How to Use Public Cloud to Build Business Agility

  • May 06, 2021
Businessman looking out glass roof

If you were compiling a list of the most used phrases in technology over the past 20 years, digital transformation would no doubt take a prominent place. While it only became popular within the last five years or so, once it was introduced it became attached to virtually all the innovative solutions that have helped shape our current technological landscape. And it wouldn’t be a stretch to argue that the ever-growing use of the public cloud would top the list of innovative solutions.

According to several studies, the public cloud market will approach $650 billion by 2023, a 300% increase in just five years. Approximately 90% of companies currently use and rely on the public cloud to deliver, store, and protect their mission critical applications, workloads, and data. 

The way the public cloud is being used has certainly transformed, as well. It is no longer used just to access applications and shift spend from CAPEX to OPEX. Now it’s being relied on to build and deploy transformative solutions and applications that deliver business agility. In short, companies turn to the public cloud to pave the way for innovation and help them respond to market forces faster. 

IT departments are no longer just being asked to react -- but to act, deliver a better customer experience and drive business. There’s no better example of this than the need for companies to quickly address the array of COVID-19 related challenges. 

With barely a hint of warning, businesses were hit in the face with a global event that afforded them virtually no prep time. Along with learning that their disaster recovery plans hadn’t been created and tested properly, they had to reinvent the way they did business. Customers’ needs and buying patterns changed overnight. While the cloud was already being used by approximately 90% of all businesses, IT organizations in companies large and small began to look to the cloud for help to address these new, unforeseen market changes and demands.

The OODA Loop—an agile agent of change

OODA, which stands for Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act, is a strategy with roots that date back long before the digital age. In fact, the OODA Loop was invented during the age of the rotary phone, back in the 1950’s by U.S. military strategist John Boyd.

Boyd created the OODA Loop to address what so many plans fail to consider: What happens when a plan doesn’t go, well, as planned? In other words, how effectively and efficiently can a plan react in the face of change? Heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson addressed the same issue several decades later—“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

As it relates to the need for IT departments to drive business agility, the OODA Loop is ideal because customer trends and related data can be gathered, analyzed, and acted upon so much faster in our digital world. 

Observe, the initial step in the OODA Loop, refers simply to listening to your customers, finding out what they need or currently expect. Don’t anticipate what they want to beat your competitors to market. Listen and learn. 

Orient digs a little deeper into customers’ mindsets—How have their behaviors transformed as a result of the changes in the marketplace? Based on the information you uncovered through these first two OODA Loop steps, it is time to Decide on a course of action. Your course of action should align your business with changing customer desires and purchasing behaviors. And, finally, the fun part—Acting on the course of action you created. It’s deployment time.

Netflix is a perfect example of the OODA Loop in action. Initially, Netflix competed on Blockbuster’s playing field. They wanted to get videos -- physical, tangible ones -- into the hands of customers more easily. They began mailing them to subscribers. Through research and a keen eye on the marketplace, they could see that customers’ buying behaviors were changing. They no longer wanted to get in the car and drive to a brick and mortar. Why would they when shopping online was so easy and convenient? Netflix decided on its course of action—stream videos on the Internet. And knowing that content was king and very profitable, they began controlling what they were streaming to households throughout the world. It is a perfect example of agility. And the competitive advantage they gained illustrates why it’s so important.  

The following are things to consider before you act on your plan:

Focus on the business

Make sure your plan is focused on the business. In fiction writing, authors do the same thing, but replace business with story. They focus on where they want to end up, then reverse engineer the story. They have a story that every word and sentence must support. If they don’t support it, it’s not needed. The same holds true for the plan you create. Every element of it must focus on the business. Those that don’t only serve to waste time and slow down the need to quickly respond to the marketplace. Wasted time can mean lost revenue. If too much is wasted, it can mean the difference between profitability and bankruptcy. 

Include a pilot

Pilots are a vital component of acting on your plan. They are a great way to learn about any blind spots that you didn’t see when the plan was being created. Look for any patterns and address them. For instance, are there similarities in applications? If so, take advantage of them; don’t re-invent your wheels. To help, create a process for managing any uncovered patterns.

Consider the full lifecycle

As you plan and build, keep the long term in mind. Make sure you have (and will in the future) the right skill sets on staff to support the planning, building, operation, and transformation of your plan.

Embrace your plan

Finally, fully embrace the plan. Be committed to it. Don’t be afraid to be ambitious about your use of the cloud to help answer current and future demands of the marketplace. Ask yourself questions, like How could I address this business issue if I didn’t have my legacy infrastructure? Get out of your comfort zone and be creative.

Interested in more on this topic? Listen as NTT DATA's Aater Suleman speaks with IDG's Anne Taylor on Building Business Agility Through Cloud Transformation.

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NTT DATA Tech Blog editors curate content from across our cloud experts to bring you the latest insights, best practices and strategies from hundreds of cloud implementations.

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