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Lessons from Digital Native Businesses on how to fully leverage the modern cloud

3 minute read
Foundational
2

Do your software products fully leverage the modern cloud? Ask four questions to find out.

Cloud computing started out as infrastructure for compute and storage that increased the agility and speed of companies who adopted it by lowering costs, providing elastic capacity and pay-as-you-go pricing. But today that’s an increasingly traditional view of cloud computing - one that doesn’t fully leverage the reality of the modern cloud. At AWS we have more than 200 cloud services that span mobile, analytics, low-code, database, and dev-ops. An increasing number of these service are managed services, and that’s where I think there is a significant opportunity for software product leaders to leverage the value of these services to drive innovation, top line growth, and operational excellence.

As the modern cloud evolves, it also changes the way development teams should think about the code they write and maintain. This blog post explores those changes in detail, and gives some good examples of how born-in-the-cloud companies fully leverage modern cloud services to free up development and operational resources to focus on innovation and product differentiation. Product management professionals that want to fully leverage the modern cloud should start by asking themselves four questions:

1. Does the code we write and maintain drive growth and differentiate us? Many teams we talk to focus on driving operational excellence of production code (and so they should). We know that developers like to write code - it's what they do. But each line of code carries an operational burden and management cost. It's on product management professionals to ask if development teams are writing “code that matters”: Does it differentiate the business, drive growth, speed up feature releases, or increase customer lifetime value?

2. Can we leverage new cloud services to reduce our time to market? As cloud computing evolves software product managers should expect a constant stream of new cloud services, including new managed services and "serverless" services that increase the level of abstraction and move the bar of what’s a commodity higher. It's important to question whether teams can leverage new services as they become available to reduce time to market and reduce the maintenance burden of lower level infrastructure services.

3. Where does our technical debt slow our innovation? As an industry, we tend to give technical debt short shrift because it’s hard to measure, and fixing it isn’t nearly as gratifying as building new features or driving top-line growth. But part of building a lasting and successful product strategy is an ongoing focus on the things that drag us down, and allow competitors to get a jump on us as the commodity bar goes ever upward. Rapid experimentation is a prime example: We find that even small start-ups incur early technical debt with their customer facing web-sites that make it difficult for product managers to experiment with multi-variate tests until they spend significant effort refactoring and modularizing their user interface systems.

4. Can our core products help fund our future? As teams begin to focus on the first three questions above, it's possible to improve operational metrics by reducing code under management and associated technical debt. This frees up resources that product decision makers can use to increase operating margins or apply to increasing innovation (i.e. new products and features) or toward increasing velocity (e.g. adding experimentation, investing in dev-ops or ml-ops automation).