IBM’s financials for the past 8 years

Also, commentary on product strategy missteps, good ideas that didn’t turn out to be viable, and, thus, out to be the wrong focus.

Most IBM doubters also skip of the structural problems inherited from the previous “decade,” but Charles outlines it well:

Rometty didn’t inherit a great hand. Her predecessor Sam Palmasaino hollowed IBM out and turned it into a financial engineering company as opposed to an engineering engineering company. Palmasaino focused the company on an EPS roadmap instead of a product roadmap.

‪Focusing on “an EPS roadmap instead of a product roadmap.” That’s good. While “regular” enterprises try desperately to become tech companies, large tech companies face often struggle to stay tech company. Strategy is becomes even more important for both.‬

Original source: IBM’s Lost Decade

The history of Microsoft Azure.

In a famous internal Microsoft memo dated October 28, 2005, Ozzie articulated his vision for building a disruptive platform that would replicate the design of Microsoft Windows OS, .NET application services and Microsoft Office Suite on the Internet. Little was known that this idea would eventually translate into Azure IaaS, Azure PaaS and Office 365.

Original source: A Look Back At Ten Years Of Microsoft Azure

Should I do microservices?

One common architectural driver discussed when comparing a modular monolith with a microservices architecture is level of complexity. Grzybek finds the modular monolith less complex than that of a distributed system. High complexity reduces maintainability, readability and observability. It also requires a more experienced team, an advanced infrastructure, and a specific organizational culture. If simplicity is a key architectural driver, he therefore strongly recommends a team to first consider a monolith

The hot new trend is to apply Betteridge's law to the question of microservices. Beats me, man.

Original source: Modular Monolithic Architecture, Microservices and Architectural Drivers

Simulate your business in a digital twin

A computerized system that produces reliable reference or a digital twin, and is able to introduce variety of changes and compare the results to the reference, while also depicts the potential impact of uncertainty and lack of accurate data, deserves to be called a decision-support-system (DSS). Such a system will reduce significantly the risk in taking top-level decisions and will also reduce procrastination that is usually found whenever ‘hard decisions’ are evaluated. This would help significantly to put the company ahead of the competition.

It's be cool. Instead of thinking it was impossible, maybe it's better to assume it is, and work on making it.

Original source: Decision Support Systems (DSS)

That latte paid for your black coffee

You can eat out and get an excellent meal at a fair price – if you don’t order any beverage except tap water. Restaurants earn their highest profit margin on drinks and often supply good food as a bait to bring in customers who will drink while they eat. Sodas usually sell at a markup of about 15%, wine goes up “two and a half to three times” the wholesale price, and beer often sells at a price increase of 500%. Some consumers don’t mind paying such high premiums. Others do mind but do it anyway. Such buyers subsidize good meals for the “nondrinking gourmand.” The idea of “cross-subsidies” is apparent in movie theaters where the food is bad and pricey. You pay a high markup for the popcorn and snack food because the theater isn’t making much profit on the movie. If you don’t eat at the theater, the movie itself offers good economic value. You can also experience this kind of benefit at Starbucks, but only if you order black coffee. Fans who pay inflated prices for fancy, foamy coffee, sugar and milk mixtures subsidize the plain cup of coffee.

Original source: getAbstract of An Economist Gets Lunch Free Summary

Better IT/business alignment metrics for insurance

Rather than just tracking IT metrics (the DevOps four, etc), track how digital transformation spend effects business outcomes, e.g., in insurance:

Increase revenue. Gross written premiums (GWP) and gross earned premiums are insurers' primary revenue drivers. To increase these, insurers must either sell more policies to new or existing customers or increase the policy value per customer. Digital technologies can help insurers design and develop tailored products; optimize marketing and sales to attract new customers and create opportunities to cross-sell or upsell existing customers; provide better service to foster customer loyalty; empower agents with digital tools to boost effectiveness and productivity; and improve engagement to retain customers.

How you link something like moving to an event drive architecture to that could be tough. If you're tracking all your design theories and back them up with observations of what users do ("we made this a single page rather than a wizard, and more people signed up"), you're be pretty well positioned.

Original source: Forrester report, Build A Business Case For Digital Insurance Transformation

When tractors are software

A license agreement John Deere required farmers to sign in October forbids nearly all repair and modification to farming equipment, and prevents farmers from suing for "crop loss, lost profits, loss of goodwill, loss of use of equipment … arising from the performance or non-performance of any aspect of the software." The agreement applies to anyone who turns the key or otherwise uses a John Deere tractor with embedded software. It means that only John Deere dealerships and "authorized" repair shops can work on newer tractors.

Original source: Why American Farmers Are Hacking Their Tractors With Ukrainian Firmware

Argue the obvious

People don’t necessarily need to hear new, unexpected insights. The obvious can make more of an impact. And surprising insights can backfire: Managers may dismiss them if they don’t reflect existing beliefs. People tend to resist counterintuitive insights even when they have a solid evidentiary basis. But obvious insights cut through resistance. People already accept the obvious as true, so they’re more likely to buy in and act on it.

And:

Fresh packaging can gain attention for well-worn insights. Comparisons that highlight the obvious in surprising ways can spark interest.

From “Do you need to tell people the obvious? Yes, you do. The Surprising Value of Obvious Insights.”

Be more productive by saving up your excitement for when you’re actually doing the work

The longer you think about a task without doing it, the less novel it becomes to do. Writing things in your to-do list and coming back to them later helps you focus, but it comes at the cost: you’ve now converted an interesting idea into work. Since you’ve thought about it a little bit, it’s less interesting to work on.

It’s like chewing on a fresh piece of gum, immediately sticking it somewhere, then trying to convince yourself to rehydrate the dry, bland, task of chewed-up gum. Oh. That thing. Do you really want to go back to that? “We’ve already gone through all the interesting aspects of that problem, and established that there’s only work left”, the mind says.

Original source: Improvisational Productivity

Changing how you do things is important if you want to change your outcomes

The experiences at Boeing, DICK’S, and Merrill align closely with what Gartner found as part of its 2017 Enterprise DevOps Survey, in which respondents overwhelmingly pointed to culture and leadership buy-in as the two most people-centric aspects of scaling a DevOps initiative.

Us thought lords & ladies can get tedious with the “containers won’t fix your broken culture” line. But, you need to first fix your out of date tech & then change how you work to benefit from the tech’s new capabilities. It’s like buying a car & then trying to ride it like a horse.

Also, chart:

Things needed for DevOps, Gartner survey

Original source: Containers Aren’t the Cure: Why Tech is Just the Seed for Digital Transformation

Male managers bias promotions based on hanging out

Our evidence suggests that, unlike the male managers, female managers treated male and female employees similarly.

I’m not sure if I’m reading this right.

Also, this is based on a bank in Asia:

To study the effects of socialization at work, we partnered with a large commercial bank in Asia. We used their administrative records to track the assignments between the employees and managers, as well as the evolution of the employee’s pay grade, effort, and performance. We also conducted a series of surveys to measure other aspects of the employees’ lives, such as whether they take breaks with their managers, or whether they know the manager’s favorite sports team.

The social dynamics of Asia, versus Europe, versus America, versus LATAM etc. could have huge effects. Or not!

As one small thing: smoke breaks were used as some kinds of social encounter. In the States, that’s not a thing.

The finding that males promote males they’re friendly with more isn’t too shocking. What’s heartening is that female managers are wiser, one assumes from the lack of that bias in promoting. Women managers (in this Asian bank, at least) aren’t fooled by friendliness.

Original source: Study: How Schmoozing Helps Men Get Ahead

Argue for change by appealing to things people understand, not bigger picture goods

There’s some general tips on rhetoric here, when it comes to convincing people to do things they don’t want to or that don’t have a clear benefit for them. My summary:

  • Discuss how it benefits the individual you’re talking with, not all of humanity.
  • Use analogous examples instead of raw numbers, e.g., “We have reduced our waste by 50%. That’s the equivalent of X garbage trucks of waste per year.”
  • Avoid arguing with people who disagree, they’re a lot of work. If you have to, try to find “solutions that they don’t see as a threat because they carry positive benefits and/or are good for their bottom line.” The problem here, I think, is that they may not even believe there’s a problem in the first place. Perhaps just ignore and isolate them. Or, “don’t sell to people who ain’t buyin.'”

