Report from the ATARC DevOps Working Group Launch

By Dick Stark

Last week I attended the ATARC DevOps Working Group Launch at the Department of the Interior. ATARC brings government practitioners together with Industry to discuss topics such as the role of security in DevOps, and cultural and organizational challenges to implementing DevOps. Attendance was excellent and so were the presentations. Here is a brief summary.

Dr. Brian Hermann, Services Development Executive, DISA opened the keynote by discussing the improvements that DISA has made in shortening the unreasonably long development cycle. Dr. Hermann relayed a story from not too long ago, about DISA’s typical dev cycle. “Back then, it took about three to four years, and what was delivered usually failed to meet the original requirements. Even if the needs were met, the reality was that it still took a long time.”

“DISA,” according to Dr. Hermann, “has made significant progress as a result of technical advances. Depending on the project it can take two to ten weeks to deliver software. Contractors, however, are being hamstrung by government cybersecurity practices. Security issues need to be overcome, or we will never get there.”

Dr. Hermann also mentioned the accelerated progress the Air Force is making with rapid deployments thanks in large part to Nick Chaillan, the Air Force’s Chief Software Officer, and his work at Kessel Run, where he has turned the Air Force into a software development powerhouse. The good news is that Nick is sharing his processes and tools, such as reusable containers with other DOD groups.

As a DISA contractor, RightStar is very familiar with DISA’s accreditation practices. RightStar’s DISA/Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) project, is entering its fourth year. The system in now live and doing well, but it took more than two years for the Nlyte system to be granted an authority to operate (ATO) by DISA.

Interestingly a later panelist, Simmons Lough, Software Architect at the US Patent and Trademark Office discussed the progress he and his team have made in shortening the development life cycle.  At USPTO, Simmons has moved from two production deployments per year to two per day. And with $3.5B per year moving through PTO’s financial systems, rapid deployments are a very big deal. Simmons credits his success in part to the utilization of automated testing.

Derek Weeks, ended the session by promoting his DevOps Days events. Derek is the co-founder of All Day DevOps, an online community of 65,000 IT professionals. This year’s big event is planned for November 12 with more than 150 practitioner-led sessions across 5 tracks. Last year’s event drew more than 38,000 on-line practitioners.

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Agile Change Management

The Virtuous Cycle of Change

By Dick Stark

Last Week, RightStar emailed its customer base a Forrester Report, “Change Management: Let’s Get Back to Basics,” by Forrester Analyst Charles Betz. Given the focus on Agile and Continuous Deployment, Change is not the Change Management of old. According to Charles, “Manual documentation of changes, lengthy change-approvals delays, face-to-face change advisory boards, and the review of all changes are no longer essential or suitable to a modern change practice.”

Thanks largely to digital transformation projects over the last few years, organizations are realizing the value of rapid development projects. Change Management, which seemed like such a good idea ten years ago (and proven outage preventer), must be re-designed to fit the current agile environment. Robert Stroud, another Forrester analyst, told a story about a client’s traditional change process: “they’ve got a change that’s going to production, and as it goes into production, they’ve got 32 approvals, and Development developed the code in a week, and it takes 12 weeks to go through the change management approval cycle. And this is what’s annoying the living daylights out of people right now, it’s that the old change management is no longer relevant.” According to Forrester, here’s a summary of what to do:

Avoid the Vicious Cycle of Change. A slow change process leads to an increasing backlog of work and the temptation to clear the backlog through large and risky batches of change.

Adopt the Virtuous Cycle of Change (below). In the virtuous cycle, appropriate investment in change capabilities supports the desire for a faster change/release cadence with version control, traceability, rollback, automated testing, and continuous integration/deployment.

Keep the change process lean and focus on its intended outcome of reducing risk. Focus on difficult to reverse changes or changes involving systems with a history of instability.

Remember that communication and coordination is expensive. Consider the delay that might occur as more stakeholders are added to the approval process.

Love automation. Invest in modern test automation tools and processes.

