Questions for a panel about managing managers

A moderated a panel about managing managers during digital transformation stuff (organizations getting better at software, doing the DevOps, etc.). Here’s my vision for the panel and the questions we churned over. We didn’t directly answer all of them, of course. The panel was great! The recording should be up soon (it says September 10th 2020).

The idea/point/premise of the panel

In larger organizations, there are layers of managers, in a good way: teams aggregate to a manager, that layer of manager aggregates to another, then somewhere there’s executives, and, I don’t know, the mythical shareholder. Everyone has a boss. I want to discuss what it’s like to be the boss of all those managers and help them transform into all the existing, new fangled agile and digital transformation stuff. Most of the discussion I encounter is about individual staff and the product teams (those working on software or running it), but I don’t hear much about the management structures above those teams. Also, it’d be interesting to talk a little about what exactly things like “servant leadership” mean and how one manages their career (gets promotions, more compensation, etc.) when they’ve moved from being The Boss to a servant (to be tongue in cheek about it).


  1. We’ve heard the notion of servant leadership, which sounds, you know, helpful. Can you give me an example of what that looks like though, like an actual one that happened?
  2. I was watching a webinar that Jana did recently on her white paper. In the Q&A, they asked attendees something along the lines of “do you ever think of your organization’s vision and strategy, does it ever determine what you work on and how?” As I recall, almost zero percent of people responded yes. This seems like a critical tool for managers to use if they’re setting up autonomous teams that need to make decisions on their own – they need to know the principals, the goals. How should managers be moving beyond facile vision and strategy?
  3. For years, I’ve heard about “the frozen middle,” managers who don’t want to change despite the urging and permission of executives (“above” them) and enthusem of staff (“below”). Is this cliche real? If so, what causes that frozen-ness?
  4. (Following on from that), when you’re managing managers, what are you doing in this new, agile, world? Are you a servant to the servants?
  5. There are occasionally “accidental managers” who sort of ended up there. But most of them have been pursing a career of going “up” the meatware stack. They want to grow their career, which usually means responsibilities, the glory and power that goes with it, and the rewards. So, if you’re a servant to people below you, how do you end up managing your career?
  6. As you push responsibility down to teams, what are safety nets you put in place as they figure it out?
  7. What are some the first things you delegate?

Link: ‘The gulf between apps and infrastructure is blurring’ says boss of DevOps darling Puppet

Their portfolio:

Puppet Bolt, the company’s simplified open source automation framework, hit version 1.0; Puppet Insights, a tool for measuring how fast and how well teams commit code, showed up as a private beta; Puppet Discovery, for corralling IT resources, moved on to version 1.6; Pipelines for Containers 3.3 got Helm support; and Puppet Enterprise 2019 and Continuous Delivery for Puppet Enterprise 2.0 reached general availability.
Original source: ‘The gulf between apps and infrastructure is blurring’ says boss of DevOps darling Puppet

Link: Google Cloud Platform Blog: Cloud Services Platform: bringing the best of the cloud to you

Round-up of developer related stuff from Google.
Original source: Google Cloud Platform Blog: Cloud Services Platform: bringing the best of the cloud to you

Link: My Interoperable Opinions of Cloud Foundry Summit 2018

“[I]n my previous life working in IT, I’ll admit I wasn’t in the opinionated camp. I didn’t even understand it as a concept. I generally went for selecting software with the ultimate flexibility. What I didn’t realize was how often this led to analysis paralysis and decreased productivity.”

