AWS Cloud Enterprise Strategy Blog

Miners Extract More Value from the Cloud When They Transform Their Cultures

Architects and worker discussing over blueprint at quarry against clear sky

Jonathon Dixon, Global Head of Mining & Resources, Amazon Web Services

Introduction by Thomas Blood, AWS Enterprise Strategist and Evangelist

Until the 1930s, my family owned and operated gold, silver, and copper mines in Colorado. I have a fondness for mining, based on the stories my father shared with me about the people who extract the minerals upon which our technologies are built. Minerals, often extracted under extremely difficult conditions, enable us all to develop more and more advanced technologies, including the physical infrastructure powering the AWS cloud.

Recently, I spoke with an executive of a well-known, multi-national mining company, and he shared with me the challenges he is facing in trying to shift people’s mindset, fixed over decades, on how IT ought to be done in the mining industry. Many of these challenges will be familiar to any enterprise leader on the journey to the cloud, including fear and uncertainty among middle managers, the need to re-train or re-skill large numbers of employees, and the need to re-align the organization to best leverage the benefits of the cloud. Two key differences in the mining industry are the decades-long time horizons and very large capital outlays. These can appear to be at odds with DevOps and Agile thinking, but let me assure you they are not. In the end, the executive I spoke with remains optimistic about the future of enterprise IT at his company and about how AWS can help innovate the mining industry.

We at AWS like to think in terms of flywheels, continuously improving business outcomes throughout the entire value chain. In some ways, mining sits at the beginning of the global value chain, and thus the global economic flywheel.

This guest blog from Jonathon Dixon dives into the future of the mining industry and the cloud.



Miners Extract More Value from the Cloud When They Transform Their Cultures

Jonathon Dixon, Global Head of Mining & Resources, Amazon Web Services

Miners Look to the Future

The mining industry, like many other industries, is in the midst of a transformation. In the last decade alone, it has seen a number of forces, such as market volatility and changing patterns in global demand, drive a range of new mining strategies, including longer asset life cycles, shifts to deeper reserves, and new commitments to operational excellence.

As the industry emerges from the dark days of 2014 to early 2016, miners I talk to share a sense of cautious optimism. Commodity prices are rebounding and companies are posting strong financial reports, allowing companies to begin looking ahead to the future once more. That future, for many, is digital—mining companies are shifting their business strategies to account for how technology can help create new business and operating models.

Extracting More Value from Digital

Across the industry, there is a wide recognition that seizing future innovation opportunities requires solid investment in digital tools and capabilities. As one of the top drivers for change within mining organizations, technology solutions can help miners improve safety, increase efficiencies in production, drive more accurate planning, or even promote more sustainable mining practices. And while technology adoption is not new for mining companies, a recent Deloitte report noted, “once measured by how well a company extracted resources, the industry’s value proposition may be shifting to how well a company acts on information to optimize production, reduce costs, increase efficiency, and improve safety.”1

A Clash of Cultures: Fixed Delivery Meets Continuous Models

The miners I have talked with understand the potential of the cloud. Yet an area that is often overlooked is how adopting the cloud goes beyond enabling a new technology-driven solution—it’s also about enabling a new technology-supported way of working.

A recent McKinsey article noted that while the mining industry is starting to invest in digital technologies, “new evidence shows that it also needs to pay more attention to its people.”Internal culture, in fact, is a chief component that needs to be addressed as part of cloud adoption and is something that AWS customers are interested in discussing.

One cultural challenge is that mining companies tend to invest with a long view ahead. They think in years or decades, and internal cultures reflect that long-term vision through practices that favor lengthy, waterfall-driven development timelines with set start and finish dates.

A big part of the power of the cloud, however, comes from allowing companies to innovate quickly—to experiment and try new things in low-risk ways and to adopt more continuous integration/continuous development (CI/CD) cycles that keep things moving forward. It can be difficult for mining companies to shift long-held practices and adopt more agile ways of thinking.

 Forging a Culture of Rapid Innovation

At Amazon, we are firm believers that culture is the engine for innovation. To that end, we’ve been working with our mining customers to explore how their people can innovate, using the cloud as an enabler of great change.

So, how does a mining company go from a fixed delivery model to continuous innovation? It starts with identifying the precise outcome desired, aligning teams (not just within IT, but in business functions as well), and executing with nimble team structures. For example:

  • Start with the end in mind by forming a picture of what the world will look like and the outcomes you will see once your solution is a reality.
  • Drive internal collaboration so that technology solutions are grounded in outcomes that end users (like line-of-business users) need versus outcomes IT thinks they might want.
  • Help miners select small but important wins that can serve as an entry, not only into the cloud, but also into new ways of working, allowing IT to forge tighter alliances to line-of-business leads, adopting continuous development methods, and allowing space for rethinking processes and team structures.

Looking Beyond Ourselves

Finally, mining organizations might be focused on certain materials, but they don’t operate in a vacum—they rely on other areas, like automotive and equipment engineering, to be successful. And so it goes with the cloud. There is a great deal that miners can learn by looking at how other companies in neighboring sectors are using the cloud to drive fresh cultures of innovation. For instance, what are corporations like Siemens and BP doing with technology to drive innovation and culture?

Siemens is reinventing itself with a cross-industry, next-generation Industrial Internet of Things platform called Mindsphere that takes vast amounts of data and turns it into actionable insight. And BP has partnered with AWS to run large in-memory applications, which take an enormous amount of back-end computing off BP’s hands.

At the end of the day, many of our mining customers are looking to AWS to share ideas about how to adopt new ways of working alongside their adoption of the cloud. They’re interested in gaining value traction from the output of their cloud technology solution and in unpacking value from a more agile, innovative culture that continues to improve with each project.

To find out more about how we can collaborate, get in touch with me and join one of our upcoming events.


Jonathon Dixon

Jonathon is the Global Head of Mining and Resources at Amazon Web Services and is responsible for driving the teams and strategies that are helping mining customers to transform their business through Cloud Computing. Jonathon has held multiple senior cross-functional leadership roles at AWS and Cisco in mining and technology and is passionate about sharing best practices and helping customers future-proof their business by adopting a culture of innovation.


  1. “Tracking the trends 2018: The top 10 issues shaping mining in the year ahead.” 2018.
  2. MicKinsey, “The missing link in mining-company productivity: People.” May 2018.



Thomas Blood

Thomas Blood

Thomas Blood is an Enterprise Strategist at Amazon Web Services in EMEA. Prior to joining AWS, he held executive and technology roles in the public and private sector. He has a Masters in International Security and Information Management from Cal State Monterey Bay. Thomas is a US Army Veteran with tours in Europe and the Middle East. He speaks English, German, Spanish, and some French and Arabic. You can find him in Linkedin at