Book Review: Maximize Your Investment: 10 Key Strategies for Effective Packaged Software Implementations

The premise of this book, for most anyone, is painfully boring: planning out and project managing the installation of COTS software. This is mostly lumbering, on-premises ERP applications: those huge, multi-year installs of software that run the back office and systems of record for organizations. While this market is huge, touches almost every company, and has software that is directly or indirectly touched by almost everyone each day (anytime you buy something or interact with a company)…it’s no iPhone.

If you’re in the business of selling enterprise software and services, however, Beaubouef’s book is a rare look inside the buyer’s mind and their resulting work-streams when they’re dealing with big ol’ enterprise IT. As a software marketer, I read it for exactly that. I was hoping to find some ROI models (a scourge of my research). It doesn’t really cover that at all, which is fine.

There’s a core cycle of ideas and advice flitting in and bout of the book that I like:

  1. COTS software will do, you know, 80% of what you like. The rest is customizing it through configuration, your own code layered on-top, or getting the vendor to add in new features.
  2. The more you customize the software, the harder it will be to change. But, the less you customize it, the less it creates differentiation for your business processes.
  3. Most of the problems and challenges you’ll encounter, though, will be human based.
  4. Much of these human problems are about managing the requirements process to make sure the software is matching the needs of the business.
  5. Process-wise, to do this we like to take on a waterfall approach (try to specify everything up front, implement it all, then verify if it works). This results in a lot or risk of waiting for that final verification to see if it works and you were right about matching the COTS implementation to business needs.
  6. Instead, and iterative approach that focuses on learning and honing the COTS/business match-up seems like a good idea.
  7. Role-wise, getting someone(s) who have a tops-down view of the business process and enough technical understanding to map that to the COTS project is a really good idea, though hard to put in place.

While the book focuses on on-premises software, the overall thinking could easily apply to any implementation of a large IT-driven, vendor provided system: SaaS would work, and to an extent the kind of infrastructure software we sell at Pivotal. As the points above go over, the core thrust of the book is about managing how you make sure your IT is actually helping the business, not bogging down in its self.

If you’re pretty vague on what you should do in these large IT initiatives, you could do a lot worse than read this book.

Check out the book: *Maximize Your Investment: 10 Key Strategies for Effective Packaged Software Implementations *

ABB & Microsoft – more software eating 3D objects, i.e., IoT

Microsoft helping out ABB with some cloud ‘n’ IoT fun:

The most significant of these is a new alliance with Microsoft, whose Azure public cloud has been chosen to underpin ABB’s cloud, IoT and digital services across the ABB group. The companies will also work together on projects and services, although the extent of this will emerge over time. ABB also announced an internal reorganization and the appointment of a chief digital officer. All of these moves are part of ABB’s Next Level strategy, now in its third iteration, which sets out targets and priorities aimed at maintaining or increasing growth, profitability and value.

The agreement with Microsoft will help ABB offer cloud-based digital services across all its divisions. Functions such as monitoring, analytics, control, billing, forecasting, machine learning and many others will be delivered via applications and services hosted in Azure by Microsoft.

On ABB:

It has annual revenue of $35.4bn (2015) from operations in 100 countries, supplying switchgear, breakers, substations, generators, uninterruptible power supplies and power electronics, as well as management software.

Source: “ABB says the Next Level is digital, and Microsoft will help it get there”.

Saving $20m and going agile in the process

From an interesting sounding panel on government IT:

“We do discovery on a small chunk and then development, and then while that’s going on, we’re starting discovery on the next small chunk, and so on and so forth,” Smith said. “And then when the development is done, we loop back and we do user testing on that piece that’s done. But we don’t release it. That’s … one of the differences between agile and the way we did it. At the end of the phase we release everything.”

Also, some fun notes on consolidating legacy systems and resistance to going agile.

Puppet momentum, ~$100m annual sales

Growth, in terms of customers and revenue, appears to be significant. About 34,000 companies use Puppet’s software to automate data center operations, with 6,000 added last year, Kanies said. The company is approaching $100 million in annual sales and is expanding its headquarters in Portland, Ore. In January, it secured $22 million in financing from Silicon Valley Bank to fuel further expansion.

And then a stray container momentum/penetration number from Forrester:

Stroud sees promise in Puppet’s container support, despite his observation that only about 8% of companies are using containers for production workloads. “It gives current Puppetized work the ability to be containerized,” he said.

