AIOps: A Research View

Picture from EMA Webinar

Last week, I tuned into a EMA Webinar, “AI(work)Ops 2021: The state of AIOps,” led by Valerie O’Connell, EMA Research Director. Valerie shared the results of an AIOps survey given to more than 30 customers of four AIOps vendors that paid EMA to conduct the surveys, view the use cases, and examine at least two customer implementations in great depth.  

Summary Valerie opened by cutting right to the chase: “AIOps is in full swing across enterprises of all sizes, with more than 90% of organizations in active deployment. Although the discipline is still relatively new to IT, there are big wins to be had—both quantifiable and qualitative. In fact, AIOps has a very high success rate (95%) and almost universally pays for itself.” 

Definitions. AIOps addresses day-to-day IT operations by gathering data data from within an organization’s infrastructure (servers, desktops, network, and applications), applies machine learning to it and acts upon the results through automated processes. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) focuses on business applications.

Other Findings include:

  • 100% of those surveyed were successful with AIOps. 77% reported being very/extremely successful.
  • An AIOps implementation at every level will at least break even.
  • More than half of the respondents directly associated automation with AIOps
  • The long-term goal for organizations is not to become a totally “Autonomous Digital Enterprise” but to retain a human touch. (People tend to trust human oversight.)
  • Automation breeds more automation and increases with implementation experience.
  • IoT and operational technology are the top use cases. DevOps and development are other leading use cases.
  • AI Monitoring was not widely used by organizations in this survey.
  • Those organizations with extremely successful AIOps implementations reported that digital transformation drives their AIOps strategy.
  • Other top drivers include operational efficiencies, DevSecOps, and executive pressure on IT.
  • Success drivers include: reduced number of outages, improved process efficiencies, and decrease in war room frequency.
  • Only 18% of organizations found AIOps implementation easy or smooth.

The bottom line? “AIOps is real, early, and the near and the clear future of IT Operations.” Both BMC and Atlassian now tout full AIOps capabilities, including AI Service Management (AISM). And at BMC’s April sales kickoff we learned that BMC Helix Monitor is the only AIOps platform that does full AIOps.

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Report From Atlassian’s Team 21

By Dick Stark and Alan Reynolds

Atlassian held its Team 21 annual customer conference (formerly Atlassian Summit) April 28 and 29 virtually. This was a big deal with an estimated 25,000 online attendees. What a difference a year has made. Thanks in part to the Pandemic, Atlassian’s collaboration tools are on a roll. And there was no shortage of the A list customers showcased: Zoom, Slack, Peloton, and Twitter, headlined a few of this year’s sessions. At any rate, I attended the keynotes each day and Alan was able to attend some of the other sessions. Here is a short summary.

Keynote Atlassian co-founder and co-CEO Mike Cannon-Brookes opened from the Atlassian studio with a story about how two Atlassian customers “unleased the power of teams” by managing COVID vaccine development efforts using Atlassian software and Agile processes. Although Mike didn’t specify which two companies, there were no projects more important in the world in the past 14 months than those related to controlling the COVID virus. Mike summarized other progress Atlassian made including: adding a Machine Learning engine to the platform, faster and more secure cloud experience, Cloud Enterprise Edition, built in automation, and better collaboration across more product lines.  Mike also announced Point A, five co-joined products: Halp, Jira Work Management, Jira Product Discovery, Compass, and Team Central. He explained, “this is a collaborative program so we can learn alongside and with you.” Team A includes:

Jira Work Management (in beta release) – this is a rebrand of Jira Core Cloud, with improvements to provide a calendar view and a spreadsheet view (list view) of work for business teams like legal, finance and marketing.

 Halp (in general release) – this tool provides conversational ticketing capabilities from Slack or Teams.

Compass (in alpha release) – this tool gives software teams a single place to understand engineering output, support teams, use insights, and best practices for improvement.

