nClouds achieved an important milestone this month. We were invited to join an exclusive club, the AWS Premier Consulting Partners, representing a level of recognition and earned trust with AWS, the most important company in cloud computing. It’s a group of about 75 partners worldwide (just 35 or so in North America) out of some 50,000 AWS partners and represents the highest tier of the Amazon Partner Network (APN). Achieving this status is predicated largely on nClouds’ ability to deliver successful outcomes for AWS customers, requiring proven experience, skills, certifications, competencies ‒ and a healthy business that supports AWS growth.
It’s celebration worthy, and a moment to be shared with the nClouds team, our phenomenal customers, and great partners ‒ especially our collaborative colleagues across AWS. We’re humbled and proud at the same time, and grateful, but mostly we’re energized about what’s next.
Because we’re just getting started.
You may know that my experience with AWS dates back to when EC2 was in beta in 2006. At that time I was a hired gun, building cloud-native infrastructure or moving workloads to cloud for early adopters. I was a DevOps consultant, network engineer, systems architect, sysadmin, and solutions architect ‒ building creds as a hands-on doer. The raw productivity of DevOps on cloud blew me away. And the awesome barrage of features and functionality from AWS had me hooked, especially when I realized that I no longer had to worry about changing hard drives on systems when they failed.
As I co-founded nClouds and assembled a truly awesome team, we formalized a partner relationship with AWS. I gained a broader appreciation for AWS, across the full lifecycle of a customer relationship. Along the way, as we have collaborated on everything from customer solutions to go-to-market strategy, the nClouds team has gained an incredible learning experience. I’ll be transparent ‒ it made me an Amazon fanboy.
We’re working hard to continuously invent and reinvent nClouds as a company that is built to last, with the customer at the center. We’re adopting lessons and values from Amazon’s playbook while making them very much our own. At this milestone, I thought it would be helpful to share what we’re doing.
While we have borrowed and adapted many fine values from Amazon, the three that have ignited us most are customer-centricity, thinking and acting bold, and playing the long game. We synthesized these with nClouds’ superpowers and the essential learning from what our customers recognize as value, to create the nClouds Values, a common set of ethos that defines us:
I’ll give you some more color and context.
Most prevalent in our engagements with AWS is the now legendary Amazon customer-first centricity. It is authentic, going beyond trendy platitudes, and both evident and consistent in every interaction – with sales, solutions architects, business development reps, executives. It is a culture that is relentless about starting with the customer experience in every discussion, every solution statement.
I’ve got a hundred examples, but I think the AWS Well-Architected initiative is a great example of this customer centricity that has been turned into a program in order to scale. If you’re not familiar with AWS Well-Architected Reviews, AWS provides skilled AWS solution architects, or trained and certified partners (like nClouds), along with financial incentives, to encourage customers to review a primary workload to ensure it meets best practice guidelines defined by the AWS Well-Architected Framework. The outcome of the Reviews, in our experience, is improved customer satisfaction related to remediating issues with cost, security, reliability, performance, and operational excellence.
As we applied customer-centricity to nClouds, the team interpreted the “customer” as end customers, employees, and partners. And, we extracted what we thought was the most valuable element ‒ a focus on customer outcomes.
That led to nClouds’ business model of integrating with our customers’ teams ‒ to share their technical and business goals. In practice, that means nClouds team members are typically on the customers’ Slack channels, in their standups ‒ not an outsourcing model. We know it’s difficult to staff DevOps and cloud infrastructure roles when tech is changing as fast as it is, so our customers recognize the value of engaging a team ‒ solution architects, sysadmins, DevOps engineers, experienced project managers ‒ that can provide the depth and breadth required for high-growth organizations as needs evolve. Sometimes at the economic cost of a DevOps engineer.
Now, most of our clients are long term, and the largest portion of our new business comes from customer referrals. Simply, we aspire to be an extension of our client’s team, with shared goals.
I have long been intrigued by Amazon’s boldness. It’s Jeff Bezos’ DNA that has inspired the company to not accept established thinking in any industry. Rather throw out norms, re-write rules, disrupt ‒ always to deliver a better service, product, outcome, and experience to the end customer. (By the way, if you have not read The Everything Store, by Brad Stone, I recommend it highly. It will help you understand this amazing company.)
As we applied this bold thinking to nClouds, we picked up the AWS vocabulary, as well as the deeper intent, to recognize and amplify our superpowers. That led to a strategic decision to go all in on AWS ‒ hitching ourselves to #1, the cloud rocket ship that is bigger than the next four vendors combined. But we also focused on what we do best – serving high-growth, tech-centric companies who are all-in on cloud. From startups bringing their first production workload to market, to busting-out growth-stage companies, to agile, early-cloud-adopter divisions of much larger organizations.
The team recognized that the status quo is a commodity and not a sustainable business model. So we challenge the status quo every day. It’s evident in our staff diversity. In going the extra mile on service delivery. Or, reaching for the brass ring of AWS Premier Consulting Partner and a relentless, rapid progression of certifications and competencies like Migration, DevOps, Audited MSP, and Approved Well-Architected Partner. It is innovating continuously to deliver customer success.
Perhaps what differentiates AWS from other organizations, beyond its sincere obsession with customers, is its long-term orientation. AWS does not accept the status quo that clings to established industry norms or views business success around quarterly earnings. (By the way, AWS does love quarterly goals and metrics ‒ in fact, we’ve adopted their quarterly business review, or QBR, management concept.) There’s a recognition that bold moves ‒ creating a new category, disrupting an industry, changing the world ‒ are things that take time when done smart.
As a startup, nClouds can innovate and pivot fast. That’s a strength. But in our business growth model, we’ve integrated this “build for the long-term” perspective that focuses on scalability ‒ growing the business rapidly without compromising quality of service. The partnership model with our customers has yielded long-term client relationships, with outstanding business and technical outcomes, that generate customer references that are a primary growth driver.
To grow at scale requires a culture where innovation is continuous and celebrated. But not innovation for innovation’s sake. In a company where most of the employee population is comprised of certified geeks like me, it would be natural to innovate for elegance. Instead, we think customer, bold, and long-play.
We are in a unique position to share learning and solutions across customers. This experience has led to solutions that address productivity in 24/7 online support, or address cost, security, and change management with nOps, a cloud management platform for AWS. What’s more, we’re applying innovation to combine our experience and leadership in AWS Well-Architected Reviews with automation to improve the speed, efficiency, and quality of Reviews ‒ with valuable insights into recommended remediation plus continuous, post-Review health checks.
Hopefully, this has provided some perspective on who we are as the nClouds team celebrates this milestone. There are links below to nClouds Values and customer case studies that can provide you with more context and details.
I want to thank and spotlight the nClouds team. You are an amazing and talented group of pros ‒ it is exhilarating to be with you on this ride. To our awesome customers, you are our inspiration and reason to exist as a company. We are in this with you, all the way. We thank you for your trust in us ‒ let’s go kick some butt! And finally, to the most awesome-ist partner, AWS, thank you for the recognition in our promotion to AWS Premier Consulting Partner. I promise you we will go out and earn this every single day.
It’s exciting times at nClouds. And we are just getting started.
If you like what you read in this blog post and you’re not yet an employee, client, or partner, then I have some suggested next steps: