Cloud training in large enterprises and SMBs: 3 things we learned at Cloud Academy

It’s great to be back on the blog! Today, I want to tell you more about our journey in the cloud industry over the last two years and share the three key things that we have learned from our customers on cloud training for both SMBs and large enterprises, after onboarding a few thousand companies on Cloud Academy.

More than two years ago, Andy Jassy, CEO at Amazon Web Services, made a pretty strong statement on stage at the annual AWS re:Invent: “Cloud is the new normal.

Around that time, Cloud Academy as a company was still young, and we were mainly focused on our Individual offering. Two years later, hundreds of companies are using Cloud Academy for Teams (try it for free for 14 days with your team), and I’d like to share our experiences and insight regarding that bold statement.

First of all, who are the corporate customers using Cloud Academy?

Before we dive deep, I’m sure you are wondering “But who are your customers and why do they care about Cloud Academy?” Great question! This also happens to be the question that I ask myself every day as we work to improve our product and content!  There is no single answer.

We now have customers from consulting, finance and banking (two of the most important U.S. banks use Cloud Academy daily to train thousands of employees), pharmaceutical, tech, and from other verticals where we are seeing increased cloud adoption, just in the last year. These customers buy Cloud Academy for two main reasons: They are migrating to the cloud or they have already completed migration and are now training the entire workforce. Amazon Web Services is very common, but more and more companies are coming to us for Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform. Some of them also love the idea of having a fast track for DevOps and containers for their teams.

During this time, there are three major things that we’ve learned about how cloud technologies work for SMBs and large enterprises. Let’s take a look at them.

1. Developers and IT professionals move companies to the cloud

This is a constant and something that we keep seeing in large enterprise companies.

Developers love working with cloud platforms. The cloud makes it easy for them to run software and dynamically access resources.

AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud have designed and launched a variety of building blocks that developers love to assemble for creating solutions, especially new solutions. I’ll share an example from the Cloud Academy team. We built – from scratch – an AWS-based data pipeline serverless solution to collect and manage our data across all of our platforms and we did it within AWS, combining several different “building blocks” (congrats to David and the entire team!). The same is happening in companies across the globe, and it is pushing them to migrate and engage more with public cloud solutions. Their developers can move faster and, as a result, the companies attract more and more people with cloud skills. “Time-to-market” is what companies understand better than anything else.

While CIOs and other C-level leaders are often the main drivers of cloud migrations, I still see a great number of organizations moving to the cloud with a bottom-up approach. I love it. These organizations have change management leaders and “champions” who are clearly driving internal migration projects and, in doing so, they adopt training to ensure that everyone has the appropriate skills to support these projects.

2. Continuous cloud training does make a difference, but it’s only the beginning

Cloud technologies have forced all of us to consider continuous training. Our content library is constantly evolving, with new content added monthly and new content or updates added to every single piece of content (Hands-on Labs, Quizzes, or Video Courses). This is a clear shift and one that we’re seeing for the first time. While companies were not getting this concept two years ago, today, continuous training is one of the top three reasons why our corporate accounts purchase Cloud Academy for their teams.
But why does training need to be continuous? Hyperscale platforms such as AWS, Google Cloud Platform, and Microsoft are now shipping 1,000+ new features and products every year. Staying productive in this environment means that the whole team has to be current on the latest changes and technologies. The cloud moves particularly fast, and we have seen how our customers appreciate having a resource to help their people learn and stay up to date. We see customers who are using our product so that their employees can understand what’s going on in this industry, and are then empowered to make business decisions.

As a vendor-independent solution, we look at every single cloud technology or vendor in a very unbiased way, with the objective of giving our customers the ability to make educated choices by providing them with a platform that unleashes their critical thinking.
Continuous training is one of the main reasons why a lot of our enterprise customers adopt Cloud Academy, but this is just the beginning of the relationship. Some of our customers are organizing internal workshops using our content (and more frequently, our Hands-on Labs) to provide real examples based on their infrastructure. We also learned how important it is for big companies to constantly remind their employees to engage with Cloud Academy and to give them time to learn and test their skills. 
When do people spend time studying? This is very interesting. For managers with teams distributed worldwide, we help them figure this out by tracking progress and analytics with the Management Dashboard included in Cloud Academy for Teams. We see that weekends are huge. A lot of our customers spend time on Saturday and Sunday to complete Learning Paths (often in the evening). It is impossible to predict when people will study using our content; our users study when they have time, bite by bite. Our job is to provide access to our platform so that they can make the most of it on their own time. We have also noticed that users are frequently launching our mobile application to self-assess their skills with quizzes, typically during short daily breaks.

Different teams use different approaches. Some companies allow their employees to use only documentation and tutorials to accelerate their learning process. Sometimes, this approach works. But in at least two projects that we are familiar with, this approach has led to confusion (“what do we need to study?”). The major risk of this approach is that it is likely to bring mixed results for teams. For people who are familiar with the challenge of procuring effective training for their teams, this is nothing new: people love to choose how to study and when. Providing them with the right resources (content and platform) helps them achieve their goals faster.

3. Companies are really going multi-cloud

Yes. We confirmed this after several meetings with large enterprises where we learned about their multi-cloud strategy. Typically, they plan to start with one big vendor (Amazon or Azure most of the time) and then expand to other cloud vendors and technologies. Several customers that were supposed to work only on a single platform see that their employees now consume Cloud Academy content related to a variety of vendors and technologies. This is not a distraction, it is just proof that Cloud Academy’s content is relevant to the work that those employees need to perform!

From DevOps to something new like Kubernetes, it’s pretty clear that people love to learn about different technologies and build solutions using all of them. Several companies are encouraging their employees to do it in order to build more robust infrastructure or to simply make sure they are using the best technology to build their software. A few weeks ago, our own Marco Parenzan did exactly that: he tried to build a serverless application using AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud and then wrote a detailed comparison. This is a summary:

AWS Lambda, Google Cloud, Azure Functions
A great post at Cloud Academy comparing different solutions on AWS, Azure and Google Cloud Platform to build a Serverless application

As we move away from a pure infrastructure play, we are seeing large companies eager to look for best practices and guidance on how to build the best software using different cloud vendors. I expect this trend to become the new normal for large companies and for small- to medium-sized businesses.
I will be back in a few weeks with more information on the cloud adoption trends that we are seeing in large companies across several verticals.

If you’d like to test drive Cloud Academy for Teams for your team, request our free, 14-day trial for full access.

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