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BHAGs. FTW?!

BHAG.

Do you know what that stands for?

Big hairy audacious goal!

This was made famous in the mid-90s business book titled “Built to Last” written by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras (my second cousin!). Andy Jassy’s 3-hour LIVE (!) keynote, delivered on December 1 at the AWS re:Invent 2020 conference, reminded listeners that in order to be successful with a move to the public cloud, you’ve got to set aggressive, top-down goals.

While the AWS share of the cloud market is at 45% – more than double that of Microsoft Azure – there’s still much work to do. 96% of the estimated $3.6 trillion in global IT spending has yet to shift to the cloud.

So even though it feels like everyone is adopting the public cloud, there’s still a way to go. But there are a lot of execs out there (and even more in telco) who think they should just wait and see what happens. Do you know what happens when you miss the boat on a mega trend? Your company DIES. Andy reminded us that if you look at the Fortune 500 of just 20 years ago, only half of the companies on that list are still on it today. I guess it is super hard to build a business that lasts.

So if you want to stay successful, you need to reinvent yourself on the reg. Jassy warned that many enterprises are waiting too long to reinvent, often not until the point of near bankruptcy, pivoting only when they are totally out of options. It’s better to reinvent early, when you are healthy, rather than in a moment of desperation – and he’s right. But you also need the right motivation, culture and technology to do it when things are going well. Thankfully, there’s a great way to reinvent yourself that fully applies to telco: the public cloud.

Our advice: don’t just dip your toe in the water with the public cloud. Set an aggressive goal and start moving applications. On the first of every month ask yourself: how many applications did we move to the public cloud last month and how can we double the velocity this next month? Then repeat – and don’t stop until you’re done.

In total, Jassy announced 24 new capabilities that AWS will be delivering – everything from customer service platforms and computer vision algorithms to machine learning operations and serverless deployments. I’ve picked out three that I think are the most exciting developments, and that should be part of your aggressive plans starting NOW:

Chips

In the 90s, Intel ruled the roost when it came to cloud chips. But they made a pretty big mistake in 2006 when they decided to not pursue the ARM architecture for their chips. They have been paying the price ever since as both Apple and Amazon are starting to ‘chip’ away at that dominance. In 2018, AWS announced a custom Arm SoC for cloud workloads – the Amazon Graviton processor. Last year it made significant improvements with the Graviton2, optimized for cloud-native applications and based on 64-bit Arm Neoverse cores. The stats are impressive – the Graviton2 processors offer up to 7x more performance, 4x more compute cores, and 5x faster memory than the A1 instances – while also delivering up to 40% better price/performance over comparable current generation x86-based instances.

This is great news for telco if you’re using the public cloud. If you have workloads moved up into AWS running on Intel machines (example: m5 machines) and move them to Graviton2 chips (examples, m6g machines), you could save 40% in costs WITH A FEW KEYSTROKES. Lots of people have independently verified these findings outside of AWS and detailed just how easy it was to move their workloads – usually a matter of hours.

You cannot do this with an on-premise data center, and this won’t be the last time this happens. Get your stuff up and into the cloud, and reap these automagical savings for your organization.

Databases

People in telco are all worried that the hyperscalers are coming for them. Well get in line, because the BFCs are going after the database vendors first. Andy Jassy has been going after Oracle and then some. Amazon recently eliminated all internal use of Oracle and markets AWS Aurora as the ‘Oracle Killer.’ Aurora is the fastest growing AWS service with 100k customers. Amazon Aurora Serverless v2 scales to hundreds of thousands of transactions in a fraction of a second, delivering up to 90% cost savings compared to provisioning for peak capacity. It’s a dream for customers that don’t want to deal with the work associated with self-managing database capacity.

But sometimes one enemy is not enough, and so Andy Jassy is going after Microsoft and the SQL Server team, too. See, Microsoft was getting pretty grumpy that people weren’t picking their cloud and were moving workloads to AWS and decided to jack up their licensing fee for SQL Server on AWS, while lowering it for people on Azure. And that didn’t sit so well with Andy.

