MarsLander: Finding Value

By Dick Stark

On Thursday, RightStar hosted our first MarsLander simulation training session. Based upon ITIL 4, this role base simulation is highly realistic and leverages game dynamics to provide a vision of successful ITIL 4/DevOps practices and the resultant business value. Twelve RightStar customers and prospects attended this free session. The session came across as a excellent and entertaining. But what value did it provide and what is the benefit?

RightStar advertises this session as ITIL 4 based so the attendees expect an ITIL 4 education. While we give an overview of what’s new in ITIL 4 such as the Value Stream and Guiding Principles, the simulation is more of an assessment of how to use the ITSM and DevOps framework within an organization and the resultant increase in value by better adherence to these practices. In other words, how to get to Mars quickly, make a profit, and improve customer satisfaction—all at the same time.

In this simulation the attendees work in the Digital-service team of SPACE-Y, a company that sells data collected from their space missions to customers, such as Universities and Research Centers. The team’s mission is clear: “Launch a rocket with MarsLander, deploy it on Mars and collect valuable data for Universities and Research Centers.” The participants include: Sales Director, Product Owner, Customer Support Team, Flight Operations, Application Development, Service Manager, Systems Engineer, Change Release Manager, and Vendors.  The challenge is to balance between delivering value and continually improving services in an agile way.

The game began and stress, confusion, and chaos were the immediate outcomes. Incidents happened and work didn’t flow like it should. Several constraints prevented goal accomplishment when round one ended. What makes matters worse is that in a public session the students don’t know one another and are more “siloed” than they might be if they were all from the same company.

Several rounds commenced with RightStar discussing the application of ITIL 4 concepts such as: Visualizing the ‘demands & opportunities,” mapping the value streams, identifying value leakage and improvements, and progressing iteratively.

At the end, the workflow was much improved. But, how do we translate these improvements to a call to action, that the attendees can take back to their own organizations? Similarly, how do our own customers that invest in new DevOps or ITSM toolsets benefit? Marslander key takeaways include:

  • Focus on value. Post the business goals and make them visible to teams.
  • Improve priority mechanisms linked to productivity and business impact.
    • How do we determine priority of work (sequencing, ranking, what takes precedence?)
    • How can we increase capacity by removing blockers (i.e. automation)
  • Collaboration. Foster effective collaboration.
  • Explore coaching roles. Use Agile coaches.
  • Reserve time for continual improvement. Do Retrospectives.
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State of DevOps

By Dick Stark

Earlier this year, BMC commissioned Salvatore Salamone to produce a 2019 State of DevOps Report summarizing the findings of an Interop / Information Week survey of 150 IT and application development professionals across all industries. Although similar in name to the more widely known Puppet State of DevOps annual report, the BMC report focused primarily around the survey and its results. Here is a short update of each report.

BMC 2019 State of DevOps Report:

  • Most companies are familiar with DevOps and are using the strategy now or plan to do so within the year.
  • Drivers for adoption include the need to develop, deploy, and support more applications in faster times.
  • A plethora of tools and technologies are being used, evaluated, and purchased to support DevOps efforts.
  • Expected benefits include greater speed-to-market, improved application performance, reduced downtime, and quicker fixes
  • and updates.

Despite pressure to hold costs in check application proliferation means more not less applications, while digital transformation produces more competition meaning an even more rapid push for greater speed to market. And at the top of the list for DevOps investments? New tools, followed by redesigning processes to drive a DevOps approach.

On the other hand, the Puppet 2018 State of DevOps Report is much more prescriptive. This report presents the five stages of the DevOps evolution: build the foundation, normalize the technology stack, standardize and optimize, expand DevOps practices, automate infrastructure delivery and provide self-service. Here are a few of my takeaways–in no particular order:

  • Change Management is becoming more agile. “Change management as it is traditionally applied is outdated. We know, for example, that 70 percent of change programs fail to achieve their goals, largely due to employee resistance and lack of management support. We also know that when people are truly invested in change, it is 30 percent more likely to stick.”
  • Finely tuned Configuration Management tools are a strong indicator (by a factor of 27) of a highly evolved DevOps organization. Achieving configuration repeatability assures stable, reliable and secure production environments.
  • Self Service. The two defining practices include automation of incident responses and resource availability via self-service. The more DevOps teams empower individuals, the less frustration results, and the more work gets accomplished. Likewise, incident automation improves resolution time and ensures that remediation processes are consistently applied.
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June 11 Helix User Group Meeting

By Dick Stark

On June 11, RightStar and BMC sponsored a Helix user group meeting in Washington DC. Traditionally, this is an annual event that RightStar manages going back to 2006 when RightStar launched the first annual Potomac cruise onboard the Odyssey. This year’s event was held on land at the Loft at 600F, as a full day Helix immersion covering product updates including Cognitive Service Management (CSM), solution demos, a GW University Chatbot presentation by RightStar and afternoon solution labs.

BMC Helix Updates. Joel Jacks, BMC Cognitive Service Management Evangelist opened with an overview of BMC Helix and a product road map.  He looked at the following technology trends:

  • Cognitive: 80% rate cognitive important to digital transformation success
  • Containers: 71% have already implemented containers within their environment
  • Multi-cloud: 86% rate cloud as highly important

BMC Helix is out ahead of these trends with a solution focusing on Cloud, Containers, Cognitive and Omni-channels. For example, Joel discussed how before containers, a high availability server provisioning to install and configure could take as long as four to six weeks. With containers and server automation tools, a similar setup takes only two to ten minutes.

Next, Joel discussed:

  • MyIT: not just IT services, but bundles,
  • Helix integration services: such as cloud to cloud and Helix to Jira,
  • Hybrid deployments: with on-premise Remedy and Discovery solutions, and
  • Cognitive services: such as AI and machine learning.

Joel also pointed out that Helix will be offered in the AWS GovCloud for FedRAMP High by the end of 2019.

RightStar then presented the GW chatbot case study where we worked with BMC and GW to deploy a prototype system for students as they returned to campus last August. Phase 3 which should go live this Fall, will include additional university groups and more automated request fulfillments. Current GW use cases include:

  • Device registration, including mobile phones,
  • Knowledge lookup, such as student network IDs and how to get help, and
  • How to create, submit and track service requests.

Helix Lab. After lunch, BMC’s Tom Luebbe led a Helix Lab for those Remedy administrators and developers looking for a deep product dive. Tom set up separate VMs for each student with lessons covering: Multi-Cloud service management, how to integrate with Jira; how to configure and use the BMC Chatbot; and how to configure key performance indicators and use the CMDB explorer.

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Increasing Atlassian’s Value Through Training

By Dick Stark and Jenine Wech

As a DevOps consultancy and an Atlassian Solution Provider, a critical RightStar objective is to create and maintain sustainable Agile/Atlassian practices for our customers. In some form, most of our larger customers are in the software development business and have made a significant investment in Agile processes and Jira software. Furthermore, they understand the importance of user adoption and return on investment. Atlassian’s tool suite, along with Agile process, coaching, and training can make a huge difference. If done right the outcome is faster software development, heightened quality, and reduced development costs. Training is the cornerstone of any Agile Digital Transformation project.

Why become Agile in the first place? Lean and Agile practices across the entire environment maximize value while eliminating waste (the goal of “Lean”). Agile teams work with high efficiency and autonomy while aligning with stated values such as optimize and automate, progress iteratively with feedback, collaborate and promote visibility, and keep it simple and practical. Or more simply stated, “get twice as much done in half the time.”

Why training matters. The Atlassian tools are only part of the overall Agile solution. Training increases awareness of tool capability to handle IT Service Management functions (i.e. Service Desk and Operations Support functions) as well as product development (i.e. Software Development, Training and Knowledge Management) and business functions (i.e. Onboarding, Off-Boarding, Asset management, Procurement and Contract Processing). As users begin to understand capabilities. Identified process improvements can now be executed with high velocity. Authorized and properly trained super-users can directly update the format of information and tool configuration–activities traditionally controlled by highly skilled programmers.  Atlassian tools, specifically Jira and Confluence, put a higher level of tool control in the hands of those executing the work, meaning adequate configuration and administration training makes a huge difference.

