Report from the Atlassian Washington DC Team Tour

Dick and Lenair at Atlassian Team Tour

By Dick Stark

Last Monday, RightStar sponsored and exhibited at the Atlassian Federal Team Tour. This is one of a series of eleven worldwide stops to promote Atlassian products, services and customer networking. For a spring break Monday morning, Atlassian had an outstanding turnout with more than 325 attendees, almost triple from two years ago, and a strong statement that Atlassian is starting to take hold in Washington DC. Here is a short summary.

Atlassian opened by announcing that they now have more than 112,000 unique users worldwide with more than 5300 .gov domain user accounts. This explosion of Atlassian, both federal and commercial is a testament to the value of teams, sharing, communication, and getting things done. Product updates mentioned included:

Atlassian Home is critical for those that need to stay on top of what matters most. Lots of apps help users feel busy, but not productive. Atlassian Home provides a quick snapshot of the day, what to prioritize and how to do it.

Stride is Atlassian’s new HipChat replacement that has been out for six months in beta, but just released. Stride’s premise is that chat is more distracting than enabling. Stride includes, “beautiful messaging, coordination of action and notification volume with lots of bots to interact between other Atlassian and non-Atlassian apps such as incident management.” Best of all, Stride provides a multi-media real-time meeting capability.

The Atlassian Team Playbook is made up of tools and templates offered to customers for no charge and available on its website. It consists of a simple light weight monitoring system for key Atlassian metrics. Included is Health Monitor, a quick way to get a pulse on progress made over time. It uses an Objectives and Key results (OKR) Google framework for setting goals and tracking progress towards those goals. Right people plus the right products plus the right practices equals great teamwork.

Next up, a technology consulting firm made four points about using agile development:

  1. Use the tool, but don’t “throw it out into the wild.” Process is critical.
  2. The tool offers both a standardized approach, and the freedom to customize.
  3. Dashboarding can provide a lot of power, especially when onboarding new groups.
  4. Train with the tool so that everyone understands how to use the portfolio available.

Atlassian normally starts out with a small footprint in a company or agency and then grows organically until products such as Jira and Confluence, spring up in several places. The next step may be a consolidation or migration to the data center or cloud versions. This is an excellent opportunity for RightStar, a DevOps consultancy to begin with an assessment that shows the benefits of Jira across the entire organization along with a map of what needs to be done to achieve true business value.

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Federal Data Center Modernization

By Dick Stark

Last week I talked to a large DOD customer where we have just started year two of our data center infrastructure management (DCIM) Nlyte contract. I’m happy to report we are making excellent progress and should soon have an Authority to Operate (ATO) the Nlyte DCIM solution What’s exciting is that Nlyte (and RightStar) offer a way for government agencies like this one to modernize their data centers and comply with the new Federal DCOI mandate.

DCOI, or Federal Data Center Optimization Initiative, requires government agencies to consolidate Federal data centers and increase interagency shared services such as the cloud. DCOI also requires that Agencies meet targets for energy metering, effective power use, virtualization, automated monitoring, and utilization of both servers and facility floor space. According to the mandate, “Agencies shall replace manual collections and reporting of systems, software, and hardware inventory housed within data centers with automated monitoring, inventory, and management tools, by the end of fiscal year 2020.”

Although DCOI is a mandate, the not-so-good news is that little progress has been made and as a result, the government extended the compliance deadline from 2018 to the end of fiscal year 2020. MeriTalk, a Federal think tank recently surveyed 150 data center decision makers and discovered that fewer than one fifth were on track to meet the original September 2018 goals.

Typical Data Center Floor Plan with Nlyte:

typical data center floor plan

The really good news is that there are pockets of excellence and success at many agencies already, and we can guide others that are just starting. This contract will be a model for other agencies, especially the DOD which is just starting to modernize. Another reason to be optimistic about DCOI is the recently passed Modernizing Government Technology (MGT) Act which lays a foundation for IT modernization across the government. Even better, MGT, signed into law on December 12, creates working capital funds for IT projects at Federal Agencies. What’s interesting is that MGT is not designed to just spend money on IT modernization projects, but to find ways to accrue savings from these projects. A DCIM project, with more accurate and efficient automated monitoring tools, is a perfect solution.

