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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Always Be Leading

Silhouette person jumping over 2015 on the hill at sunset

By Dick Stark

On January 19, RightStar will officially kick off 2018 with an All-Hands Webinar. RightStar’s tagline for 2018? Always Be Leading. We will discuss leading from the inside and how everyone can help drive RightStar’s next stage growth. We will also summarize 2017 and discuss our plans and strategy for 2018. The following is an excerpt from my weekly email to all RightStar employees.

Whether we realize it or not, every one of us interacts in some form or fashion with customers, prospects, or partners. This puts us all in a leadership position on a regular basis. In case you don’t think of yourself as a leader, let me review several examples.

Thought Leaders. RightStar sales and consulting teams have an opportunity to get badged or certified in a specific area of expertise: Atlassian, BMC, DevOps, or ITIL. This is strongly encouraged and attainable through self-study, web-based or on-line instructor training, followed by a certification exam. Once certified, it is very likely that you will know as much if not more than 90% of the customers or prospects that you work with. Having this badge or certification gives us the confidence to say that we really are our “customers’ expert advisors, and we always have their very best in mind.” Value creation and solving problems trumps just reselling software any day.

Continuous Improvement Leaders. Great leaders are not born, they continually get better. Want to feel more confident about talking to CIO’s? Read Mark Schwartz’s, A Seat at the Table. Can’t really talk intelligently about DevOps? Read Gene Kim’s, The Phoenix Project, or, The DevOps Handbook. In 2018, let’s start a bi-monthly webex based book club brown bag lunch. RightStar will pay for the cost of the book. All that’s required is your participation. Will reading, discussing and applying several books a year help you become a better leader? Yes! No doubt about it.

Accountable Leaders. We all must be accountable for our actions, no matter what. If we promise a customer a deliverable or proposal by a certain date, we must deliver. From experience we know that our customers do not want to hear any excuses. They don’t care if the dog ate our homework. They only want the job completed. By holding yourself accountable, even when making an excuse is an option, it sends a strong message that we care more about results (and the customer) than anything else.

Tough Leaders. Every one of us possesses some level of what Angela Duckworth, author of Grit, calls grit—mental strength, which is a unique combination of passion, tenacity, and stamina, that enables us to stick with our goals until they become a reality.

If you’re in sales you must make calls you don’t want to make. If you’re a consultant, you may have to scrap a project and start over. The week before Christmas, one of our consultants worked 30 hours straight trying to move Remedy into the Azure Cloud. Despite all those hours, she had to roll back, not exactly the outcome she was expecting, but will try again next weekend. Tough leaders don’t stress about failures. They see failure as a necessary step in the process of reaching their goals.

What kind of leader are you? How can you get better and what can RightStar do to help? The good news is that any of us can improve with a little extra effort and focus. Here’s to 2018: Always Be Leading!

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This Year’s High-Tech Prayer Breakfast

Bob and Dick at HTPB 2017

By Dick Stark

RightStar bought a full table at the High-Tech Prayer Breakfast held this past Wednesday at the Ritz Carlton in Tysons Corner. This is an amazing annual event with more than 800 attendees. The speakers this year were Pat Gelsinger, CEO of VMware and Ken Harvey, former NFL linebacker. Here’s a brief report:

Ken Harvey kicked things off with a summary of his life—how he saved enough money to allow him to attend a community college in Oakland, CA, and then accepting a full scholarship to Cal Berkeley two years later, which resulted in a first round (twelfth overall) draft pick in 1988, playing for the Phoenix Cardinals and the Washington Redskins from 1988 to 1999. Ken credits his success to prayer. He stated that he asked God for a plan and a vision. He said that to him it felt like God was saying, “You have a purpose, you are worth something.” Ken said that he was blessed with “God given athleticism and earned his way into the NFL by working hard. Of course, he also credited his college girlfriend (now wife) for this transformation.

Pat Gelsinger, CEO of VMware, the 5th largest software company of the world said that he is the senior pastor to more than 22,000 congregants (employees) every day. Like Ken, he came from humble beginnings, a farm in Pennsylvania, where a good score on an exam landed him a job at Intel and acceptance to Stanford. This “Cinderella” career at Intel lasted 30 years and earned him the number two spot there as its first CTO. After Intel he moved to EMC as President/COO for several years before ending up as the CEO at VMware.

Pat said that as a business leader, the most important thing he does is, “establish and live the values of the organization.” He calls VMware an EPIC company: Execution, Passion, Integrity, and Customers. The end result of this set of values? Epic people and customers.