Track the right change metrics. Target metrics that can result in avoiding the vicious cycle of change.

Separate changes from work orders. Use a service catalog portal for work orders. A Change Management request is the wrong place to request a work order.

Watch change management as a demand and risk signal at the aggregate level. Consider using a continuous delivery/ITSM dashboard to show the release calendar, the forward schedule of change, and major program milestones. This can display potential hot spots on the organization’s calendar, allowing the executive team to better spread demand across time.

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This Year’s High-Tech Prayer Breakfast

By Dick Stark

RightStar was one of the many sponsors of the High-Tech Prayer Break-fast held several weeks ago at the Ritz Carlton in Tysons Corner.  This is an amazing annual event with more than 800 attendees. The speakers this year were Ted Davies, Chairman and CEO, Altamira Technologies Corporation, and Jeff Skeen, CEO and Principal, Results Redefined. Here’s a brief report:

 Ted Davies kicked things off by telling a 2005 story about a call that he received from his sister asking him to come to New York to see his mother who way dying and not expected to make it through the night. At the time Ted was with his wife in the hospital and undergoing treatment for Lupus. Not knowing what to do, Ted prayed, asking God for direction, and drove to NY, in time to spend time with his mother, who died later that evening.

Through the next several years Ted dealt with the death of his wife in 2006, father in 2009, remarried in 2009, and then faced his own brush with atrial fibrillation in 2018. Through all this he managed a successful career as President, Unisys Federal, and most recently as Chairman and CEO, Altamira Technologies. Ted’s closing lessons:

  • I can’t control everything, no matter how hard I work;
  • It is not all about me. God has a plan and outcome; and
  • Accept whatever God wants you to do.

Ted closed with a quote from Albert Einstein, “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving” He then summed it up this way, “there is a God, but it is not you. Keep moving forward.”

Jeff Skeen knew at an early age that he wanted to be a CEO when he grew up. So, when he graduated from Virginia Tech, he considered two jobs, one that paid $70K in Beverly Hills, the other that paid $18K, a small local struggling family owned business. Without too much thought, he took the lower paying job, worked 24×7, grew the profits by a factor of five, and then helped the owners sell.

This positioned Jeff for a leadership position at another firm where he continued his workaholic ways. This led to struggles with occupational depression. His prayers about this led Jeff to quit his job and realize the teachings of Luke 12:22, “do not be anxious about your life…with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

At this point, Jeff joined up with some buddies that were operating a gym, which led to his becoming a principal in a Gold’s Gym franchise recognized as the most profitable Gold’s franchisee worldwide. It was up, up, and away for Jeff thereafter who is now focused in integrating the fitness and healthcare industries in order to make healthcare affordable.

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Report from BMC Exchange NY

By Dick Stark

BMC’s New York Exchange, was held last Thursday near Times Center in New York City.  Turnout was excellent with more than 400 customers, partners, and BMC employees. The attendance was up and the mood more upbeat as compared to last year’s NY Exchange event. Here is a short NY Exchange update.

The message heard loud and clear is that BMC is back in growth mode. BMC told the partners that the number are up its first half fiscal year which bodes well for a strong year. When I asked why, I received the following, “Better leadership, lower sales turnover, and a strong pipeline at the start of the year.” This is good news and mirrors what RightStar has seen this year as well.

 During the Thursday kickoff, the audience introduced BMC’s new CEO and President Ayman Sayed.   Aymand is an industry veteran, who joined BMC just three weeks ago from CA, where he was President and Chief Product officer. He brings a passion for technology and innovation and said he will help BMC to “run and reinvent.” (BMC’s new tagline.)

Another new significant hire is Ram Chakravarti, CTO who is on assignment from BMC’s Equity Partner, KKR Capstone. Ram also discussed BMC’s push to digital transformation, specifically in the Hybrid IT and Multi-cloud, DevOps and Automation, and AI and Machine Learning spaces.

This year the BMC business unit that kicked off the conference was Digital Business Automation (DBA). Also known as Control M, this group has quickly become BMC’s largest, with double-digit growth. Since the end-to-end job scheduling and workflow automation market is only growing at 5%, DBA’s growth has been at the expense of its competition.

