I spend the lion’s share of my free time away from work inside the chilly comforts of ice hockey rinks here in Florida, where I live, and across the country.  I typically use this time, whether watching my daughter and her teammates compete, playing the game myself, or coaching others…as a time where I am not thinking about work. 

My role within the Accenture AWS Business Group is predicated around driving joint strategy around Industry Transformation enabled by AWS, so I am a person who spends most of my "at work" time in the cloud.  Recently while at the rink, I couldn’t help but notice several similarities between the game of hockey, and the mentality needed by executive leaders to rapidly drive business value with cloud.

It is fair to say that most businesses have yet to realize the full value that AWS technologies and constant innovation can yield, yet cloud technologies are the driver of enterprise-wide business agendas across the globe. To achieve optimal levels of value, the mindset of business leaders must change; they should prioritize being first in their market by effectively embracing cloud technology. When organizations are doing this, they’re poised to experiment, see what works, or doesn’t, and move forward. Companies using cloud to its fullest potential are agile enough to fail, learn from that failure and bring an even better solution to market quickly.  These solutions are leveraging some of the more innovative AWS technologies such as Amazon SageMaker, Amazon Rekognition, AWS IoT, and AWS Outpost Edge, across their value chains to differentiate and grow. 

So how do we get there?  Like in hockey, organizations must understand who and where they are today, define clear objectives and goals, devise a game plan to achieve those objectives, and get after it!


Hockey teams, like global enterprises, need to understand where they are against their competition and what kind of talent and skills they have rostered.  They need to define what type of team they want to be and then stack hands and agree on an openness, willingness, and desire to transform if the current state is not equal to the target state. 

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For optimal value, leaders must change their mindsets to prioritize being first in their markets by effectively embracing cloud technology.

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To be successful in a transformation, the locker room organization (coaches, team captains & assistant captains, and other players) and culture must be aligned with the transformation objectives and be measured regularly to ensure constant alignment.

Define the team goal

Believe it or not, the goal for every hockey team is not just to win as many games as possible, and the goal may change season to season, tournament to tournament, and even game to game. What’s important is that the entire team clearly understands and buys into the team goal. 

Within the enterprise, and specifically with cloud transformation, it is critical that the targeted business value you’re trying to achieve is also clearly defined and adopted as the North Star by the entire organization. 

Value can mean different things to different enterprises. For one, it may mean improving revenue. For another, the focus could be on reduced IT costs or improved customer or employee satisfaction. You must know what you want to do and clearly define what value means to you.

This business value shouldn’t be just one thing, but yet a collection of targets that are tangible, measurable, and impactful to the enterprise’s strategic objectives. Without this, you will be passed by your competitors (old and new).

Game plan

You know who and where you are, you know where you want to be, and you know what you want to achieve. Now "how" are you going to activate?  In hockey, the strategy to activate may be what type of forecheck attack you want to utilize, what kind of defensive breakouts you think will be effective against your opponent, or if you are going to play a dump and chase or possession-based offensive game. 

With business-led cloud transformation activation, we are helping joint customers evaluate and develop solutions that accelerate time-to-value and are leveraged as a part of the plan to get to their goals. In our 15-year partnership with AWS— that we are renewing at this year’s re:Invent 2021— we continue to invest in client solutions that lead to value faster.

Accenture and AWS pre-build cloud native and ISV-based solutions that then decrease the time it takes to get to the value. They are not 100% turnkey solutions, but they’re composite sets of AWS services and Accenture IP stitched together that form the basis for value add (e.g., joint Accenture/AWS solutions such as Cognitive Insurance Platform, Intelligent Public Safety Platform, Transparent Supply Chain, AI Powered Procurement, and Asset Operations Digital Twin for Energy). 

They can also be intelligent managed services we provide across sub-segments of the value chain that take aim on the challenges and opportunity pockets to get the value and in some cases leverage broader Pan Amazon capabilities.  With these solutions, we can get to business value in months, and sometimes days, when the enterprise is bought into the goal.

Creating your game plan around the combined use of custom developed cloud native solutions, pre-built platforms, and more robust industry solutions, if done right, is the fastest path to demonstrable value. This approach will position your organization for a near term market move and future business agility.

Be first to the puck

In hockey, we talk about using your speed and tenacity to get to the puck first; win the battle for the puck in all scenarios. Your ability to make something positive happen is exponentially higher when you are first to the puck!

In business, leveraging the cloud to give you newfound speed will help you reach value faster. You don’t want to spend millions and stumble toward value. Or worse, lose value and market share via paralysis by analysis. 

Be fast to act, get your feet moving, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes and fail fast.

To meet the needs of evolving business agendas, to be first in market, or even create new markets organizations must shift to an agile, cloud first mindset while establishing a culture of continuous focus on being first repeatedly.

In doing so, they will lose the puck, and when they do, they need to regroup and refocus on being first to the next loose puck.  Regrouping in hockey happens several times a minute and doing that effectively plays a huge role in achieving success.

Be first to establish a new normal

Being first again and again will become the new normal, as it is in hockey, as the siloed industries, old legacy systems, and ways of working decompose. As we turn that corner, every business will need to be able to transform quickly, ahead of their competition; fast following will not be enough. They’ll need to experiment, try, fail fast and then try again. 

You can’t do that if you’re a brick-and-mortar legacy enterprise, or if you define your cloud strategy based on IT cost take out.  

I was recently asked to explain the significance of being first when it comes to the cloud and my mind went to an iconic quote from Talladega Nights when Ricky Bobby said, “If you ain’t first, you’re last.”

In a world where everyone is vying to be first, Ricky Bobby may have just been onto something.

Learn more about  re:Invent 2021 here.

Tony Harris

Global Offering Lead – Accenture AWS Business Group

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