When I started working on the cloud over ten years ago, I knew it would change the world, but I couldn’t have predicted how it would change my marriage.

Let me explain. My wife’s a teacher and she leaves for school every day at 6:30 a.m. and because I now work from home, we have a standard routine. Exactly 15 minutes before she departs, I head out to our favorite coffee chain. As I’m walking out the door, I place my order on the mobile app—two large vanilla lattes with sugar-free syrup, an extra shot of espresso with non-fat milk—and by the time I arrive, my order is waiting for me, piping hot, and I am back home in less than 10 minutes.

Some days, when I have time, I walk into the store and order from the counter. This experience is very similar to what it was on my phone. Easy. Consistent. Convenient. Personal ... all of which gets both of our days off to a good and delicious start.

This coffee chain has unified the experience, so no matter where their customers are— whether talking to a barista in the store in Missouri or Florida or ordering through the app—the experience is the same.

The secret to success

This coffee chain can do this because they’re utilizing many aspects of what Accenture calls the Cloud Continuum. They understand the cloud is a continuum of capabilities that span from public to edge—and everything in between. This Cloud Continuum includes different types of services from managed services to serverless executing in locations (from public to private or hybrid to multi-cloud and at the edge), all dynamically integrated by next-generation connectivity such as 5G and software-defined networks that allow data to be the power that makes this consistent, customer-pleasing experience happen.

By moving deeper into the Continuum, the company is getting the full value out of the cloud and their customers—like me—love it. This coffee chain thinks about cloud for more than hosting their applications and services; they look at the entire Cloud Continuum as the foundation to continue to innovate and improve their customer experience and grow their revenue. This is not achievable when you’re only thinking about one part of the Continuum. Cloud has to be at the heart of every process to continue evolving your solutions as Cloud services grow.

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Moving deeper into the Cloud Continuum is the only way to truly support your business needs.

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Thanks to that commitment to the cloud, this company is constantly evolving its business and is able to respond to customer demands in real-time. They can react to changes such as staffing availability or supply change delays. They have automated tasks to keep their staff’s focus on their mission. This can’t be done by just running their mobile app in the cloud or having the Point of Sales system connected to their workstations via a traditional locally networked in-store server.

That may sound like a lot of tech-speak to some, but let me explain what it means to me: before I put my key in my car ignition each morning, I know if the location closest to my home is out of vanilla syrup (thanks to maybe IoT sensors or supply chain analytics). Additionally, I know whether the store is very busy and the wait time will be long (data collected from all parts of the coffee-making process), which will alter my route to a different store.

Because of these features, I know that I’ll have a hot delicious drink and remain on schedule. And most importantly, I know I’ll be making my wife a little happier every morning, thanks in large part to the Cloud Continuum.

No going backward

Organizations utilizing the cloud as a continuum set a new standard that customers expect from all businesses. And because they’re using the cloud’s full capabilities today, it allows them to innovate faster and stay further ahead of their competitors.

In a few hours, they can add new features to their app, and in stores. Thanks to the machine learning supported by the cloud, they can learn what their customers want or make proactive changes to introduce the hottest new drink or change the curbside pickup process to be more efficient. I have seen one retailer make several tweaks to their app and online pickup process over two months; this could never be done without leveraging all parts of the Cloud Continuum.

How to commit to the Cloud Continuum

What my coffee chain does is possible for any business in any industry. Once organizations make the transition, their business, employees and customers will feel the improvement. And companies will see the value. This will make the things they want to do possible, more effective and quite possibly cheaper. But for most companies, there’s a lot of uncertainty around the best way to get there.

Here are three things I talk to my customers about how they can leverage the full cloud continuum:

  1. Understand the difference between being in the cloud and in the Cloud Continuum
    The cloud is not a place you migrate data or an application to park it there and consider it done—quite the opposite. With the Cloud Continuum, businesses must learn to use cloud services to their full extent in all aspects of their businesses and in their systems. Companies want to move toward a cloud-first place, where every time you want to bring something to market, you think of the cloud. You should consider getting your systems to the cloud and then start the transformation.
  2. Start with strategy
    Once businesses understand the vast capabilities for their industries, organizations need to think through what they want, where they’re going, what the goals are. I can’t say enough about the importance of a living cloud strategy. Without thinking in the short-, mid- and long-term future, companies leave themselves vulnerable to making moves into the cloud now, and then discovering years down the road that they don’t have the systems they need to do what customers are demanding. The cloud and the world are changing so fast that the cloud strategy you developed 12 months ago is already out of date. Expect your strategy to evolve, and think about where you want to end up.

    As a football fan, I often encourage clients to imagine a football field when considering their movements in the cloud. You don’t just make one move and stop...you think about the next three plays and change the play based on the results of the previous play to keep advancing down the field. But to do this the right way, you need to start with the right overall game plan for the team you are playing and make sure everyone is clear on the end goal.
  3. Go deep and wide
    The possibilities with the Cloud Continuum are infinite, but companies must go deep into their organizations to realize these possibilities. For the coffee chain, it’s not just their ordering process utilizing the Continuum; it’s their supply chain, their human resources team, their invoicing system, their apps, and yes, their ordering systems. You must think about the whole value chain to have the far-reaching effects of the Cloud Continuum.

Full speed ahead

Businesses such as the coffee chain I go to have spoiled us as customers and, based on the continuous changes in the world, they work hard to live up to the high bar they have established to retain me as a customer. It’s not just my vanilla latte. It’s the personalized experience I have at a bank or the grocery store. It’s the way my car predicts and alerts me when my car needs service. It's how the pickup process at the store has improved since my last visit.

And the Cloud Continuum is doing so much more than what we experience as retail customers. Organizations using the Cloud Continuum make sure supplies arrive on time to keep medical facilities moving; to empower scientists with access to an ocean’s worth of data to help save the coral reef; to make sure firefighters can see what it looks like inside a burning building before they go in, thanks to VR goggles.

By pushing up the Cloud Continuum, you position your organization to be ready for the future. To maximize the far-reaching possibilities of the Continuum, you need to find ways to think about moving deeper into the Cloud Continuum on every project, every day...maybe inches, maybe feet, but you must be moving.

Because the market isn’t stopping, clients can’t stop, either. Continuing down the Continuum path is the only way to truly support business needs, transformation and disruption.

After working with hundreds of clients in hundreds of industries, I can attest to the myriad ways the Cloud Continuum brings value to organizations and makes life happier for customers. Whether customers need industrial parts delivered efficiently or hot caffeinated beverages to help them get to work on time, the Cloud Continuum can provide surprising solutions.

Just ask my wife.

Chris Wegmann

Managing Director – Accenture AWS Business Group

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