Original source: A Better Way to Talk About the Climate Crisis

Netherlands government IT

Rijsenbrij wants the government to develop a Dutch cloud to give the government a safe and reliable way to interact with citizens and businesses. “And then it would be perfectly possible to give those citizens and businesses access to that cloud as well,” he said.

Janssen added: “You want a secure and reliable infrastructure for the government on which you can exchange data and run various applications. With such an infrastructure, you don’t have to think about the basics over and over again, but you can focus directly on the real problems in society, such as debt relief.

“Then you don’t have to think about how to identify citizens or how to communicate safely with them, because that is guaranteed in the infrastructure. As a possible second step, you can then make this infrastructure available to citizens and businesses.”

At first I thought this mean, like, IaaS. But I think more of what’s be valuable are services like ID checks. In The Netherlands, there are already some cross-company systems like iDeal (payments) and Tikkie (also payments). I’ve used something called DigiID for logging into government sites.

The government is the de facto identity authentication (this person is who they claim to be) and, sort of through licensing and certifications, authorization: this person is authorized to cut hair or drive a car.

Centralizing that would be incredibly handy and eliminate a lot of duplication, spend, and security worrying in other organizations. I mean, assuming it would work.

In the US, the last requirement would kill the idea before it was born: by default, American assume the government doesn’t work. However, that doesn’t seem as strong a sentiment in The Netherlands.

Related: I think maybe The Netherlands is small enough (~17m people) but representative enough (whatever that means?) to be a test market for technologies. It has good infrastructure (fast Internet), people who are curious about new things, isn’t too expensive (except for rent and electricity) and, well, lots of English speaking (meaning, there’s a common language for business involving outsiders, the companies that would want to come in and test things). I don’t know about the ease or difficult of ripping up the streets and installing IoT doo-dads, but for pure software it seems…good?

Original source: Sorting out the Dutch government’s IT mess

Agility is a defense against ignorance

Agility is mainly a defensive strategy against your own ignorance. It’s about dealing with the costs of previous decisions by either failing fast and thereby learning quickly, and/or by lowering the costs of adjustments and re-working them when you learn that what you had built or deployed at first is not quite right. This includes creating an environment and office culture where that is OK and expected, as long as you also learn quickly. In contrast, to maximise efficiency, a more offensive strategy would need to be used when you are confident you have enough information to act quickly in order to maximise your advantage over competitors. These defensive and offensive strategies can look similar in practice, but in reality, the rationale is quite different.

That’s something to ponder.

Original source: Simulating Agile Strategies with the Lazy Stopping Model

Concise kubernetes description

Kelsey Hightower, coauthor of Kubernetes Up & Running, says:

“Kubernetes does the things that the very best system administrator would do: automation, failover, centralized logging, monitoring. It takes what we’ve learned in the DevOps community and makes it the default, out of the box.”

For dev teams, when Kubernetes steps in to manage the dev and deployment lifecycle, from automating feature rollouts with zero downtime to performing node and container health checks (even self-heal), they can focus more on features and functions and less on tedious tasks. And because Kubernetes is largely used with Docker software packages, it allows software engineers and developers to push products to production even faster and more reliably than when using Docker alone

Original source: Kubernetes in 2020 (and how it’s shaking up tech careers) | Seen by Indeed

Ideas for you to remember, not art

The point being that your sketchnotes are intended for an audience of one. The point of the sketchnote is to help you retain the information, not be put on display in a museum or shared via social media. Don’t fall into the trap of comparing your notes with others. The goal is not to make something beautiful — the goal is to capture the ideas as they come to you.

Yeah. Linked to from this related production methods piece. Also, more productivity meditating.

Original source: A Guide to Sketchnoting on iPad (using GoodNotes)

The differences between working at home and in an office

Working from the office, the environment itself sends clear signals: This is where I work. I get home — this is where I play and take care of personal stuff. Without this separation and clear indicators, it was harder to keep things apart. Now, when I reach home, it’s easier to leave work behind and focus on the other part of my life. Yes, remotees can employ certain tricks and techniques to manage “modes”, but one’s surroundings are hard to beat as natural cues.

It’s impossible to train work and family to draw that line, so use buildings.

Original source: Back in the Office