The shortage of talented staff in the UK channel is among resellers' biggest concerns, according to Microsoft, which said demand for cloud services is outstripping the number of channel staff able to deliver them.
Speaking at the vendor's Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) in Washington, its UK general manager of its small and medium-sized enterprise and partner group, Clare Barclay (pictured), said demand for cloud was so strong last year that there are not enough skilled partners to take on all the business.
Across the division Barclay takes care of – which is made up of commercial customers of all sizes apart from the top tier of huge enterprises – sales last year grew annually by 18 per cent, which matched the growth of the whole UK subsidiary over the same period.
"The UK is growing faster than any other market, faster than emerging markets, which is amazing," Barclay told CRN.
She said while some of the "very strong" growth came from XP upgrades and the upcoming end of support for Windows Server 2003, the lion's share came from the cloud. All of Microsoft UK's cloud businesses grew in the triple digits last year, she said, adding that in the SMB space, the firm had managed to get another 65,000 customers on Office 365.
The rate of cloud adoption has shot up so dramatically that the level of skilled staff in the channel has yet to catch up, she added.
"We don't have enough partners with the skills or the capabilities in order to service the demand we have got," she said. "It is a nice place to be but it also presents us with a challenge.
"One of the biggest [worries] I hear from partners is their ability to find good people – there's a big skills problem that we have going on in the channel. When many of them need to hire good people, they hire from each other, and the wages are going up and so on."
In order to bridge the gap, over the past year Microsoft UK has helped place 5,000 apprentices in the channel, she said, adding that partners themselves are also doing a great job of sourcing and nurturing talent.
"We're committed to help grow new people into the industry," she said. "It is not going to get solved overnight but we're putting big investments and skills programmes [in place] next year for our partners, both in their technical capabilities and sales capabilities, to help them."
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