From The Register’s PuppetConf report

DellEMCWorld 2016

I skipped a few years, but I’ve been to most of the DellWorlds. It’s fun to be back this year now that Dell has fully scooped up EMC and, thus, Pivotal. I’m giving a talk on Wednesday, Oct. 18th, at 2:15pm along with my pal Richard Seroter, slides above.

There’s a few other recordings and shenanigans going on as well. Hopefully we’ll get some Pivotal Conversations episodes going, if not a new Coté Show episode too.

Cloud Platform Adoption: Lessons Learned — Philip Glebow, Gap

Gap’s Philip Glebow goes over their use of Pivotal Cloud Foundry, including things that worked well and need improvement. His list of the supporting tools they use – like APM and data virtualization – is handy as well.

Some items:

  • (~2:30) Fast deploys: “We can deploy changes faster than people can really consume them.”
  • (~18:00) Developer morale: “We could really push something in five minutes… and developers love it, you click the commit button and there you go.”
  • (~19:40) [Poor transcription by me] On the danger of changing too fast: …generally we want to have a little bit of control into what goes into that production environment… but we don’t want to change so rapidly so that users are confused… There’s also a little bit of cultural change that we need to go through… ((too rapid of change is jarring)) …and as we bring that capability forward, we want to be sensitive to those concerns.
  • (~23:58) Overview of their pipeline and testing.
    (~26:29) [Poor transcription by me]  Typically we’ve organized out teams around sort of domain concepts – so we have a pricing team – then there’s several squads, then that squad is responsible for optimization – price, packing the stuff, etc. That’s how we’ve organized the teams, two pizza teams, we’ve tried to that. Also, distributed teams… sometimes that’s a little bit complicated.

Allianz now deploying to production in minutes

By changing its development practices and investing in a private cloud platform as a service, there have been clear benefits to the business. “Historically it would take two or three days for a deployment to go to production, with lots of manual production. Now with the apps in the garages we can do it on the basis of Cloud Foundry within minutes.”

Source: Allianz app deployment goes from ‘days to minutes’ with PaaS and agile practices

The Apple Watch in Restaurant Dining Rooms

Using Apple Watches to assist waitstaff is interesting, but sort of over kill.

I’d assume they’d still need to take orders which probably works best with paper (or just memorizing), or at best a tablet or phablet. The watch is not very good for reading and gathering information: it’s better at taking quick actions, just getting quick info like the time or current temperature, and small notifications.

Still, any new use case people come up with is interesting:

Second, the use of the Apple Watch adds an interesting layer to day-to-day hospitality practices. Guest notes within reservations are nothing new, but employing a dynamic, real-time system to make sure that the people who need to read the notes actually do read the notes is a major step. The Apple Watch, for its… shortcomings, is arguably less intrusive than a mobile phone or larger screen, and can be checked far more discreetly. I can’t speak for restaurant floor managers, but from this side of the keyboard, this seems like an efficient technological upgrade.

Another interesting tidbit buried in the Eater piece: soon, ResyOS will support the ability to add other diners to a reservation so the restaurant has a clearer picture of everyone at the table — great news for couples who keep track of which reservation profiles have all of the “good notes.” (We all do that, right?)

Source:  The Apple Watch in Restaurant Dining Rooms 

Living life one quarter at a time, maybe it’s fine

Tyler Cowen suggests that we shouldn’t be freaked out by the emphasis on quarterly returns. Many public companies companies blame making quarterly numbers as a reason for short term planning, versus long term (one assumes) innovative strategies. The pieces suggests that that short sightedness may have a reason:

In information technology, the average life of a corporate asset is about six years, in health care it is about 11 years, and for consumer products it runs about 12 to 15. Very often it is hard for a company to plan its operations beyond those time periods, as the U.S. economy is no longer based on durable manufacturing machines. Production has shifted toward service sectors with relatively short asset lives, and that may call for a shorter-term orientation in response.

And, throw in all the “change or die”, digital transformation stuff and who knows what tomorrow will look like? As a counter, re-jiggering a company to be “digital” can take time. But, as Coleen suggests, investors don’t always seems to punish that (I’d add, if they have faith in management and the culture of the company):

Equity markets do not seem to neglect the longer run. Amazon has a high share price even though its earnings reports have usually failed to show a profit. Possibly the market judgment is wrong, but it’s hardly the case that investors are ignoring the long-run prospects of the company.

Further more, if I doesn’t work out:

If public shareholders are placing too much short-term pressure on their companies for a good quarterly earnings report, companies have the option of boosting their value by going private, as has been the trend. By 2012, the number of U.S. public corporations was less than half what it had been in 1997, in part because many companies went private. This is possible evidence that there have been problems with corporate short-termism, but on the other hand it shows that a market response is possible. Good governance is a scarce resource, and it may be that markets concentrate it in the places that need it most.

