Operational excellence - Operational Excellence Pillar

Operational excellence

At Amazon, we define operational excellence as a commitment to build software correctly while consistently delivering a great customer experience. It contains best practices for organizing your team, designing your workload, operating it at scale, and evolving it over time. Operational excellence helps your team to focus more of their time on building new features that benefit customers, and less time on maintenance and firefighting. To build correctly, we look to best practices that result in well-running systems, a balanced workload for you and your team, and most importantly, a great customer experience.

The goal of operational excellence is to get new features and bug fixes into customers’ hands quickly and reliably. Organizations that invest in operational excellence consistently delight customers while building new features, making changes, and dealing with failures. Along the way, operational excellence drives towards continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) by helping developers achieve high quality results consistently.

Design principles

The following are the design principles for operational excellence in the cloud:

  • Perform operations as code: In the cloud, you can apply the same engineering discipline that you use for application code to your entire environment. You can define your entire workload (applications, infrastructure, etc.) as code and update it with code. You can script your operations procedures and automate their process by launching them in response to events. By performing operations as code, you limit human error and create consistent responses to events.

  • Make frequent, small, reversible changes: Design workloads that are scaleable and loosely coupled to permit components to be updated regularly. Automated deployment techniques together with smaller, incremental changes reduces the blast radius and allows for faster reversal when failures occur. This increases confidence to deliver beneficial changes to your workload while maintaining quality and adapting quickly to changes in market conditions.

  • Refine operations procedures frequently: As you evolve your workloads, evolve your operations appropriately. As you use operations procedures, look for opportunities to improve them. Hold regular reviews and validate that all procedures are effective and that teams are familiar with them. Where gaps are identified, update procedures accordingly. Communicate procedural updates to all stakeholders and teams. Gamify your operations to share best practices and educate teams.

  • Anticipate failure: Perform “pre-mortem” exercises to identify potential sources of failure so that they can be removed or mitigated. Test your failure scenarios and validate your understanding of their impact. Test your response procedures to ensure they are effective and that teams are familiar with their process. Set up regular game days to test workload and team responses to simulated events.

  • Learn from all operational failures: Drive improvement through lessons learned from all operational events and failures. Share what is learned across teams and through the entire organization.

  • Use managed services: Reduce operational burden by using AWS managed services where possible. Build operational procedures around interactions with those services.

  • Implement observability for actionable insights: Gain a comprehensive understanding of workload behavior, performance, reliability, cost, and health. Establish key performance indicators (KPIs) and leverage observability telemetry to make informed decisions and take prompt action when business outcomes are at risk. Proactively improve performance, reliability, and cost based on actionable observability data.


There are four best practice areas for operational excellence in the cloud:

  • Organization

  • Prepare

  • Operate

  • Evolve

Your organization’s leadership defines business objectives. Your organization must understand requirements and priorities and use these to organize and conduct work to support the achievement of business outcomes. Your workload must emit the information necessary to support it. Implementing services to activate integration, deployment, and delivery of your workload will create an increased flow of beneficial changes into production by automating repetitive processes.

There may be risks inherent in the operation of your workload. You must understand those risks and make an informed decision to enter production. Your teams must be able to support your workload. Business and operational metrics derived from desired business outcomes will help you to understand the health of your workload, your operations activities, and respond to incidents. Your priorities will change as your business needs and business environment changes. Use these as a feedback loop to continually drive improvement for your organization and the operation of your workload.