 Jira Product Discovery (in alpha release) – this tool helps product managers create products by rallying teams around priorities, from discovery through delivery.

 Team Central (in beta release) – this tool provides status reports to replace status spreadsheets that give everyone access to real-time progress, potential problems, and priorities, in a digestible feed.

In the wake of the COVID pandemic, Atlassian speakers emphasized that success is dependent more on alignment between teams than the success of any individual team. Furthermore, if working from home, Atlassian is the hub of work for any team, no matter the location. Most importantly–everything works together better in the cloud.

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BMC FY22 Officially Launched

Ayman Sayed CEO BMC Software

BMC began its FY22 on April 1 and held its annual sales kick-off meeting on-line again this year. BMC opened the meeting by stating that BMC had a very good year with all groups achieving or exceeding their FY21 numbers.

Autonomous Digital Enterprise (ADE) continues to be the centerpiece of BMC’s FY22 strategy. BMC explained that every company will be a tech-driven company by 2025, aspiring to evolve to an ADE. And the ADE Digital Service and Operation Management (DSOM) enablers—AI Operations (AIOps) aka Helix ITSM, and AI Service Management (AISM) aka Helix Monitor, align perfectly with BMC’s sales plays of Open AIOps, Service Assurance & Optimization, Intelligent Automation, Intelligent Self-Service, AISM to Innovation Bubbles, and AISM to Shared Services. Underpinning this is Dynamic Service Modeling powered by Discovery.

So what is AIOps? AIOps platforms enhance decision making by contextualizing large volumes of varied and volatile data. With Helix Monitor, BMC is the only company that can provide full AIOps capabilities.

AI Service Management makes better decisions faster with the next-generation of intelligence and automation. Helix ITSM offers intelligent service automation, and core enterprise service management including shared services such as HR and Facilities. And now Digital Workplace (thanks to the ComAround acquisition) offers a more complete customer centric experience.

BMC Innovation Labs. BMC’s newly created Innovation Labs started small with objectives to incubate, learn, refine, and scale. By thinking outside the box, this BMC team began with ADE solutions such as Helix Discovery and Helix Monitor and pulled in use cases outside of IT , for example, manufacturing floor, wind farms, and a cell phone tower network.  This is where it gets interesting. By using Discovery to monitor censors, it is possible to note anomalies and take action related to thresholds and SLAs. In the case of a cell tower failure, a ticket can automatically open and take action to ensure that service is restored as quickly as possible. This and other potential use cases opens up more selling opportunities for BMC.

The Channel. The BMC channel’s partner mission continues as “to drive incremental new license revenue and create a win-win between customers, partners, and BMC.” We’ll learn more when the BMC channel officially kicks off FY22 later this month. At any rate, we look forward to another excellent BMC year.

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Jira Service Management and Chocolate Tasting

Mixing the Cocoa Beans

A week ago RightStar held a Jira Service Management webinar for approximately 30 attendees featuring Theo Chocolate.  Although we did an excellent job presenting what’s new with JSM, the main draw was definitely the chocolate. (How can anything compete with chocolate?) And afterwards, Atlassian described the event as fun and delicious–two words that normally don’t go together at an Atlassian webinar. A good time was definitely had by all!  Here’s a brief summary of what’s new with both JSM and Theo Chocolate.

The 2020 Jira Service Desk rebranding was somewhat lost in the shuffle as Atlassian’s cloud and end of server announcements overshadowed last November’s JSM announcement. Atlassian is making a big-time play for JSM in the enterprise space and is taking on ServiceNow in the process. As a result:

  • Alert Management from Opsgenie is now bundled at no additional cost with all JSM cloud plans. Opsgenie includes on-call scheduling, alerting, and incident swarming. Also included are deeper integrations with Jira Software, Bitbucket, and Confluence, which offer incident resolution processes that span development and IT operations teams.
  • Coming soon is the Mindville CMDB richer asset and configuration management as well as best-in-class conversational ticketing capabilities from Halp, both from recent acquisitions.

These new features combined with Atlassian’s thousands of existing Jira Software enterprise accounts along with JSM’s attractive pricing and ease of implementation bodes well for rapid growth for JSM in the enterprise space.

Next up—an overview of Theo Chocolate, a factory tour, and a sampling of several types of chocolate bars. Theo Chocolate founded in 2005 in Seattle, Washington was the first organic, fair trade certified chocolate maker in North America. We learned where cocoa beans come from and how Theo makes its chocolate. And the best part—sampling the different chocolate bars—Sea Salt Dark Chocolate, Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter and Jelly Cups, Root Beer Barrel Dark Chocolate, Bread and Chocolate, Pure Dark Chocolate, Milk Chocolate, and Raspberry Dark Chocolate. A great way to end the day….

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Three Digital Transformation Stories

By Dick Stark

On Tuesday, March 9, the Federal News Network’s Luke McCormack hosted a panel discussion with Dr. Raj Iyer, CIO, US Army, Dominic Cussatt, Acting CIO, Department of Veterans Affairs, and Heidi Myers, Deputy CIO, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The discussion revolved around IT modernization strategies and initiatives. Here is a short update.

Dr. Raj Iyer, CIO US Army, opened by discussing continuous modernization revolving around the warfighter to include unified network operations, data center optimization, and how to leverage new technologies to improve connectivity to the soldier– such as 5G and wearable sensors.

Dr. Iyer discussed how the Army migrated off a legacy training/accreditation system, GoArmyEd to a brand new system built from scratch in just over a year. The end result: a much-improved system at a significant cost savings. A top priority for Dr. Iyer moving forward is modernization of the Army’s ERP system, currently SAP, where they have just started to review current requirements from a policies, processes and technologies perspective.

Heidi Myers, deputy CIO ICE, gave a short update on how ICE supported full time telework by redesigning the network, deploying network hubs, and using Skype and Teams with lots of training.

Next, Heidi discussed ICE’s impressive GovCloud presence. ICE is fully in the cloud and has been for over a year with more than 150 systems lifted/shifted in just a relatively short time. DevSecOps and data analytics are major ICE cloud-based initiatives with the cloud assuming the majority of pilot projects especially to test interoperability and demonstrate tangible outcomes.

Sounding more like a large enterprise rather than a government agency, Heidi’s top priority is to accelerate delivery and improve speed to market.  She has established a center of excellence to ensure applications “get out there quickly.” Heidi was most proud of a new tracking system that was deployed in just two weeks.

Dominic Cussatt, Acting CIO, Dept of Veterans Affairs pointed out that with a $6B budget and 400,000 employees, the VA is the size of a F10 company. With more than 20 million constituents, Digital transformation initiatives, especially in regard to customer service, are critical

Other than fighting the pandemic, VA’s move to the cloud is a top priority. Dominic pointed out that the VA has already moved 113 applications to the cloud with 62 more in process. And the good news: the VA’s more than 9M veterans did “not skip a beat,” that is, no service down time during the cloud migration process. Next up: chatbots for support of critical back office functions.

To sum up, RightStar offers excellent tools for digital transformations such as Jira Align to help ensure that enterprise strategic goals are properly aligned with the work being performed, and BMC Helix and Jira Service Management to make it easier to collaborate and get work done.

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Report from Atlassian Team Tour: Government Symposium

Selfies with Astronaut Mike Massimino

By Dick Stark

This past Tuesday through Thursday, RightStar exhibited at the virtual Atlassian Government Symposium. Also known as Team Tour: Government, the conference focused on, “how Atlassian is shifting its R&D investments and building new agile solutions to help government agencies address the rapid and dramatic changes the world is undergoing.” Here is a short summary.

Mike Massimino, Keynote Speaker, and former NASA Astronaut, and Professor, Columbia University gave arguably the best presentation of the conference. Who wouldn’t want to be an astronaut? Mike got the bug when he was six while watching Neil Armstrong walk on the moon and he never gave up on his dream. Most of us would have “thrown in the towel” especially after three NASA rejections, the last one due to a medical disqualification for non-perfect vision. Instead Mike worked with a child optometrist and trained his eyes and brain to see better–normally a procedure that only succeeds with children. It was enough to improve his vision to qualify for the NASA program.

Mike holds the record for the most spacewalking time by successfully completing a complicated repair of the Hubble Space Telescope. Mike explained that “failure was not an option,” after he stripped a screw that prevented him from removing a handrail that was blocking access to the repair. His solution? He ripped the handrail off with his “bare hands” to successfully complete the repair—again showing his determination and calm demeanor under pressure.

In the question and answer session later that day, hosted by the Northern Virginia Atlassian Community group, I asked when NASA will return to Mars. His answer: the moon by the end of the decade, and Mars, ten years later—something for all of us to look forward to.

Transformation in a dynamic environment, was the topic of Atlassian’s conference opener. Led by Anu Bharadwaj, Head of Atlassian’s Cloud Platform. Anu began with a brief history of the world, from hunter-gathers to the industrial revolution to the Internet to the Cloud, and finally to the Pandemic, where the world changed faster than ever before in just a matter of months. Anu asked, “How do you manage this rapid dynamic change?” Her answer: by unleashing the potential of individual teams. She went on to show how government agencies at the team, program and enterprise level can reach their full potential, especially with Atlassian toolsets, and specifically those in the cloud.

Anu summed it up this way, “Atlassian is now a cloud first company. We know that we can serve our customers better with no hassle upgrades and migrations with no worries and the best possible experience.”   

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IT Predictions: 2021

On Thursday, I tuned into an itSMF/Freshworks sponsored IT Predictions 2021 webinar with presenters Richard Pastore, The Hackett Group; Peter Baskette, Riverbed Technology; and Joy Su, Freshworks. The panelists presented the dynamics shaping 2021 and explored how to harness disruption to drive meaningful change and growth. Discussion centered around the results from the Hackett Group’s Key Issues Study and how organizations plan to adapt to a new normal and how that impacts the workforce and the IT operating model. I was relieved to hear that despite the SolarWinds breach, 2021 is not predicted to be another year focused primarily about security. And I was glad to hear that RightStar (and XTIVIA) are on the right track for 2021. Here are some reasons why.

Most Important Objectives of IT for 2021

Other than security at #1, the top four are:

  • Act as a strategic partner to the business
  • Align IT skills and talent to changing business needs
  • Cultivate a customer centric, innovative IT culture
  • Accelerate IT digital transformation

I was surprised to see that other than security, the next most important objectives are all interrelated and fall, at least to some extent in RightStar’s “wheelhouse.” On the DevOps and Lean Agile PPM side we offer the tools and consulting services, especially with Jira, Confluence, and Jira Align, to not just keep digital transformations moving forward, but also with Jira Align to monitor progress and ensure that the Agile work scales to meet the specific business goals and objectives.

Of course based upon everyone’s current work from home environment, tools like Jira and Confluence promote collaborative team work and offer a unique opportunity to affect change throughout the organization. Indeed, even in the absence of an Agile process focus, just having Agile based toolsets (based upon principles such as keep it simple, automate and optimize, and start where you are) means organizations can become Agile without really having to try.

