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Lean, Mean Cloud Machine

by Aaron Stafford | November 13, 2019

At 5CA, we’ve over a thousand customer support agents working from home all over the world. We provide customer support in any language, at any time and over any channel. We’re developing Artificial Intelligence (AI)-backed tools to empower users and assist our agents. We’re data-driven too: continuously analysing vast amounts of information to improve our operations and we pass vital user experience intel to our clients to help them make better products and experiences.

To do all this, we must have some impressive technology, right? Yep. Do we own any of it? Nope.

Best practices - Aaron

At 5CA, our value lies in delivering customer support. We’re not software developers nor technicians and we know it. We, and our clients would rather us focus our 20+ years of customer support experience on delivering value, insights and innovation rather than buying hardware or writing and patching software. To us, technology is an enabler; nothing more nor less. And what an enabler it is!

At 5CA, we choose the public cloud because we choose agility and elevated thinking. We offload the nitty-gritty of IT management to companies who know it best. It’s like me taking the train to write this post; I’m comfortable and able to create while whizzing past those who choose the car and to navigate traffic.

Going cloud isn’t all rainbows and unicorns. Public cloud presents challenges as well as benefits, but we consciously choose the cloud because we believe in the net-benefit to us and our clients. Let’s explore some of the pros and cons.

Going cloud requires clarity of what’s important and the confidence to pick your battles. Much like public transport (to stretch my analogy to breaking point), we cannot always choose our route, nor the seat we take. Sometimes too, a service will go down or a cost will go up and we’ve limited influence over the these. Going cloud isn’t a passive exercise, unlike public transport, we can choose our suppliers, we can engage & negotiate, and we move on when the net-value no longer meets our needs. We can and must be proactive customers.

Going cloud means minimising our environmental footprint. By sharing compute power, hardware, cooling, power etc. with others, we use (and pay for) only what we need. The alternative would mean purchasing dedicated kit whose spare capacity we’d rarely use. Going cloud also compliments our Work From Home & Bring Your Own Device (WFH+BYOD) approach in which our agents reduce their footprint by not commuting to work and using the kit they have at hand.

Going cloud means being intelligent about security. A large and distributed BYOD workforce coming in over the public Internet is something worthy of thought. It means being clear on what constitutes our security perimeter and how much trust we place in anything associated with our services (it’s zero btw). We also assume that a breach will occur as this sharpens our thinking toward least-privilege, data loss prevention and surveillance.

Going cloud means discipline because there’s no lack of exciting, feature-rich products out there. At 5CA, we exercise a low code/high config strategy to support our desire to elevate our thinking and be creative. No less important are security, access to data for analytics, and synergy with existing systems and skillsets. IT therefore maintains simple evaluation & selection criteria and we build strong relationships across the company to enable our colleagues to choose the right services.

Going cloud gives us agility. We’re continuously exploring new product ideas and better ways of working, and we do a lot of tinkering to learn and see what comes of it. We can do this without the limits of capital outlay. In general, we can spin up some compute power or switch on a service and have a go. If things look positive, then we scale it up. Otherwise, we switch things off and pay only for what we’ve used. This low-risk context is key to our entrepreneurial spirit and our geeky need to experiment. Cloud gains us an innovative edge and a positive culture of play and learning as we go.

And finally, going cloud means our business is underpinned by the best that technology has to offer. We reduce risk and we gain credibility by using a hyperscale provider for our backoffice and security workloads and for our frontend toolsets, a number of innovative, cloud-born industry-leaders. We also benefit simply from being a customer in a crowded cloud marketplace. As providers jostle to compete they invest deeply in new and improving services that we gain through little or no effort or additional cost.

5CA wasn’t born in the cloud. We’re well-versed in purchasing and maintaining hardware, and to hand-cranking software to meet our needs. But as cloud technology matured, 5CA made the move and like so many agile and entrepreneurial companies, we seem to have found our home. It’s still under construction and a door handle may sometimes go missing, but as space to imagine, to create and to be at our best for our people, our clients and their customers, there’s no better place than the cloud.

Aaron Stafford

Aaron Stafford

Aaron’s our Chief Technology Officer, which puts him at the center of 5CA’s capability to deliver incredible things today and to do even more tomorrow. Australian by birth and Dutch & British by choice, Aaron’s collection of passports rivals that of Jason Bourne. According to Aaron, IT is a fantastic industry to be in: It’s always changing, there’s always something new to learn and plenty of opportunities to make things better. IT’s biggest plus though is its people: Interesting, smart and geeky; there’s never a dull moment in the IT crowd.

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