Training approach. RightStar’s approach focuses on three stages of knowledge transfer:

  • Before Training: includes review of training outcomes and build a plan to meet the needs of the organization.
  • During Training: includes activities to encourage retention and motivation as well as enhance engagement.
  • After Training: includes identifying areas for coaching, remediation, and looking at tool set improvements and re-configurations.

Management Approach. Training delivery will take an agile approach beginning with an upfront assessment to better identify the training requirements and build a plan for delivery. Important elements include content development, training coordination, coaching, and the implementation of a knowledge portal. Regular retrospectives will ensure the project continues in the right direction. The end results: continual improvement of value delivery. 

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MarsLander Simulation Training

By Dick Stark

About a week ago, RightStar hosted a MarsLander session attended by customers and prospects.  Based upon ITIL 4, this role base simulation is highly realistic and leverages game dynamics to provide a vision of successful ITIL 4/DevOps practices and the resultant business value. Paul Wilkinson, GameWorks founder and inventor of MarsLander and other simulation exercises like Apollo 13 and the Phoenix Project, led the session. RightStar is now trained and ready to help other organizations improve their own ITIL and Dev/Ops processes.

In this simulation the attendees work in the Digital-service team of SPACE-Y, a company that sells data collected from their space missions to customers, such as Universities and Research Centers. The team’s mission is clear: “Launch a rocket with MarsLander, deploy it on Mars and collect valuable data for Universities and Research Centers.” The participants include: Sales Director, Product Owner, Customer Support Team, Flight Operations, Application Development, Service Manager, Systems Engineer, Change Release Manager, and Vendors.  The challenge is to balance between delivering value and continually improving services in an agile way.

The game began and stress, confusion, and chaos were the immediate outcomes. Incidents happened and work didn’t flow like it should. Several constraints prevented goal accomplishment when round one ended. A retrospective included the following:

  • Nobody took a coordinator role.
  • No consensus on how work would flow.
  • Business goals and roles were not shared.
  • Prioritizations was based on ‘First-in, First-out’ or whoever shouted the loudest.
  • There was no open feedback or collaboration

Round two commenced with the applying of ITIL4 concepts: Visualizing the demands & opportunities, mapping the value streams, identifying value leakage and improvements, and progressing iteratively.

At the end, work was flowing smoothly. Key takeaways were:

  • Focus on value. Post the business goals and make them visible to teams.
  • Improve priority mechanisms linked to productivity and business impact.
  • Collaboration. Foster effective collaboration.
  • Explore coaching roles. Using Agile coaches.
  • Foster more Service Manager ownership
  • Explore how to embed service management capabilities in product teams.
  • Reserve time for continual improvement.
  • Explore how empowerment can work within the value stream.

What was eye-opening for me was that despite my DevOps and ITIL background, I, like the others in the session, got consumed with my own assignment (I was the release manager) and failed to think properly about the goals of the entire organization and how best to collaborate with others. This is why organizations need Agile or ITIL coaching, and why simulation training, like Mars Landing can make a huge difference to help organization better understand what really matters

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Report from BMC Exchange Federal

By Dick Stark

BMC’s annual Federal user group conference, Exchange, was held this past Tuesday at the Ronald Reagan Center in Washington, DC.  This was the first of seven global events across three continents. Attendance was good with approximately 400 customers, partners, and BMC employees in attendance Nearly 40 show attendees visited the RightStar booth. Here is a short Exchange 2019 update.

Alan Thomas, Commissioner, Federal Acquisition Service, GSA, opened the session with a discussion of GSA’s perspective as an investor, consumer, and provider of IT products and services. As an investor, GSA is a member of the IT modernization fund where congress allocated $100M for IT modernization. Agencies must apply for approval in order to receive funding. Examples of funded projects include email to cloud, legacy to modern, and shared services. Since the money must be “repaid,” agencies are forced to look at value creation, cost savings, and return on investment.

