Cloudy with a Chance of Transformation

What the rise in cloud means for digital transformation

When it comes to humor, engineering jokes are the pinnacle of nerdiness. Here is one groan worthy contender I found recently:

Knock knock.
Who’s there?
Done.
Done who?
Depends on who you ask.

Okay, it is not particularly good, but the punchline strikes a philosophical chord. A lot of the definitions for terms we use on engineering and product teams depends on who is asking.

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“We’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months.”

Whatever this digital transformation thing is, what is abundantly clear is that there will be lots of cloud in the future. Recent events have unleashed the floodgates for change. How do we know? Just take a look at recent Q1 2020 results from the top cloud providers:

  • Microsoft Azure Cloud Platform — 59% increase in revenue
  • Google Cloud Platform — 52% increase in revenue
  • IBM Cloud and Cognitive Software — $5.24 billion in revenue
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With our cloudy future however, does that mean transformation is on the horizon?

Well, the answers is, it depends. If your view of transformation is implementing cool technology, then it is a renaissance period. If you think it has more to do with organizational culture and new ways of working, then we may be in a holding pattern. We are in a period of hyper-urgency without full organizational strength.

  • Tightly Defined Scope — There is little appetite for experimenting or uncertain outcomes in a crisis. This means any transformation work needs to be scoped in as atomic of units as possible with expected outcomes. The good thing is operating in an Agile framework supports faster delivery cycles. The emphasis needs to be on “time to value” and cost savings, so choosing initiatives that can deliver the goods quickly within scope is critical.
  • Protecting Work Improvement Time — I wrote before on the importance of paying down “complexity debt” for enabling businesses to accelerate product delivery and innovation. Many recommend building 20% of the time into every initiative for improving existing code, systems architectures, and work processes. Realistically this is hard to do in crisis mode, but there can be some time dedicated to the effort, especially if positioned as part of the resiliency mission. Automation and migration to self-service SaaS are two such initiatives that done within tighter scope and timelines can keep the transformation effort going.
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Reasons to Be Cheerful — Freakonomics Podcast

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Thoughts on developers, digital transformation, enterprise agility, community building & software engineering culture. Author 👉 https://twitter.com/marksbirch

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