Igniting innovation: 3 tips for intelligent use of cloud services
March 3, 2019
Author: Shane Day
Cloud is an essential ingredient to enable innovation in your organisation and establish a platform for digital transformation success.
The new normal
We’re fortunate to be living in a time of unprecedented change. With a credit card, a laptop, and an investment of time, new start-ups are challenging established businesses and disrupting entire industries. Cloud native organisations are able to achieve technical advantage by leveraging amazing technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, IoT, and intelligent edge services. Public Cloud providers, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform, enable global scalability and elasticity without stepping into a single data centre or purchasing a single server. Serverless technologies, such as AWS Lambda or Azure Cloud Functions, enable developers to build complex applications without patching or maintaining an operating system. These technologies work, they’re mature, and proven to deliver hyper-scale, real world solutions.
Whilst we can now consume advanced technology capabilities as a service, this is not the secret sauce that makes an organisation innovative or successful. I believe the success of innovative, cloud native organisations is drawn from their ability to leverage rapid innovation from public Cloud providers and free themselves from significant technology investments. They leverage Cloud as a platform for innovation to prioritise their customers and focus on providing products and services their customers don’t even know they need yet.
It is no longer a question of whether to use public Cloud services, but rather how to leverage Cloud to create an organisational culture focused on delivering the best customer experience and new solutions through smart use of these services.
It’s a reasonable question to ask — where is the evidence that Cloud native organisations are more innovative and more successful?
A historical look at the top 10 S&P weighted stock is a good place to start. In 1978 the only technology company to make the top 10, ranked by market capitalisation, was IBM. In 2018, technology companies are some of the most powerful organisations in the world, with the likes of Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, and AT&T dominating the top 10. In a short 40 year period, technology companies have transformed the American economy through innovation and disruption.
Whilst the transformation of the Australian economy has not been as dramatic as that of the United States, new digital native organisations are still making a considerable impact. Atlassian is at the forefront of this, with a market capitalisation of over USD$10B and over 2000 employees since being founded in 2002. One of my favourite Aussie startups, Canva, has also made a significant impact since its foundation in 2012. In six short years, Canva has rapidly become one of Australia’s few ‘Unicorns’; that is, a start-up with market capitalisation valued at more than $1B.
Financial metrics alone do not tell the full story of how cloud native organisations are innovating and disrupting. We believe that Cloud and DevOps go hand in hand. Each year, for the past 6 years, Puppet Labs has published a research report with clear evidence that higher IT performance leads to improved business outcomes. Through a productivity lens, high performing organisations spend ‘21 percent less time on unplanned work and rework, and 44 percent more time on new work’. This measure alone contributes to better employee engagement by keeping work interesting, and better profitability by focusing on new activities rather than issue resolution.
Cloud as a platform for innovation is still a way off for many organisations. The recently published “Rightscale: State of Cloud” report indicates that among enterprises, respondents are still running ~70% of workloads in non-public Cloud environments.
As a business, we too have been transformed by Cloud. From being at the forefront of Aussie start-ups during the .COM boom of the early 2000s, to becoming a provider of smart, creative, digital solutions organisation (and most importantly from working with organisations like yours), we’ve developed 3 quick tips to assist adoption of cloud as a platform for innovation:
One of the most difficult aspects of organisational change is removing the constraint of “we have always done it this way”. A common theme with high-performing IT organisations is their ability to adopt new technologies and ways of working without constraint. Cloud provides a unique opportunity for enterprises to rethink automation, applied security, service management, and, most importantly, organisation structures and processes.
2. Think big. Start small
The “State of DevOps” report articulates the importance of leadership vision and establishing a common purpose for your team. We believe that it is equally important to execute transformation following the lean startup method of breaking change down into ‘small batches’ and taking a build, measure, learn approach. In our experience, the twin mantras of ‘constant learning’ and ‘speed over perfection’ lead to the quickest and best long term results.
While creating a ‘centre of excellence’ or ‘innovation group’ may assist in commencing your transformation, your long term goal should be to focus on building an innovation culture and avoiding silos.
3. Seek expertise
“There is no compression algorithm for experience”, Andy Jassey, CEO Amazon Web Services.
Adopting public Cloud intelligently, breaking down barriers to develop DevOps practices, and creating a culture of innovation are significant changes. The good news is, as an industry, we’re now 10 years into the Cloud journey, and there is a wealth of expertise and learnings you can draw on to assist you in accelerating your journey.
Join a local meetup, attend an industry event such as AWS Summit, Microsoft Ignite or Google Cloud Summit, or reach out to partner such as Melbourne IT to discuss your Cloud and innovation aspirations.
Treating Cloud as “someone else’s data centre” will not create an agile organisation that is able to benefit from the changing digital, economic and social environment of tomorrow. The evidence shows that Cloud native organisations are more agile and innovative which directly leads to happier customers, more engaged employees and overall improved business performance. If Cloud is not part of your organisation’s innovation or transformation agendas, your competitors have a clear competitive advantage. Intelligent use of Cloud allows you to focus on your customers and your business, and not building data centres and managing servers.
I hope our tips help, in some small way, to spark your interest in trying something new, building something new, or simply thinking about how your organisation can leverage Cloud to innovate.
Shane Day is the General Manager of Cloud, Data, and Analytics for Arq Group’s Queensland team. Shane is passionate about assisting Australia’s leading organisations to deliver digital solutions that enable a great customer experience through smart use of Cloud services. Shane was pleased to be recognised as an AWS APN Cloud Warrior in 2018.
State of DevOps: https://puppet.com/resources/whitepaper/state-of-devops-report
Rightscale State of Cloud: https://www.rightscale.com/lp/state-of-the-cloud
Ahead in the Cloud: Best Practices for Navigating the Future of Enterprise IT: https://www.amazon.com/Ahead-Cloud-Practices-Navigating-Enterprise-ebook/dp/B07BYQTGJ7