Unlocking innovation with the cloud

By Guy Brill, Cloud Capability Leader at SMS Manageme

How do you change the way you interact with your customers and fully leverage the opportunities of digital technologies, while maintaining agility driven by strong competition?

Cloud adoption will certainly continue to grow. Whether companies choose public, private or even hybrid cloud, the reality is that local organisations are increasingly realising the innovation and agility that cloud can offer through its scalable, flexible and cost effective model.

Unlocking innovation in the cloud is only made achievable through a combination of technology and deployment methodology. Businesses focused on digital transformation don’t have to start from scratch - the foundations are there with models such as ITIL, ITSM and more recently DevOps and continuous delivery. Embracing these new processes will enable digital transformation and allow the business to be competitive and efficient.

Digital technologies are changing the way in which we interact, engage and consume. However, the true innovation is coming from the disruption of traditional consumption models and paradigms. Just looking at the wide demographic of customers will help identify the impact of social and mobile technology, and how this should be driving the uptake of a business. Looking at analytics and the power of cloud then opens up a new world of possibilities to take data and extract business insights in real time.

Innovation in the cloud

Cloud computing has also brought new important players and technologies to be taken into consideration. DevOps is an approach that brings the shared responsibility model right to the developer and operations team. With common incentives, tools, processes and culture, organisations can remove the “not my problem” mentality at that critical time of go live, or in the early hours of the morning. DevOps makes the developers accountable for the code and the operations.

Continuous delivery /continuous innovation (CI/CD) has fundamentally changed the world of waiting for a change window and forces traditional change management to rethink its approach. Customers demand new features and deployment constantly. Processes and tooling now needs to support releasing early and often, with higher quality of code.

Microservices has amplified the ability for small, loosely coupled components to bring a shift to the way services are consumed. In a Microservices architecture, services should be small and the protocols should be lightweight. The benefit of distributing responsibilities of the system into different smaller services is that it enhances the cohesion and decreases the coupling, making it easier to change and add functions and qualities to the system at any time.

Embarking on projects in the cloud

For those companies already realising the innovation benefits of the cloud, here are some guidelines to ensure cloud projects have the best chance of success:

Know what you are measuring - In order to determine whether a project is a success, it helps to know exactly what success looks like. Questions should be asked such as “Is the aim to prove the project from a technological perspective?” and “How much do you need to make the business case for scaling now instead of waiting?”

Tackle the problem in sections - Agile innovation means a testing environment that’s small, quick and low cost. Businesses should select a sample size that can be quickly uploaded into the system and run through its paces, while making sure it’s representative enough to extract useful metadata and get meaningful results.

Get stakeholders involved - The successful introduction of new systems is as much about the people as it is the technology. Understanding what sort of information that the rest of the business is looking for, and how they already search for it is vital to creating a good environment for analytics. The scope of the project may limit how useful it is across the entire organisation, but getting a cross-section involved in the testing phase will generate more valuable feedback. An organisation can use this to develop a better picture of what’s working and how the project should continue to develop.

Retain focus - Enthusiasm for a project is great. For one thing, it means a company will have plenty of advocates when it comes time to sell the business case for scaling the project. However, it’s important not to let people’s exuberance derail it via “death by a thousand requests”. Add all requests to a backlog that can be revisited once a project becomes fully-fledged. 

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