Those of you who followed my blog for a while know that the idea of applying manufacturing best practices to cloud computing is a favorite topic of mine*. This week the topic popped up in a fireside chat (the popular term for keynotes delivered from a set of armchairs, often with no fire in sight) between Amazon’s CTO Werner Vogel and CEO Jeff Bezos at re:Invent, the first Amazon Web Services customer conference.
I won’t cover the conference here – many blogs and media sites already did – but in the chat Bezos made a number of interesting points on how principles of lean manufacturing are guiding Amazon’s overall endeavors and how cloud computing both supports and benefits from this approach. He discussed how – for developers- this approach turns the cost of infrastructure operations from an abstract overhead-like concept into a very visible direct cost they can directly influence. And how the cost of quality is always lower than the cost of non-quality, as fixing problems later - after it has shipped to the customer – is many times more expensive than doing things first time right. But also how cloud computing allows to continuously improve products and processes (similar to how factory workers at Toyota were empowered to stop the production line and jointly improve the process). He also stressed the importance of focusing on customers and their requirements (by continuously measuring and providing feedback loops) instead of focusing on competitors or winning.
A 70/30 rule
In the chat Bezos also discussed his assertion from an earlier interview that- with customers being more connected through social media and through the transparency that internet and big data is bringing to all markets – the effective way of doing business is flipping from spending 30% on creating a product and 70% on “shouting about it” (making sure - through marketing and sales activities – that people know about it and buy it) to the reverse. A new reality, where it makes more sense to spend the majority of energy, effort and cost on building the best possible product and a significantly smaller effort on communication and delivery. In other words, the more transparent markets are becoming, the more product quality (being fit for purpose) will rule success.
This in turn makes working on product quality (though principles such as Lean) more important, but – taking this beyond was what was said on stage – is also likely to drive total costs down and result in lower overall prices. For the enterprise IT industry – where a lot of the product costs stem from the lengthy sales & implementation cycles that traditional complex enterprise products require – this may turn out to be a very disruptive development. In fact, earlier in the week Amazon had a panel of their partners discuss their experiences and – although they all created some impressive new cloud successes for their customers – you could sense they all realized that going forward the world was no longer going to be what it was before.
A valid question to ask is whether the whole Enterprise IT industry will follow this trend. In other words: what percentage of large enterprise organizations will be interested (and able!) to adopt the self service, super market model of the cloud (see also A Cloud That Cares? Or About Eating Your Cloud And Having it too). Will there be a large percentage that prefers ready made meals (instead of home cooking using super market ingredients – One could think of SaaS solutions in this context) or will there be a significant number of organizations that - voluntarily or forced by a lack of in house capabilities - continues to prefer a full service restaurant model, where the provider does not just supply the ingredients, but also does most of the day to day work?
Let’s end with a question you may want to ask yourself: When looking at your markets and customers, how fast are they moving from a 30/70 to a 70/30 model and how prepared is your organization for that?
* In one of my first Gartner blog posts I wrote about the Rise of IT-dustrialization , earlier publications include “LEAN and the Art of Cloud Computing Management (2010)” and my LeanITmanager blog.
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