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.
- Funding more transformational capacity—Show me the money! (Chris Hennesey, 17 Dec 2021)
- A Conversation on the Best Practices to Maximize Business Value from the Cloud (Mark Schwartz and Calvin Wu, 10 Nov 2021)
- Unlocking the Trillion Dollar Value of Cloud (Mark Schwartz, 18 Aug 2021)
- Who Pays? Decomplexifying Technology Charges (Chris Hennesey, 17 Aug 2021)
- Strategy for Efficient Cloud Cost Management (Tom Godden, 09 Mar 2021)
- CFO Series: The Sniff Test (Mark Schwartz , 12 Feb 2021)
- The CIO-CFO Conversation: Capturing the State of IT (Mark Schwartz, 20 Jan 2021)
- The CIO-CFO Conversation: What to Include in the IT Snapshot (Mark Schwartz, 29 Jan 2021)
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.
- IT and Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG), Part One: A CEO and Board Concern (Mark Schwartz , 18 Feb 2021)
- IT and ESG Part Two: How IT Can and Must Further the Company’s ESG Efforts (Mark Schwartz , 22 Feb 2021)
- Engineering for DEI: Tapping IT Creativity and Technique to Address Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion(Wesley Story and Mark Schwartz, 07 Apr 2021)
- Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: ADP on Making DEI a Priority Internally and in Its Products (Mark Schwartz , 30 Jul 2021)
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.
- Centralize or Decentralize? (Mark Schwartz , 02 Sep 2021)
- Taking Pole Position in Your Industry: Agility in Formula One (Luc Hennekens, 22 Sep 2021)
- Executives as Pilots(Gregor Hohpe, 12 Aug 2021)
- Techniques for Managing Strategic Risk (John Naylon, 09 Nov 2021)
- Reexamining Business Agility through the Lens of COVID-19 (Mark Schwartz, 27 Jan2021)
- Strategy Is a Winding Road. Mechanisms Keep You on Track. (Gregor Hohpe, 15 Jul 2021)
- Digital Transformation: Hype or a Strategic Necessity? (Dr. Saša Baškarada, 18 Jun 2021)
- Thinking Strategy? Add Dimensions! (Gregor Hohpe, 20 Apr 2021)
- When You’re Buying IT, You’re Also Selling (Gregor Hohpe, 24 Feb 2021)
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.
- Unlocking the Business Value of Machine Learning—With Organizational Learning (Gregor Hohpe, 20 Sep 2021)
- Activating ML in the Enterprise: An Interview with Michelle Lee, VP of Amazon Machine Learning Solutions Labs (Phil Le-Brun, 03 Mar 2021)
- ML in Society: An Interview with Michelle Lee, VP of Amazon Machine Learning Solutions Labs (Phil Le-Brun, 26 Feb 2021)
- Making Artificial Intelligence Real (Phil Le-Brun, 29 Jan 2021)
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.
- Is “Tailor” the Modern Solution to the IT Dilemma of “Build vs. Buy”? (Simon Carter, 04 Oct 2021)
- Buy vs. Build Revisited, Part 4: You Might Be Asking the Wrong Question (Gregor Hohpe, 17 Feb 2021)
- Outsourcing in the Age of Agile: Keys to Success (Phil Le-Brun, 19 Feb 2021)
- Outsourcing in the Age of Agile: Call to Action (Phil Le-Brun, 09 Feb 2021)
- Why you Should Adopt Agile Cloud Transformation (Dr. Saša Baškarada, 08 Feb 2021)
- The Search for COVID Answers Begins with the Right Data (Part 6) (Tom Godden, 04 Mar 2021)
- Two-Pizza Teams Are Just the Start, Part 1: Accountability and Empowerment Are Key to High-Performing Agile Organizations (Tom Godden, 15 Mar 2021)
- Two-Pizza Teams Are Just the Start, Part 2: Accountability and Empowerment Are Key to High-Performing Agile Organizations (Tom Godden, 18 MAR 2021)
- The Chief People Officer—The CIO’s Partner in Change (Phil Le-Brun, 03 Feb 2021)
- The CPO-CIO Partnership Part 2: Taking the Gloves Off (Phil Le-Brun, 26 Apr 2021)
- The Lift and Shift: Rehosting Servers to AWS during a Cloud Transformation (Damien Renner and Yaniv Ehrlich, 04 Oct 2021)
- 7 Strategies for Migrating Applications to the Cloud, introducing AWS Mainframe Modernization and AWS Migration Hub Refactor Spaces (Jonathan Allen, 30 NOV 2021)
- 7 Pitfalls to Avoid When Building a CCOE (Néstor Gándara and Eric Lin, 15 JUN 2021)
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.
- 7 Pitfalls to Avoid When Building a CCOE (Clarke Rodgers, 30 Dec 2021)
- CxO Insight: Reporting Cybersecurity to the Board (Clarke Rodgers, 28 Dec 2021
- CISO Insight: Every AWS Service Is a Security Service (Clarke Rodgers, 09 Apr 2021)
- Running a Security Organization in Times of Uncertainty and Change (Clarke Rodgers, 04 Feb 2021)
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.
- Path Dependence in Telecoms and Technology (John Naylon, 09 Aug 2021)
- Stats Perform Is Innovating by Working Backwards with AWS (Bryan Landerman, 29 Jul 2021)
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!