In a recent Agile Amped podcast, Alalia Lundy, Business Agility Enablement Manager, and I speak about how many companies are unlocking agility by fast tracking to cloud due to the pandemic.  We discuss the impact of a product-based mindset and how the renaissance of custom software creates the perfect scenario for an agile implementation.  Plus we discuss how the democratization of technology has been fueled by these trends and more.

I’ve shared below a partial transcript from the podcast where we are talking about how cloud unlocks agility.  You can listen to the whole episode (Apple Podcast/Spotify) to learn more.

It was a fun and lively discussion – enjoy!

Alalia Lundy: I once heard you say cloud unlocks agility. How and what does that mean exactly?

Adam Burden: Moving to cloud is not something that automatically makes you more agile as an organization. There are lots of companies that look at cloud as a cheaper data center. It's actually the wrong way to look at it. Yes, you might be able to save some costs by moving some of your application workloads to cloud. But in the end, if you don't take advantage of the elasticity that the architecture offers, the ability to spin up test environments and the ability to do things differently from a software delivery pipeline, then you're missing the opportunity that cloud really gives you. It's about moving from a fixed mindset into one that's much more elastic in nature.

And you don't necessarily have to move to public cloud to do that. You can do that in a private cloud too. It's all about the transformation. If I just take what I have and I move it in the cloud, maybe there's some incremental unit cost savings. But if I really want to unleash the power of agile, I have to change the culture. Cloud is the elixir, the catalyst that helps make that happen.

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To unleash the power of agile, I have to change the culture. Cloud is the elixir, the catalyst that helps make that happen.

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Alalia Lundy: Those organizations that are holding back cause me to wonder: where else is agile not penetrating? What's the challenge that you're seeing in that space?

Adam Burden: It’s important on any cloud journey that the organization looks at their set of business applications. It's rare that you have someone that moves into cloud that's an entirely greenfield business. Sometimes you have these businesses who were born in the cloud like Etsy, a pioneer in doing things in DevOps, embracing agile, extreme programming and the like.

But for an established enterprise, their value has come from the technology systems they've collected and built over the years. They just can't abandon that by moving to cloud.

On the other hand, those barriers are exactly what holds them back. So it's a “damned if you do and damned if you don't” type of thing. It's a big, expensive thing to go in and reinvent some of those apps, and it can be time consuming. But the yield that you get out of it, the agility that you get in your business is very different.

For example, let's say I'm a utility company. I have an important application that I use in my business called an outage management system. This is the system deals with outages. Let's say it gets five or six outages an hour. Now, a big storm comes in and knocks out power to a million customers. That system needs to immediately be able to expand to account for that change.

Traditionally, our clients have built these types of applications as fixed assets. They say, "This application needs to be sized for its maximum level of utilization." They might have a couple really big servers to handle an outage of one or two million people all at once, even though 99.9% of the time, it's barely being used.

If I were to take that application and move it to cloud without making any changes, reserving those instances and that same size and scale, what benefit have I gotten? Maybe I've changed the way that the consumption of compute is bought, but my marginal savings will be very limited. I would argue that you probably would have trouble ever making the business case on that work.

The key is to take some of those key applications and reinvent them. You want to break it into its parts. You want to do something called service decomposition so it can be maintained somewhat independently. Most importantly, you want it to expand and contract as your business needs change. That's the power of elasticity.

So if I take that application and I move it to a serverless technology on AWS, think about what I've unlocked. I can now have multiple teams working independently on adding new features like better root-cause detection on when an outage occurs, faster outbound calling and the addition of new channels like web features. I used to have to do that in a big, monolith-type architecture, which was really hard. Agile development allows you to do it at scale. You're moving from something that's a monolith to something that can be maintained in separate components.

Even better than that, it scales up and down. And this particular example is real, we moved an application just like this for a client. They were spending $2 million a year on this application prior to its moving. After it moved, the cost came down to just $20 a year. That's the power of moving into cloud.

Listen to the Agile Amped podcast “Cloud Breaks Barriers to Agile” wherever you listen to podcasts.

Adam Burden

Chief Software Engineer, Accenture

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