AWS Cloud Enterprise Strategy Blog

Enterprise Strategy Blog 2021: Year-End Roundup


Throughout the year, we write blog posts on whatever topics seem to be most important to the AWS customer executives we speak to. Each of us on the Enterprise Strategy team holds 100-200 customer meetings a year, generally at the most senior executive levels, to try to help with their challenges in digital transformation—cultural change, organizational structure, company politics, governance models, investment strategies, and so on. Those meetings give us a chance to hear what’s on their minds. The year-end quiet period gives us a chance to look back over the year to see what patterns have emerged. In our annual blog post roundup, we go back over the year and organize our blog posts by theme.

Financial and Business Value Considerations

Unsurprisingly, many of our conversations with executives touch on the value of digital transformation—how to project it, how to measure it, and how to maximize it. It’s hard to talk about it in the abstract—the value of the cloud depends on what you do with it, of course. (What’s the value of a hammer? It depends on what you build with it, right?) We often suggest that executives first think about their key business imperatives, map those into the cloud capabilities that will satisfy those imperatives, build their business case and cloud strategy on those capabilities and business objectives, and then measure success based on achieving those objectives. Of course, there are still a lot of practical questions to address in the new digital world: how can you best manage cloud costs, and how can you best associate those costs with particular business units or products. Our blog posts this year have addressed these questions from several points of view.

Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG)

ESG questions have become quite important to executives, and especially to boards of directors. We’ve often found executives in the US to be particularly focused on issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), while executives in Europe are often more focused on environmental sustainability. That’s just a generalization, though—executives today are thinking about both, and about ethical sourcing, conflicts of interest, and corporate social responsibilities to customers, communities, employees, and other stakeholders. In our blog posts, we’ve shown that IT departments and digital technology can play an important role in accomplishing ESG goals.


As executives plan their cloud strategies, there are certain questions that almost always arise. One of the most important, we have found, is the question of what functions to centralize and what functions to decentralize when adjusting organizational structures for digital activities. A follow-up question is then how to set up the interactions between centralized functions and decentralized teams. We also wind up talking a lot about risk. It’s interesting that cloud, DevOps, and other digital techniques often appear risky to executives on first glance, when they are actually designed to greatly reduce risk—compared to earlier IT and business practices. Our blog posts this year have presented metaphors for transformational leaders (pilots, Formula One drivers) and mental models, addressed organizational issues, and analyzed risk.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

Machine Learning opens up entirely new categories of applications that would be too difficult or even impossible with conventional programming techniques. They also bring their own ways of thinking about problems and their own complexities. We try to help executives think through what’s possible with ML and how to unlock that value.


Executives are not just responsible for formulating visions and elaborating strategies; they lead their organizations in executing on their visions and delivering business results. The digital world opens opportunities to execute more effectively and reliably. The central idea of the new digital approaches is executing incrementally and iteratively, avoiding analysis paralysis by moving forward aggressively and continuously assessing progress and learning. This affects how we think about the “classic” issues of IT, like build vs. buy decisions, empowering autonomous teams, and organizing interactions between IT and the rest of the business.


Security remains a top concern for executives. Boards of directors are especially concerned about ransomware and about how their company will respond to potential security incidents. The cloud provides new tools and techniques for information security and privacy. We try to clarify the ins and outs of security for executives without diving too deeply into the technology itself.


Sometimes, interesting developments come our way that don’t fit neatly into categories. We particularly like examples from industries that show how industry dynamics are changing in the digital world.

So, that’s the 2021 roundup. As we move into 2022, these topics still seem important to enterprise executives. We’re hoping to write more on leading change, measuring success, rethinking governance, and making the most of the cloud. And whatever other topics you tell us are on your minds. Thanks for engaging with us and for all we learn from you.

Happy Holidays, everyone!