While we continue to adopt cloud enthusiastically, recent reports suggest that having the right set of skills is becoming a serious challenge for many organisations looking to maximise their presence in the cloud.

Industry analyst, IDC, reports that 1.7m cloud computing jobs globally could not be filled in last year because applicants lacked the necessary training and experience needed to work in cloud-enabled businesses. The firm predicts that the demand for skilled cloud professionals will grow by 26 per cent each year until 2015, creating as many as 7m cloud jobs globally.

So, it seems that skills are in short supply just at a time when we need them most. But what kind of skills are companies that are embarking on cloud projects looking for and can they develop and retain these skills in-house or will they need to look further afield?

In a recent global cloud report, which looked at attitudes to adoption and levels of enthusiasm for cloud computing, it was found that just 12 per cent of companies ranked ‘in-house skills availability’ as the most important factor when considering deploying a new application service or changing an existing one. It seems that business agility, security and cost are all considered more important for many businesses.

UK companies also expressed concerns over data protection and regulation issues, with more than a quarter admitting that they were the ‘primary’ reason for slower than expected adoption. Companies are already delaying projects because of fears over security and compliance to the extent that it is now the biggest barrier to cloud adoption.

So while it’s clear that a good knowledge of information security should be at the top of our cloud skills wish list, rather then developing these, businesses are adopting old ways of thinking when it comes to new service delivery models like the cloud. Many organisations are also making assumptions about the skills required to develop, design and deliver secure cloud services.

We all need to do our bit to help better educate end users and their teams. There is a real opportunity for cloud providers, the security sector and the industry as a whole to demonstrate to customers the realities of security threats and to inform them that security and risk management skills must be embedded into cloud projects from day one. But these are not skills that can be bolted on later; they must be addressed at the planning and development stages and carried through to implementation and beyond.

Collaboration and agility are also essential skills for ensuring the cloud can deliver innovation to services and the customer experience, and will provide a distinct advantage to organisations looking to win, grow and retain customers. The digital economy means a greater focus on services and having these skills, along with the ability to understand the risks to the business, will be the difference.

The question remains whether organisations are already planning ahead and looking to develop and nurture the right cloud skills by retraining existing staff, or bringing in specialists to help them maximise their investment in the cloud. What is clear though is that a good knowledge and understanding of information security is fundamental for equipping organisations with the confidence to take full advantage of cloud technology.