Want to act like a startup? Move to cloud native apps.

For companies that have weathered decades of volatile business cycles, changing consumer tastes and a hundred other factors, digital transformation may be the biggest reality check of all. Innovation and disruption aren’t happening at the edge of industries like they have in the past. Instead, the forces of change are tearing down and redefining the very core.

But even if your company wasn’t “born in the cloud” and you aren’t all digital just yet, you still have a good chance to succeed.

So, what are those young digital natives doing that legacy companies need to do? A lot has been written about the need to develop a startup culture — an environment that is customer-focused, experimental and agile. A big step in that direction is to change the way you think about software and how you develop it. This makes sense because a lot of the value in companies today is the software they develop. Like it or not, everyone is a software company.

A whole new way of thinking

That new approach is referred to as cloud native. Cloud native is a framework for software created from services packaged in containers, deployed as microservices and managed on elastic infrastructure through agile DevOps processes and continuous delivery workflows. You could build a house out of solid poured concrete, or you could build it from concrete blocks. The latter is cheaper, faster and easier to modify. The same is true of cloud native development.

Adopting this new approach isn’t like upgrading from App Development 1.0 to 2.0. Making the change requires abandoning many familiar, comfortable development practices and adopting new ones. For example, we’re accustomed to fixed deadlines and budgets. We’re used to building software until it’s done, not until it’s usable. Cloud native development turns these ideas upside down.

Key steps for change

What do you need to do differently to succeed? Here are a few key ideas:

* First, adjust your development perspective from a project-oriented approach to one that’s customer-oriented. Startups approach the market with an idea to serve customers. As it begins to mature and deliver value, they figure out how to monetize it. Google went public in 2004 with a search engine that generated no revenue. Later, it figured out how to monetize the service with advertising. Stitch Fix, an online clothing retailer, relies heavily on analytics to better understand what customers want and quickly adapt to match changing expectations.

* Second, embrace the confluence of LEAN product management principles, agile development and design thinking in your approach to software. In today’s fluid, fast-changing business environment, you can’t afford to spend years developing massive applications. By the time you’re done, business and customer needs have changed. Adopt the single-product focus that startups use. Develop a minimum viable product that you can get to market fast. You’ll fail fast, and often, but with a cloud native approach, you can crank out new versions quickly.

cloud native graphic

* Finally, evaluate each opportunity for the value it can deliver and assemble a team that can best help you achieve it. Make sure you’re bringing in resources that are double-deep—people who understand both the business and the technical issues.

No one will have all the answers. But through repeated trials and with the right framework for rapid development, you’ll eventually find them. In the end, business agility means being able to better understand and react to your customer base. Cloud native development is a proven method for doing just that.


Bryan Coapstick headshotBryan Coapstick is the Global Practice Lead for Cloud Native Development and extremely passionate about assisting large enterprises implement the business, cultural, organizational, and technical changes to accelerate their cloud-native journey and enable them to operate at ‘startup speed’.  Bryan has spent the last 20 years at the intersection of business and technology and has spent the majority of that time building ‘products that matter’ and has worked for some of the largest software and technology companies in the world. Follow him on Twitter and Linkedin.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: