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The era of the skills partnership?

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A while back I heard a great story about a 75-year old who was very happily supplementing his pension (to a six figure tune!) for a few days consultancy a month. No senior non-executive directorship this, no, this was a simple gig supporting a very old arcane operating system that just happened to be mission-critical for his employers.

I was reminded of this when I read recent research study from Computing magazine that declared “Outsourcing levels and cloud use are set to increase amongst UK firms, though many businesses have admitted to harbouring fears over running a bimodel approach to IT.” The fears appear to be coalescing around skills, or the lack of them. So while 62% of respondents said that they were looking at a bimodel structure over the short to medium term, the survey also recorded that 47% of the audience “doubted that they had the skills and experience within their organisations to operate IT in a two-speed way.”

So there you have it, at one end of the spectrum, an organisation hoping its 75-year old contractor stays healthy and happy in his work, and at the other, a substantial number of businesses concerned about their future IT operations. Skills are the common denominator, risk the shared peril. But while the former situation is probably rare if not unique, the latter would appear to be somewhat endemic and therefore very much more problematic.

It's a sign of the times though. We've transitioned from late 20th century IT that saw internal teams expand - in breadth and depth - in line with exponential on-premises system growth. And here we are now in the 21st century seeing a balancing contraction as collocation, hosting and cloud take off, internal terms no longer needing the strength in depth, and expert resource shipping out to the more dynamic world of service provision. Leaving in-house teams filling out surveys revealing their concern about Cloud-centric strategies and their ability to deliver them...

Moreover, the timing couldn't be worse, because things are potentially going to get very much more complex. There's a growing acceptance that where once hybrid cloud was seen as a half-way point along the bimodel-driven transitional highway for enterprise IT, it is now far more likely to be the final destination. Yet creating a hybrid cloud, combining at least one public and private cloud and orchestrating workloads between the two platforms, is a significant challenge requiring a slew of skilled resource, much of it at the leading edge of technology design.

Unfortunately, due to cloud's long-term subtext of 'simplification' I suspect an erroneous belief has grown up that anything with the cloud moniker on it is easy, straightforward, effortless and instant. So hybrid cloud, the best of both worlds, with all that flexibility and control...bring it on, what's stopping you? Well the fact that it is complex work - integration, migration, security, interoperability, supplier management, all in a fast unfolding world - compounded by what we referenced above, the skills gap. And just when you need them most...

The upshot is exactly what we are seeing here at Redcentric: the trend to start engagements not with a managed commodity selection process but with a strategic consult with a professional services team. Commonsense dictates that you don't let yourself be deflected from a beneficial journey just because you don't have all the wherewithal to get there on your own. The technology you don't have? Dial it up as a service. The knowledge you don't have? Ditto.

The biggest challenge then is determining the best fit for your organisation, how you bring it all together: break out the consulting, buy in the services, manage it all yourselves; or partner with a service provider with a professional consulting wrap and manage it together. We're seeing more and more of the latter, and what's encouraging is that people are engaging early, where they can build fresh, rather than re-engineer or remediate a mis-step.

It is never too soon to have the hybrid conversation, never too soon to introduce the requisite skills into your organisation to get you to your IT destination successfully. There is no doubting it's a complex journey, but that's why we're here to share some of the burden. Probably explains why some of us look 75 too.

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