There are four foundational “components” for successful transformation, according to Amazon Web Services CEO Andy Jassy, who framed his annual re:Invent keynote around organisations ability to respond to change during what he said is a once in a lifetime opportunity – the shift to cloud computing.

“Transformation can mean transforming yourself or it can mean transforming to meet new technology situations or opportunities,” Jassy told attendees at the global AWS event in Las Vegas today where he announced several new services from the public cloud provider.

Jassy said large technology changes like cloud computing had historically prompted resistance, then reluctant acceptance and organisations often only “dipped their toe” in to technology change.

“The problem is if you dip your toe in the water for long periods of time in transformations that radically change industries you find yourself at the tail end of a big shift and suddenly way behind. And sometimes it’s pretty startling how far behind you become and how quickly.

“The history of business is littered with companies that did not adjust to big technical transformations and were left in the dust.”

According to Jassy there are four differentiators separating the organisations which successfully adapt and those which “just talk about it”.

The first, Jassy said, is not technical at all.

1. Senior leadership alignment and conviction

“You actually need to figure out how to get your senior team aligned that’s going to make this change,” Jassy said. “It’s not easy to make a big shift like this and inertia is a very powerful thing. And it’s easy to block [change] at various parts of the organisation, sometimes for well intended reasons and sometimes for self interested reasons.”

Jassy said organisations needed to get issues “on the table” in front of senior leadership and the leaders needed genuine conviction in their response. Without top level buy-in its possible transformation projects will go months without meaningful achievement, Jassy said.

2. Top-down aggressive goals

To that end, leaders need to set ambitious goals that force organisations to move faster than they normally would, Jassy said, noting GE Electric as an example.

According to Jassy, GE set a goal of moving 50 applications to AWS in 30 days. There was initial resistance and GE actually fell 8 applications short.

“But,” Jassy said, “along the way they figured out their security model, their governance model, their compliance model, and they had success and built momentum.

“All of a sudden all the ideas started flowing in on what they could move [to the cloud] and they’re now about three quarters of the way through moving several thousand applications to AWS – a second aggressive top-down goal.”

Andy Jassy, CEO of Amazon Web Services on stage at re:Invent in Las Vegas. Supplied.

3. Train your [developers]

Jassy said, in the excitement of moving to cloud senior leaders often neglect to implement the required training of developers, or as AWS calls them, “builders”.

“It’s not that hard to use the cloud but it takes a little bit of training,” Jassy said.

The AWS chief said the company trains hundreds of thousands of its customers every year.

In Australia this year several companies have announced dedicated cloud skills training programs, including Kmart, RMIT, and Australia Post.

4. Don’t let paralysis stop you before you start

Analysis paralysis is still blocking change and organisations are slowing down when they realise not all applications or workloads can or should be moved to the cloud, at least right away, Jassy said.

For large multiyear migrations AWS offers a planning service which prioritises moving certain workloads over others and Jassy argued the structured approach helps with building momentum for shifting the more challenging applications.

The company has released several edge and on premise services in the last year as well for workloads that must remain on premise.

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