Jira: It’s All About Customer Value

By Dick Stark

As a DevOps consultancy and Atlassian Solution Provider, our sales mantra is “It’s all about customer value.” You see, many Atlassian customers start out with a server running Jira under a developer’s desk, Soon, someone else adds Bitbucket. Then Confluence sprouts up somewhere. Many credit card swipes later Atlassian is branching out and before you know it, Atlassian is everywhere: developers, corporate IT, product managers, and even HR.  With no one in charge, and little administration, Jira starts to slow down. Suddenly, the Jira admin, who also manages many other tools, starts hiding under the same desk as the Jira server….

This Atlassian customer scenario is typical of many real-life situations where Jira grows without good controls and processes, and becomes mission critical, until it reaches a tipping point. This is the point where RightStar jumps in. After a quick discussion we determine that the prospect needs to “slow down to speed up,” and we offer an Atlassian Assessment and Advisory to assess the current use of Atlassian tools, identify opportunities, and apply best practices. Our Atlassian assessment methodology which is carried out in four main steps:

  1. Determine the current state (As-Is) process and tools situation.
  2. Determine the desired future state (To-Be) process and tool enhancements situation.
  3. Define improvement actions to go from the As-Is to the desired To-Be situation.
  4. Create a roadmap highlighting measurable steps of execution for attaining the To-Be state.

RightStar’s assessment process begins with on-site interviews with key stakeholders and participants. Then following the interviews, RightStar compiles a draft document and a reach back session to ensure the accuracy and value of the advisory document.

Included in the document is a listing and ranking of clearly defined milestones or Minimum Value Products (MVPs) which are used as guideposts to drive or enhance the current situation. An example of a Must Have MVP is to synch the Atlassian toolset with key processes for doing business.

Advisory Service Quick Wins

The assessment also reports on Quick Wins along with longer term recommendations and a level of effort or work breakdown structure for moving forward. Examples of quick wins are shown above.

In summary, what do organizations expect from mission critical tools such as Jira? First, the tools must be integral to their business needs. Second, they must always be available, and third, good reporting and governance must prevail. RightStar’s mission is to be our customers’ expert advisor and return value back to the organization. An excellent advisory assessment delivers that value as long as the customer is able to quickly realize the results and outcomes they want to achieve.

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Back to School with BMC Chatbots

chatbot powered by watson

School may be out for the summer, but RightStar and BMC will be busy working with an existing RightStar and BMC Remedy university customer to set up a student portal, powered by BMC’s Cognitive Service Management (CSM). Both RightStar and BMC will  begin next week an implementation that the students will start using by the time they arrive in late August.

CSM encompasses predicative intelligence, virtual agents, and a digital workplace Chatbot. Built on top of the Remedy Innovation Suite and Digital Workflow, a customer can connect with either a live or virtual agent using any type of messaging such as chat or voice. The beauty of the Innovation Suite is that it allows developers or customers to incorporate cognitive services into complex custom processes and workflows. IBM’s Watson is the “brains” behind the scenes. The objective: provide a rapid and excellent response, with an impressive ROI, by removing the human interaction.

Chatbot functionality typically includes:

  • 24 x7 chatbot agent technical support through a mobile device.
  • Email account setup.
  • Reset passwords.
  • Register wireless devices.
  • Search and retrieve knowledge articles.

Additionally, RightStar and BMC will help build knowledge articles consisting of subjects such a Blackboard login and general questions; how to setup IPTV in the residential halls; first time login instructions; how to get a parking pass; and various other questions.

Benefits include:

Reduced cost. By allowing students to interact with a Chatbot on a mobile device, organizations can reduce the number of incoming calls to the technical support staff. This means that the technical support staff can refocus their time and energy to handling more complex issues. Chatbots also reduce the support cost required to answer common, relatively simple questions that may be resolved using a virtual agent

Improved first contact resolution. Given that many students call the help desk with common, and relatively simple questions, a cognitive solution allows answers to those questions for users immediately, without having to transfer the users to representatives or require students to wait on the phone for service.

I’m impressed with the enthusiasm our prospects have shown so far and am very excited about Chatbots and look forward to a successful implementation.

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Organization Agility with Jira Service Desk

Atlassian Approach to ITSM

I attended a local itSMF meet-up last week that focused not just on ITIL, but on DevOps concepts like organizational agility, collaboration, experimentation, and flexibility. DevOps is a discipline that is all about speed, faster time to market, real sense of urgency, “modernizing IT,” and doing more with less. Culture, tools, and vision now must all be managed alongside legacy ITIL processes of service design and service operation. At the center of the DevOps movement is Atlassian with its suite of software development and collaboration products, including Jira Service Desk (JSD), which was designed for agile teams from the onset.

