9th December 2022

Representing Vodafone at the AWS Re:Invent Conference 2022

Ben Connolly
Head of Digital Engineering UK

AWS Re:Invent is one of the biggest global events in the cloud & engineering industry with over 60,000 attendees from around the world. We all pay close attention to its information and trend insights for our own cloud journey – something many companies and industries are embarking on right now. It’s always an honour representing Vodafone at this event.

This year, however, is even more special. We were invited to present our cloud journey alongside our partners Accenture and AWS. It’s extremely exciting for us because it really puts us on a different stage (literally) and in the same forum as the biggest technology players in the world.

It’s especially significant for our Cloud Engineering initiatives. We've been navigating our way to becoming truly cloud native for a few years now and we've really started to accelerate in the last few years. This is driving not only widespread technology change across Vodafone, but a step change in our culture and business ambition.

We’re firmly set on becoming a technology company, driven by engineering principles and delivering constant value for our customers. By harnessing the cloud, we can deliver that better than ever.

Events like this allow us to share our experiences and hear from others, so we can make sure we're heading in the right direction. We have big ambitions!

The vision

Our mission is “To deliver customer value at sustainable speed with a world class technology team”

Our goal is to move from a traditional telco to a technology company, with software engineering at its core. I’m happy to say we’re well on our way and on track with our target to recruit over 7000 software engineers by 2025.

We started our journey 5 years ago now, moving from monolithic, on premise, third party platforms to now a modern engineering led, cloud native industry leading capability. We’ve led with engineering and a philosophy of build over buy. We’ve leveraged the latest cloud technology along the way, introducing containers, microservices and more recently Event Based Architectures and Step Functions. We’ve gone from deploying 21 changes a year to over 2300.

The secret sauce to all of this has been the cultural change that we’ve made as part of the technology transformation.

  • We’ve moved from a small 100% onshore team to a distributed team of over 800 engineers working in true scaled agile
  • We’ve moved from traditional waterfall ways of working to true E2E Value Streams, focussing on E2E value delivery, not separate parts of a journey
  • We’ve created time and space for innovation and hyperscaling – driving huge throughput improvements and innovation across the board
  • We’ve created an environment that empowers our teams to devise their own ways of working within their teams, not rigidly sticking to a traditional whole company approach

And its having a real impact…. Before if you wanted to get the best from Vodafone, our customers called us. Assisted channels of retail and the call centre dominated.

Digital is becoming our biggest channel, increasing from 13% to 35% so far, we’ve increased throughput by 250% and critically service revenue is growing at pace YoY and ahead of the UK market.

Telco as a Service is our strategy to unite over 30 cloud teams with the ambition of creating reusable and automated capabilities. All of which are supported by the AWS capabilities. We want to achieve a balance of local autonomy, pace and innovation with global standardisation, alignment and re-use. So we have two simple global guardrails:

  • If the solution exists already, don’t build it again.
  • If it doesn’t, build it for everyone.

We’re delivering brand new technology capabilities while also changing the face of the company at the same time. We're on a technical and commercial journey but also a cultural one that will see us moving faster than ever to deliver value for Vodafone and our customers.

Regardless of industry, the challenges and opportunities of becoming software-driven are shared. The AWS conference enables us to connect with companies and teams everywhere to share ideas and best practice without worrying about losing the competitive edge.  It's an amazing source of learning and inspiration.

As Head of Digital Engineering for Vodafone in the UK and also Head of Cloud Engineering across Vodafone globally, I get to sink my teeth into two very exciting roles. We have massive challenges and opportunities before us and after five years with the company, seeing my role grow along with our focus on Digital and Software Engineering has been a great ride!

Head to Vodafone.com for more info on our exciting digital transformation.