According to the MeriTalk report, 73% of those surveyed say the drive to close, consolidate, and optimize data centers is a necessary precursor to the larger goal of IT modernization. Optimization is an important priority. While auto-discovery tools like BMC Discovery track an organization’s networked IT assets, Nlyte provides DCIM solutions for management of the data center’s physical assets and infrastructure. An Nlyte/Remedy integrated solution provides detailed data on the physical location of each asset in the data center and maps the relationships between these assets as it applies to applications, ownership, service support, cable connections and energy use. This is an exciting opportunity for Nlyte and RightStar to help government agencies meet the DCOI mandate and the larger goal of IT modernization.

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Pink 18: How to Remain Relevant

pink-elephant-logo

By Dick Stark

The 22nd annual Pink Elephant Conference, held last week, February 18 to21 in Orlando, has traditionally been IT’s annual tribute and awards ceremony to all things ITIL. That’s changing, as there is a new Sheriff in town, DevOps. And Pink has coined a new word for this conjoined DevOps/ITIL new world: Integrated Service Management. Here are a few things I learned at this year’s show.

ITIL alone is not enough. So said Pink Elephant President, David Ratcliffe at the Pink 18 kick-off. David 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? Does ITIL matter? Yes, especially translating knowledge into results. Delivering knowledge, like taking an ITIL class is only the first step.

It’s not like this message has come as a surprise. ITIL’s waning popularity has not happened overnight. First, not everyone embraces change. At RightStar we know from experience that a shiny new toolset, (and Pink certified to be sure) doesn’t always equal customer satisfaction, increased efficiency and lower overall costs. Sometimes the users don’t cooperate making adoption more difficult. Additionally, some customers go for a “huge” go-live of everything rather than taking an iterative phased approach (which doesn’t always have a happy ending). Finally, we’ve 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.)

Speaking about agility, DevOps is a discipline that is all about speed, faster time to market, real sense of urgency, IT modernization, and doing more with less. Culture, tools, vision, now must all be managed alongside different processes. A single best practice is not enough. What’s needed, according to David Ratcliffe, is Integrated Service Management.

How to remain relevant. Next up was Jeremy Gutsche, Pink’s Keynote Speaker. He is founder of trendhunter.com and author of the book, Better and Faster. His mission is to help people find better ideas faster and he regularly consults with F500 companies to help ensure that they remain innovative and relevant. Jeremy has an innovation process that looks at hidden strengths, and helps teams compare to the world’s best. A few good ideas include:

  • Everyone wants to get better, but not everyone puts in the effort. Would we work 24×7 to try to eat a competitor’s lunch?
  • How often do we experiment with new ideas? Is there a future for the BMC Innovation Suite? Has every Atlassian app already been invented?
  • What parts of our business do our customers actually care about? Consulting, implementation, training, support, software?
  • What can we combine with our offerings? DevOps simulation training? What sales plays are most effective?
  • Who ese can we partner with?

Answers to these questions and others will help RightStar shape and refine out 2018 strategy. One thing for sure: like ITIL, RightStar must also figure out how best to stay relevant.

 

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Would You Rather Play a Game or Listen to a DevOps Lecture?

DevOps Simulation Training Feb 2018By Dick Stark

What would you rather do, listen to a lecture on DevOps or play a game? The answer was obvious last week at RightStar’s half day DevOps simulation / gaming session in Washington, DC to a sold-out crowd of 25 attendees. This role based simulation is highly realistic and leverages game dynamics to provide a vision of successful DevOps practices and the resultant business value. It was clear that the attendees enjoyed the session, left with a greater understanding of how DevOps practices could benefit their organization, and most importantly, had fun.

Like in the book the Phoenix Project, the attendees are part of a fictional retail company that must rely heavily on IT and ecommerce for marketing and sales success. Also, during the session, and like the Phoenix Project, nearly every IT calamity possible befalls the company, which drastically impacts its on-line sales and causes the company to lose money. Time to put DevOps to work!

Round 1. The attendees are divided up into six groups: Service Desk, Business, Dev Team 1, DevTeam 2, Testing, and Operations. In addition to keeping the “lights running,” the teams must develop new applications and continue to improve existing ones. But after a few IT glitches, things quickly go from bad to worse. It’s total chaos: Ops’ “hair is on fire,” no new software is deployed or patched, customer sat is terrible, and Dev team 1 becomes a huge bottleneck. To make matters worse, sales slow and profits drop.

Round 2. Before diving into the second round the instructor and the students did a retrospective to look at what went wrong and figure out what to do next. It’s determined that better communication, (actually co-location of the two Dev teams), offers better work flow and utilization. The Test group actually starts testing software. The Service Desk pushes back on the Business group and asks for help to better prioritize the incidents. Ops looks at hiring a consultant to fix one of the breaks, and Dev builds a Kanban board to better prioritize and track work. By the end of the round, things have moved from total chaos to a more controlled chaos, with improving sales and profitability.

Round 3. Now things are starting to really improve. The Dev Team posts more information on the Kanban board, resources are shared and not siloed, and automated testing happens. Everyone works together to clear the backlog and software gets deployed. Ops starts implementing problem management (problem solving and study always trumps, “when in doubt, reboot). This reduces the number of incidents. The best news: all teams begin operating under a process framework which allows for continuous integration, or “shift left,” to ensure even more rapid and accurate product development success. Naturally, sales improve and profits rise.

Time flies and suddenly the morning session is over. Getting Dev and Ops under the same roof reinforces shared goals, improves communication and can dramatically reduce the time to get help or needed information.

The end result is a reduction in time to value, especially as lead times shrink and quality improves. What would you rather do? Learning by doing made a big difference with the fictional retail company and it can make a big difference in your organization too.

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RightStar’s DevOps 101 eClass Summary

Atlassian Continuous Loop2.pngBy Dick Stark

Last week RightStar presented an online eClass: DevOps 101, to an on-line audience. We covered the fundamental principles and best practices of DevOps and reviewed how organizations can benefit by utilizing these concepts within their own organizations. It was an excellent overview that concluded with a discussion of how the Atlassian toolset can get most of the way to DevOps. Here are some of the highlights.

Every industry is now software first. We reviewed the importance of software development in organizations like Starbucks, P&G, and General Motors (GM). Given that a car is really just a computer on wheels, auto manufacturers now have more software developers than large software companies. (And yes, GM is an Atlassian and RightStar customer.)

The way software teams work has changed. Competition means that software is now released on average every six weeks versus once a year, and companies like Netflix and Amazon make hundreds of releases daily. Agile development has skyrocketed and roles on a development team have come together to prioritize, scope, and support one another. According to an Atlassian survey, 77% of teams report using Agile methodologies and 78% have moved to a distributed version control system like Git. What’s next after Agile?

DevOps is a culture where dev and ops collaborate to build a faster, more reliable release pipeline. We quoted Werner Vogels, Amazon CTO: “You build it, you run it.” In a traditional scenario dev teams engineer a solution and then hand it over to ops to deal with production issues. A DevOps approach requires both dev and ops teams to come together to “run what they build,” means that work is a shared responsibility with greater transparency and accountability.

What is the best way to get started? We discussed a small software development company that RightStar just started working with. The organization develops websites for non-profits and faces challenges including more accurate time tracking, visibility into the current workload, capacity planning, standardization, consistent use of tools, and productivity.

So, RightStar proposed an assessment as the first step and we spent several days onsite better understanding their challenges and requirements. RightStar then delivered a report detailing their current environment, along with culture, process, and tool recommendations. We’re hopeful that the customer will continue using RightStar first for a week of Agile coaching, and then later, RightStar’s remote administration offering to help fine tune their Atlassian tools.

Another excellent way to gain a “live” understanding of DevOps is through simulation training. RightStar offers a half day DevOps simulation session that demonstrates the business value and positive impact of a DevOps approach. This role base simulation is highly realistic and leverages game dynamics to provide a vision of successful DevOps practices. RightStar has three sessions scheduled in the next 45 days. The first one is full and we’re optimistic that we will fill all the others.

I’m excited about the DevOps consulting progress RightStar is making already in 2018 and expect even more sales of advisory services, process improvements, and toolset implementations.

 

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Remedy, Discovery, BCM, and ScanStar: A Winning Combination

ScanStarNew

By Dick Stark

Earlier this month, we submitted a proposal in response to a hardware/software asset management RFP. Of course, with a large opportunity like this, anything is possible, but I feel that we worked hard to deliver an excellent proposal and demo, putting RightStar in a good position to meet the prospect’s needs and win the business. Why? Because the unique combination of Remedy, Discovery, BCM, and ScanStar are tightly integrated to provide a total asset management life cycle solution.

