AWS Cloud Enterprise Strategy Blog

Operations in Mind: Building Amazing Stories by Design

Operations in Mind: Building Amazing Stories by Design
by James Windsor, Business Development Manager (ANZ), AWS Managed Services (AMS)
introduction by Mark Schwartz, AWS Enterprise Strategist

In this guest post, James Windsor from AWS Managed Services (AMS) talks about working backwards from a vision of what you want your organization to be, to make decisions about how you will build and run your IT function. At AWS, we often like to “think backwards,” starting from an outcome we want and then figuring out what we should do that will result in that outcome. It’s a powerful approach for making sure you can satisfy your customers, but also a way to avoid analysis paralysis in the face of many options and a way to “maximize the amount of work not done”—that is, stay lean and focused.

– Mark


Operations in Mind: Building Amazing Stories by Design

by James Windsor, Business Development Manager (ANZ), AWS Managed Services (AMS)

Imagine that this is your story: Our market share was in decline. We realized we needed to adopt new ways of working so we could react more quickly and proactively improve our services to keep pace with demand in a market being disrupted by startups. This had to be funded by cost savings, and we needed to free up existing resources to work on critical projects. Working with AWS to rapidly lift and shift our on-premise estate to the cloud with a “minimum viable refactoring” approach, we closed three datacenters in six months without having to hire or train staff to operate our new cloud environment. We achieved a level of security that exceeded what we had on premise. We re-invested savings and re-focused IT staff (who were no longer burdened with “keeping the lights on”) to innovation projects.  Working side by side with AWS Professional Services and our partners, our team learned by doing and soon became proficient in their new roles. We created a cloud native landing zone and began optimizing key applications and building new, cloud-native applications as well. The staff are now energized by learning new skills—leaving old-school infrastructure operations behind, they now re-brand themselves as part of the DevOps or Cloud Centre of Excellence teams. Now we are able to release new products and features in hours versus months and have begun to win back the market share we lost.

Visualize Your Future

As an enterprise leader, you are primarily concerned with value creation and the ability to respond quickly to changing market conditions. By envisioning and articulating on paper what your “amazing story” would be, you can work backward and design that future with an end-to-end plan. Your plan will require a shift to more flexible IT platforms and establishing new ways of building applications with a high level of automation to increase the rate at which you can modify the functionality of your application base. Being able to implement changes quickly as a builder, you will respond to and anticipate market opportunities much more quickly. You will fund this by rapidly driving out cost.  Instead of spending the majority of your resources on “keeping the lights on,” you will automate low value manual work and re-focus on efforts that actually move the needle for your business and, more importantly, your customers.

Designing with Operations in Mind

While it’s true that the first part of a house to be built is the foundation, few would think it sensible to build a “best practice” concrete foundation and then design the house around it. And so it is with enterprise transformation—you start with the outcomes and design the end-to-end solution holistically, including a view of how the environments will be operated, then designing the foundations with those operating models in mind. Done the other way around, we’ve seen enterprises who have had to double back and re-build the foundation in a way that can scale, so it pays to think of how you will operate before you break ground.

Best Practice in Cloud Operations: Standardize and Automate

The goal of your story is to shift your focus to innovation (applications and data). A great first step toward this is to automate and standardize your cloud operations approach. If you choose to transform your existing operations team or build a new one, be ready to staff up to keep the lights on while also investing in resources who can build this automation for you. If you are comfortable “letting go” of the infrastructure operations domain, you can move much faster and at lower cost by getting help from someone who’s already built an operating model based on a scalable and secure foundation and a highly standardized automation-first approach. Standardization and automation drive simplicity and lower costs, consistency, and ease of compliance. For example, AMS executes 90% or more of your change requests through automation and comes with PCI, SOC, ISO, HIPAA, and NIST compliance attestations “out of the box.” Many of our APN partners can also help you build your operating model or operate your environment for you.

Build vs. Buy

Outsourcing does not always ring positive in the enterprise, as there is often the perception that you lose control and transparency, getting locked into an arrangement that is difficult to unwind. Because of this you may have a strong preference to “build your own team.” But before you invest in that, it will be wise to validate if your motivations are aligned with story outcomes (your story probably doesn’t include a statement like “we are going to be great at patching Windows!”). There is a better and faster way to create your amazing story. AMS is a month-to-month, pay-as-you-go service created to help you move faster on your journey, so there is no restrictive contract to deal with. Compared with a standardized and automated approach like AMS, your DIY approach will take longer, cost more, and is unlikely to deliver the same outcomes in the same timeframe. A people-based model won’t achieve ideal levels of service without massive investments of time, people, and money (24×7 eyes on glass, industry standard security and compliance attestations, enforceable SLAs, extensive automation, etc.). You may end up getting less for more.

Living the Dream

Because AMS is tightly aligned with your desired outcomes and outcome enablers (security, cost out, automation first, continuous improvement), you will quickly shift your attention to the applications and data that actually matter in realizing your amazing story. Rapid migration to cloud is a way to quickly liberate OPEX and staff to focus on innovation, and having all your workloads in the cloud will simplify the selective application optimization efforts that are focused on driving meaningful outcomes for your customers. AMS can accelerate that rapid migration, and because we are a two-way door, you can use us as “training wheels” and take control back in house when you are ready to do so. Let us help you get started on your story!

Learn more at AWS Managed Services.

James Windsor, Business Development Manager (ANZ), AWS Managed Services

James Windsor is the Business Development Manager for AWS Managed Services in Australia and New Zealand. He has over 25 years of experience driving enterprise transformation through offloading undifferentiating but critical operational tasks.

Mark Schwartz

Mark Schwartz

Mark Schwartz is an Enterprise Strategist at Amazon Web Services and the author of The Art of Business Value and A Seat at the Table: IT Leadership in the Age of Agility. Before joining AWS he was the CIO of US Citizenship and Immigration Service (part of the Department of Homeland Security), CIO of Intrax, and CEO of Auctiva. He has an MBA from Wharton, a BS in Computer Science from Yale, and an MA in Philosophy from Yale.