I remember one of the last projects I worked on. We were selecting a software product for financial planning and reporting. Ideally, we’d have found a solution that did 80% of what was required. We should have reevaluated the actual importance of the other 20% we thought we needed. Instead, we focused on that 20% until we settled on something that could handle it. Then implementation details, changing requirements, and complex technology got in the way anyway. As I recently heard one industry analyst say, “Choice is not a differentiator.”
Original source: My Interoperable Opinions of Cloud Foundry Summit 2018

Link: Oracle Kills JavaOne

Ran from 1996 to 2010 as it’s own conference, and the as part of Oracle OpenWorld. Now to be focused on more than just Java:

“Oracle Code One is our new developer conference that’s inclusive of more languages, technologies, and developer communities than other conferences.
Expect talks on Go, Rust, Python, JavaScript, and R, along with more of the great Java technical content that developers expect.”
Original source: Oracle Kills JavaOne

Link: Microservices: It’s All About the Events

‘The traditional server request/response model for computing comes from an imperative programming model, though an events-based model really is more of a functional programming model, she noted. “Functional programming models work really, really well for distributed systems,” she said.’
Original source: Microservices: It’s All About the Events

Last chance to get $300 off SpringOne Platform

Next week is my company’s big conference, August 1st to 4th in Las Vegas. The agenda looks amazing, and it’s packed with good speakers. My primary interest, as always, is learning how orginizations are moving from older ways of doing software to newer, better ways. There’s a great line up of “manager types” talking about exactly that. There’s also endless coding talk, don’t worry.

Check out our recommendations for the conference in a recent Pivotal Conversations episode:

I’m going to try to interview people for the Lords of Computing podcast here and there as I find them. My lack of any real planning might ensnarl that, of course. On the other hand, locking people’s schedule down for a speaking at conference is next to impossible. That’s my excuse at least.

If you’re interested and haven’t registered yet, you can still (I assume!) use the code pivotal-cote-300 to get $300 off registration.

Hopefully I’ll see you there!

What I’m looking forward to at SpringOne Platform

The biggest cloud native conference is coming up at the first week of August, SpringOne Platform. To plan out my time I took at look at the sessions. Here’s what I’m looking forward to and what I think you, dear readers, will find interesting as well. Doing a list like this, of course, ends up excluding some awesome sessions, so be sure to check out the talk list yourself as well.

Also, if you’re interested and haven’t registered yet, be sure to use the code pivotal-cote-300 to get $300 off.

Dealing with legacy

Almost every conversation I have with large organizations involves a discussion about dealing with legacy software. While you may not be running JFK era IT, you probably have to deal with legacy. Here’s some sessions on that topic:

Cloud Native Coding

Moving to The New, New Thing requires different ways of architecting and coding your software. Here’s some sessions that go over those new ways:

Case Studies

While cooked up demos of Pet Stores and Breweries are education, I’m most interested in hearing tales of what’s actually happened out in the world. Here are some of the case studies that look interesting:

The Usual Chuckle-heads

And, to highlight talks from my team:

(And, remember: if you want to come, you can get $300 if use the code pivotal-cote-300 when you register.)

Come see me in Poland

I’ll be in Poland next month speaking at two events:

It’d be great to see you there as, you know, I don’t get to Poland much.

DevOps for Normals

This is one of the talks I give at DevOpsDays and other places. You can check out a recording of me doing it early on at DevOpsDays Austin (slides), and there’s many iterations on it. Here’s me doing it at SpringOne Platform 2016, and the slides for DevOpsDays DFW, 2016.

If you’re like me and you prefer the internet over meat-sacks, for more Pivotal material like free books and two months of free PaaS, check out my Pivotal page. Also, for some discounts to various conferences – including a few DevOpsDays – check out my discount code page.

OpenStack Summit 2016 Talks

The OpenStack Summit is in Austin this year, finally! So, I of course submitted several talks. Go over and vote for them – I think that does something helpful, who the hell knows?

Here’s the talks:

I’ll be at the Summit regardless, but it’d sure be dandy to do some of the above too.

Link: Apple Watch by the (estimated) numbers, and 11 claimed myths about the wearable

Round up of marketshare and commentary on the Apple Watch from Horace’s Apple Watch conference. 80% of wearable market, they say.

