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SMB are fast-growing cloud users, but face skills crisis

Small business is the fastest growing sector for Microsoft cloud partners, but they may be seriously underestimating their ability to recruit people with cloud skills in future. In its latest research, some 250 UK companies actively involved in IT recruitment and the evaluation of external providers were asked about how the digital transformation of their business would impact their workforce requirements.

Microsoft found that the most common approach was to look to upskill their own staff with cloud skills, though more than half were also looking at the use of external partners. But they thought that finding suitable people would get easier, with less than 15% thinking it would be harder in two years’ time. This does not seem right, says Microsoft’s Glenn Woolaghan, partner business and development lead at Microsoft UK. “I think it can only get worse and there is a real challenge in the skills gap.”

Other surveys of cloud skills have reported rising shortages, he says, and with SMB being the fastest growing adopters of cloud, there is a real squeeze on their abilities in this area. “And where security was the main issue in previous years for those adopting cloud, this year it is the skills issue and the ability to deliver the required change.” The SMBs seem to think that having cloud skills is not so important to them as it is to larger enterprises (chart above), which corresponds to other research indicating that the larger enterprises are first to cloud and are making the big investments, even though Microsoft says SMB is growing fast.

In the search for additional skills among channels, a majority says that formal cloud certifications are important (63%) when selecting partners to provide cloud-based consulting or services. And, when engaging staff for important cloud projects, almost half (48%) say they’d expect to pay more for resources with relevant cloud certifications. Cloud is certainly in the minds of the Microsoft channel partners, he says, with all types of partner, including MSPs, integrators and more traditional VARs all seeing the need to adapt.