

The cloud challenges

Businesses are becoming increasingly dependent on cloud technology, and this reliance has only increased as a result of Covid-19. To meet the changing needs of customers and to keep pace with rapidly adapting ways of working, fully embracing cloud technology is no longer an option, it’s a necessity. In fact, at our recent Informatica online event series, we discussed how 83% of enterprise workloads were expected to be in the cloud by 2020, with 75% of all databases deployed or migrated to a cloud platform by 2022. This paints a pretty clear picture as to why we need to be teaching the future workforce how to manage, monitor and protect their data in the cloud.

Yet, findings from a recent global survey of chief data officers (CDOs) highlighted that 62% of organisations surveyed still believe cloud to be a significant challenge, with half of respondents struggling with some of the basics including cloud data warehouse and data lake ingestion, data quality and data governance. As such, businesses have a long way to go in responding to growing cloud demand by training the likes of data stewards in helping a company to achieve its data strategy, with an emphasis on using high quality data sets.

Generation data

The right technical skills are critical in order to capitalise on the benefits of the cloud. But, before we even begin to consider the technical skills needed, we need to go back to basics. The first, and sometimes less obvious, challenge is in showing today’s young people that working with cloud technology could be a future career option. The problem is that when young people think of cloud, they associate the term with obvious elements from their everyday lives such as iCloud and Dropbox, instead of its potential and application in the world of business.

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When thinking about the skillsets required to work with cloud technology, companies need to conduct regular skills mapping sessions to understand what key positions are needed for the operations of the business and to monitor skills from the existing portfolio of staff. Only then, can the right training programmes be implemented to support in upskilling the workforce. Training shouldn’t just be for existing staff, but entry level training programmes can be a great way to give new employees a solid grounding in the basics.

For example, many cloud specialists need formal training in cyber security and data protection. If an organisation works with a cloud provider, cyber security training is needed as many data protection responsibilities can’t be abdicated to the external provider. It’s a shared responsibility. The emergence of hybrid and multi-cloud environments can also work to make the challenge of data privacy more complex. In fact, it’s now not uncommon for businesses to adopt a range of providers for infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS) and software as a service (SaaS) offerings. As the volume and variety of personal and sensitive data continues to grow at unprecedented rates, that data is increasingly dispersed across multiple clouds, increasing risk of exposure.

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What’s more, with most organisations adopting multiple cloud environments, data is more fragmented than ever before. As such, businesses are looking to data governance specialists (not just data scientists, but data engineers too) to ensure that there is a catalogue of where the data resides, across the different landscapes to ensure it’s well secured and well governed. It’s important to have people who can spot risks associated with where data is – or in some cases – isn’t stored, whilst deploying artificial intelligence (AI) to adopt new roles to secure it within the cloud environments.

Cloud specialists can take on several different job titles within the business and at some organisations, a single data leader like the CDO must seamlessly shift between multiple roles in order to achieve success. Meanwhile at others, a team of data leaders each having a specialised role under a unified data strategy is a model for success. What’s clear is that as data becomes part of everyone’s working lives, to ensure we’re not short on talent, businesses need to engage with a wide range of individuals such as citizen integrators and citizen analysts to upskill within existing roles and to truly democratise data. This means equipping existing and future employees with the skills needed to garner insights from existing data sets. Only then can a business be truly data driven. The time to start training generation data in a wider set of digital skills, is now.

Written by Greg Hanson, vice-president EMEA at Informatica

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