Most Common IT Transformation Initiatives Planned for 2021

The top three are:

  • Revise/automate workflow to reduce manual dependencies
  • Improve ability of data to enable business value
  • Upskill/reskill IT staff to better support business needs

Richard Pastore discussed the importance of process automation to eliminate manual dependencies and bottlenecks. The Hackett survey found that 73% of IT respondents cite this as a major 2021 initiative. Automation is certainly top-of-mind for RightStar ITSM customers with employee on-boarding the most common digital workflow. A large county made a commitment several years ago to automate key department processes at organizations outside IT like HR and Finance, and we are working on a similar initiative at a similar county, also with the Remedyforce platform as the technology enabler. A commercial organization is standardizing on Remedyforce for its customer care/field service system. With integrations to systems like Replicon timekeeping, they see Remedyforce as a mission critical system to be used by all the support teams within the organization.

How will IT Performance be Judged?

The top four are:

  • Business operations stability/continuity
  • Progress on digital business transformation
  • Cybersecurity incidents
  • Impact on the bottom line

This certainly mirrors Atlassian’s and BMC’s push to the cloud for SaaS delivery of all its current offerings. And what better Agile tool is there than Jira Align to monitor digital business transformation progress.

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Raymond James Software Disruptor Day

By Dick Stark

Earlier this month, I received an invitation to the Raymond James “Software Disruptor Day,” featuring several private software companies in the Automation, Developer, DevOps, Security, and Identity spaces. The event was a fireside chat format with key executives from each company presenting. Participating companies included: Redis Labs (Database), Nintex (Workflow Automation), Illumio (Zero Trust), Auth0 (IDaaS), Puppet (Infrastructure Automation), DataRobot (Data Science) and GitLab (DevOps). Below I’ve summarized the content from three companies that apply to RightStar’s business.

DevOps Tools: GitLab is an Atlassian competitor and strong player in the DevOps tool marketplace. While starting out as a code repository, GitLab is now doing more than $150M in revenue annually. Its DevSecOps toolset platform supports the entire software development lifecycle including Agile development, CI/CD, source code management, and value stream management.  

And it is gaining in popularity. GitLab claims its end-to-end lifecycle model is unique among competitors such as Atlassian and Microsoft. The good news is that this is a growing space–Raymond James estimates the DevOps toolset space at $14B, meaning there will be plenty of business to go around.

Automation: Puppet and Nintex highlighted a recurring theme: Customers are increasingly automating processes wherever possible to improve efficiency while reducing IT/developer workload. This is also true in the ITSM space as BMC and ServiceNow use Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and run book tools to speed up repetitive processes such as onboarding tasks.

Nintex was founded in 2006 with a current revenue run rate now in excess of $200M annually. Their target market is IT Ops managers looking to automate basic IT process using a “low code” process similar to DocuSign. Nintex focuses on visual business process mapping, automated document generation and deep integration with SharePoint, O365 and Salesforce.

Puppet is an IT infrastructure automation company founded in 2009 and focused in the DevOps space helping customers manage and automate server configuration, security risk mitigation, compliance, and patch management. Puppet helps customers scale the management of their IT infrastructure across a large number of servers and across varied environments both on-prem and in the cloud.  (BMC’s TrueSight Automation for Servers performs similar functionality.)

So, what are the takeaways and how does this impact our customers?

  • Automation is becoming increasingly important to our customers and partners. We’ve seen this firsthand with new automation functionality in both the Atlassian and BMC toolsets. And just last week one of our government customers mentioned that they made a huge investment in UiPath to automate many ERP functions.
  • Ready or not, automation and especially RPA is here to stay.
  • Developer/DevOps toolset consolidation is happening and will benefit the market leaders, especially Microsoft, Atlassian, and GitLab. This should be good news as RightStar continues to grow its Atlassian business.