Pat told a story about a quota club sales event he held in Hawaii. On one day the entire sales team refurbished a local Boys/Girls club as a community project. At the end of the trip, one of the cab drivers refused to accept any fare, saying, “most of the visitors come to Hawaii to take, you all came to give.”

Pat reported that as a Christian in 1980 he moved from “lukewarm” to “hot” for God. He said that was the most important decision that he every made and should be the most important decision for anyone. Pat pointed out that Christian CEOs in Silicon Valley are a rare breed, and said that he and his wife are “out there.” Although Silicon Valley has the highest wages in the nation, it is also the least “churched,” and has a very low charitable contribution rate. Pat happily pointed out that he embarrasses his CEO friends by giving away 50% of his earnings.

Pat closed with good advice for all:

  • Build a mission statement for the rest of your live.
  • Prioritize. God, family, work not work, family, God. How do you build this type of life? By building a life that mirrors your priorities.
  • Mentors. Pat’s mentor, was Intel’s icon CEO, Andy Grove. “Having Andy as a mentor, was like going to the dentist and not getting Novocain.”

Pat summed things up this way: “As a leader, everything we do is on display every day. I will lift up my organization. I must be encouraged, so I may bring encouragement. Let your workplace be the place that you honor God every day.”

 

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Agile Project Management at RightStar

By Dick Stark
I’m mostly finished with Mark Schwartz’s just published book, “A Seat at the Table,” and like the 2016 book, the DevOps Handbook, I’ll dedicate several blog posts to this excellent book. “A Seat at the Table,” is definitely worth a read. Mark Schwartz, by the way is the one that is credited to helping bring Agile into the Federal Government when he was the CIO at USCIS.

A seat at the table

What exactly is Agile project delivery? Well, like the US Supreme Court definition of obscenity as “we’ll know it when we see it,” Agile paradoxically, is, “we’ll get there when we get there.” This is not to imply that Agile has no sense of urgency. On the contrary, Agile, according to Mark Schwartz is, “we should inspect and adapt frequently, rather than slavishly following a plan.” This is opposed to the way that the rest of the world typically delivers projects.

RightStar follows a process for new business development that begins by working with prospects that have pains, like poorly defined code version control, release management, and testing processes. We propose a solution consisting of software such as Jira, Bitbucket, and Bamboo, combined with RightStar consulting services. Then we deliver a price quotation along with a statement of work, either fixed price, or T&M, with identified deliverables. We follow the project in a waterfall approach, as detailed in our project plan or work break-down structure. If changes crop up, we either ask for a change order or work the change for “free” because the customer often indignantly states, “how could you have not known our real requirements.” We normally prefer T&M contracts to try to avoid this scenario. When working a FFP project, we typically include a FFP premium to cover any contingencies that might arise along the way.

The challenge with Agile projects is the customer’s contract process. A prospect doesn’t normally give us a contract to provide a “we’ll know it when we get there,” contract. Instead we have a contract with fixed requirements and deliverables. This is often not ideal, because neither the customer nor RightStar have a very good idea about what the customer’s real needs are until we begin the project.

In contrast, we deliver our Atlassian projects on an Agile basis. The process begins by understanding that the limiting factors are time and cost. Scope is variable factor. The key is to ensure that we have quoted sufficient hours to the customer so we can implement most if not all of their business requirements in the allotted time.

When we start an Agile project, we begin by making sure that the customer understands that we will focus on the highest priority business needs at each point of the project and that the lower priority items may not get implemented within the authorized budget.

Regarding customer satisfaction, an Agile approach that emphasizes fast implementation through incremental scope lets the customer clearly see the progress of their project. In a waterfall approach, the customer specifies all of their requirements and then we go off and implement, according to the specification. Occasionally, we will discover during go-live, that we didn’t build the system they had expected. Our experience is that most customers don’t fully understand the Atlassian tools until they actual start to use them. Asking them to accurately define their requirements at the outset is an exercise in frustration. An Agile approach therefore allows for iterative and continual customer satisfaction. No surprises ever!

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IF IT is the Business, then Remedy Innovation Suite is the Tool

By Dick Stark

Innovation Suite

Last week, RightStar attended and helped sponsor, the Service Management and Automation conference in Las Vegas. (When BMC moved from its Engage annual user group conference, to regional Exchange one-day conferences, this created an opportunity for a BMC training partner, Tools, Technology, and Training (T3) to organize and host their own annual conference.) Many of the attendees were RightStar customers, and RightStar also had three presenters at the show.

