A Seat at the Table: IT Leadership in the Age of Agility

Book Review

A Seat at the Table: IT Leadership in the Age of Agility
by Mark Schwartz

This should be required reading for all technology and business leaders who are serious about digital transformation.  This book takes you on a provocative, fun and comprehensive tour of the key areas that will promote and ignite digital empowering agility, creativity, learning, community and collaboration.

This book may be about taking a seat, but this is no time to be sitting still!   IT leaders will be convinced that their job is now about incentivizing and inspiring courage, passion and technical excellence in service of business objectives rather than blindly servicing requirements. You will even find practical advice on how to deal with projects, scope creep, IT assets (what the author calls Enterprise Architecture), governance, security, risk management, quality, and shadow IT.

DevOps Enterprise Summit 2016 – San Francisco

The 2016 edition of the San Francisco based DevOps Enterprise Summit underscored the momentum and scale of the DevOps movement across the industry.  The summit saw record level attendance and phenomenal presentations from established DevOps luminaries, notable DevOps transformational companies as well as many new companies.

“We are at our best when we are helping each other, serving each other, and making a positive difference” – Jason Cox, Disney

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Innovation at Dimension Data: Accelerating Innovation and Digital Transformation with StackStorm Event Driven Automation

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thinking Environments

Transformational technology leaders from many companies across the world assembled at the 2016 DevOps Enterprise Forum to discuss DevOps practices, challenges and best-known methods to help our organizations and our community succeed.

Along with several other leaders, I had the privilege of helping put together a guidance document on DevOps Organizational Models to accelerate business and empower workers. In this free publication by IT Revolution, we take a look at how and why organizations are structured, examine which have characteristics that promote or impede business enabling DevOps practices, and take a deep dive into four different models that began to surface during our research:  (1) the traditional functional silo hierarchy, (2) the matrix model, (3) the product platform model and the (X) adaptive organization model.

Download PDF Here

Authors

  • Mark Schwartz, CIO, US Citizenship and Immigration Services
  • Jason Cox, Director, Systems Engineering, The Walt Disney Company
  • Jonathan Snyder, Sr. Manager, Service Deployment & Quality, Adobe Systems
  • Mark Rendell, Principal Director, Accenture
  • Chivas Nambiar, Director Systems Engineering, Verizon
  • Mustafa Kapadia, NA DevOps Service Line Leader, IBM

More DevOps guidance documents can be found here: http://itrevolution.com/devops_enterprise_forum_guidance

DevOps Handbook

devopshandbookDevOps Handbook: 
How to Create World-Class Agility, Reliability, & Security in Technology Organizations

These notable DevOps luminaries provide a comprehensive definition, patterns and guidance on implementing business winning DevOps culture and practices within your your organization.  Beyond just looking at successful DevOps principles from “unicorn” companies like Google, Amazon, Facebook, Etsy, and Netflix, the authors provide several practical examples and case studies where these same practices are helping traditional enterprise companies like Target, Nordstrom, Raytheon, Nationwide Insurance, CSG, Capital One, and Disney.

The handbook captures several quotes from industry practitioners as well as unpack patterns that help promote increased velocity, feedback and experimentation and learning.

Citations from The DevOps Handbook

wordcloud-devops-handbook

DevOps Enterprise Summit – London 2016

I once again had the privilege of attending the DevOps Enterprise Summit.  This time it was in the U.K. at the Hilton Metropole.  I was impressed with the representation and talks from companies and organization across the UK and the rest of Europe:  SAP, ITV, Hiscox, ING, Barclays, HMRC, Zurich, and many more.

Themes that I picked up from these DevOps leaders:

  • People – Its all about People – empathy, org change, transformation
  • Speed – Continuous Integration and Delivery
  • Quality – Investment in DevOps practices often results in higher quality output
  • Agility – Microservices and Flexible Infrastructure
  • Security – Everyone’s responsibility
  • Business – Focus on Product vs. Project with integration with business in transformation (BizDevOps?)

I was honored to speak again and talk about our DevOps journey at Disney.

Jason Cox DOES16 London

Even though I wasn’t able to record my presentation, ComputerWorld UK provided a great write-up of my talk, and even gave me a new title! 🙂

There was considerable interest in our journey to DevOps, especially our transition from Operation Specialist to embedded Systems Engineers.

Other Quotes

“If technology is done well it looks like magic”

References

Systems strategy chief Jason Cox details Disney’s devops journey – ComputerWorld UK

Tips for DevOps Success from DOES 2016 – ComputerWorld UK

DevOps Across the Pond – London Reprise – ITproPortal

Overcoming the scale-up challenge of enterprise DevOps adoption – ComputerWeekly.com

 

How to Effectively Communicate to Leaders

As an leader who loves working with people, I often have the pleasure of hearing from individuals at all levels across the organization.  However, I am often amazed at how many people fail to communicate effectively with their leaders and others. They are terrible at scheduling meetings, pitching their idea or even asking for help. That got me to thinking, what advice would I give to anyone who needs to communicate with me or other leaders? I came up a list of 7 imperatives that I have learned from those who are the most successful.

1) Be contextual – I often have meeting invites or receive emails or presentations that provide little or no context. The senders may have mentioned it in a prior exchange and are usually saturated in the subject themselves, but most leaders are constantly task switching and juggling multiple ideas, projects, discussions, etc., and can struggle to make connections back to the senders requests. While we all want to be superhuman and always “know what you are talking bout”, the truth is that we have a finite capacity to retain more than a handful of contexts. Provide “helps” to onboard the leader and the rest of the audience quickly. That will help you succeed in getting the point across and if needed, a decision. I love seeing context in the meeting invite or email, or in the case of ad hoc meetings, and introductory summary for why he or she should listen to you.

