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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Report from Atlassian Summit 2019

By Dick Stark

Atlassian’s annual user conference, Summit 2019, was held a week in Las Vegas. Atlassian had a record-breaking turnout with more than 5000 customers and partners attending. Here is a short summary.

Partner Day is held the day before the main event. This year there were 750 partner attendees representing 234 partner organizations, 20% of which are marketplace vendors, 40% are solution partners, and 40% are both. Scott Farquhar, co-founder and co-CEO opened the session by describing how well Atlassian is doing–3000 employees, 25,000+ developers, and 500 partners. Highlights include:

IT Ops. After conceding the chat business to Slack, Atlassian is betting that IT transformation will drive more money into IT Ops which bodes well for Jira Service Desk (JSD) and OpsGenie, a 2018 acquisition. OpsGenie focuses on incident and alert management. It was an excellent pick-up, with a 130% annual growth rate, short sales cycle, “best rules engine on the planet,” and an aggressive price point that fills a current need that no ITSM toolset can match. Additionally, Atlassian demonstrated a new plugin between AWS and JSD that automatically provisions a new AWS environment in a fraction of the time it takes to do this manually. (As a comparison, BMC and ServiceNow can do this but not without an expensive runbook automation utility and lots of professional services.)

AgileCraft, another acquisition that closed two weeks ago, is now known as Jira Align. It is an enterprise portfolio management system that connects work performed to company goals. It answers the question of how new features impact performance and results.

Cloud. Anu Bharadwaj, head of Atlassian’s cloud platform reported that Atlassian continues to invest heavily in Cloud. Today, 90% of new Atlassian customers start out in the cloud. Anu announced that cloud performance is much improved as Atlassian now supports customers with as many as 10,000 users, moving soon to unlimited. The best news for Summit attendees–Atlassian offered a free one year Jira Software Cloud subscription equal to the max license for all active Server and Data Center users (up to 2,000) for all Summit attendees.

Channel Update. The channel team discussed how to best work with Atlassian Technical Account Managers (TAMs) and Enterprise Advocates (EAs). TAMS work with partners and customers to provide guidance, best practices, and advocacy. EAs work with Atlassian’s largest customers to market their Data Center offerings and sell priority enterprise support. In summary, it is clear that Atlassian is on a roll with a very loyal customer following. RightStar too is on a roll and I’m excited that we can be part of Atlassian’s success.

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New ScanStar is On a Roll

By Dick Stark

Last week we received an order from a state agency for Jira Core, Jira Service Desk, Confluence, Insight, implementation services and ScanStar. It was the culmination of a sales process that included a RightStar advisory assessment to determine their needs and design a more modern asset management system. The system, when completed will be a cradle to grave work order and inventory management system equipment and assets requiring replacement or maintenance. A user portal and knowledge management system are also included. This is an excellent use case for Jira and ScanStar for other similar needs. Here’s why:

Efficiency. Providing barcode scanning technology (ScanStar) and a customer support portal (Jira Service Desk) and designing and building an improved workorder process from intake to execution saves times and improves accuracy. (Statistically, a typical typist will make one mistake in 300 keystrokes.  The chance of a scanner mis-reading a bar code symbol is somewhere between one in a million and one in four trillion. The increased efficiency that barcode scanning allows is the reason why ScanStar has such a high ROI.)

Accountability. Improving the service level agreement framework for work order requests allows technicians to better estimate effort and track time spent on work orders. Additionally, using barcoding to receive, check-in, and checkout inventory, improves accuracy and offers a better way to reconcile what organizations think they have with what they actually have

Transparency. RightStar will implement a framework to allow accurate reporting for program level as well as work order level and task level decision making. Enter ScanStar: an excellent fit to their needs. RightStar has years of barcode scanning experience starting in 2005 with MagicWand. ScanStar began shipping in 2011, replacing MagicWand and supporting FootPrints, BCM, Remedyforce, and Remedy.

Now, thanks to the hard work of our development team, new ScanStar for Androids and iPhones is available. No need for a purpose-built scanner, although there are several Android based purpose-built scanners which do work well in a more industrial environment. New ScanStar is Wi-Fi based meaning that the scans and updates are all performed in real-time. New ScanStar supports Remedy, Remedyforce, FootPrints. BCM, AND Jira and Insight. With new ScanStar there is no need for our ScanStar application to run on a server.  Instead, the entire application runs on the mobile phone. 

We still offer classic ScanStar, for DOD secure environments.  There a purpose-built scanner without Wi-Fi or a camera can be used through-out the day to create and update items and then be returned to the office for synchronization when necessary. These scanners have a mobile operating system and can run custom scanning applications like ScanStar, which provide the benefits previous discussed.

The best news: ScanStar for Jira and InSight is now on the Atlassian Marketplace where they are exposed to more than 40,000 Jira Service Desk customers.  Also, all ScanStar products are now available on Google Plays and Apple’s App Store giving exposure to millions.

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ITIL 4: Ready to Launch

service value system

By Dick Stark

Last week I set in on a webinar presented by ITpreneurs and AXELOS that described the ITIL 4 upcoming launch, and its new courseware and curriculum. AXELOS is the organization responsible for developing and enhancing the ITIL framework and methodology used by professionals primarily in the service management space. AXELOS is also the certification body for those of us that hold ITIL v3 foundation and other certificates.  ITpreneurs provides ITIL and other related courseware and trainers.

Almost exactly one year ago, at the Pink 18 kickoff Pink Elephant President, David Ratcliffe at proclaimed that ITIL alone is not enough, but went on to say that “ITIL is still the star of the show,” but it needs a new supporting cast.  He proudly announced that over three million people now have some type of ITIL certification, with Pink training at least 500,000 of them.  Have over three million ITIL certified people made a difference? After 10 years of ITIL v3, is ITIL still relevant?  Does ITIL matter? And will ITIL 4 help return ITIL to its glory years of yesterday?

Yes, except a lot has transpired in the last ten years especially around digital transformation, DevOps, and the cloud. What really matters is translating knowledge into results. Delivering knowledge, like taking an ITIL class (or any class) is only the first step. RightStar and others have seen ITIL / ITSM projects take years, not months which has opened the ITSM door to DevOps and why Gartner asserts that “DevOps is the bimodal bridge to Mode 2.” (Meaning DevOps/Mode 2 is focused on agility, while ITIL / Mode 1 is focused on stability.)

This is why some have referred to ITIL 4 as agile ITIL. But it is more than that. ITIL 4 stresses value for the organization, working holistically, keeping things simple, and six other guiding principles: design for experience, start where you are, progress iteratively, observe directly, be transparent and collaborate (similar to DevOps’ guiding principles). The service value system, above, facilitates integration and coordination of various organizational components and activities and provides a strong, unified, value-focused direction for the organization.

So, when is the launch? ITIL v4 training classes became available on February 11. These classes will be offered in “pro” to “premium” versions with new cases studies and games. There is even a new “going to Mars simulation game.” And the ITIL 4 exam will be available on February 28. Becoming an ITIL Expert is still a daunting task with 17 credits required. But the good news—most training is available in online versions, and a bridge course is available for current ITIL v3 Experts.

What’s exciting is that RightStar is hosting an ITpreneurs train the trainer ITIL v4 session on March 14-15. I look forward learning more about ITIL 4 and its path in our more agile IT world.

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