Saturday, February 04, 2017

The Cloud Revolution is about people.

A couple of days ago I got to witness a pretty cool keynote talk from one of the leaders in IT. It was part of a summit in India that I had also presented at, and it was the end of the day. Half of the attendees had found their way out of the summit by that time, but those that stuck around were definitely the ones that wanted to hear the vision and leadership thoughts. Our journey to the cloud as an organization has been quite the wild ride over the last few years, and it's been one of those transformations that only comes about once or twice in a lifetime in technology. To redefine the very way we design and build, and go about our day jobs so fundamentally in such a short amount of time has been mind boggling.
I was sitting up in the front during this closing keynote, watching this leader give a little piece of his heart. He talked about the freedom engineers now have, and he compared it to the US incarceration problem. Granting freedom alone does not create innovation. Granting vision and empowerment does. Engineers, with cloud technology, have the power to design and solve nearly any challenge they face. Any challenge their customer faces. And not in some 6-12 month long project- in a matter of days. The speed at which you can write some small feature that delights thousands or removes some archaic process is orders of magnitude faster than it used to be.
You see, IT's role over the last few decades has been to design and run these massive data pools, things like sales data, contract data, HR data. Single, large, slowly moving bodies of information that served huge business needs. Changes were once or twice a year, and the time spent planning the feature was about equal to the time spent building it. Engineers spent a great deal of their job replacing tires and changing oil to keep these great machines running. The complexity is staggering, and you need some of the best people to keep them humming along.
Throw all of that away. Our job is now to reinvent IT. Our job is not to run and maintain these global machines. Our job is to delight people. To find really cool problems, and solve them. To talk to people in other organizations, learn from them, God forbid, build something together.
As this leader talked about our new job, I looked around. I saw people on the edge of their seats. I heard people asking questions about what the next challenge is. About what tough old-school IT design to remove next. As with many such keynotes, it was quite insightful, and very encouraging. I think the teams walked away with something tangible- they have been given vision, and permission, to go change their world.
The next day, as I was wrapping up my visit with my friends in India, they spent a good amount of time talking about the closing keynote. I could see they had caught the fire. Previously, I've seen them catch direction, and find good tasks to go do. To see them have the fire in their belly for embracing this cloud first freedom was even more inspiring to me personally than the keynote had been. But it showed me something- the leader's desire for IT to grow, to reinvent itself, to lead the way. This leader's passion for each individual to embrace the freedom, to not only be freed from incarceration of ITIL, waterfall, monolithic datacenters, but to be inspired to do something with the freedom.
This leader loved the people. He loved the journey. The empowerment, the freedom. You don't sit in front of a monitor cutting tickets all day long anymore. You create. Take your paintbrush, and make something that wows people. Take your job and turn it into a beautiful painting of designs and ideas.
Microsoft IT is a fun place to work.