2) Be brief – As with most leaders, I get several hundred emails, calls, texts and IMs per day. I must skim to survive. You should fashion your communications so that important ideas are highlighted. For written communication, make use of white space to help the eye quickly skim and do what you can to avoid unnecessary language. Can I suggest that executives aren’t the only ones who appreciate this and anyone who discovers this art of concise and effective communication will succeed in their career?

3) Be real – Leaders see through bogus accomplishments and self promotion. I’m most impressed with people who are respectful but direct, confident but humble, and candid but optimistic. They spend more time acknowledging others and the achievements of their team rather than their own.

4) Be kind – Good leaders have little tolerance for other leaders or managers who berate, belittle, or otherwise deal harshly with their team or others. Don’t expect to find a gracious audience with your own leader if you can’t deal respectfully, courteously and graciously with your own staff and partners. Treat others as you want to be treated.

5) Be honest – I’ve seen individuals and teams manipulate messages and presentations to get an executive decision or modify perception without providing all the details or slightly modifying the story. If you know something that could materially impact the decision process, why are you hiding it? Blocking signals to manipulate circumstances for your own benefit will backfire on you personally and in some cases have a significant impact on the company, brand, employees or customers. Be honest.

6) Be optimistic – Good leaders are not looking for everyone to be Pollyanna and will prefer a difficult truth to a comforting lie, but rarely are things without hope or some positive element. Bring a bias toward positive solutions, look for the opportunity in the disappointment, the lesson in a setback or wisdom in a failure. Business is about taking risks and moving forward from mistakes. Surround yourself with others who believe we can make a difference and impact the world for the better. Be an optimist.

7) Be proactive – Don’t just tell your leader what someone else needs to do, take action yourself. It’s great to have a plan to make something better and to bring that to the attention of your leader, but be prepared to be part of the solution!  Leaders are always on the lookout for a great idea with muscle. What are you doing to turn your great idea into reality? Get started.

This list is in no way comprehensive, but hopefully it will help you as it has helped me.

The Art of Business Value

art-of-biz-valueA review of The Art of Business Value by Mark Schwartz

Business value, the north star of Agile, Lean and DevOps champions, is often more difficult to determine than one would imagine. This book takes the reader on a journey to discover that value while along the way, creating helpful mental models, challenging preconceived notions and proposing some creative ways to transform an organization.

The author does a great treatment of ROI (Return on Investment – does anyone ever really measure that?), NPV (Net Present Value), MVA (Market Value Added) and SVA (Shareholder Value Added). I especially enjoyed the humorous practical example that revealed a surprising truth that acquiring an MBA can easily have a negative NPV (in other words, a bad investment!) So save your money and pay attention to the author’s “four-paragraph MBA” (p. 20) that unpacks the main two principles learned in an MBA: 1) There is time value of money and 2) A business venture needs a sustainable competitive advantage.

Legacy IT architecture and bureaucracy are often considered negatives and obstacles to progressive competitive relevance but the author brings a refreshing perspective on the “value” of that complex hairball of legacy and rules and the right way to polish and transform them.

On Agile…

“The purpose of an Agile team is to self-organize and meet the underlying business need in the best way possible, often by cutting through the bureaucracy.” (p 55)

On DevOps…

“The DevOps model…looks to break down the silos that have resulted from technical specialization over the last few decades. But the DevOps spirit goes further looking to eliminate the conflicting incentives of organizational silos and the inhumane behaviors that can result from those conflicting incentives.” (p 48)

On Bureaucracy…

“Bureaucracy delivers business value. Just sometimes not enough.” (p 59)
…”developers are bureaucrats by nature. We have a tendency to solve problems by creating standard processes rather than by relying on human judgment.” (p 54)
“The pipeline is an automated bureaucracy: it applies its rules in a rigorous, unemotional way, sine ira et studio. That does not mean that the software development process is unemotional; it means that the tools are unemotional and the passion is brought to the process by the people.” (p 105)

And on Business Value…

“Business value is a hypothesis held by the organization’s leadership as to what will best accomplish the organization’s ultimate goals or desired outcomes.” (p 90)

I highly recommend this book to IT leaders, digital executives, strategic managers, and anyone seeking to make their organization more agile, effective, relevant, competitive and humane.

DevOps Enterprise Summit 2015

It was great to attend the DevOps Enterprise Summit again this year. The 2015 edition saw more than double the number of attendees of the 2014 conference with presentations from companies all over the world. There is definitely a feeling that DevOps is awakening across the enterprise.

I had the privilege of presenting again on Disney’s Journey,
“Disney DevOps – The Enterprise Awakens.”

Fellow DevOps Avengers from all over the world converged to swap stories, share new insight, technology and encourage each other to keep moving forward as the Force of positive change in our various industries.

DevOps Enterprise | The Agile, Continuous Delivery and DevOps Transformation Summit http://devopsenterprise.io

Some great reviews and observations:

Impressions from DevOps Enterprise Summit 2015

Gene Kim and Others Share What DevOps is Really “All About”

Impressions from DevOps Enterprise Summit 2015 – Micro Hering – Accenture

Infoworld – Gene Kim explains the joy of DevOps

Selection of favorite quotes:

  • “If you name your servers and treat them like pets they all develop individual personalities.” – @jasonacox
  • “Times and conditions change so rapidly that we must keep our aim constantly focused on the future.” – Walt Disney
  • “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” –@jasonacox
  • “Believe in what you do, and make a difference” – @jasonacox