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We are sitting at lunch with some of the client’s non-IT managers. The conversation turns to all the spectacular technology advancements that are cascading out of the daily news – self-driving cars, rockets that can land back on earth after launching satellites, and venture capital actually funding fusion power companies.

Naturally the dialogue swings to the digitization of business and how the cloud is both the bedrock and accelerator. We start ticking off all the new apps in marketing, finance, and human resources when the HR director says she is worried about all those being too Islamic. Stunned silence descends.

After a beat, I ask what does she mean by that. Well, she says: “I understand that all these applications are built on ISIS.” Stunned silence number two descends. Making a leap, I offer: “Oh, you mean IaaS, which means Infrastructure as a Service.” A few chuckles go around but further questions reveal that almost no one at the table really has a clue about any of the workings of cloud computing.

Think it’s funny? Surveys indicate that 51% believe bad weather affects cloud computing and only 16% know what it really is. Among small and medium-sized business only a few have a grasp on cloud. Other analysts indicate that less than 5% of investors understand what cloud computing really is.

These are smart folks – all college educated and some with advanced degrees – and they are driving the IT spending of their company. Gartner suggests that they will soon be responsible for more of the firm’s IT spending than the CIO. When these execs put together a business case supporting a project, they are expected to be conversant in basic budgeting and accounting. In their day-to-day management, they are expected to understand basic HR law and their company’s policies. Nobody is suggesting they should be experts but they need to have the basics down and reach out to the experts when trying to navigate deeper waters. But, this does not appear true about cloud. What goes on here?

Sadly, this reflects a general gap in our U.S. education, perhaps even a cultural dissing of technology knowledge. Even though we are incredibly dependent upon computing, and now especially cloud computing, few of us have any grounding in some of the rudimentary aspects. STEM teaching lags what goes on in the real world. Even for those of us who were exposed to science and math, we had to deal with subjects like calculus. Unless you are an engineer, when was the last time you used calculus?

Today’s business challenges and opportunities are addressed with computing but we have a lot of people flying blind. There are now some initiatives where basic computer science will be taught in high schools but it is still early days. Meanwhile, what about the millions of managers out there today? How do we bring them up to speed? Remember, we are not looking to turn them into coding gurus just reasonably conversant with the concepts.

Businesses are waking up to this fact. Their folks’ level of technical knowledge is essential to future success. Some have declared like AT&T: Adapt or else! Everywhere you look, even old-line manufacturing companies recognize that their whole world is changing and they need to up their cloud knowledge level. Even 113-year-old Ford Motor has seen the handwriting on the wall and is scrambling to get ready for the new future by buying cloud expertise.

Make no mistake; a certain amount of cloud literacy is essential for you to personally advance. Big picture: your company’s continued prosperity depends on a cloud-savvy manager and employee class. The concepts are not hard to master – it’s really not magic – but their implications in so many areas are momentous. The cloud facilitates all those earth-shaking advances mentioned earlier and there are so many more coming that will affect your work, your health, your children’s education and you name it. What are you going to do personally and for your firm?

Comic reproduced with kind permission from CloudTweaks.

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