Five areas CIOs who work with Microsoft technologies need to invest in

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Do your staff have the skills they need to support your IT strategy?

As a Microsoft Partner working with CIOs, heads of IT, developers, architects, administrators and more, we at Rencore wanted to find out if the digital age is providing more challenges, rather than opportunities when it comes to learning new skills. Our research – which also looks at what environments those companies are using, the challenges they have around security and governance and their plans for the future - is the result of an industry wide survey which garnered feedback from over 1,200 Office 365 and SharePoint professionals.

One of the most striking results from the survey was just how little training SharePoint professionals were receiving. For instance, a whole 9% of SharePoint architects said they had never received training, while a further 5% had only ever received it once. While the majority of respondents said they get at least some formal training, it was often just a couple of ad hoc sessions a year, one or two at best. In most cases, respondents mainly took responsibility for their own on-the-job training – over 90% spent time reading articles and blogs related to their work, and almost 60% attended conferences.

Is this a problem? And if so, is it contributing to the reported skills deficit?

We think so. Since Microsoft is constantly updating its platforms and introducing new technologies, your IT department’s skills can quickly get out of date. And, while ad hoc reading can definitely help, it will be significantly more valuable to send staff on structured courses where they learn and engage in key skills which will offer them real value n their day to day jobs – both now and into the future.

What skills do your staff need to get training on?

So, your staff need to have their skills updated, but which of the hundreds of available courses, training programs and eLearning sessions do you send them on? Of course, the simple solution is just to ask your employees. What do they feel they need to learn more about? What are their weak points? What do they think they could do with additional knowledge? What’s their ultimate ambition? Bear in mind, however, that your teams will only have a short-term view of what they need (and some may want to avoid training). So, you also need to think strategically about the kinds of training they need, too.

Based on the results of our survey, we have chosen the five areas we believe SharePoint and Office 365 developers, architects and admins will need additional training on in the coming months and years. These are:

Learn client-side development

With improvements in technology and the growth of the cloud, client side development is increasingly the best choice for enterprise technology development. Our survey found that around two thirds of respondents were comfortable with this approach – but in the next couple of years, everyone will need to adapt. This will require developers to understand a range of new skills and development architecture for building apps, add-ins and customizations. Above all, it will change the way they think about how apps are deployed to users.

Understand how to use the new SharePoint Framework

The SharePoint Framework is a new model from Microsoft which supports client side development as well as open source tooling. It is partially intended to open up Microsoft development to developers who don’t have any prior experience working with Microsoft products by using more widely available tools.

Learn mobile development - or fail

If your teams aren’t comfortable building apps, tools and customizations which provide the rest of the business with native and HTML experiences on their phones, they need to start now. It’s no secret that mobile devices are becoming increasingly important for enterprise productivity, so your SharePoint tools will need to be mobile-friendly.

Begin learning to use TypeScript

TypeScript is a superset of JavaScript that compiles plain JavaScript on any browser or host. Microsoft is encouraging SharePoint developers to use TypeForm to build more dynamic tools which connect more widely with tools and frameworks outside of Microsoft’s traditional .NET framework.

Start learning JavaScript languages (if you don’t already)

One of the key findings of our research was that a full 56% of our respondents told us they believed they would need to learn new programming languages and libraries, of which jQuery, Angular and Knockout were most commonly cited.

Don’t be afraid to train

As this CIO article points out, a lot of IT decision makers feel anxious about investing in training staff – what if they walk out the door after you’ve paid for an expensive training course? However, in the vast majority of cases, training means employees feel valued and more loyal to the business, and the training they receive gets immediately reapplied at the business and should deliver ROI fast. As the famous saying goes: “The only thing worse than training an employee and having them leave, is to not train them, and have them stay”. 

Read more: Report argues inflection point with SharePoint development imminent

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