Next up NASA CIO, Renee Wynn discussed NASA’s use of cloud computing. In just a short time, NASA has made tremendous cloud progress, currently averaging $1.4M of cloud-based computing hours per month with more than 5 petabytes of data stored in the cloud.  The result: Renee claimed that NASA is now 80% cloud, with just 20% traditional on-premise. NASA cloud service offerings include SaaS solutions such as Office 365, and Box document management, and discussed a cloud success story, NASA’s Earth Observing System Data nd Information System (EOSDIS) EOSDIS provides end-to-end capabilities for managing NASA Earth science data from various sources – satellites, aircraft, field measurements, and various other programs. Consuming 45 petabytes of data a year EOSDIS provides data for satellite, aircraft and space missions in a easily consumable format, helping turn “science fiction into reality.”

Herb Van Hook, BMC VP and CTO, presented BMC’s new theme, “Run and Reinvent.” BMC is focused now on assisting organizations drive innovation, master modern IT, unify current with the future, and stabilize and optimize. Key BMC principles include modernization, cloud optimized, analytics, AI, machine learning, and exceptional user experience.

Bill Marion, Deputy USAF CIO closed out the conference with a discussion about IT transformation and cybersecurity. Of interest was AF Enterprise IT as-a-service (EITaaS) and the progress made with IT agility with its poster child, Kessel Run. Kessel Run is “not your Father’s Air Force.” At Kessel Run, government developers have embraced Agile and DevOps culture as the way of helping the Air Force develop software like a commercial enterprise. In hoodies and blue jeans and working at tables like at Google or Facebook, the Air Force is quickly moving IT modernization forward.  

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Report from the Atlassian Government Symposium

By Dick Stark

Last Wednesday, RightStar exhibited at the Atlassian Government Symposium, held at the Westin City Center in Washington, DC. This is one of a series of worldwide stops to promote Atlassian products, services and customer networking. Atlassian had a good turnout with more than 200 attendees.  RightStar led a successful Jira Service Desk lab, one of the most popular sessions of the event. Here is a short summary.

How IT can adapt to the future. Jay Simons, Atlassian President opened the keynote with a talk about digital transformation and the pace of change, especially in government, and the potential impact. Like everywhere, government IT teams have to empower the rest of the agency, but it is up to every team to work together to manage increased expectations. Just like at Summit, Jay discussed the importance of IT Operations and briefly described:

  • Jira Software—how to manage work;
  • Jira Service Desk—service desk for every team;
  • Statuspage—absolute best way to communicate status of incidents; and
  • OpsGenie—powerful alerting & on-call management.

Government’s Largest Service Desk? Up next was a Sr. Systems Engineer that presented a case study which must undoubtedly be one of Atlassian’s largest accounts. She described how this agency grew from just a few Jira users in 2010 to more than 160,000 today. According to the presenter, prior to 2013, Jira usage was isolated and siloed by the various teams. In 2013, two systems merged into one and added 8000 users to the system, taking the agency to a total of 12,000.

By 2014, the agency was up to 27,000 Jira users and began using Jira Service Desk for incident management. By, 2015, the number hit 60,000 and today it is up to 160,000. What’s most incredible is that the entire system was supported with a team of only eight administrators.

Current 2018 statistics included:

  • Jira Projects:                       2,600
  • Spaces                               5,800
  • Jira issues:                         1.5M
  • 2018 Issues resolved           10,000
  • Service Desk agents            5

The statistic the speaker was most proud of: Customer Satisfaction. Her Jira Service Desk gets the best marks in the agency.

Jira Service Desk Lab. RightStar’s JSD lab was so successful, that there was standing room only. Additionally, there was plenty of interest in ScanStar for Insight and Jira, and our DevOps Sim. The future looks bright for Atlassian in the government space.

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