Most large organizations have large, complex, and dynamic environments. To be successful with critical IT initiatives such as IT modernization, secuity, and clould migration, it is essential to have a single comprehensive picture of how the IT infrastructure supports business services. (I suspect that most organizations may not quite be there yet and this gap could negatively impacts other support and operations processes and may ultimately prevent IT from living up to its full potential.)

When done right, configuration management and application mapping improves staff productivity and heightens the quality of services. Cost reduction is achieved by reducing MTTR (Mean Time To Recovery), maintaining license compliance, and reallocating assets and discovering unused licenses.

For this prospect, RightStar proposed Remedy Asset Management integrated with BMC Discovery, BMC Client Management, BMC Atrium CMDB, BMC Atrium Integrator, Remedy Knowledge Management, BMC Remedy Smart Reporting, and RightStar’s ScanStar barcode scanning.

BMC Discovery (formerly ADDM) creates a dynamic, holistic view of all data center assets (hardware, VMs, and applications) and the relationships between them, giving crucial visibility into how the assets support the business. Each scan delves into the information and dependencies for all software, hardware, network, storage, and versions, providing the context needed to create an application map from any piece of information about it. A lightweight footprint allows organizations to map applications with up to 100% accuracy in as little as 15 minutes or less.

BMC Discovery offers seamless integration into BMC Atrium CMDB and Asset Management module, with out-of-the box, continuous data synchronization. The integration can be configured so filters and rules are applied to the data prior to the load. In addition, BMC Discovery offers web services and database integrations that can be used to synchronize the data with other CMDB technologies.

An important componet of asset management is the ability to manually and efficiently take inventory, and reconcile to a “single source of truth.” RightStar’s ScanStar barcoding add-on allows inventory to be scanned and reconciled which helps identify missing and moved assets. And at some customers we take data from BMC Discovery, SCCM, and physical inventory (via barcode scanning) to make one composite record from multiple sources.

 

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When?

When

By Dick Stark

Daniel Pink just released a new book last week, When, the Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing.  I’ve been a Daniel Pink fan since his book Drive, and applied his motivation principals of Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose at RightStar.  We celebrate all of these things in our Weekly Star employee newsletter, and company all-hands meetings. So, I was very excited about the release of this new book, about timing. We all know that “timing is everything,” but few of us know very little about what to do about timing. Let me share several takeaways with you.

When to go first or last. RightStar submitted a bid to a public-sector organization in October and were notified in December that we made the short list.  The next step was an onsite 90-minute demo/presentation. After that, the prospect would make an award. RightStar was selected to present last.

All sales reps are taught to ask to go last, thinking that it’s better to leave a lasting impression with the audience. Is that the right call?  According to Daniel Pink, “it depends.” Pink states that, “if there are few competitors (say five or fewer), going first can help you take advantage of the “primacy effect,” the tendency people have to remember the first thing in a series better that those that come later.”

However, Pink explained, “if you are the default choice, don’t go first as judges are more likely to stick with the default late in the day after a break, when they are revived.” Did going last help us in this situation? No, after three prior 90 minute presentations the judges were exhausted and it was clear all they wanted to do was go home. We did not influence this bid and it is likely that the default choice won. Next time, we’ll ask if we can go first.

When to do our best work. Pink categorized people into three groups: Larks ((early birds), Third Birds (65% of us) and Owls (late nighters). We all have our own internal clocks, and there is a simple way to determine how it is set. When do we do our best work? See below:

  Lark Third Bird Owl
Analytic tasks Early Morning Early to mid-morning Late afternoon and evening
Insight tasks Late afternoon/early evening Late afternoon/early evening Morning
Making an impression Morning Morning Morning (sorry owls)
Making a decision Early morning Early to midmorning Late afternoon and evening

For example, a third bird sales rep should prospect (call or email) during the morning to make the best impression. In general, morning is also the best time to connect. An owl consultant should shift her less essential tasks to the morning and begin her most important tasks in the late afternoon and into the evening. If we are involved in a strategy session or workshop, go for morning since most of the attendees are likely to be third birds, and workshops call for analysis and decision making.

Of course, it is not always realistic to move your schedule around, especially if your schedule is out of your control, but if you are aware of the optimal type of work assignment, you may be able to optimize your performance. If you are a lark or a third bird, don’t waste an hour in the morning on email. Spend that time doing your most important work.

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