The 2019 State of the Cloud report found that 94% of 786 IT professionals use the Cloud. Public cloud adoption is currently at 91%, while private cloud adoption is 72%. As these numbers show, cloud technology is a necessity and no longer a luxury. Many companies are already leveraging the benefits cloud has to offer. If they haven’t already migrated to the Cloud, many will look to do so in the near future. The bottom line is clear: if your organization isn’t already in the Cloud, you’re going to be headed there soon.
The benefits of the Cloud are many, from cost savings to faster delivery, and the challenges product managers face are growing and changing every year. This means you need a different way of approaching product delivery and customer engagement to capitalize on the advantages the Cloud offers. Here are 5 ways product managers need to think differently when your product moves to the Cloud – or when you’re building your roadmap to get there.
1. Consider Flexible Costs
When moving to the Cloud, many assumptions you took for granted around costs no longer apply. Cost optimization is a high priority for managers, so products need to be designed with infrastructure in mind.
Gone are the days when budgets could be set on an annual basis, and only revisited the following year. You can no longer calculate costs of infrastructure by treating servers as a fixed price asset while modeling in depreciation. Now, you have more flexibility in setting budgets.
With the Cloud, capacity (and the cost of it) can scale up or down automatically based on demand and use. If you do it right, your costs will scale along with your user demands. This means you can make a smaller initial infrastructure investment to test a new feature or approach. It rewards incremental and opportunistic approaches and encourages fast delivery to customers.
Product managers should include optimization items in the backlog. This can include automated reporting on usage, employing containers and microservice architecture, and actively monitoring non-production environments.
Implement a flexible process to review and adjust your budget quarterly and plan spending around specific product milestones. This could be specific customer cycles (health care sign-ups in November, tax preparation during the first few months of the year, etc.), product launches or other key business objectives. Applying this process will enable accurate budget tracking and limit surprising costs.
2. Incorporate Customer Empathy
Change can be difficult. Often, product managers think, “too much change will disrupt my customers.”
However, the opposite is also true. People don’t like big changes, but incremental changes are welcome. If this wasn’t true, then organizations such as Amazon and Netflix wouldn’t deploy new code hundreds, or even thousands, of times per day.
Change is received best when it takes place gradually and incrementally. The Cloud enables and empowers your DevOps teams to deliver quality product faster than ever before, so you can deliver the changes your stakeholders want in a speedier and less intrusive way.
Product managers need to emphasize user experience research and execution to ensure changes are done in a way that takes advantage of how users are already interacting with your products and solutions. Include information radiators to highlight the impact of changes on customer engagement to stakeholders and development teams.
3. Create Decision Models for Prioritization
Cloud environments are best optimized with DevOps practices such as continuous integration, continuous delivery, and continuous deployment. These practices provide shorter feedback loops than traditional deployment strategies and empower product managers to make more informed decisions on how to prioritize backlog items and new features.
Product managers should use the information available from the automation tools to assess product quality and system health. You can also incorporate practices to better understand your customers. Visualizing analytics and incorporating A/B testing helps you capture customer feedback quickly.
Product managers should use techniques like Impact Mapping to set key performance indicators (KPIs) and apply the information captured against these KPIs to measure success. With this information, product managers can better prioritize backlog items which will drive product success.
4. Focus on Quality Engineering
For any system, quality is integral to building trust, reducing costs, and improving delivery speed. In the Cloud, it is even more important with automation of quality checks. Automation isn’t free, so product managers should align investments to product strategy.
Automation of testing, deployments, and resilience is essential. Product managers need to become accustomed to language around testing and quality. Not learning this could lead to missing key information from the team or overlooking a critical product vulnerability.
Product managers should ask their team for reports on code coverage, error logging, and operational SLAs. Make this information visible to everyone and set standards for quality in the pipeline. Incorporate QA and Operations as part of the team, so the team shares accountability for product quality and stability along with innovation and delivery speed.
Define product operations strategy – what is an acceptable uptime target? What does “downtime” mean? Track Mean Time to Recover (MTTR) and report out.
5. Build-In Compliance and Security
While there are lots of benefits with moving to the Cloud, there are also security and compliance challenges. Gartner estimates more than 95% of cloud security failures through 2022 will be due to mistakes made by the organization, not the cloud provider. Understanding how the Cloud operates differently than your traditional IT infrastructure will help mitigate these failures for your organization.
Security needs to be built in our product from the beginning, so teams should implement infrastructure as code. Use microservices where it makes sense and expose data through APIs. Determine which data in your organization can be stored in the Cloud and which should not. Encrypt your data at rest.
These practices protect your organization from a breach. Security teams need to define the principles under which the development teams operate. That way, as soon as a vulnerability is identified, teams can change their infrastructure code, redeploy, and address the weakness.
Product managers with cloud expertise are in high demand and knowing these 5 areas will help you build that expertise. When your organization moves to the Cloud, understanding the changes in how you normally operate will lay the groundwork for your future success.
Learn how Excella worked with US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to set up a 100% continuous integration/continuous delivery pipeline to deploy production up to 40 times a day leading to a 30% drop in verification case processing time. Read more.