Source: Is corporate thinking too short-term?

IT/Business alignment: why it’s different this time

Re-reading Nick’s piece on “digital transformation,” I like how he explains what’s new and different from past waves of IT innovation (lik ERP and econmerce), e.g.:

“Going digital results in an explosion in the amount of data you have. New channels of engagement between customers and organizations have resulted in new sources of information coming into the organization at speeds not seen before. In the past, customer interaction was mostly one-way – from the organization to the customer. Now it is about customer-directed, on-demand two-way engagement anywhere on any device. Customers want to communicate on their terms in their preferred channels. That causes organizations to have to transform the way they handle such information, since having a large call center may not be enough – or even that relevant in the future, given that so much communication will come via social media, in messages or increasingly via video. Add to that the explosion in information from Internet of Things (IoT) devices, and it’s pretty clear that the days of management by gut-feel and hunch are over, and data-driven decision-making is the only way to go.

And also, some numbers:

  • “Less than 25% of organizations that participated in a recent 451 Research survey (451 Research VoCUL, April 2016) said they had a well-defined formal digital transformation strategy. So we’re in the early stages of digital transformation, and there’s lots of work to be done.”
  • “Erik Brynjolfsson, Lorin Hitt and Heekyung Hellen Kim from MIT and University of Pennsylvania found that companies with data-driven decision environments have 5% higher productivity, 6% higher profit and up to 50% higher market value than other businesses.”
  • “Our research shows about 65% of IT decision-makers using agile methods and about 40% adopting DevOps today (VotE Software-Defined Infrastructure Q4 2015).”

Source: Digital transformation: the what, the why and the how

1,000+ companies using Facebook’s intranet service, Workplace

There is a News Feed that displays articles, updates or comments relevant to certain teams or, perhaps, to the entire company. The now-familiar Live service can be used to broadcast corporate communications, such as a presentation by the CEO. Workers can communicate in real time using a version of Messenger. They can also create private Groups for brainstorms or discussions—as of this week, groups can include colleagues or business partners that aren’t official employees. That feature wasn’t previously available until today’s launch.

It looks like $1-3 a month (I’m guessing). I mean: I’ve never used an intranet site that was worth a damn. You could do worse than using Facebook for it: it seems to do a damn fine job as the intranet for people’s lives.

What’s always mattered in these things is that the vendor (here, Facebook) keeps up with it over the course of 5-10 years. Otherwise, it become a big hunk of crap you can’t escape that never evolves. Google Apps (or whatever it’s called) is like this: aside from GMail, it never seems to evovle at a pace that makese sense, so you’re left with the ideas of 2-3 years ago. So, the question becomes: is Facebook in this for the long-haul?

Source: Facebook at Work: Workplace by Facebook Is Now on the Clock

Why Big Companies Need Lean Startup Techniques, Gartner

A lead-gen-y blog post, but with some good stuff, e.g.:

  • “Gartner estimates by 2021, more than 50% of established corporations will be leveraging lean startup techniques at the business level to increase the pace and success of business transformation.”
  • Nice MVP/small batch framing: “A critical challenge for many organizations will be adopting radical MVP thinking in the business (not just in IT). Businesses must define what is the least investment needed (in time, budget, resources, etc.) to test the most uncertain assumptions for the new product or service.”
  • And a mini-case study of the Queensland state government which ain’t half bad.

Source: Why Big Companies Need Lean Startup Techniques – Smarter With Gartner

IT-driven innovation in cameras

It’s easy to take all the recent advances in photography for granted. They all just sort of work. This overview from Sinofsky on the bokeh effect in the new iPhones explains what’s going on, and also highlights a mainstream – consumer! – case of how software, IoT, and hardware (mobile phones) are innovating what was a moribund field:

If you extrapolate from today you can start to see how mobile photography that incorporates multiple sensors, machine learning, and real-time compute will continue to create new types of images.

It’s a good example of what we mean by “digital transformation.” It means using IT to the maximum and, I think, is best understood by contemplating what exactly the opposite is: “analog.” There are so many things in our daily lives (both business and personal) that are not being augmented by software, let along “sensors” and “machine learning.” There’s almost an endless TAM out there to gobble up; rather, an infinite future of opportunity to create fun, new experiences and productivity.

