Cloud computing has transformed the way we build software – and who gets to build it. What used to require a specialized development team and a good deal of time, money and risk is now available to companies of any size and budget. Cloud technology is democratizing software development, as lean startups and small businesses suddenly have access to the tools necessary to compete with tech juggernauts.
2019 is the year “cloud computing will firmly establish itself as the foundation of tomorrow’s enterprise application platforms,” according to a report from Forrester. Close to 60% of North American enterprises use public cloud platforms, a percentage that has grown fivefold in the last five years.
Businesses, regardless of what vertical they serve, benefit when they use cloud platforms to bring their innovative ideas to life. Cloud computing tools like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform are helping companies bring back craftsmanship to the development process, without having to sacrifice the advantages of automation. Here’s how this trend is accelerating disruptive change, solving business problems and employing new skillsets.
Barriers To Entry
In the early days of software development, the world saw a huge wave of tech innovation. Companies targeted rudimentary jobs done by people and replaced them with software solutions to drive process automation and operational efficiencies.
Tech and software powerhouses invested in acquiring the highly skilled talent and the massive hardware infrastructure required to build software products. Global systems integrators and managed service providers hired large teams to maintain complex software and hardware infrastructure. But unless companies had significant capital, they weren’t able to enter the marketplace and develop new products or services.
This was a major barrier to entry until relatively recently. A few years ago, a company interested in developing a software application had to build each component from scratch – a time-consuming, costly and risky process. The product team needed to create a robust backend with common building blocks, such as logging mechanisms, data caching, state management, scaling and DevOps, before they could do anything else.
With the emergence of cloud computing, smaller companies – and larger enterprises experimenting with new ideas – are increasingly agile and can develop more disruptive technology. They have access to a series of pre-built tools that allow them to shorten their development cycle and test their proof of concept quickly. They no longer have to spend all their time building a backend because those components are off-the-shelf features in the cloud.
This shift frees up teams to focus on the business problem they want to solve and the overall user experience, rather than the technical challenges along the way. A startup with a great idea and a modest budget can leverage existing components in the cloud to turn around a fast prototype to show customers. Using that feedback, the development team can continue to build, measure and learn to create a better product without a large upfront investment.
Since cloud platforms are changing the way companies build software, they are also altering the skills needed to meet business goals. Companies are using cloud tools to address high-level engineering tasks, so they can dedicate more staff resources toward strategic tasks. In the future, development teams will need more people who understand both psychology and technology – what problem they want to solve for their customers and how their UX will achieve this objective.
Making The Most Of Cloud Tools
Our company put these steps into action when we built a legal e-discovery product on Microsoft Azure. Because we utilized advanced native cloud tools, including those with artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities, we were able to create a robust product while keeping our startup costs low. We focused our energy on scaling our customer base and developing an intelligent product to meet their needs. We attribute a big part of the product’s success to using a pragmatic approach and building a cloud-native application.
If your company is creative cloud-native software, keep these best practices in mind.
1. Focus on the art of the possible, not the underlying tech.
Devote your attention to the business problem you’re solving and the UX you want to create. Don’t get too bogged down in the nitty-gritty technical details. See what tools are already available in the cloud that will enable you to make a fast prototype or minimum viable product.
2. Use a customer-first approach.
Get your prototype or MVP in your customers’ hands as quickly as possible to collect feedback. You want to verify your proof of concept before investing too much time or money building out your idea. Iterate quickly, and shorten the build, measure, learn cycle.
3. Optimize to create value for the market.
Once you have fine-tuned your concept with customer touchpoints, transform it into an enterprise-level product. Expand it using existing cloud tools, troubleshoot problems and optimize it to create the most value for end users.