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AWS re:Invent: How to become a cloud-native enterprise

December 30, 2022

Jez Ward and Darren Bowling of Cloudreach sat down with Pluralsight’s Chief Cloud Strategist, Drew Firment, at AWS re:Invent to discuss what it takes for organizations to become cloud native enterprises that modernize their people processes and culture, along with their tech.

What is a cloud native enterprise?

Cloud native enterprises are the bleeding edge leaders in the cloud computing space. They don’t just default to cloud development; they leverage the benefits of the cloud to innovate and improve apps faster and more efficiently than ever before. Cloud native enterprises don’t take months or years to redevelop application features. They move faster to try, test, and redistribute updates with better scalability and flexibility.

There are several enterprises claiming to be cloud native, though, that aren’t. For example, they may capitalize on cloud native development with the right approach and best practices, but treat IT departments like data centers. Even with the best intentions, their organizational practices aren’t geared toward delivering differently to better serve the cloud.

How does an organization become cloud native?

The journey to being cloud native typically follows this path:

  1. A trigger event occurs and gives the organization a reason to innovate and move to the cloud.

  2. A peak of inflated expectations follows. People understand the advantages and are excited to get started.

  3. The trough of disillusion appears. Teams realize that their old processes are convoluted, don’t work, and can’t be overlaid onto a cloud native development system effectively.

  4. There is a realization that organizational culture and teams must change in order to embrace what the cloud can really do with the right mindset and processes.

  5. The slope of enlightenment occurs on the way to becoming cloud native.

To be truly cloud native, there must be a change at the organizational level to maximize the cloud’s value.

Why is education important to a cloud native transformation?

Pluralsight’s recent State of Cloud report found that 75% of tech leaders are defaulting into the cloud, yet only 8% of technologists have the cloud-related skills and expertise needed to drive this kind of development. Without the right skills, organizations won’t advance to using the cloud to drive business outcomes. 

But part of what makes some organizations seem “more cloud naive than cloud native,” in Drew’s experience, is a gap in the leadership needed to steer a company toward being cloud native — not just a skills gap, as some may think. Tech leaders who want to implement new technologies must also consider how they’ll enable and nurture the talent at their organization so they can deliver better solutions and see the desired ROI on what they’ve put into becoming a cloud native enterprise.

Learn more about the barriers to cloud skill development in the 2022 State of Cloud report.

Organization-wide enablement: The key to success

Before focusing on talent, organizations must achieve a better flow for development. 

A simple way to think of it? Innovate. Scale. Commoditize.

An enterprise’s Cloud Center of Excellence (CCoE) is where to begin identifying architectural patterns, controls, costs, and how teams should be thinking about cloud native development. Tech leaders need to ask, “What are the rules so no one creates harm to themselves, customers, or the organization?” This puts the guardrails in place so users can experiment without causing irreparable damage.

Problems typically arise when it’s time to go from being a cloud center of excellence to one of enablement. As organizations upscale, the goal should be for many people across the organization to have access to a solution, use it, and see if they come up with something that improves on the original solution.

Unfortunately, Drew has seen instances where centers of excellence shut down anything that doesn’t adhere to best practices. Instead of learning from their team, they create layers of abstraction to prevent it from happening again.

Instead cloud centers of excellence should learn and curate from individual team members. The team should evaluate the ideas, then harden and redistribute them back to the organization. Organizations that encourage and enable innovation across the board (not just in the IT department) are the ones moving toward being truly cloud native.

Develop a CCoE that evolves as your organization matures

A Cloud Center of Excellence (CCoE) is a team of cross-functional experts that empower an organization's cloud journey. By necessity, then, the way a CCoE functions inside your organization must change as you do.

How is a cloud native enterprise structured?

Organizational charts vary, but most enterprises have three levels at their core:

Executive level

Leaders must establish intent for the business and communicate the roadmap that will lead the organization forward. This informs how teams will leverage cloud computing to deliver business value.

Cloud program office

This level is responsible for delivering on that executive intent by selecting a cloud provider and determining protocols, processes, costs, necessary skills, and program components. They also determine the measurements that will tell whether or not the organization is progressing toward its goals.

The people doing the work

Every level of an organization is connected in a functioning cloud native enterprise. On its own, cloud computing is just a science project leveraging a bunch of services. Organizations need interconnected processes and goals to shift from being consumers of the cloud to being creators in the cloud.

This applies to talent, too. Leaders need to create a culture of support and learning that nurtures the talent they already have. Leaders who adopt this mindset have a greater chance at building a team that is empowered and enabled to better serve their customers.

Understand the advantages and disadvantages of cloud native architecture

Change can seem scary and expensive. And some degree of risk is inevitable when making as big a change as becoming a cloud native enterprise. But organizations that don’t adapt are taking the even bigger risk of becoming irrelevant and forgotten in a fast-paced business environment.

It’s no longer the big eating the small; it’s the fast eating the slow. And cloud computing is driving the speed of innovation.

With nearly $500 billion being spent on worldwide end-user cloud services in 2022, enterprises clearly understand that the investment in cloud is necessary. And yet, considering that 50% of cloud migration IT projects are delayed up to two years due to lack of skills, it’s apparent that many organizations struggle with delivery.

There’s an opportunity there for organizations to be able to capture that ROI. The first step is to think about developing in the cloud as a business strategy. Why are you doing this? Where do you want to go? When you’ve mastered that way of thinking, you’re on your way to being cloud native.