In April, analyst firm Gartner predicted that the public cloud services market in Australia was set to grow by 87 per cent over the next three years, hitting $10.3 billion by 2020.
Moreover, in 2018, Australian software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers reaped $2.6 billion in public cloud revenue during 2018, according to IDC.
Clearly, cloud is popular. But with popularity comes a certain amount of commoditisation, which can, and does, put pressure on profit margin potential for some partners.
This is a mounting challenge in the market, and it seems as if it is only going to become more pronounced as time goes by, and as businesses become more reliant on cloud.
In terms of what can partners do to maintain and create value in a landscape as competitive as today’s cloud services sector, and how can indirect providers, such as distributors, help to enable them, the issue of skills is top of mind.
While addressing the growing technical skills shortage in the local market is likely to be one of the single most pressing concerns for many partners today, it is also top of mind for distributors and even vendors, as the skills demand within the market for new and emerging technical fields outstrips the supply.
Fostering the right skills to add value
For Tovia Va’aelua, A/NZ general manager at Rhipe, the skills gap in the local market simply can’t be ignored when considering the challenges partners face in a market awash with new and emerging technology.
“The elephant in the room is around the skill sets that are available in the market,” Va’aelua said. “And that's not just set a partner level, it's at a customer level.”
From Va’aelua’s perspective, there are a lot of great ideas coming out of the local industry, however the capabilities aren’t always readily available from the typical traditional sources of the types of skills that are needed to implement the technology required to bring those great ideas to life.
“We're looking for our customers and even our partners, and even ourselves as distributors,” Va’aelua said. “We're looking for talent that doesn't exist.”
Va’aelua draws upon the example of New Zealand, where it has been noticed by those in the industry noticed that although there may be perhaps 15,000 or more roles available in technology, the country might only have 5,000 graduates to fill them, along with maybe another 5,000 offered via immigration channels. That still leaves a deficit of roughly 5,000.
“And that's not going to change each year,” he said. “That doesn't mean the jobs are filled, we're going to get more and more of these roles, and if that's the gap in New Zealand I can only imagine that the Australian gap is quantums higher.”
If top-down initiatives, such as education and government policy, struggle to fill the skills gap, perhaps some of the responsibility falls to industry players themselves to implement formal and informal initiatives aimed at encouraging and fostering relevant skills from within. And this is important: with the right skills, partners can add value and tap into more potential areas of profitability.
“The pressure comes back on us for that on the job training, the self-paced learning, to make sure that we are putting up strong types of skill-sets to help us to help our customers,” Va’aelua said.
This is a sentiment that Pia Broadley, director of vendor alliances at Tech Data A/NZ, can get behind. For Broadley, the work that technology organisations can do internally to build relevant skills not only benefits individuals, it also benefits businesses.
“If every person doesn’t have a plan for their own development...we should have a plan for their [individuals’] own development,” Broadley said, noting that her organisation, Tech Data, has promoted a number of people internally over the past 18 months or so to help them develop and reach their goals.
“They outlined what they want to do, and we've built out a plan for them; we've done training and enablement to get them skilled up, and we've got coaches to help people develop their skills,” Broadley said.
Drawing upon the classic example of how, once upon a time, a new salesperson would go out on the road with an experienced hand to learn the trade, Broadley pointed out that the practice of taking newcomers under the more experienced person’s wing and teaching skills in this manner remains a viable and essential method for building capabilities internally.
“You do it hand in hand every day and they learn from you,” Broadley said. “Not just training, but also watching the way you do things.”
According to Broadley, this is how Tech Data is approaching the issue of skills internally, with the company encouraging the kind of system in which someone wanting to build their skills can partner up with a buddy, someone who has a high level skill-set, to learn from.
But while building skills internally is essential, it is also important not to lose focus on what potential candidates from beyond the confines of the immediate industry can offer an organisation within the industry. This is one way partners, among other channel organisations, can identify and foster new talent.
“When we recruit, we recruit from outside the industry as well,” Broadley said. “One of our strongest performers in the last two years is someone who's come from the health industry. She ran a day spa, had fantastic customer service and we brought her into the business.
“She's now become so skilled within our business that we promoted her to product operations. And so I think it's on all of us to have the responsibility to help our people get to where they want to end and with technology as a pathway,” she said.
While fostering skills internally and from outside of the tech industry can address the skills shortage that's holding partners back from tapping into additional -- and potentially more profitable -- services, Microsoft partner development director Michael Girdis suggests that there are parts of the market still not fully leveraged.
“In the tech industry, we don't access the whole market. We don't tend to access the market for deep technical skills in gender,” Girdis said. “We don't seem to access the market in accessibility, actually. So, that's a society issue.”
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