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December’s High Tech Prayer Breakfast

By Dick Stark

To no one’s surprise, this year’s High-Tech Prayer Breakfast (HTPB) was held virtually. Although I missed having a real breakfast, the message, “The Reality of Reconciliation: What is our role in bridging the gap of division in America,” was an antidote to these racially divisive times.  The HTPB is an organization centered around bringing the gospel of Jesus to the business community in DC and Northern Virginia and annually hosts a breakfast in the December timeframe usually where one or two leaders discuss how Jesus impacted their lives. Moderated by Lee Self, a business consultant, here’s a brief report:

Joshua Symonett, a pastor, leadership consultant and former NFL football player kicked things off by discussing bridge building, which he described as uncomfortable but work that helps break barriers.  Joshua’s parents didn’t have the opportunities he had and placed him in diverse environments so he could understand the world better. Joshua pointed out, “The American dream is not about comfort. Reconciliation must be about sacrifice. Jesus put himself in an uncomfortable position and look at what Jesus had to deal with–sacrifice. These interactions are critical if we have a unified future.”

Up next was Steve Park, founder and executive director, Little Lights, a non-profit that empowers under-served youth and families in Washington DC. Steve discussed how both healing and unity are needed. He teaches a class, Race Literacy 101 which confronts race history and helps Christians understand the history of race and why we are so divided. Now his classes are full. Steve exclaimed, “Education makes people realize that we are not a post-racial society as we have hoped. We have to do the hard work of understanding why we are so divided. There is worked to be done and singing kumbaya is not the answer.”

Also inspiring was Travis Mason, technology leader with years of experience designing effective regulatory and public policy strategies for emerging technologies. Travis told a story about a Russian experiment that put six people together in the desert for a 520 days to simulate long space voyages. The findings included: It is the small details that matter and it is the connections between “you and your neighbor” that matters more than anything. It is not the money spent on the spacecraft. Travis concluded, “The investment you make on relationships with people is more important than on the spacecraft…. When we think of the current situation, for example, COVID, diversity/divisiveness it reminds us that we are all on this spaceship together. COVID moves and shifts…Our future is incumbent on how we interact with each other.”

My prayer for 2021 is for healing, not just from COVID but from the racial divisiveness of 2020. Let’s lean and move forward to a deeper sense of unity in 2021. Happy New Year!

See: December High Tech Prayer Breakfast Replay

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RightStar, Powered Now by XTIVIA

On November 20, we announced that RightStar was acquired by XTIVIA, a company like RightStar except bigger. I’ll stay on for a minimum of three years running XTIVIA’s RightStar business unit. Not much is changing. RightStar will remain as a separate entity, reporting to XTIVIA CEO Dennis Robinson. What follows below is an excerpt from my Weekly Star article to RightStar employees.

It was a labor of love these past six months trying to find the best company that would be a win/win for all. I truly believe I hit the jackpot. XTIVIA is not a venture capital firm or equity partner only interested in cutting wherever they can and selling for a higher price later. They are looking for a long-term partner that will be successful over the long run.

XTIVIA has promised no personnel cuts and I believe them. While we can’t guarantee employment, I think (and XTIVIA agrees) that there is plenty of life left in RightStar and much to keep us busy moving forward. We have a good BMC pipeline going into next year to sustain our BMC business with several upgrades and new opportunities to start off the year.

Our Atlassian and Agile business units are also picking up steam. We’ve had several Jira Align calls recently and are building an impressive pipeline. Atlassian’s push to the cloud also creates enormous opportunity. Additionally, we have continued DCIM potential with Nlyte and roadmapping/strategy opportunity with our newest partner, Aha!

Don’t forget the tremendous cross-selling opportunity that XTIVIA creates. At some point we will start selling Remedyforce to XTIVIA’s Salesforce accounts. Or, Jira or Agile coaching to their software development customers. Don’t forget that Matrix, XTIVIA’s parent is also a BMC and Atlassian partner.

I enjoyed the trip down memory lane and viewing the pictures of our first All-Hands meeting from October 2003, more than 17 years ago. Big thanks to those for your 17 years of service to RightStar. Thanks also to others who are not far behind.  I said 17 years ago  that the future is so bright we’ll all need shades, and I meant it. Now, I’m happy to say the same thing, and I mean that too. Thanks everyone for your service to RightStar all these years. The best years are still to come.

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