When RightStar began as an Atlassian partner three years ago, JSD was really positioned as an ITSM tool for Jira customers already using Jira Software. Since then Atlassian has achieved Pink certification for four modules: Request Fulfillment, and Incident, Problem, and Change Management. But, since then, RightStar has received orders from new customers that purchased JSD as a new ITSM tool. These organizations realized the value that JSD brings independent of Jira Software. What makes JSD work so well when competing with the likes of ServiceNow? Plenty. Here is my list:

  • Focus on Agility. An important component of Agile is communication. JSD with its HipChat ecosystem, allows agents to “swarm” a problem to provide a quick fix.
  • StatusPage keeps customers informed 24/7 about the status of critical services they depend upon.
  • Modern use interface that lets customers submit requests, or
  • Add Confluence to get an integrated knowledge base.
  • Available in a SaaS or on-premise options.
  • Only Salesforce has more third party applications available than Atlassian’s Marketplace which has more than 700 different apps for JSD alone.
  • RightStar’s ScanStar for Jira offers barcode scanning compatible with Insight, Atlassian’s CMDB.
  • Scalability to support very large enterprises. A current government account has grown to more than 90,000 Jira users in just five years.
  • Minimal support costs. That same agency supports JSD with a team of just five consultants.
  • Good value. Atlassian advertises that a large enterprise could save enough to buy a small island by moving from ServiceNow to JSD.
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Report from BMC Exchange Federal 2018

Panel Discussion 2018 BMC Federal Exchange

BMC’s annual Federal user group conference, Exchange, was held last Wednesday at the Marriott Marquis in Washington, DC.  Attendance was up this year with approximately 590 customers, partners, and BMC employees in attendance I was part of a Digital Transformation panel discussion that included General Steve Smith (Ret.) US Army, Colonel Robert Quinker (Ret.) Army National Guard, and Kaschit Pandya, Deputy ACIO, IRS. Here is a short Exchange 2018 update.

LTG Alan Lynn, former Director, DISA opened the session with a discussion of DOD moving to the cloud. Since DISA is the current DOD cloud provider, he discussed the importance of cost reduction as DISA starts to square off against large emerging DOD cloud providers like AWS.  (If the CIA can move to the cloud, then so can the DOD). The second cloud driver is standardization. General Lynn stated that the DOD has more than 30,000 different apps, not all of which will migrate well. A cloud migration will eliminate lots of lower impact apps and consolidate many others.

Next up was Dave Wennergren, Managing Director, Deloitte, and former Army CIO. Dave presented his “Top 10 List,” of tech issues that are the focus of government in the months ahead. Any guess about #1?  “Change happens,” said Dave, “and we in government run the risk of being left behind.” Dave’s parting advice: Have a plan, move with speed, engage customers throughout the process, move into the future boldly, and communicate relentlessly.

Dan Streetman, BMC Senior VP, Worldwide Strategic Sales and Operations “parachuted in” (you had to be there) and talked about the digitalization of government. Using BMC’s FY 2019 tagline of Optimize, Transform, and Create, he cited several examples of government done well, like real time earthquake information from the US Geological Survey, SSA’s use of big data to make life saving information available to researchers, and radically improving GPS to aide the warfighter. He also gave several specific BMC customers, DLA with its Digital Workplace initiative, DISA’s STIG server compliance spin up from days to minutes thanks to BMC SecOps, and the Federal Reserve Board’s move from Remedy on-premise to Remedy as a Service (formerly Remedy OnDemand).

The final keynote speaker was Kathryn Haun, a former DOJ prosecutor, and Blockchain, Cryptocurrency, and Cybersecurity expert. She discussed her role in prosecuting Dark Web cybercriminals including the rogue DEA and Secret Service agents involved in the shutting down of the Silk Road website. (This story will soon to be a major motion picture). Kathryn also detailed the computer science behind blockchain and her predictions for the future—it’s going to be huge. She said that in 10 years, 10% of the world’s GDP will be on blockchain.

Overall a great day for BMC and its Federal customers!

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Report from BMC’s SKO

BMC SKO Apr 2018By Dick Stark

BMC began its FY19 on April 1 and held its annual sales kick-off meeting this week in Las Vegas. It was a great start to BMC’s new fiscal year!

CEO Peter Leav opened by saying that it is a phenomenal time to be at BMC. BMC grew its topline revenue in its fiscal year ending March 31, 2018. Other data points:

  • P&A and SecOps merged into a single group, DSO, Digital Service Operations. Since IT Operations is broadening across the enterprise—DevOps, CloudOps, SecOps, it makes sense to focus on what really matters—security, performance, cloud, and agility. DSO focuses on all as a united group.
  • Remedyforce bookings grew significantly.
  • DSM (Remedy, FootPrints, Remedyforce, and Discovery) also grew significantly in the channel.
  • Discovery bookings were way up.
  • Federal business also had a terrific year.

A key differentiator for BMC continues to be its multi-cloud strategy. Most organizations have a mix of public and private clouds like AWS and Azure, and continue to move to the cloud in a big way. Look for a new ITSM announcement for Remedy next month about this.

BMC Discovery with its multi-cloud discovery option continues to be a big push. This helps solidly position BMC Discovery as the best discovery product in the marketplace. BMC Digital Workplace provides an employee portal/service catalog as a single pane of glass with an “Amazon” look and feel that allows employees to engage, whenever and wherever they want to work. Since DWP is relatively new, there is plenty of upside potential.