Source: Apple Watch by the (estimated) numbers, and 11 claimed myths about the wearable

Use agile for speed, not cutting costs – Agile survey from Gartner AADI

I’m at Gartner AADI this year, the first time I’ve been to a Gartner conference. One of the sessions was a read-out of a recent survey about Agile. While a small sample set – “167 IT leaders in 33 countries” – it was screened for people who were familiar with or doing agile of some kind. As with all types of surveys like this, it’s interesting to look at the results both with respect to “what people are doing” and how they’re thinking about what they’re doing. Here’s some slides I took pictures of during the talk:

Organization's Profile - Gartner AADI agile survey readout

Why organizations do agile - Gartner AADI agile survey readout

Agile methodologies in use  - Gartner AADI agile survey readout

When agile practices were adopted - Gartner AADI agile survey readout

Agile stumbling blocks - Gartner AADI agile survey readout

My first take-aways are:

  • Well, Scrum is popular.
  • Most of the “stumbling blocks” are, of course, meatware problems: people and “culture.”
  • Pair programming, as always, gets no respect.
  • Organizations want to use agile for speed, not for cutting costs.

Coté Memo #078: Spiceworld 2015, Spiceworks Momentum, Enterprise Use, and DevOps

Tech & Work World

I was at Spiceworld, briefly, last week. This is Spiceworks’ big user, annual conference in Austin; they have one in London as well. I’ve followed Spiceworks for many years (from RedMonk to 451 Research) and have always liked their IT management approach: their business model is to be the Facebook of IT by giving away the systems management software for free and then selling access to the users to advertisers, vendors, and others. They also have a data practice which has some interesting, deep pools of data.

Last week they announced several new services and features, and also made some exiting ones free. They have a hosted (cloud!) offering that I’d missed seeing; that’s one of the things they made free (down from $10/month). As ever, I think their ambition is to monitor and manage as much IT as their user base wants. They don’t always provide the deepest functionality (saving that for their “real” customers who can sell more sophisticated tools into the user base), but they balance the “you get what you pay for” product management track well as their user momentum shows:

Spiceworks momentum, as of 2015//

The numbers from there are not entirely consistent as they’re a mix of “users,” “monthly unique page views,” and whatever Spiceworks told me in briefings. That is, the thing counted has likely changed over time. I feel like getting a million “users” over a year is high (from 5m to 6m), but, whatever: just check out the general shape of the thing and you realize there’s something going on there.

Some other momentum figures:

  • One good, recent figure is “2,000 new members a day.”
  • Another one from Sep, 2014: Spiceworks being used by 1.8m organizations.
  • Spiceworks currently has “over 400” employees, up from 225 in Nov 2013.

One theme this year was the expansion, up-market into “enterprise.” If I recall, Spiceworks considers “enterprise” to be 500+ employees, and the rest is “SMB.” For them, that’s fair, but be warned if you think of enterprise as something more like 10,000+ employees.

Over time, the share between “small” and enterprise has been growing:

  • 2009: 13% enterprise, 87% small (from my notes)
  • 201?: 20% enterprise, 80% small (“previous to 2015”)
  • 2015: 40% enterprise, 60% small (from SpiceWorld 2015)

This year, they reported 71% penetration into F500 accounts.

The phrase “DevOps” was flashed up on the screen a few times and mentioned in meetings. In general, I see “DevOps” as only being applicable to organizations who are working on and deploying custom written software, their own software. (Sure, you could adopt the same principals for packaged software, SaaS, etc….but would you?). As it expands more, Spiceworks could concern itself with managing custom written software – somehow – which would be interesting and consistent with their general strategy of grabbing as much IT department land as possible.

Quick Hits




The Coming Donkey Apocalypse, DevOpsDays Austin recording

My talk from DevOpsDays Austin is up. Check it out if you’ve been curious about the talk track to the mute slides.

As a reminder, there’s a prose version of the talk available as well in one of my FierceDevOps columns, and here’s the slides.

Check out my love affair with “uh” in the begining, I think it clears up a bit at the end.

SXSW 2012

I didn’t actually go to SXSW this year, but I co-hosted a few happy hours with one of my Dell colleges, Barton George. I’ve been “moonlighting” to work with the Web|Tech group here at Dell (which Barton is part of), which is focused on developers, ISVs, and web companies. From two folks in a garage to the Facebook’s & Zynga’s of the world. Overall, it was great, as always, to catch-up with the crowd that comes to Austin.