Up next was Nayaki Nayyar, President Digital Service and Operations Management (DSOM). She described BMC’s consolidation of DSM and DSO business units as a win/win and the first cloud based (aka Helix) solution offering both IT Ops and Service Management on the same platform, which Nayaki pointed out was essential for digital transformation.

Vidhya Srinivasan, VP Solutions Marketing, then presented a “day in the life of service desk and IT Ops.”  Vidhya described the five pillars and how BMC delivers:

  • Discover known and unknown events,
  • Monitor what you own,
  • Service the environment and business,
  • Remediate problems, ad
  • Optimize your environment.

In sum, BMC offers a single platform, single monitor, consumer grade experience for the enterprise.  And most importantly, market validation for why BMC.

I’m optimistic that BMC’s success means continued growth and opportunity for years to come.

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Report from the Tampa BMC Helix Remedyforce User Group Meeting

Panel Discussion: Berry College and Tupperware

By Dick Stark

Last Thursday I attended the BMC Helix Remedyforce (Rf) User Group Meeting held at the BMC Tampa office. This is one a series of Rf user groups that BMC is hosting (the previous meeting was held in Dallas). There was an excellent turnout of Rf customers—one came all the way from Lancaster, PA. RightStar customers Berry College, Tupperware, and Brooks Rehabilitation all attended, and I moderated a panel discussion with Berry College and Tupperware. Here is a summary of their presentations.

Tupperware’s Sr. Manager, Global IT Services, opened by describing the combination of BMC, RightStar and Tupperware as a fantastic coalition. He was enthusiastic about progress made and value received to date.

Tupperware is a global, direct-to-consumer marketer of premium, innovative products across multiple brands through an independent sales force of three million with approximately $2 billion in annual sales. Yes, there really is a party every two seconds.  

Tupperware complimented the RightStar team for excellent progress and support. He summed up his selection of Rf as “Champaign tastes on a beer budget.” Tupperware has successfully transformed from a 15-year-old on-premise disjointed Remedy system to an in-cloud automated service desk with full transparency, service level agreements and integrated Problem, Change, and Incident Management.  And no need for further software and hardware upgrades. Given the multi-national (Brazil, Germany, and the US) and “follow the sun” nature of his system, Tupperware has successfully used a rolling go-live process to get everyone up and running.   Their secret to project success—executive sponsorship and successful user adoption, both of which they have “in spades.”   

Berry College is a 2100 student private liberal arts school in NW Georgia. Like Tupperware, Berry College also began with Remedy but migrated to Rf approximately five years ago. Berry College’s Director of User Support, described progress made over the years to include Incident, Asset, Knowledge and Configuration Management.

RightStar has logged several trips to Berry College to assist with BMC Client Management (BCM) which is tightly integrated to Rf. BCM is used in place of SCCM and tracks and discovers software licenses, patches and deploys software, and provides remote connectivity for easier troubleshooting. BCM offers an excellent value for software license management. Berry College believes in continuous improvement and is beginning a self-service/service catalog project to improve the end-user experience.

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Report from BMC Helix Immersion Days

By Dick Stark

Last week, I attended (and RightStar helped sponsor), the BMC Helix Immersion Days Conference in Santa Clara, California, near BMC’s Helix Office. BMC is now back in the annual BMC user conference business.  The result was more attendees and an improved high-tech look.  Next year will be even bigger and better. Key conference takeaways:

BMC Helix is much broader and deeper. BMC’s DSO (TrueSight) and DSM (Helix) groups have joined forces to form Digital Service & Operations Management (DSOM) led by Nayaki Nayyar President, DSOM. Nayaki opened by saying that ITSM is converging with ITOM, and BMC now offering the industry first cloud based E2E platform for Service AND Operations. Nayaki further explained, “BMC helps organizations use technology for digital transformation. And Helix is a multi-cloud, multi-device, multi-channel, AI enabled platform consisting of components such as Optimize, Remediate, Digital Workplace, and Chatbot, to help drive that change.”