So what did he do?

He had AWS create Babelfish for Aurora PostgreSQL, a new capability for Aurora that allows customers to run SQL Server applications directly on Aurora PostgreSQL with little to no code changes. Finally, AWS shared its plans to open source Babelfish for PostgreSQL under the permissive Apache 2.0 license and make it available on GitHub.

This is great news for telco, as legacy enterprise databases like Oracle and SQL Server have been a very expensive line item for telco IT departments (like say, Vodafone, which has 17 PBs of data stored on premise!). With this new capability from AWS, telcos can dramatically reduce their licensing fees by switching out expensive on-prem databases with cheaper, faster cloud databases like Aurora. I’m sure somewhere Larry Ellison is crying in his beer (though probably while on his yacht, so don’t feel too bad for him).

Business Applications

Perhaps the best part was hearing about Amazon Connect. Since its launch in 2017, Connect has been employed by thousands of companies, including the likes of The New York Times, GE Appliances, and Square. According to Jassy, the pandemic has substantially accelerated businesses’ cloud adoption, and more than 5,000 contact centers turned to the Amazon Connect service over the past year. He announced five new Connect capabilities designed to bolster customer service:

  1. Agent assistanceAmazon Connect Wisdom uses Natural Language Processing (NLP) to detect customer issues during the call and subsequently recommends relevant content stored in the knowledge repositories. For example, Wisdom can detect when a customer says “arrived broken.” After hearing that prompt, Wisdom will automatically display instructions within the Amazon Connect agent application for exchanging an item, including specific answers and links to relevant content.
  2. Customer profiles: When a customer calls, Customer Profiles scans and matches the customer records across multiple applications for unique identifiers like phone numbers or account IDs. AWS customers can also use pre-built connectors to third-party applications like Marketo, Salesforce and ServiceNow from the Amazon Connect console.
  3. Real-time analytics: Real-Time Contact Lens enables contact center managers to create rules to flag customer issues using keywords (e.g. “not happy,” “poor product quality,” “cancel,” etc.) or sentiment analysis (e.g. negative sentiment, voices being raised, etc.). Managers receive real-time alerts when their specified conditions are met so they can provide guidance or have the agent transfer the call.
  4. Task automation and management: Amazon Connect Tasks improves agent productivity by up to 30%. Managers can assign and prioritize tasks to agents based on availability and skill set, and the tasks are displayed to agents in the same Amazon Connect interface that they use to view their call and chat interactions.
  5. Caller authentication: Amazon Connect Voice ID provides real-time caller authentication using machine-learning-powered voice analysis. Callers are given the option to authenticate themselves by using their voice, offering them an additional layer of security against fraud and saving them from the hassle of having to answer multiple questions to verify their identity. It makes contact centers more secure, provides a better customer experience, and improves the productivity of agents.

This is great news for telcos as Connect is rapidly adding great features that you can be using to drive better subscriber experiences. My suggestion would be to use Connect as a call center base but add the 10 – 20% additional code you need to make it telco-specific. Get all the rapid expansion of features, CI/CD provided by Amazon, plus all the awesome cloud benefits and start to really drive customer insights that help agents solve problems faster and build loyalty in the subscriber base. It’s moving so fast that there’s no way your on-premise call center solution can keep up. Adopt Connect now and catch the Amazon wave.

The public cloud stuff is so freaking cool. And it’s moving SO FAST. Even comparing the three cloud vendors, it’s got to be so difficult for Microsoft and Google to keep up with the pace of innovation being driven by Amazon.

The winners in all this?

The customers. You get the benefits of their price wars over compute chips and the pettiness over pricing of databases, while standing on the shoulders of the world’s best technologists thinking about generic business problems to solve, like call center.

My advice? Set some B.H.A.G.s and get moving to the public cloud – NOW!

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