Remove barriers to digital innovation in the enterprise
Our purpose at Cloudreach is to enable innovation, to unlock business potential by providing enterprises with new cloud platforms, processes, tools and skills. We enable our customers to become digital revolutionaries.
Innovation is not just the design of new and original ideas, it is also the implementation of these ideas. "Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety nine percent perspiration" as Thomas Edison said. Yet if the generation of ideas is easy (or at least does not cost anything but time in some brainstorming workshops for which there are many proven techniques), companies who want to innovate face many more obstacles when embarking upon the actual implementation of these ideas.
Does the Public Cloud overcome these obstacles? The answer is yes! And it goes even further by allowing the setup of a real, repeatable, innovation cycle. It does enough to open up new perspectives on the development of your business, as I intend to demonstrate in this article.
The barriers to digital innovation
Digital innovation necessarily requires infrastructure.
You may tell me that a solution available as a SaaS (Software as a Service) offering requires no infrastructure. And this is also the reason why many companies think they innovate by purchasing or renting on-the-shelf solutions from one of the countless software vendors.
There would be plenty of material to develop, in a separate article, about the optimistic but dangerous approach taken by many companies of buying "magic" software for everything, before they define the needs they would like to cover. It follows a principle fairly close to teleshopping: Do you think your company’s needs can be satisfied with tools purchased in the same way that people buy things from the TV that they probably don’t need and hence won’t actually use?
But here we are moving away from the initial idea of innovation, the things a company wants to develop in-house, the company’s real added value to the market: its business expertise.
So digital innovation, as I said, needs infrastructure. And in the traditional computing world, this may raise several issues.
1. Required infrastructure is not always available
In traditional computing, Infrastructure has to be provisioned in advance: Ordering machines, installing them, wiring them, configuring them, etc. So we tend of course to over-provision to cover medium term capacity needs.
However, since it is expensive, we still try to provision the least possible for non-production environments. The idea is to share environments beyond what is really desirable (and use servers at full capacity even if it degrades performance) so we therefore try to minimise the number of non-production environments. An application will not, for example, be allowed according to internal processes in place to have more than 3 non-production environments: Dev, Staging & Pre-Prod.
If you want to start a new application, provisioning development, testing & production environments can prove to be a real obstacle course!
Assuming you do manage to get your environment, it will probably take months and, by then, your innovation has rapidly lost its value. Perhaps the competition has already taken the lead during that time? In our ultra-competitive world, innovation must move quickly to deliver value.
2. Mistakes cost money
Putting in place new infrastructure requires a specific budget because you will not get a new environment for free! And this can easily become a drag.
A new idea, by definition, has no guarantee of success. A Harvard Business School study actually estimated its likelihood of success between 10% and 30%. The best way to validate that an idea is good is to test it. But when you’re wrong, investment made is at least partly lost.
Companies that invest in innovation know that the 10% of successful innovations can eventually cover the costs of the other 90% which fail. But the return on investment is uncertain.
In a difficult economic context, post the 2008 crisis, risk-taking is clearly not the most highlighted core value in enterprises. This is what makes many companies reluctant to trigger the launch of innovative ideas. They will take considerable time and reflection to ensure the viability of the idea first, to be as close as possible to certain that they will get a short term pay off. Which, again, may leave the field open to the competition.
3. The environment provided is not flexible enough
When you secure the infrastructure to implement your innovation projects, this is already a victory.
But is it really the infrastructure you actually need? Since your requirements will evolve during the development of the idea, you cannot be sure in advance to order all the infrastructure you will eventually need.
All the benefits of being agile are lost if the environments you’re provided with are not flexible and this is obviously a major obstacle to develop and validate a new idea.
4. The environment provided is not Production ready
Testing an innovation in an offline environment can assess part of the solution, but this is often not enough. The real innovation is the one you test in production, the one that reaches out to its target users.
That’s why we rather choose an agile mode to deliver features one after the other, in short iterations, in real conditions.