Barton captured several, quick video interviews, doing some actual content creation while I just had drinks with friends ;>

The first night:

The second night:

The third night:

It was great catching up and talking with folks about what I’ve been up to at Dell from my day job in corporate strategy for software to side-projects like Web|Tech and the internal incubation program I help run.

We’ll see you next year!

Kim’s big SXSW 2010 show recommendations list


While we can’t go this year, my wife Kim and I usually find all sorts of exciting music at SXSW each year.

The secret is, she’s the one who finds all the good stuff – I’m just lucky enough to tag along.

Several people have asked for her SXSW 2010 recommendations, so here
they are in a giant block of text:

(In no particular order and not complete because I’m too tired to
finish it. -Kim)

Japanther, Superchunk, Anathallo, Here We go Magic, The Sour Notes, The Walkmen, Ume, Those Darlins, The Builders and the Butchers, Yeasayer, Let’s Wrestle, She & Him, Wye Oak, Man or Astroman?, White Denim, Nebula, We Are Scientists, The Wooden Birds, Headlights, Atlas Sound, Broken Social Scene, Ra Ra Riot, Twin Tigers, Miami, Cymbals Eat Guitars, The Blow, Crystal Antlers, Bear In Heaven, Priscilla Ahn, Say Hi, Deer Tick, The Watson Twins, Peelander-Z, Active Child, Shearwater, Zion I, Best Coast, The Drums, Sleigh Bells, Pomegranates, Japan night at Elysium, WOXY day show at Mohawk on Wednesday and all the day shows at Home Slice.

Enjoy, and send some pictures!

SXSW Nite 3 – Cloud Cult Twice, and more Indie

Friday was full of Cloud Cult and back to white-people music from Thursday’s hip-hop-a-rama. Kim and I started out early going to the Soundcheck magazine party at Emo’s Annex (a party tent they throw-up in the parking lot across from Emo’s) and then moved onto The Red Eyed Fly for most of the evening.

Soundcheck Party

Soundcheck Magazine's 2nd Birthday Party Show

You can tell by the style of art in the poster that this show was, you know, cute-kid rock. You know what I mean. I have no problem with this, I like it plenty. Cloud Cult is still one of my favorite bands after seeing them at SXSW 2007.

Before we get to the music, let’s check out some of the Emo’s Annex scenery.

Dewar’s co-sponsored the party, so there were many little Dewar’s buttons laying around:

Dewar's Austin Buttons

To that end, there was a special on $2 Dewar’s and Reed’s Ginger. I tried one, and it was terrible. I love scotch and I like ginger beer, but the two together tasted of ass like other things-I-like-apart-but-not-together disasters like a peach cobbler mole enchilada.

Dewar's and Reed's Ginger - not good

But, let’s get the bands.

Le Loup

Earlier in the week over some coffee with Sean Carlson (what a nice guy!), we’d been joking about how many different types of “indie” there are now. You can pretty much come up with any cutesy white-guy adjective, slap it in front of “indie,” and get a genre. For example, as Sean and I joked, “banjo indie.”

Well, who knew it was so real:

Banjo Indie

To be fair, Le Loup only used the banjo once.

The lead singer of Le Loup was mega-enthusastic, hopin’ all around the stage. I must say, I welcome the “showmanship” angle to acts. Otherwise, why not just listen to your iPod?



Tragically, I don’t really remember the next act, the Evangelicals except that one of them wore a glittered up cape. Luckily, Kim had seen them the previous night at Mohawk. She says:

I liked them. The lead singer was so happy!

Fashion Interlude

Both Kim and I are collectors of weird fashion moments. The Soundcheck party offered plenty.

Case in point:

This on goes to @thinguy

Cloud Cult

Cloud Cult

As mentioned above, I enjoy Cloud Cult. While I don’t “have all their albums,” I’m a big fan of Happy Hippopotamus. This is all thanks to Kim.