AI is here and BMC is ready. Following Nayaki was Sanjay Srivastava, Chief Digital Officer of Genpact, a professional service firm with more than 90,000 employees. Genpact’s focus—to drive digital transformation and deploy AI in the enterprise. The good news is that they are a BMC chatbot customer in a big way. Since they know a thing or two about AI and RPA, their use of BMC chatbots is a huge endorsement of BMC’s chatbot technology.

Next up was Mihir Shukla, Automation Anywhere (AA) CEO. AA is the largest player in Robotics Process Automation (RPA) connectivity and according the Mihir, the fastest growing software enterprise company in the world. “What’s exciting,” said Mihir, “is that now, AI can do it all. For the first time in history, we have an augmented workforce that is capable of doing work. The destination of work itself is changing. In 10 years, lots of things that we call work, won’t be work. We have RPA now doing the work of 1.5M people. In 2020, it will be 3M. This is a huge transformation. In the end it is about RPA. 80% of largest companies use RPA, which has ROI of 3 to 6 months.  This means we’ll see transformation happening worldwide on a massive scale.”

What else? Helix Immersion consisted of session covering Helix updates on Digital Workplace, Chatbots, Remedyforce (yes there was even a good number of Remedyforce customers attending), Discovery, BMC Client Management, CMDB, Cloud Cost Control, Security, Cloud offerings, and lots and lots of hands on workshops and labs.  BMC did an outstanding job and it was an upbeat couple of days for BMC and its customers. Next year look for a bigger and better conference with even more digital transformation success stories.

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The 2019 Gartner Magic Quadrant for ITSM

By Dick Stark

Earlier this month, Gartner released its annual Gartner Magic Quadrant for IT Service Management Tools 2019 and its companion piece, Critical Capabilities.  In the Magic Quadrant, BMC Remedy (now Helix) has remained in IT’s holiest of holy places, the upper right corner, along with ServiceNow. Little has changed from a year ago with BMC scoring slightly higher as a visionary, and ServiceNow scoring higher on its ability to execute.  What’s readily apparent is that BMC has fought back as best it can by continuing to focus on innovation, while ServiceNow has significantly excelled outside the ITSM domain. The good news is that BMC can win against ServiceNow and there are still plenty of bright spots ahead.  For instance:

BMC still wins based upon core ITSM technology. In the 2019 Gartner Critical Capabilities for ITSM, BMC leads in 10 out of 12 critical capabilities. This report rates tool sets based upon maturity levels and critical capabilities that differentiates the most popular large enterprise focused products on the market. This report also evaluates three infrastructure and operations use cases and digital workplace use cases. Takeaways include:

  • BMC is the #1 Digital Workplace vendor, five years in a row.
  • BMC Helix is the leader in cognitive capabilities (AITSM) across all vendors.
  • BMC is the #1 Advanced/Intermediate Maturity vendor with a broad ITOM software portfolio.

From the Magic Quadrant report:

  • BMC has a broad IT Operations Management (ITOM) software portfolio, making it a viable partner for mature infrastructure and Operations (I&O) organizations that need to extend their ITSM tools
  • BMC’s containerized BMC Helix ITSM product offers a broad set of deployment and licensing options, including SaaS, co-sell partnerships with public cloud providers (AWS and Azure), on on-premixes, giving customer flexibility in how and where their instance is deployed.
  • Gartner’s Critical Capabilities research determined that BMC scored highest for the advanced I&O maturity use case, indicating it is strongly suited to meet the requirements of high-maturity I&O organizations.

Of course, the report also makes it clear that ServiceNow with its dominant market position and strong partner ecosystem may not drive the best value for all clients as a result of high cost, and frequent upgrades. This is good news for RightStar. Our recent Helix/Remedy new customers and activity bears that out.

BMC still has a strong enterprise and federal customer base, and we will continue to close our fair share of the business. I remain very optimistic.

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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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