Key takeaways:

  • Remedy is continuing to improve. V9 SP4 should be out before the end of the year. It will include:
    • Smart IT configurable fields to better help drive smart IT user adoption. (most requested new feature)
    • Zero Downtime Upgrades. Administrators can now rollout everything—Windows and Unix executables, etc. And everything can be rolled back later, with no loss of data, if any snag is hit along the way.
    • Auto Deployment of Packages. The install process is moving from installers to deployable packages for automated deployment and synchronization of server groups.
  • BMC’s new Innovation Suite, offers an easy to use digital workflow platform for developers, partners and customers. Innovation Suite is designed for rapid application development, which is what everyone wants in today’s agile software environment.

At the conference Terence Chesire, VP Product Management, DSM demoed a BMC “Smart Facilities” app that has been tested to support 700 million CI’s. In today’s rapidly changing and competitive environment, companies must organize their business to meet specific and unique requirements. Software must be agile and easy to develop and modify. Out-of-the box products that often require extreme configuration to meet specific needs, don’t work well in this environment.

That’s why BMC’s Innovation Suite is such a good fit and complimentary platform for Remedy. And this is where the difference between Remedy and ServiceNow is most obvious. A lot of ServiceNow customers, using Java scripting, spend a significant amount of time customizing ServiceNow’s many “out-of -the box” modules to meet specific needs.

When it comes time to upgrade, most of the “customizations,” will not upgrade without a “fight,” leading to long upgrade times and high cost, exactly what ServiceNow used previously as a weapon to convince customers to move away from the old Remedy.

Now, Remedy, with its Zero Downtime Upgrades, offers a much lower operational cost, and its Innovation Suite, offers rapid application development of specific apps, like HR or Facilities to meet customer needs. For example, just what does ServiceNow offer for HR or Facilities? There are so many ways of developing an HR or Facility system, that ServiceNow’s HR or Facility modules must be impossibly general, or come with way too many confusing templates. HR or Facility software must do whatever the company needs it to do. That is different for every company, and why Innovation Suite is a much better solution.

But, it’s not just HR or Facility software. Nowadays, IT runs the business. And should the business run on off-the shelf software? The power of tools like Remedy Innovation Suite is that it allows businesses to be run the way they need to be run.

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How to Run IT Support the DevOps Way

By Dick Stark

Last Wednesday, RightStar led a Webinar, “How to Run IT Support the DevOps Way.” We discussed how adding DevOps principles to IT support processes dramatically improves service quality, team morale, problem solving, and business productivity. We ended the webinar with several examples of how other organizations have successfully integrated DevOps into their workflows. It was an excellent event.

Coincidently, earlier in the week, the BMC Communities site posted a podcast, entitled, “Is ITIL Still Relevant in a DevOps World?” in which Robert Stroud, Principal Analyst at Forrester opened with a discussion he had with a CIO of a Fortune 100 company: ‘We’ve actually terminated our total investment in ITIL. There will be no more ITIL courses approved in this company. If somebody mentions the word ITIL, they’re looking for a job.” Robert went on to say, “So fundamentally, there’s a rapid change going on, and we can go through our data which shows that people who are doing DevOps have this misnomer or this proposition that traditional ITIL doesn’t work with DevOps. Let’s think about this traditional change that’s happening – we’ve got a change that’s going to production, and as it goes into production, we’ve got 32 approvals, and development developed the code in a week, and it takes me 12 weeks to go through the change management approval cycle. This is a real use case. And this is what’s annoying the living daylights out of people right now, it’s that ITIL’s just not relevant.”

JIRA

Of course, ITIL is still relevant in a DevOps world and we presented several examples during the webinar. For instance, Change Management, a very basic ITIL principal, matters now more than ever. It is not uncommon for Change Management software systems to be purchased and implemented after weeks of discussion and thousands of dollars of consulting costs. Often, the regular CAB meetings are abandoned and users stop using the system complaining that it is cumbersome and slow to use. The culprit is typically a poor change implementation. The 32 required approvals mentioned earlier lacks any semblance of common sense.

Effective Change Management processes recognize that there are different risks associated with different type of changes and that those changes are all handled differently. Urgent, or emergency changes typically allow all approvals to be performed after the fact. Standard changes are often low risk changes that follow a standard approval process, but can be pre-approved. By linking the change ticket, e.g., Remedy, to a planning tool, e.g., JIRA, the results will be automatically recorded and visible to everyone in the organization (traceability). This helps bridge the gap between the auditors and the DevOps team. By ensuring the right controls are in place, Change Management becomes an important component of the DevOps process. The end result: better traceability, reliability, and security of systems and data.

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