Imagine for a moment that you obtained the setup of a production environment to deploy your innovation and test it in real conditions. This is already a sign that the company has faith in this idea you’re working on. Then imagine that your innovation is a huge success, that it generates a real buzz, that it fulfils all the most optimistic predictions you made! Yes, it happens!
Will your infrastructure support the charge? Just think about the immense disappointment if your worldwide success was nipped in the bud simply due to an undersized infrastructure!
How Public Cloud takes on the challenges to innovation
Wouldn’t it be great to have a sandbox you pay for only when you use it, which you could model as closely as possible to your needs, erasing and repeating to infinity, unlimited in terms of capacity and which, moreover, would provide you with a set of value-added services that facilitate application development?
This solution exists: this is the Public Cloud.
This solution offers a comprehensive set of components and flexible services that give you the power to quickly develop your ideas with low costs, turning them into "Proof of Concept", into "Minimum Viable Products" and, eventually, into commercial solutions, relying on an almost infinite scalability.
This solution offers many advantages over traditional infrastructures.
- Agility: The concept of "Infrastructure as Code" allows you to fully integrate infrastructure provisioning with your agile application development. The infrastructure is now part of the code of the solution and interfaces with an end-to-end deployment pipeline from development to production.
- Security: Agility and flexibility of environments should not be at the expense of security. By following "Best Practices" and using available tooling, you can build a perfectly secured environment, including if necessary an end-to-end encryption, in order to experience your innovation in real conditions without compromising yourself.
- Cost optimisation and control: You can provision infrastructure in minutes and destroy it as quickly, so you only pay for what you need, making it completely affordable for people to test an idea in production even if it is eventually abandoned. But the public cloud goes further by allowing you to control your consumption in real time and react automatically to your resources by applying rules defined in advance. On the other hand, you can extremely precisely allocate costs to run your innovative projects without merging them with your normal run rate.
- Scalability: It also allows you to launch a fully scalable environment to support both failure and success of your innovation. Your environment may expand or shrink on demand and without limits, manually or fully automatically so that once again you pay only for your actual use: If your innovation is a hit, you’ll deliver the service expected and your associated costs will be paid back by its success.
- Value-added services: Finally, you can avoid reinventing the wheel by using components and value-added services to go straight to the point, the development of your business idea!
In short, the public cloud offers an agile environment, secure, scalable, cost-controlled while providing you with services that simplify the implementation of effective solutions.
This is the real missing link between the idea and the innovation cycle.
How to go further with the agile innovation cycle
Innovation – disruptive innovation – is rarely created in one day, in one single iteration. It often requires multiple steps for shaping it and finally get to full maturity.
Associating Agile Development and Public Cloud allows you to set up a real agile innovation cycle as described in the diagram below:
Agile Innovation Lifecycle using Public Cloud capabilities
It’s a sort of Holy Grail for any Agile team: Integrating infrastructure with application code and allowing the deployment of complete solutions in minutes in an unlimited number of environments.
The Public Cloud achieves this Holy Grail:
- As in any Agile project, business ideas are managed in a backlog, fed with the idea of innovation generated by the business and self-fueling feedbacks from the market and users. The faster the innovation comes into production, the earlier it benefits from feedback, allowing it to improve continuously.
- The big difference with a standard SCRUM project is that the project team can now incorporate both application development and infrastructure development. The infrastructure provisioning is no longer dragging down your development cycles.
- Provisioning as many test environments as needed is done on demand within minutes as well as production deployment.
- Testing environments can be systematically destroyed after validation, since they are completely disposable and repeatable. So you do not pay for your infrastructure 24/7, only for a very small percentage of this time.
Through its Agile Innovation Engine offering, Cloudreach has developed expertise in enabling innovation through the adoption of cloud along with methodologies to maximise the benefits.
Digital innovation in enterprises is possible! Do not hesitate to contact us if you want to unleash your creativity from its chains!
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