Last year we saw them at SXSW and while I didn’t take an immediate shine to them, Kim did, and bought their albums. After a weird 3AM drive to New Braunfels with Happy Hippopotamus as the sound-track (a story for another time), I got to like them more. Now I listen to that album at least once a week, if not more.

The thing with Cloud Cult is that they’re – generally – mega-optimistic. They’re kind of like happy existentialists. As they say, “best learn to live while you’re alive.” You can almost see Camus motor-biking around that death-bend there.

Needless to say, their set was good. I even liked the songs from the new album they played, which is pretty rare. I’m the guy who likes to hear just “the old stuff.”

Last year, I didn’t remember them doing a painting on stage [Kim says they did, and had two painters, in fact], but that’s part of their schtick now. They have a painter who also does some back-up singing and horn blowing. He brought out a big white-washed canvas at the start, and ended up painting a bird:

Cloud Cult's Painting

Cloud Cult sells these off at the end of the show. I wonder how that works out for them.


The last act at Emo’s Annex was Why?. They were like cute white-guy rap. I expected the typical thing here: something like an Ewok coming out and sing “Got Your Money” in space blue-grass style.

They weren’t too bad, and, indeed, the crowd was getting into. I’m sure it’d be fun listening.

Interlude at the Driskell


The Soundcheck party over, we hustled up to my favorite 6th street spot, the Driskell bar. We were hungry, and though I usually get the burger at the Driskell bar, I wanted something else. Instead of one of the tasty burgers, we got fancy-pants nachos and a ceaser salad. The salad was great as it tasted of real anchovie paste, while the nachos were as a disappointing as fancy-pants nachos always are: too much lipstick, not enough pig.

Disappointing (and expensive) nachos aside, the drinks were great. I got the Driskell version of my new favorite drink, the Michelada. Most people still don’t make this drink quite right, but it was good enough. So far, Elsie’s and Jaime’s (both types!) have had the best ones, you know, excluding the ones I make at home ;>

Also, while we were sitting there, some folks came around and gave out free drinks of 10 Cane Rum and Coke – score!

Driskell Michelada

The Parish – Portastic & Wye Oak


After our dinner interlude, we headed to The Parish to see Mac McCaughan (under the name Portastic). Kim tells me Mac is some sort of indie super-God, coming from Superchunk. Indeed, there must be something going on there as we saw Superchunk last year and David Cross was rockin’ out in the first row along with all sorts of people who were sort of like “oh my, God, I can’t believe I’m seeing Superchunk!”

There were plenty of similar folks at the Portastic show.

Afterwards, Wye Oak came up, who I enjoyed:


I kept asking Kim the name of the band (Wye Oak), and I couldn’t understand what she was saying. Was it “white oak”? “Wide oak”? Or even “why oak”? This created an ongoing joke for SXSW about bands with weird names, “huh?” Kim said in her Michael-impersionation tone, “you mean a band can just name themselves anything they want? Huh?”

Red Eyed Fly

According to Kim, Cloud Cult’s label was running the show at Red Eyed Fly Friday night, so we decided to leave The Parish check out what else the label had to offer.

Land of Talk

Tragically, I have no memory of Land of Talk. Kim says, “I thought they were really good.” Over a late breakfast later, she emphasized “they were good.”

Say Hi

Say Hi

Next up was more, though slightly less so, cute-guy rock with Say Hi. They were, essentially, a straight up indie-rock band, which was exciting.

I liked their song, “Northwestern Girls,” ’cause, really, when have you ever heard a band sing praised to the ladies from that part of the country?

Cloud Cult (Again)


While Kim was reluctant to see Cloud Cult twice – there being so many other options – we ended up staying to see them again. Kim was worried that they’d play the same set. Lucky for us, while Cloud Cult played some of the same “new stuff,” they played different songs as well.

This time, dude painted a ram. Too much Shiner?



The last act was Lucero which was like – I don’t know – straight up guy in white-shirt drinking whiskey on state rock. You know, like an evil Bruce Springsteen.

As Kim said, Lucero was the only band to bring together the frat-boys and the Austin street grunge-people. And, man, did they like it. The crowd was wild for this stuff.

We headed home about half-way through.

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