Finally, BMC motivational speaker, Peter Sheahan, author of Matter, Move Beyond the Competition and Become the Obvious Choice, summed it up this way, “In times of change and uncertainty, people will be attracted to partners with clarity, confidence, and a strong point of view.” At RightStar, we look forward to an excellent BMC FY19.


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By Dick Stark

In my last blog I discussed how in the agile world of software development, quality is continuous. By finding defects earlier, this approach shifts quality to the “left.” It helps reduce testing time which means software gets released sooner. Quality Management is a critical component of the software development life cycle, but often gets a short shrift. Why? Partly because of the functionality of available software testing tools. According to a conversation with an IT executive I had recently, there is a negative bias against these tools. He wasn’t aware, however, of QA Symphony (QAS), a relatively new player in the software test management space.

Last week, QAS held its annual user conference, QualityJam in Atlanta. I attended the online partner training session virtually. Here is a short update.

QAS is growing very rapidly and taking advantage of the Digital Transformation movement and its focus on Agile (and Jira). Similar to how ServiceNow took market share away from the legacy ITSM players, QAS is rapidly replacing HPE’s HPQC with the QAS qTest platform. This is good news for QAS which now boasts more than 500 customers in 30+ countries, with lots of large enterprises in the technology, financial, and retail verticals.

It’s important to point out that QAS is not another Jira plug-in. It is an independent platform with various components that integrates with other ALM toolsets such as CA, and other open source solutions. According to QAS, there is no better test management platform tool in the market today.

Test Management tools, not to be confused with Test Automation tools, provide a testing “manager of manager” functionality. These tool sets also offers runbook or orchestration capability that integrates Test Automation open source, custom, or standard offerings from Test Automation companies such as Cucumber, eggplant, or Tircentis. Since testing varies widely based upon the complexity of the software to test, developers may select Cucumber which offers a code based system or Tricentis, which offers a simplified “point and click” offering (better for business users).

qTest is also purpose built for “shift-left” teams to facilitate BDD in their DevOps pipelines. BDD stands for Behavior Driven Design. BDD uses a ubiquitous language to establish a user story for a software system under development. This user story identifies a stakeholder, a business effect and a business value. It also describes several scenarios, each with a precondition, trigger and expected outcome. BDD provides software development and management teams with shared tools and a shared process to collaborate on software development.

Finally, RightStar has already assisted with QAS resales and implementations at several customers. And RightStar consultants have excellent QAS experience. qTest allowed one such customer a rigorous test management experience without reverting back to slow waterfall methods. The QAS eXplorer tool has been a revelation as it allows repeatability and predictably in the exploratory test phases. QAS exceeded expectations allowing this customer to improve its end-to-end testing performance, meaning faster software development times.

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Quality is Now Continuous

Quality is now Continuous

By Dick Stark

Two weeks ago, RightStar visited a large Global 50 organization to present QA Symphony’s (QAS’) Test Management platform, qTest. Previously the organization had standardized on Jira as a development platform for approximately 5000 developers. Now they are evaluating vendors to replace its current test management platform.

Testing is a very important piece of the Quality Management component of the software development life cycle. When I first began programing back in the late 1970’s, I learned very quickly the old adage, that “nothing works right the first time.” And if it did, it would most likely be a fluke. I worked in a sales support role for a minicomputer company and helped develop a price quotation system for the sales team. Since this was before spreadsheet software was invented, this was an exciting project for me. I was responsible for development, testing, defect fixing, and support. Since my program was replaced in a few years with a spreadsheet program, I learned very quickly how things can change.

The waterfall method of developing software delivers the “completed” code to to the testers, a separate group responsible for making sure the software works as designed. With the programmers relieved of the testing burden, the code delivered is often “bug ridden,” since it is the testers and not the programmers’ job to find the bugs.

We’ve since learned that the sooner defects are found, the cheaper it is to fix them. A study by IBM found that each hour of code inspection saved 20 hours of testing time, and 82 hours of rework time, had the defects made it to production.

This makes an excellent case for the continuous software development model with a test management framework. The agile approach places greater responsibility on the developers for avoiding defects. They, not the testers are responsible for code approaching “zero defects.” And a testing platform ensures that the developers write their own tests and helps guarantee that their own code works before they release it into the pipeline.

This approach shifts quality to the left. To do this some organizations require that code be peer reviewed, or pair programming, where programmers work together in pairs, one at the keyboard, and the other looking over his or her shoulder.

Today it is generally accepted that most software will go to general availability with known and unknow defects, in the rush to get the product to market. We’ve all experienced this with some software released too soon in an effort to balance the risk of too many defects with the reward of being first to market. An interesting question that Mark Schwartz poses in his book, a Seat at the Table, is whether testing can be good enough to catch all defects. The answer is no, but a good process and a test management platform can help.

Quality is incredibly important at RightStar for project delivery. Most of our projects may have User Acceptance Testing (UAT) before go-live. It is of course much better to fix any defects during UAT, rather than after the go-live. This means that RightStar must not be just “software implementers with screwdrivers,” but experts at assessing quality in technical practice, and understanding how the successful delivery of a quality project will reduce the overall costs, improve the efficiency and speed of our deliverables, and lead to more satisfied customers.

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