Source: Photos: How Tools Start a Revolution

6 DevOps columns: government, compliance, ROI, management

Last year I wrote several columns for FierceDevOps. Nancy Gohring was the editor there and graciously asked me to do so (she’s moved over to being an analyst at 451 and is doing awesome work over there). The FierceEmpire has shifted their stuff around and now it’s either impossible or impossibly tedious to find those pieces, so I moved them over to Medium. I’ve got to get my URLs to be my overly self-referential self, after all!

Here they are:

  1. Software Defined Businesses need Software Defined IT Departments
  2. Here’s how we can help push DevOps into the mainstream
  3. There’s no easy way to model DevOps ROI
  4. Management’s role in DevOps: orchestrating the why
  5. Barriers to DevOps in government
  6. Addressing the DevOps compliance problem

Making decisions quicker with failure

It’s okay to get things wrong and it’s okay to change our minds. If we’re strong enough to admit that we got it wrong, we can learn and adapt. If we accept that it’s okay to change our minds, we end up delivering something quicker as we made a decision based on the information at that time.

—Emma Hammond, Fidelity International

Source: Top 100 Quotes from the Cloud Foundry Summit Europe 2016, Altoros

Slow down cowboy, start with just integrate your code regularly and fixing the bugs you find

From Gary Gruver, one of the better “how to do agile and DevOps stuff in large organizations” authors:

For these organizations implementing DevOps principles (the ability to release code to the customer on a more frequent basis while maintaining or improving stability and quality) is more about creating a well-designed deployment pipeline that builds up a more stable enterprise systems on a regular basis so it is much easier to release the code on a more frequent basis.  This is done by creating a deployment pipeline that integrates the code across the enterprise system on a much more frequent basis with automated testing to ensure that new functionality is not breaking existing code and the code quality is kept much closer to release quality.

From my perspective this approach to DevOps is rather different from the more unicorn type approach described in this article.  It though does address the biggest opportunity for improvement that does exist in more large traditional organizations which is coordinating the work across teams.  In these cases the working code in the deployment pipeline is the forcing function used to coordinate work and ensure alignment across the organization.  If the code from different teams won’t work together or it won’t work in production, the organization is forced to fix those issues immediately before too much code is written that will not work together in a production environment.  Addressing these issues early and often in a deployment pipeline is one of the most important things large traditional organizations can and should be doing to improve the effectiveness of their development and deployment processes.

Source: DevOps killing outsourcing? Another point of view – DevOps.com

38% of enterprises now using DevOps, Gartner

A little survey bit from a recent Gartner report on security in DevOps:

At the time of the original DevOpsSec research in 2012, DevOps was relatively new. However, recent Gartner research indicates that 38% of enterprises are now using DevOps, and 50% will be actively using it by the end of 2016. In the same survey, security and audit tools represented the single highest-rated category of tools in terms of importance to an effective and effcient DevOps implementation, and 82% of respondents indicated that they had to deal with one or more regulations in their DevOps initiatives.

Details of the study from the footnotes:

Gartner Enterprise DevOps Survey Study: This research was conducted via an online survey from 9 May to 13 May 2016 among Gartner Research Circle Members — a Gartner-managed panel composed of IT and business leaders.
Objectives: To learn how organizations are adopting DevOps as a means to accelerate enablement; to go faster while improving quality; additionally, to inform on topics, including starting a DevOps approach, pitfalls to avoid, scaling efforts, integrating information security, pursuing this in a regulated environment and quantifying bene ts.
In all, 252 IT and business leaders participated, with 95 members qualified by indicating they are already using DevOps.

Hustlin’ webinars

Hey, sometimes a Johnny Leadgen PDF has some useful info in it. This PDF from BrightTalk (a webinar hosting company that, in my experience, is the best all around) goes over some tips on promoting your webinar:

  • “The ideal promotional campaign spans about 4 weeks prior to the live event, with a minimum suggested promotion time of about 2.5 weeks.”

And for each social hole:

Screenshot 2016-10-04 09.54.02.png

“[U]sing it as a way to escape for a bit.” That’s the one.

There’s some other, mostly obvious, but good to reminded of stuff in the PDF.

Apple AirPods will force you to use your Apple Watch more

The lack of physical controls is very … well … Apple. It’s part of what makes the AirPods so attractive but also can be maddening if you want to change the volume or skip a track without talking out loud to Siri. If you have an Apple Watch, you can get around this without pulling your phone out of your pocket or purse. I think this shortcoming will be the biggest complaint about AirPods.

Source: “Initial Impressions of the Apple AirPods”