AWS winning formula has to be Agile!

Recently I was at the Amazon Web Services summit, to try to sponge, yet again, as much information as I could. There’s no surprise that I left at the end of the day, not only exhausted, but with a notebook, full of my scribblings – both in the form of frantic notes, and the occasional stick man!

The last two summits I’ve attended here in London, have had increasing amounts of attendance, so I wasn’t too surprised to find that they had split up the day with different tracks for the different types of customer they had anticipated. Namely the newbie, who wants to know what AWS and the cloud is all about, then the advanced user, who’s been using it for a while and needs some tips and tricks, and then the “guided track” for those interested in Cloud Solutions.

For the most part, I found myself hopping between the novice and advanced tracks, trying to squeeze out the best I could from each session. However, I’m not going to describe all that I learnt there, because to be honest, a lot of what was covered there I’m pretty sure is material you could find on their website with a good enough search. No, what I am going to talk about it something that really struck me about AWS’s success.

It’s no secret, AWS are good at what they do, and they’re only getting better. What once started out as a modest attempt to offer services with names such as Elastic Compute Cloud (renting out computing capacity), Simple Storage Service (renting data storage) and Mechanical Turk (I didn’t know what that was either!), has now grown into what I think is a rather large, and ever-growing business. One of the reasons for their renowned success, hit me like a brick during a talk by Matt Woods – AWS are actually Agile!

Amazon have consistently displayed their uncanny ability to deliver small sets of features to their customers, allow for feedback, then iterate and improve. Rinse and repeat. This constant delivery of features – which by the way I think has been something like 6 new features a month on average – is what creates the buzz, and we as developers really love to try out new things. And as we do, we find some aspects which aren’t always to our liking, we tell AWS, and BINGO! they fix or enhance it. And in some cases I’ve heard from customers that they no sooner have given feedback, and the fix just happened to be released the next day!

AWS have been very focussed on customer feedback, and they take it very seriously. They listen, react, and in doing so, help strengthen their relationships with their customers. And I think they should be commended for adopting such a simple but effective strategy.

These very agile tenets of short cycles of delivery, frequent customer communication, and rapid response to what your customers regard as the most important focus, are what makes for delivering quality goods. In the case of AWS, it’s delivering a quality service, and in the case of software development, its delivering quality software.  So really they’re not very different. It just goes to show that, agile isn’t something that only has to be practised in a software development environment.

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