AWS Summit London recap where Fortnite came to life

AWS Summit London proved to be extremely popular with over 12,000 + IT professionals in attendance. The keynote speech featuring AWS speakers and customers saw 4,500 people in the audience – just when you thought demand was changing this was the busiest Summit ever in the UK. It was a great event for us, as not only were we proud Gold Sponsors but we also showcased our new brand in the UK for the first time.

Our stand proved to be a big hit with queues of between 20 to 30 people at a time, visiting us to discuss cloud IT and hoping to a win prize from our social vending machine (where by interacting with us on social media visitors were in with a chance of winning a prize from our vending machine). And also at the stand, we were honoured to showcase our customer Invotra, a leading SaaS solutions provider to the public sector, demonstrating how Rackspace makes our customers great.

Rackers at the stand showcasing our new brand

The Summit proved to be a great opportunity for me to catch-up with our customers, as well as our partners and ex-colleagues. I particularly enjoyed visiting a number of the breakout sessions to see how AWS is being used for innovation. It was also a chance for me to meet up with prospecting customers in one-to-one sessions or at our stand. And the subject which kept being brought up was Kubernetes, along with multi-cloud and cloud organisational set-ups especially how to embrace clouds and integrate cloud into existing services and organisational models.

There was much to discuss and as part of the day I was asked to participate in a BrightTALK ‘Ask the Expert’ webinar session called, Perfect Cloud Organisational Structure. It’s a topic I’ve been thinking about for a long time, and it was during one weekend while playing with my three sons that it suddenly hit me how the online game we were playing, Fortnite, was priming them to create agile, fail-forward, collaborative teams. It’s a true example of how technology, and something often considered to be counter-productive such as gaming, can be used to build business skills. So, during the webinar discussion, I highlighted how culture is being influenced positively by technology.

Battle Royale delivers the perfect cloud organisational model

Growing up I was also an avid gamer like my 10-year-old twin boys often playing, as well as my oldest 13-year old son. Watching them play is interesting especially seeing how they are influenced by the game.

Fortnite has its own universe where players are dropped onto an island and then work independently or as part of a team – competing against others to win. The game’s unique features include it having a play-time limit. My twins will form squads consisting of their school friends and even friends from different year groups. Each member has a role, one might a builder and another a map reader. The key thing is the team or squad has worked out who goes where and what they should do.

Squads failing forwards to win

One of the most fascinating things is how the play time limit means players can experiment and try different things, continuously improving while learning to fail forward. By failing forward – quickly and often, eventually they will start winning as they refine their play. Additionally, they’ve also broken down traditional hierarchal structures because if the team doesn’t work they break it up and re-form. There’s a strong self-selection process which has eliminated the usual barriers of age or status, there’s no, “I’m the oldest, so I’m more important” mentality. The game is democratising team structure, by making performance really transparent and driving agility simultaneously.

Traditional games focus on instant gratification through immediate wins but Fortnite encourages longer term strategies with, in it teams trailing and testing how to, work with each other to build up to a win.

And what I really like is that the players are talking to people who are different ages and from different schools – there is a wide variety of diversities who are all focused on achievement and having fun. I enjoy hearing them laugh and the victory dances are often amusing which is all part of the gamification element. They are always celebrating short term wins even while failing forward.

Going back to IT organisations – failure can be seen as a huge negative, but with software development, failing forward is an imperative. So, how do you bring that mentality into core organisations? It’s about breaking down barriers and focusing on the culture, turning up and playing the game because that’s all you need to do. If you turn up with the right skills the only thing left is how you fit in. Playing Fornite has helped my children with their team working all within a time-limited game.

Providing feedback is even improved by Fortnite play – the twins have learned to challenge instantly and without malice or politics as they all want to do is win. While previously I would have seen them shy away from providing feedback in face-to-face interactions they have now improved. Also, Fortnite has eliminated the need for a manager as the team is self-governing. The team is focused on a deliverable which they keep going back to achieve creating a culture of continuous improvement.

Culture is key for our customers for scaling

This trend of small teams looking to continuously improve is something I have witnessed with my customers. There has been an explosion of small digital teams being set up to explore new opportunities like the Fornite model. Once they achieve their goal, these teams are then re-absorbed into the bigger organisation which raises questions like, ‘How can I scale this core team of elite players’?

Scaling requires a common element while retaining the team dynamic. We see this in Fortnite where everyone is an environment that they recognise with 100 people being dropped into a common world simultaneously. And in the business world we have Jeff Bezos saying, “don’t make a team any bigger than the number of people that can be fed with two pizzas”. He’s advocating the Fortnite model of an elite squad of skilled players using their strengths to win.

When I see my children play football they are using their online gaming experience to form elite squads which are looking to support and improve. For example, if someone loses the ball or misses a key strike they are not shouting at the player. Because they know the player, having interacted in Fortnite, they realise that this player can do better. Which nicely leads to a collective spirit around playing and winning where everyone is happy and collaborative. A good team instinctively knows what to do, they have trust and are willing to try things as they know their team members will support them.

Going forward, the Fortnite players of today are forming perfect teams who work well together are agile, collaborative and positive. We now have forums and groups through which we have an opportunity to influence some of the digital skills that we need moving forward. On the digital skills agenda, we need to take some of the great benefits we are seeing in behavioural science through the experience of Fortnite play and apply them. The workforce of the future is here, whether it’s that Fortnite gamer or virtual reality headset user. I see our role as tech leaders to provide platforms to nurture this talent in organisations which empower them to make a positive change in the business world.

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As Chief Technology Officer for EMEA, Lee James is responsible for helping customers accelerate the value of their business through our people, processes and technology. He is the executive sponsor for a number of EMEA customers. In addition, he leads the strategic development of Rackspace EMEA products and services. Lee has over 20 years of experience across largescale multinationals and agile-based environments, developing and implementing industry-leading cloud, analytics, digital strategy and transformation to deliver significant business value to customers. His prior experience includes senior roles across FTSE 10 and 250 organisations including BP, Betfair and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). At Betfair, Lee was responsible for delivering a DevOps-driven platform that performed more transactions than all the European stock markets each day. He is also an award-winning leader, having received an award for building BP’s first multi-cloud platform.

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