Necip Ozyucel, cloud and enterprise business group lead, Microsoft Gulf, tells CNME why he believes cloud training is now more important than ever for IT professionals in the Middle East and North Africa region.
How can Microsoft Azure training make IT professionals more valuable to their organisation?
If you think about supply and demand, in terms of the latter, our customers want more digital transformation. If you look at digital transformation from the outside, it’s about how we can help our customers engage with their clients in better ways. Then, it’s about how we can help them create more efficiency for their employees. Next, it’s a case of how we can optimise their processes, and help them change their business models or products.
We recently announced a business analytics deployment for Majid Al Futtaim which allows them to harness their data and drive future actions, and that’s an example of this success.
Digital transformation is something of a survival game. If you look at the S&P 500 in 1960, the average age of its companies was 60-years-old. The average age in 2017 is just 12. Startups are coming and disturbing incumbents; companies need to change to avoid becoming obsolete. They are using digital transformation to become more agile, control costs and launch new products, and change their business models before someone disrupts them. In terms of supply, cloud is the main change driver.
If you think about Azure, we have 38 regions, and each one has more than one data centre, and can accommodate up to 12. There are one million miles of our fibers between these data centres, with a total of 120,000 new customers every month. With such an opportunity, whether you’re a startup or an enterprise, there’s no barrier in terms of IT. You can start small and scale up as business grows. On top of the fundamentals of cloud, we are now offering advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, internet of things and machine learning.
For example, we are also deploying projects for facial recognition to understand customer satisfaction levels after an interaction, as well as chatbots for 24/7 service.
There is demand for digital transformation and supply in terms of cloud, but we need someone to use these technologies. This is the role of IT professionals and decision makers. We are trying to enable them with these tools to use for the sake of digitally transforming their companies and products.
Almost all IT professionals use Microsoft services or products so are already familiar with us, but in the last year we have added more than 600 new tools and features to Azure. Cloud is a new topic and is growing rapidly, so catching up is not easy. That’s why we’re investing in Azure Skills and readiness opportunities, to enable IT decision makers to use cloud.
How can this kind of training help IT professionals to enhance their own careers?
We have similar tools, including Microsoft Virtual Academy, Mechanics and Channel 9, which are videos that summarise the benefits of technologies. We also have 2-4 month face-to-face training courses through our learning partners, while Azure Skills is a massive open online course (MOOC), which sits between that. Those are online, 16-24-hour, self-based training courses. We have 18 different courses, which are both hands on and theoretical. There are courses for developing applications, keeping your identity safe and infrastructure services on Azure. Those are the training courses that we ask our IT professionals to complete.
Post-training, we provide certificates of completion, and they can also take official Microsoft exams to complement those.
Is the lack of cloud skills the biggest inhibitor for widespread adoption in the Middle East and North Africa region?
It seems so. In a 2016 Gartner study, CIOs indicated that the number one barrier for advancing their business in terms of IT was IT skills. There are other studies that show that cloud skills make IT professionals more employable. Cloud is new but is improving very rapidly in terms of technologies, because there are no major releases. We launched Windows 8 and Vista as separate versions. For Azure, there are no version changes; it keeps evolving with new functionalities and scenarios. There is a gap in terms of cloud skills, which is only increasing.
Why is cloud training now more important than ever?
Cloud is the biggest enabler, and other trends such as social, mobility and Big Data are fuelling one another. For example, in terms of data, there are 10 zettabytes of data in existence, but by 2020, that number will have risen to 50. If we have cloud platforms, more mobile devices connect, and more data can be collected. Understanding cloud from left to right is key for digital transformation to save cost and increase agility and innovation.
Certifications and training are the key things in terms of companies hiring talent. Improving IT professionals is very important for them to improve their earning potential and play an important role as change agents.