Five steps to upskill your IT team for SaaS

Making the move to SaaS can be a complicated process, putting new demands on your existing IT team to adapt to their new technical environment. By maintaining a focus on key skills and plugging knowledge gaps, your current IT specialists can quickly adapt and thrive in their new SaaS environment.

SaaS-capable organisations require a core set of technical knowledge and skills to create and maintain scalable, secure and transparent infrastructure. Achieving this requires individuals who are familiar with technologies like Platform as a Service, Infrastructure as Code and API integrations, among others. Naturally, very few organisations will have all the required capabilities ready to go on day one.  The most effective SaaS-driven organisations realise the need for a robust process that allows them to continuously update the technical capabilities of their IT resources.

Most likely, your IT team will be comfortable with your existing IT set up and may find it daunting to transition to the SaaS model. Moving from on premise to SaaS is a major change and as with any transition, there is going to be some degree of anxiety and uncertainty among your team.

The key to addressing their concerns is being open and transparent about what the change entails, and by clarifying expectations. Creating a SaaS transition plan, leveraging their existing knowledge and helping them upskill are the best ways to smoothen the transition and equip them to handle the challenges of working in a SaaS environment.

Let’s explore the five steps you can take to ensure your IT team is SaaS-ready.

Take stock of their current capabilities

Your IT team probably has a wealth of knowledge not just of your organisation’s IT needs, but also of the operational needs. The first step is to assess your team’s current technical skills. Capability assessment frameworks can be a useful way to evaluate current skill levels and continuously monitor relevant skills as the team evolves. This does not have to be a complicated exercise: simple online surveys or interviews can help collate what technical skills are available in-house. If your organisation is migrating from an on-premise infrastructure to a SaaS solution, ensure someone on your team has experience with the original on-premise apps and with the specific SaaS apps your organisation will be migrating to. They will be able to provide valuable insight into integration design, customisations, and the integrity of the data that must be migrated.

It is important to note that new SaaS applications may not map directly onto older, custom software. One SaaS offering could encompass different needs previously handled by multiple custom software solutions, or one legacy software solution could be replaced by multiple SaaS offerings. The solution is to focus on specific functions, rather than the software itself. This will sidestep the hassle of mapping every single individual app from the old environment to the new one. This makes SaaS capabilities—including data policies, data integration and related analytics architecture—an important skill set.

Determine desired skills and knowledge

Once existing capabilities have been assessed, identifying gaps and developing strategies to close them is the next step. When it comes to establishing SaaS fundamentals, most of the necessary skills fall under three broad categories:

This can involve networking, APIs, virtualisation, interoperability, business continuity, data management, budgeting, and governance.

This includes implementing, monitoring, and maintaining mission-critical SaaS apps, including major services like storage, user permissions and workflows for those apps.

Security and compliance
This covers the implementation of security controls, cyber security posture, managing identities and access, data protection and compliance requirements.

Invest in upskilling and training your teams

Everyone on the IT team needs a solid understanding of what SaaS is, commonly encountered scenarios, and how SaaS fits in with the business’s everyday functions. Joint workshops with IT and relevant business divisions are usually the best way to do this, as both groups can learn about the basics of SaaS administration, architecture and security. These workshops lead to a stronger relationship between IT and business, helping both groups gain a better understanding of the role SaaS plays in the organisation.

Reward employees that invest in learning

While most organisations default to a carrot-and-stick approach to motivate their teams to upskill, it does not deliver the best results. Conventional rewards in IT departments are too often seen as meaningless and demotivating, especially if the team feels they are being micromanaged. To achieve the best outcomes, your IT team needs to feel they are trusted and valued members of the organisation, with a role to play in the growth of the business. They must be empowered to find their own solutions and be able to count on support from the organisation in implementing them.

Giving employees the option to obtain a professional certificate is a great first step on inspiring them to upskill. Also, consider rewarding your team with dedicated time for passion projects, which boosts morale and helps them leverage their skills in new ways. Finally, get them involved in the business aspects of your organisation so they can see the bigger picture of delivering tangible business value, that contributes to the strategic objectives of the organisation.

Prioritise certifications for upskilling and recruiting

Certificates mean transparency and credibility both within the organisation and beyond it. Using certifications as a benchmark for evaluating skills can be a major asset when assessing internal candidates or defining new job roles. Having certifications that are well-regarded in the industry are strong indicators of proficiency, and making sure your team, or any potential new hires, have industry-recognised certifications are a great way to ensure you have the best IT talent for managing your SaaS framework.

Operating with a strong SaaS capability is a necessity for any organisation that aspires to lead in their business category. But SaaS is not a magic bullet; it takes sustained effort and investment in both people and technology to reap its benefits. In the long run, the winners will not be the ones who just transitioned to the SaaS model, but those who maintained it, built on it, and continually developed both their technology stack and invested in the people who managed it.

Publish date

19 Feb 2021

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