Adopt the ‘Netflix’ mentality. Don’t let the quicksand drag you down.

What do you picture when you think of disruptive, massively successful companies like Uber, Netflix, Tesla and Airbnb?

I think of them as being highly valued. But I also think of them as having a ‘startup’ mentality. I associate these businesses as being agile, quick and innovative, full of intelligent, creative people with a line in smart banter and out-of-the-box thinking. And I think of their workplaces as being fast, intense and purpose-driven.

Contrast this with the associations you might have with the word ‘enterprise’. I think of meetings, routines and schedules. I think of companies doing the same thing for years, just because ‘it’s the way it’s always been done’. I think of a tight control of infrastructure, ingrained release patterns and systems optimised for thousands of customers that are difficult to change.

If you’re working in an enterprise and the word ‘stagnancy’ is mentioned, then you’re in trouble. Stagnant working environments and practices can stifle innovation and creativity – the ability of a business to accelerate revenue growth and enhance its capabilities.

You’ll miss out on new, game-changing technologies, and the ability to enter new markets faster and deeper. You won’t be able to be on the offensive – on the path to growth.

Step out of the stagnancy quicksand

An enterprise stuck in the quicksand of stagnancy must reinvent themselves through IT and digital transformation. They might need to transform the way they go to market and the way they engage and work with customers.

One word to think about is ‘agility’ – and this may need to be applied to the entire enterprise architecture. Let’s use the Netflix example. Netflix is a company that closed all of its datacentres, moving infrastructure to Amazon Web Services (AWS). The streaming company has been 100% cloud-based for customer-facing systems for some time.

Can enterprises take a page from the Netflix handbook? Yes, of course they can, although we must remember that the ‘unicorns’ were all greenfield companies that had highly-skilled DevOp teams right from the start. If you’re in charge of IT at an enterprise, you’ll want to drive innovation, but you’ll also need to consider your existing business. But that’s the beauty of the cloud – you can choose which workloads you want to move across.

It wasn’t too long ago that enterprises weren’t sure about cloud – now most are getting comfortable with it – 85 per cent of enterprises have a multi-cloud strategy – up from 82 percent in 2016. Enterprise leaders are trying to get DevOps to work successfully – a complete organisational and cultural transformation. Enterprises know that continuous delivery, DevOps, agile software development and cloud, are crucial to their transformation and winning big with innovation.

Winning in innovation

Taking a few lessons from the work I’ve done with Rackspace customers, there are few things I’ve learned about winning in innovation. First off, you need to understand that your company’s journey to the cloud will be unique. You’ll need to understand your current situation – for example, who is using what cloud services already and if there is any shadow IT, and what implications these have in areas such as security, compliance and duplication.

You must know where you want to go in your IT transition, and what it will involve. For instance, you might need to involve stakeholders from outside of the business. Innovation might be a clear deliverable, so what skills do you have, what don’t you have, and where will you find them?

Consider a range of technologies, and make sure you apply the environments that allow them to work well. For example, if you want your enterprise apps to perform at their optimum capacity, you should certainly think about working with multiple cloud vendors.

Think about your business needs. Choices include private, public and hybrid cloud. What you pick very much depends on what your business aims are. Looking at unpredictable workloads, which may need to scale massively? A public cloud could work best. Concerned about compliance, auditability or performance?  Go for a private cloud option, hosted by you or a provider.

The help and support of a team

Create an exciting and vibrant team to focus on innovation which encompasses the relevant lines of business. Let them play and do the creative stuff to serve your enterprise. Ensure the IT team is becoming the broker of applications and services for innovation, which might mean you need to look at getting a managed service provider to do the heavy lifting

Don’t think too big! Many organisations get so paralysed by a massive project that they won’t begin. Stakeholders can see a project as too big, too hard, and with too many politics to negotiate.

Break it down into bite-sized chunks and start with small, low cost but disruptive projects that test some of the key objectives, involving willing stakeholders. This will allow you to prove the benefits you think will result.

Cloud isn’t a fit for every application, but your organisation will likely have an application for which it could be a good fit. And when it comes to creating proof-of-concepts, make sure that the application you choose addresses a business need and matches the strength of the cloud you pick. Use them as learning experiences!

Finally, use third parties to plug gaps while you test. If it fails, you’ve not lost too much time or money and you can try again.

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Dave Hills is a Client Director in Rackspace's Enterprise Business team. He works with clients technology teams, helping with cloud infrastructure (AWS, Azure, Google, VMware, Red Hat and Rackspace) and cloud applications (ERP, eCommerce, Databases, Big Data, etc). Dave’s clients are either IT teams embracing cloud and digital technologies and wanting managed services to help optimize their resources or they are Partners partnering with IT / Technology / Marketing teams to help them leverage cloud solutions. They use Rackspace's experience, expertise and resources to transition and run cloud infrastructure and applications so they don't have to. Dave’s job is to help his clients move from 'having 70% of their resources keeping the lights on' to 'having 70% of their resources focused on innovation and business outcomes', while keeping the lights on for them.

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