Ed Lenta, Managing Director, Asia Pacific, Amazon Web Services [NASDAQ: AMZN]
Every organisation has a different reason for starting its cloud transformation journey. Some want to consolidate their data assets. Others want to respond faster to the changing needs of their customers. And some are seeking a platform that will help them launch new ventures, and explore local, and global market opportunities.
For instance, security service provider, Certis, has achieved massive gains in efficiency by turning to the cloud, lowering security costs by up to 10 times. Beyond migration, Certis has also leveraged the cloud to launch a new AI-enabled application that is currently pioneering a new wave of security technology.
Cloud adoption has been gaining traction in the Asia Pacific region and will continue to do so, where public cloud spending is projected to hit a record $32.27 billion in the year 2021, according to IDC.
Since 2006, Amazon Web Services (AWS) has helped thousands of organisations of all sizes across Asia Pacific launch their journeys into the cloud. And over time, one of the things I’ve discovered is that while each transformation is unique, the most successful have four distinctive traits in common.
They have Visionary Leadership and a Clear Sense of Purpose
It’s hard to overstate the importance that visionary leadership plays in a successful cloud strategy.
Visionary leaders are constantly reinventing their customer experience because if they don’t, someone else will and they risk being disrupted. These leaders inspire teams by painting a picture of what the future state of their organization will look like, and the benefits that will flow from it. By establishing a clear sense of the organisation’s purpose, and effectively communicating how the organization’s cloud strategy will fulfil that purpose, the leadership team can align employees throughout the company, to a common goal.
Certis is such an organization, that has created a clear roadmap of its long-term vision in establishing a cloud first strategy. It has undergone deep, multi-faceted transformation over the past few years to change its business model and transition from a physical security services provider to an advanced integrated security services company. Digitalising through cloud computing has garnered better data and insights, allowing Certis to re-imagine the customer journey.
1. They are Builders, not Buyers
True leadership means running ahead of the pack, and that means being able to continuously experiment, fail fast, learn, and move on to the next experiment to unlock innovation.
To me, the most successful cloud transformation leaders are builders, not buyers. They take the building blocks that we provide and assemble them in ways that even we can’t anticipate, creating new platforms, products, and services that enhance their operations and create launch pads for new business strategies.
The only way to truly learn how to execute a successful cloud transformation programme is to start one
Being a builder also means investing in their own organizational capabilities by hiring and training the skilled people they need to move them forward. For example, Singapore Airlines launched a digital innovation blueprint recently, where organization culture played a big part. It has invested in training employees to embrace a digital mindset and imbibe agile thinking when approaching a problem. Initiatives such as the Digital Innovation Lab, which encourages and funds ideas to improve the customer journey, motivated employees to become builders.
2. They Think Big, but Start Small
Cloud transformation leaders know the world is changing, and they are determined to change with it. So, they just get started. They let go of the idea of defining an end state, because they understand that anything they design today may be superseded in just a handful of years.
Instead, they use the process of transformation itself to help them define their destination. They learn through the process of doing, and course correct accordingly when their increasing knowledge and experience tells them this is necessary. In this way they become highly adaptable not just in response to changing market conditions, but also to what their newfound insights tell them.
The only way to truly learn how to execute a successful cloud transformation programme is to start one. We describe this as letting the tactics inform the strategy – if the strategy is to be an agile, cloud-based organization, then the task is do the things that agile, cloud-based organizations do. The techniques and architectures and operating models put in place become informed by the real experiences of the people who are doing that work.
3. They Excite and Enable Everyone they can to Innovate
Successful cloud transformation leaders spread cloud competency throughout their organization by exciting staff about the future state and what will be possible, while also giving them the skills to make the most of that future state.
At AWS, we have a range of proven programmes and initiatives to help our clients excite and enable their staff at all levels, such as AWSome Days, which provide broad-based awareness, and cloud 101 training. We create executive-level simulations which demonstrate how an organization might evolve and take leaders through the various decisions they will have to make along the way. In fact, we are now bringing these into a structured programme that will help our clients reach as many employees as possible and get the most out of their cloud journey.
The goal is to have staff in product development thinking about the new services that can be built in a cloud-native environment, while their colleagues in marketing begin to explore how that some platform can be used for spreading the word to customers. At the same time, the finance team might be learning about the impact of pay-as-you-go models on both income and expenditure, while the procurement and legal teams begin considering the impact on purchasing and contracts.
The benefits organizations receive are directly connected to how quickly and deeply leaders and teams begin thinking about how to empower their builders to innovate for their customers.
Bringing all Four Traits Together
Australia’s National Australia Bank (NAB) is an exemplar of these four traits in action. Its cloud-enablement training programme Cloud Guild was established in April 2018 with the vision to give more than 2000 employees the opportunity to quickly ramp up on AWS technologies, and develop skills that would enable them to create innovative digital experiences for customers. It has quickly exceeded its own targets, with more than 4,000 employees going through the training, and more than 450 people obtaining AWS certifications in less than twelve months. Woodside.
Organizations will manifest these four attributes in different ways, but experience has shown that any successful transformation relies to some extent on all four.
Leadership sets the vision, inspires and directs the organization to get to its future state by building it themselves. They do not wait for formal assessments and prescriptive strategies. They trust in their purpose and vision and then work to ensure that everyone is onboard, make it happen, and maximise its value as it is delivered.