Unlocking creativity with platform thinking

Cloud platforms are predicated on an enticing notion: by offloading to a cloud infrastructure the building, maintaining, and scaling of environments, businesses can focus on doing what they do best: solving business problems that translate into opportunity with consumers.

The best cloud platforms provide self-service tools for developers to build up and tear down infrastructure at a moment’s notice

In 2017, to achieve this lofty goal requires platform thinking: maintaining a strategic, holistic view of how the platform fits into the larger context of unlocking developer creativity, and therefore organisational innovation.

There will be three fundamentals that leaders in cloud adoption will continue to master.

1. Seek speed of delivery and innovation before operational efficiency

Many organisations are quickly making the leap from traditional data centres to the new world of cloud-based platforms.

An enticing benefit is that cloud ecosystems can offload significant operational complexity.

However, a platform that reduces operational overhead is only valuable if it increases the speed of delivery and fosters innovation.

If no new doors are opened, and opened quickly, the business is at risk.

>See also: 2017 cloud predictions

Technology leaders must stay focused on optimising for speed and quality first and cost second.

Lost opportunity will cost a company far more than increased unit costs of delivery activities. This tradeoff has important implications on how an organisation defines their cloud strategy.

2. Offload complexity to unlock developer creativity

In general, business demands rarely get simpler over time. The objective of building an optimal platform strategy is reducing owned complexity (the complexity an organisation needs to manage themselves versus what they can pay to have managed for them) so that new business opportunities become easier to deliver.

By shifting complexity away from the application and onto the platform, lead-time for developers is significantly reduced.

Beyond making room for new features, if an organisation builds out a strategy that manages complexity well, the result is an environment that supports rapid development and stimulates product innovation.

Delegating complexity creates the time and thought space needed for experimentation that would otherwise be near the bottom of the priority list.

Experiments are essential to finding what delights customers, but experiments need to be cheap and easy or they will not happen.

>See also: What’s in store for cloud in 2017?

Developer productivity has long been a fundamental part of the conversation around engineering discipline. In 2017, we will see the conversation continue to shift away from developer productivity, and toward the importance of unlocking developer creativity and innovation through platform thinking.

Developers become essential innovation partners, unearthing new perspectives on your products.

To unleash developer innovation, focus on the features of the cloud platform that remove friction for developers. For example, an effective delivery platform not only facilitates the required resources (containers or VMs), but also makes it easier to build, deploy and monitor software.

PaaS offerings such as Cloud Foundry and OpenShift are excellent examples.

If you think of a developer as the customer of your platform, you prioritsze the needs of engineering teams as you would a traditional customer, which is essential in developing a lean platform strategy.

3. Choose the right tool for the job

Whether you are just embarking on your journey to the cloud or if you are well on your way, it is imperative that you keep asking whether your chosen solution continues to move complexity out of the developer’s queue and into the capable hands of the platform.

With the scarcity of engineering talent with experience with emerging tools, your best play is to let the platform do as much of the work as possible.

On the private cloud front, migrating away from traditional dedicated servers onto virtual private servers in the cloud will continue in 2017.

In some cases, a private, cloud-based Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) solution is the right move because it reduces some operational complexity.

However, companies should take a hard look at whether a private cloud solution is the best move. Whether it is privacy or security concerns, or the need to integrate with an existing infrastructure, private cloud continues to be in demand, although the demand is arguably diminishing, as it requires retaining significant operational expertise.

>See also: 8 predictions for digital marketing in 2017

Migrating to a public cloud solution is the right choice for most organisations in 2017.

The real focus is not on cloud for cloud’s sake; the right strategy is to evaluate how to get maximum lift and acceleration for the minimum ongoing operational investment.

Public cloud offerings still require deep expertise, but developer self-service is a key theme of 2017. Public cloud platforms already deliver on this, significantly reducing lead-time.

However, both in private and public cloud setting, PaaS offerings are leading the way by focusing on helping companies to reduce time to market, providing deeper control of the framework on which an application is built and runs, and simplifying the tools needed to manage cloud-based software.

The new frontier is serverless architectures. As organisations look to solve new problems very quickly, serverless architectural patterns may become the logical means to solve specific problems.

A serverless solution is a business function that can be written and deployed very quickly to solve a specific use case.

For example, you may have an email campaign where a response triggers an event that routes the user to a landing page.

A serverless solution for this scenario may require no application or infrastructure scaffolding and so could be written and deployed within minutes.

Serverless architectures are rapidly emerging and will continue to gain traction in 2017, but caution – it is still very early to adopt them as production-ready solutions.

There are significant tradeoffs in the level of control of those services provide, and they create non-trivial complexity in areas like latency and problem triage.

Build your 2017 strategy through the lens of platform thinking

In 2017, companies that maintain their lead or begin to close in on their competitors will increasingly view the move to the cloud not just as a means of improving efficiency.

The emerging virtues of cloud strategies and platform thinking are capturing opportunity, driving away complexity, and most importantly maximising focus on delivering business value.

Winning in 2017 and beyond will be about seizing opportunity, not driving down cost.

It will be about unleashing creativity, not improving productivity. And it will take significant investment in strategy, not just chasing hot new technologies.


Sourced by Ryan Murray, technical principal at global tech consultancy ThoughtWorks

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...

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