AWS re:Invent re:Cap

Jim Francis,

EVP & Head of Marketing,

Published: December 8, 2020

For those of you who have yet to take in Andy Jassy’s CEO Keynote from AWS re:Invent, I  encourage you to take the time to watch it here.

Kudos to Andy, who epitomizes what a CEO of a Big Tech company should be able to do but generally do not. Of course, speak about the market, the company’s business strategy and progression, and highlight various customer successes. But as a fellow technologist, I am most impressed with Andy’s dexterity to stand on stage and provide an overture of the company’s new technology innovations and services being released. This is typically something that a CTO or product manager would cover, so hearing Andy take it upon himself to provide the new release highlights says something about AWS’ DNA as a company of “Builders” from Top-to-Tail.

This year, AWS, with now over 175 products and services, had many new launch announcements, which included, amongst others, continued advancements in their Connect (Call Center), SageMaker (Machine Learning), Lambda (Serverless Compute), Monitron (IoT) and Outpost (Hybrid Cloud) services. For an overview of many of these new launches, Virtusa’s cloud team summarizes in this supporting post.

Outside of the new services, a few interesting metrics were highlighted. AWS has reached $46B in revenue with 29% YoY growth, which, given their market-leading base, means growth of $10B over the past 12 months. And that too, during a global pandemic no less. Simply an amazing achievement! But to make the storyline even more intriguing if you are an investor, a prospecting or existing customer, or a partner is that only 4% of business has been migrated out of private data centers to the cloud to date. So expect the numbers to keep moving on up as we are all still in an embryonic state when one takes a macro-level view of the broader cloud market.

AWS Reinvent recap

The pandemic has clearly left most companies highly exposed, which will no doubt only accelerate cloud adoption by several years. So let’s keep track of how this progresses for AWS and the rest of the cloud market over the next couple of years. $100B+ seems on the near-term horizon for this progressive and highly innovative company.

While all of the technical stuff is always fun to listen to and build one’s own strategies around, the most important discussion from Andy, in my view, was the business-oriented context with a focus on leadership and effectively challenging enterprises to make the choice to “Invent” and “ReInvent”.

If an organization cannot make a top-down unabated commitment to building a culture of innovation and reinvention (which can progress with speed), then they run the risk of slowly unwinding.

Too provocative, perhaps? If you feel so, then look at the long list of amazing companies that are no longer in existence without taking names (but as a hint, I personally have not had any fees for returning my videos late or forgetting to rewind them).

One business strategy book that I highly recommend covering this topic is “Goliath’s Revenge – How Established Companies Turn the Tables on Digital Disruptors” by Todd Hewlin / Scott Snyder. The authors challenge you to think about where you are as a company presently, and provide a framework to help you reinvent your future business model(s).

So if there is one thing to take away from this year’s AWS re:Invent, which can have a dramatic impact on your business, then it is -- the CliffsNotes from Andy’s 8 keys to building a reinvention culture:

1. The leadership will to invent and reinvent

It almost needs to be a state of desperation to prioritize the importance of reinvention and driving innovation. Do not wait too long! Andy provided a useful analogy about not borrowing money when business is bad as it may already be too late. Get ahead of the curve! Get to the truth on where your company is and be maniacal about building a vision and roadmap for driving the reinvention of your business.

Peloton is a terrific example of a company that continues to reinvent itself. From in-studio spinning to at-home spinning to a broader set of health and fitness on-demand services. This digital transformation certainly paid off well for them during recent times while many more traditional fitness businesses suffered.

2. Cannot fight gravity

It is impossible to fight gravity for long and expect to win. Size up where the market is moving and where your competition is, and force changes to happen, or they will be forced upon you -  even if it means cannibalizing your own business in the process.

Netflix is a great example. After taking business away from Blockbuster with their direct video mail business, they had to blow it all to bits and get into online streaming, or else their fortunes would likely have followed a similar perilous path.

A case closer to the home could even be the cooperation that AWS has with many companies that are clearly competitors. Think AWS Redshift and SnowFlake. There is plenty of room for growth for both of these dynamic companies, so in seeing the forest through the trees, everyone wins.

3. Talent that’s hungry to invent

Change is often difficult for employees. People are proud of what they have built over the years and may not want to see it eventually dismantled. Fear of learning new skills or even the risk of job loss can become a passive deterrent to progress. Organizations need to get ahead of this by building a culture of continuous learning and invention.

4. Solving real customer problems with builders

Build a culture of builders. Sounds somewhat redundant. “Builders” is a powerful word these days and, frankly, a critical success factor to any company’s growth given all of the building that has to be done. While things will always need to be maintained, the “build” vs. “maintain” scales are getting highly “building” skewed given all of the legacy code and data that needs to be modernized. And since truly experienced builders can be a scarcity, the efficacy in what they are building needs to be monitored to ensure that it is solving real customer problems.

5. Speed

You know something is important when it can be summed up in one simple word, and everyone understands the intent immediately. There can be every reason in the book on why things have to move slow, especially in larger organizations. Battleships are just hard to alter course. Organizations need to find ways to break through these barriers and find ways to move quicker. Drive more automation. Ensure you have the right partners. Ensure your teams are motivated and enabled. Ensure that you set challenging but achievable team objectives. In a highly competitive world, speed can help companies survive and win!

6. Don’t “complexify”

One of the biggest enemies of speed is complexity. If you make things too complex, then you cannot move quickly. Large transformations may be better off with one or a few select partners who can get the job done and provide the ability and assets to drive change at an aggressive pace.

7. Use a platform with the broadest and deepest set of tools

Riding on the topic of complexity, you would be better suited to select platforms rich in features that provide you with the ability to build anything you can imagine. Trying to cobble together a best of breed model across multiple suppliers can provide value but also can slow down progress. Make these tradeoffs wisely. The simple power of less is more.

8. Pull everything together with aggressive top-down goals

To sum it all up, pull everything together with aggressive top-down goals. You may not hit all of your milestones, but you will learn along the way. Force the organization to be serious and have mechanisms to show repeated progress.

All-in-all a good list. If nothing else, it gets you to think and challenge yourself and hopefully your organization. Can we be more aggressive? Can we break through the typical barriers that slow down progress? Can we “invent” and “reinvent” ourselves and build the next flywheel to take our company forward?

Perhaps there is no better example than Amazon, which has done this with AWS and will continue to find ways to reinvent itself and push the edge to bring value to their customers. A great company we can all learn a bit from.

For more information on how Virtusa and AWS have joined forces to help our mutual clients address the above list, check out the updates to our Enterprise Cloud Modernization Framework (Falcon). In a nutshell, it is all about driving cloud and data migrations with Speed, Simplicity, and Lower Risk.

Jim Francis

EVP & Head of Marketing,

Jim brings more than 25 years of experience in technology leadership across a wide variety of industries, technology domains, and platforms. Prior to joining Virtusa, Jim was a Vice President of Financial Services for American Management Systems (AMS). Jim is a patent holder in Distributed Objects, Imaging, and Workflow Technology within International Trade Finance. Jim holds a MBA in Management Information Systems from Binghamton University.

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