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Unlock innovation in a cloud-filled world

Mark Ardito
Coworkers talking around table

Building the right foundation with strategy, tech, and culture

Over the last decade, the strategic technology spotlight has been on cloud adoption and what it can accomplish. “Innovation” was part of the conversation, as the capabilities that the cloud unlocked would lead to critical breakthroughs in the business.

Today, 81% of all enterprises have reported that they have a multi-cloud strategy already laid out or in the works. With so many organizations utilizing the cloud, why are so many still struggling to realize all the expected benefits and to create a culture of innovation?

I was recently joined by Brian Keyes, Global Lead App Innovation at Microsoft, to talk with leaders about the intersection of innovation and the cloud. The conversation answered some of the questions often raised by executives.

How does the cloud relate to innovation?

We are seeing companies pursue one of three cloud strategies: single cloud, multi-cloud, and cloud-agnostic. Each has advantages and disadvantages.

  1. Single cloud is simpler to manage and requires few skillsets to operate, but it could mean ending up locked in with a single vendor.
  2. Multi-cloud today leverages different vendors and often runs a different set of applications on each cloud, but the skillsets and expertise that are needed can be hard to find.
  3. Cloud-agnostic leverages the advantages of Kubernetes but doesn’t allow the use of a cloud provider’s native services.

    Innovation leaders are moving away from monolithic applications and toward a microservice-based architecture. They are using containerization and serverless technology to deliver results. They are building applications with portability in mind, focused on being able to run their tech anywhere. Containerization helps accomplish all that. It can add some complexity, but it also creates far more nimbleness.

Think in terms of Cloud+

Utilities are the backbone of our social infrastructure; cities are built next to water, societies are powered by electricity, and as those societies become digital, the technical infrastructure of tomorrow is enabled and scaled by cloud.

Just as water silently powered transport, industry, and domestic innovation, it’s not cloud itself that’s the story; it’s what we do with it. While over 94% of organizations utilize the cloud many are still struggling to see all the benefits because they are not viewing the cloud as the connected foundation of enterprise technology.

The key to seeing the true value in the cloud is marrying it to an innovative mindset and strategy. This intersection of cloud and innovation is what we call Cloud+. Cloud alone or innovation alone cannot make the difference that Cloud + innovation can.
Just as important as the developers it serves, the cloud can give enterprises the opportunity to reimagine the way they build & deploy software. More than that, coupled with innovation it can enable enterprises to reach the state of innovation you have been striving for.

Here are just a couple of example of pairing cloud with your larger innovative initiatives:

  • Cloud+ the enablement to start and run your own digital transformation.
  • Cloud+ intelligent data science, products, platforms and services.
  • Cloud+ industry innovation tailored to your vertical.
  • Cloud+ integrating leading platforms to effectively drive line of business

What are some of the challenges attached to fostering innovation?

Discussion participants shared industry-specific challenges. In the public utility space, for example, regulatory constraints can impede innovative initiatives. In highly competitive areas like fast moving computer goods, the ability of the IT function to keep pace can be a limiting factor for innovation. In industries like finance or travel, legacy systems must stay in place, so though cloud systems can be built around them, the degree of innovation can be limited. Still, in these and other similar cases, innovation can still make a difference to the business.

Where does innovation reside in an organization?

In the context of this discussion, innovation in a company is centered around the developers. In the general sense of the term, developers are builders, and that group includes more than the people pounding out code.

Developers have pioneered innovation that's disrupted many industries. They are people driving automation, driving the deployment, really anybody in engineering. They are the builders of our era, creating ideas and writing code or building systems that enable transformation and innovation for all our organizations.

What is developer velocity?

Developer velocity is about unleashing the potential and talent of the developer teams. It’s an objective measure of a team's ability to deliver results quickly. It's not just about driving business performance through more quickly, it's also about delivering business performance through new development or existing development. It’s also about unleashing the creativity and ingenuity that exist in every developer and their ability to turn their ideas into software and systems that support the needs and goals of the business.

Why is developer velocity important?

Developer velocity as a metric helps pinpoint where efficiency gains can be made, indicates where innovation can be applied, and our customer experience and revenue streams can be improved.

Developer velocity can help:

  • Decrease time to market
  • Increase market nimbleness.
  • Gain competitive advantage as a result of experimentation
  • Mitigate risks tied to new feature implementation
  • Indicate where automation and modernization can benefit development processes

Developer velocity also relates to employee satisfaction The higher the velocity, the more developers can focus on brainstorming, innovating, and creating solutions and products that help the business.

What is the leader’s role in developer velocity?

A leader’s role in creating developer velocity is to empower their developers (in the larger definition of the term), to create the right environment for them to innovate, and to remove any friction that exists in the environment. And, of course, keeping that talent happy and motivated to drive success.

Technology for the sake of technology is pointless. Over the last several years, we've seen organizations realize that future success is dependent upon taking advantage of the technology that they have in front of them to rethink their models, to drive innovation, and to improve those processes.

Technology needs to be about delivering results and being able to respond to new issues and challenges. The key to seeing the true value in the cloud is marrying it to an innovative mindset and strategy. Cloud doesn’t transform an organization, it is not differentiating, what it is, however, is an enabler for innovative growth. To truly spark innovative thinking and ideas, organizations must focus on their strategy, technology, and, most importantly, culture.

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