Which Cloud Training Vendor Should I Choose? A 10-Step Vendor Checklist.

As companies increasingly move into a digital future, many of their digital transformation initiatives—modernizing IT, tackling big data, setting the stage for tech innovation—are made possible by the cloud. According to Gartner¹, more than half of global enterprises using cloud today will adopt an all-in cloud strategy by 2021.
Cloud skills—and the expertise to lead best practices and optimize spending and performance—are an essential element of this shift. It’s also where many companies are struggling to keep up. A recent report by Rackspace put it bluntly: $258 million is being lost annually due to a lack of cloud computing expertise.²

$258 million is being lost annually due to a lack of cloud computing expertise.

This shift isn’t just about technology, it’s also about culture—the people and the processes that you’ll depend on to deliver results. We’re talking about building a culture of cloud.
Whether you’re on your first migration or going cloud-first, the right cloud training partner will be an essential part of your digital transformation strategy.
Here is a checklist to start your vendor selection process.

1. Experiential Learning

Professionals build skills by learning concepts then applying them in a hands-on environment.
There is no substitute for active, hands-on learning where users can apply their skills to solve a real and relevant problem. This is experiential learning, and it can result in up to 90% knowledge retention compared to just 5% for traditional learning.³
Here, users have the chance to tackle challenges they’ll face on the job, but in the security of a working, yet risk-free environment where mistakes translate into learning experiences, not business consequences. This learning by doing approach builds on theory from more traditional training such as courses, and it helps build the confidence and familiarity necessary to contribute to your cloud environment.
At a minimum, select a vendor that mimics the technical environment where your staff will be applying their skills.

2. Multi-Cloud Focus

If you’re not already multi-cloud, chances are that you will be responsible for multi-cloud initiatives soon.
Most enterprises today are using a combination of platforms to achieve performance and cost benefits specific to a workload or application. The “best tech” approach allows them to be flexible and avoid vendor lock-in, which is often cited as a concern for those migrating to the cloud. IDC estimates that by 2021, more than 90% of enterprises will use multiple cloud services and platforms.
Managing across cloud platforms will require a broad range of experience to evaluate for best fit and costs, and to ensure consistency of SLAs, security, and compliance across multiple cloud vendors.
Your teams need resources that allow them to keep up with the pace of change across the leading DevOps and public cloud providers. 

3. Content Refresh Rate

Most vendor-specific tutorials found online are stale by the time your employees find them.
In cloud computing, the pace of new releases—services, technologies, competitive pricing—is staggering. As a result, training materials have a short shelf life, especially as competition between the three main platforms heats up a little more each year. Among the public cloud providers, Amazon Web Services continues to lead in revenue and market share. However, the competition—Google Cloud Platform, and especially Microsoft Azure—is gaining ground with more competitive services and pricing each year.
Keeping up with the volume of updates and new releases on a single platform can be a challenge in itself. At its annual conference, re:Invent, AWS announced 70 new products and services, for a total of around 1,300 new releases this year, or 3.5 new features per day.
Training content must reflect the latest releases and services to ensure you’re getting the maximum benefit from the cloud.
Make sure to understand how frequently existing courses and labs are revisited by authors. Higher frequency rates mean faster skill adoption and higher employee engagement.

4. User Engagement

Carefully consider user experience during a proof of concept with the vendor. How easy is it for employees to engage?
According to Gartner¹, lack of engagement is responsible for 70% of business transformation failures.

Lack of engagement is responsible for 70% of business transformation failures.

This figure underscores the importance of user engagement in any initiative but especially for those as important as building critical skills that users need to hit the ground running.
A gamification approach addresses the recognition, reward, and competition aspects that have been shown to improve user experience of training and knowledge retention. Gamification taps into certain psychological elements—motivation, ability, and triggers—to help employees engage with training. Points, achievement badges, and competitive leaderboards have been shown to keep users motivated and to reinforce learning objectives at the same time.
Healthy competition among teams leads to higher engagement as well. Is gamification built in?

5. Skill Measurement / ROI

The learning platform should measure skill adoption and engagement with all aspects of the platform (e.g. practice, assessment, and courses).
Although skills acquisition isn’t always easy to quantify, budgets rely on hard numbers to justify your training investment. According to LinkedIn Learning Solutions, ROI is second only to business impact on CEOs’ list of metrics for training and development. A successful learning platform must be able to provide insight—with concrete and useful metrics—that is built in.
Make sure there are mechanisms to measure ROI quantitatively to verify that employees are acquiring the skills required to work in your environment. 
Click on the image for the full list of criteria for choosing a cloud training vendor.

1 Gartner . July16.
2 Rackspace. “The Cost of Cloud Expertise.” 2017.
3 3 Reasons That Experiential Learning Boosts Performance, April 17.
4 2017 Workplace Learning Report. 

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