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Blue sky thinking with The Cloud

Updated: Nov 21, 2022

Following his recent appearance on the AWS Executive Webinar, we asked So-Media Director Dan Rowson to chat to us further about The Cloud and its huge benefits to business. Dan talks in depth about engaging employees, training techniques and overcoming challenges.

Hi Dan, thanks for chatting to us today. To start off can you explain a bit about what Cloud skills are and why they are important to businesses?

A few years ago the big buzzwords in business were about Agile and Innovation now we are hearing more and more organisations talk about “The Cloud”. In reality the two are inextricably linked - but the cloud is more about the technology behind it.

We’re all familiar with The Cloud - whether we are aware of it or not - but it is essentially moving your data from “on-premises” servers, so think of it as being on devices in your office to “The Cloud” so think of it hosted in some giant shared facility owned and managed by Microsoft, Google or Amazon. It can be cheaper and faster therefore to leverage the technology.

So when we talk about Agility and Innovation - The Cloud enables us to rapidly deploy new applications and features without having the time delay or financial expense of buying servers and storage. This enables us to potentially take more risks and try out new ideas without prohibitive costs.

Cloud Skills therefore are about upskilling organisations to both understand this and optimise how they might leverage it to their advantage.

Tell us a bit about what you discussed on the AWS webinar 'Build Cloud enablement at enterprise scale'?

We’ve been working with the tech teams across IAG Tech, British Airways, Aer Lingus and Cargo to deploy a comprehensive skills programme that will enable their teams to optimise how they use The Cloud. Each of those organisations are of course at different cloud maturity levels and with different needs - naturally that’s of interest to others looking at deploying similar programmes so we were invited along to talk about our experience and expertise in this space. In 9 months, we’ve trained close to 1,000 people and are on track to provide about 10% of those with professional certifications.

What was your approach to launching this initiative with the client?

So often employees personal development becomes the low priority when teams are busy, so we think it’s key to build a strong employee brand to add the right gravitas and keeping employees engaged.

Fundamentally though our approach is to leverage data and insights so you can not only measure value and demonstrate progress but also identify strengths and weaknesses in your organisations capabilities. We usually start such programmes with a thorough learning needs analysis - this provides invaluable knowledge on the organisation to help inform your learning plans and your priority audiences.

With this information we then look at mobilising training channels that are flexible to a learners style - blending an element of structured instructor led training with on demand digital training with more flexible and ad-hoc training forms (like masterclasses, hackathons and immersions).

And then of course using our creative team to optimise the user experience across the programme!

What has been the highlight of the project for you?

Without doubt our champions gamification. We mobilised a really strong team of champions, who were all really passionate about the topic and then gamified a series of activities they could do to drive adoption and engagement - such as updating email signatures, writing blogs, reviewing courses etc.

We don't announce the winner until the end of the year but the competition is really hotting up - and therefore creating a buzz amongst the teams…I just hope our £25 trophy goes down well!

Were there any challenges? If yes, how did you overcome them?

Of course. The main challenge is helping employees find the time to do the training they will need in the long term. We are always so focussed on getting through today we rarely get a chance to think far enough in advance to when these skills will be so important. Our strength is of course bringing traditional “marketing” techniques to engage employees - build a brand, create FOMO, regularly launch new fresh content but fundamentally our approach was to create a programme that could be flexible to all - if you want to learn digitally through online content 1 hour per week for 8 weeks or would rather the discipline of an 8 hour course in a day - we tried to enable as many options as we could.

Ultimately though it needs to come from leadership driving or mandating the training. We found running intensive Executive Immersions in the topic helped to build the right sponsorship from the top down, ensuring leadership teams understand the outcomes and benefits.

I wouldn’t say those challenges are ever “overcome” though - it comes back to solid change management and the importance of “reinforcement”.

What advice would you give to businesses thinking about starting a Cloud Skills program?

Run a Learning Needs Analysis! Its absolutely imperative. The data it gives you helps you to not only ensure your programme fits the exact needs of your business but also the evidence and insight to back decisions.

Haven't seen the webinar? Catch up below.


To find out more about how we could help your business with Cloud Skills, get in touch.

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