“With the rise of Lean Startup, we began to focus on outcomes, yes, but we also started to celebrate failure. I want to be clear here: it is not a success if you fail and do not learn. Learning should be at the core of every product-led organization. It should be what drives us as an organization. It is just better to fail in smaller ways, earlier, and to learn what will succeed, rather than spending all the time and money failing in a publicly large way. This is why we have problem and solution exploration in product management—to de-risk failing in the market.” from “Escaping the Build Trap: How Effective Product Management Creates Real Value” by Melissa Perri

See more…

Fix your boring, but immediate problems first

When GDS started in 2011, mobile apps were that day’s special on the fad menu. Ministers all wanted their own. Top officials thought they sounded like a great idea. Delighted suppliers queued up to offer their services to government. We’ll talk about apps in more detail later. For now, all you need to know is that GDS blocked 99% of requests for them. Government wasn’t ready for apps, because the people asking for them didn’t really know what they were for. They just sounded good. The blogpost explaining the apps policy, written by Tom Loosemore in 2013, quickly became the digital team’s most widely read post. 16 We have seen too many chief executives and department heads proudly explain their organisation’s pioneering work on artificial intelligence, say, while in the same breath conceding their back office systems can’t reliably pay employees on time. Or running pilots with connected devices while thousands of their customers still post them cheques. This is not to say that preparing for the future isn’t right and good. Responsible leaders need to keep their eyes on the horizon. The successful leaders are those who can do this while remaining mindful their view will be ruined if they step in something disgusting lying on the floor.

from “Digital Transformation at Scale: Why the Strategy Is Delivery (Perspectives)” by Andrew Greenway, Ben Terrett, Mike Bracken, Tom Loosemore

See more…

Americans smile a lot

Just as it is easy to misinterpret the reason for an icebreaker activity, it’s easy to mistake certain social customs of Americans that might suggest strong personal connections where none are intended. For example, Americans are more likely than those from many cultures to smile at strangers and to engage in personal discussions with people they hardly know. Others may interpret this “friendliness” as an offer of friendship. Later, when the Americans don’t follow through on their unintended offer, those other cultures often accuse them of being “fake” or “hypocritical.”

Also:

…[a] Russian saying “If we pass a stranger on the street who is smiling, we know with certainty that that person is crazy . . . or else American.”

From The Culture Map

See more…

5 Definitions of DevOps, or, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

DevOpsDays Amsterdam - Thursday June 25th

I’ve tracked at least three different definitions of DevOps since the days of “agile infrastructure”:

  1. Using Puppet and Chef (and then Ansible and Chef) to replace Opsware and BladeLogic.
  2. Full stack engineers to setup EC2, load-balancers, and other Morlock shit.
  3. Full stack engineers are bad, but sort of the same thing. Also, you can’t have a DevOps “group” or title. But, you know, someone should do all that automation.
  4. Putting all the people on one team, having them focus on a product, and establishing a culture of caring and learning.
  5. SRE is not DevOps.

So…actually five. Maybe some of them just being footnotes on the evolving concept. (And, if you, dear reader, feel these are wrong, then let’s compromise and make the list six.)

All of them evolved around bringing down The Wall of Confusion, allowing “developers” to deploy their software to production more frequently, weekly, if not daily. And, of course, making sure production stays up. (You’re supposed to call that “resiliency” and instead of SLAs use SLOs and some other newly named metrics that answer the question “IS MY SHIT WORKING?” Whatever you do, just don’t say “uptime,” or you’re in for it and will be relegated to running the AS/400’s.)

I used to snide that the developers seemed to have been yanked out of DevOps, sometime around 2014 and 2015. All the talks I saw were, basically, operations talks. I haven’t really checked in on DevOps conference talks recently, but at the time, I don’t think there was much application development stuff. (I’m not sure if there ever was?)

None of this means that DevOps is not a thing. Not at all. It just means that the enterprise finds its own use for things. It also means there’s still weekly write-ups of what DevOps is – you know, those ones that are always lists of ideas, things you’re getting wrong, and how to start.

Autonomous product teams

This kind of thing is happening all the time

Nowadays, I try to stick to that forth one: you want to setup autonomous teams that have all the skills and responsibility/authority/tools needed to “own” the software being specified, designed, developed, and run. This means you have to, basically, remove-by-automating all the operations stuff it takes to stand-up environments, deploy things, and do all that “day 2” stuff.

(HEY! HEY! WANT TO BUY SOME ENTERPRISE SOFTWARE?!)

Now, I think this product-centric notion of DevOps is, well, kind of an over-extension of the term “DevOps.” But since SRE has sucked out the “ops” part (but, remember, dear reader, don’t commit the embarrassing act of saying SRE is DevOps – no, no, you’d never do that, right? SO SHAMEFUL! (SRE is totally different – no overlap or similar goals shared between them at all. I mean, they have separate groups, silos! COME ON!)), slicing “DevOps” back to just “Dev,” but with a product-not-project focus isn’t too shabby.

Anyhow. I came across a good overview of this product notion of DevOps, all the way back from 2016, while re-reading Schwartz’s evergreen excellent The Art of Business Value:

Agile approaches attempt to bring together developers and the business in an atmosphere of mutual respect and joint contribution. Until now, however, the focus has been on users of the software, product visionaries, and developers. Recent developments in the Agile world—notably DevOps—have broadened this idea of respect and inclusion to encompass Operations and Security. The DevOps model, in other words, 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.

 

Perhaps we can take this idea even further still. There is no reason why the DevOps team’s responsibility needs to stop at the border of what used to be considered IT. The team is part of a broader enterprise, whose collective knowledge, skills, and judgment need to be part of the value creation process.

Look a’ that guy! Business Value just effortlessly jets out of his pores like a peripatetic thought-monarch!

This is from an executives perspective, but it drives home the point we’re always trying to get to with software: doing whatever it takes to figure out, create, and give users features that are actually useful to them. Somewhere beyond that, if you’re lucky, it’ll help out “the business.” Also, it should implement The Unspoken User Story: user would like software to actually work.

a dream I could only watch instead of do

She never brought up Daniel again, but it didn’t really matter. I’d already made it a habit to consider the way my life could have been if I’d said yes when Daniel had asked the question I knew he didn’t even think was a question, just a rite of passage we had to go through. (You could see a marriage approach some couples in Texas the same way you could watch a summer storm churning on the plains, miles before it hit.) It was possible my life wouldn’t have been any more or less enjoyable had I turned from person to wife, wife to parent, had I stayed in White Deer and parceled my hours out to a family, turned my mother grand. (A life might comfortably disappear into a well-worn groove between house, school, and grocery store. (All lives disappear one way or another. (All hours get spent.))) But as pleasant as it might have been, that kind of life also seemed—somehow—elsewhere, like a dream I could only watch instead of do.

From Certain American States: Stories by Catherine Lacey

Maybe the legacy organization actually knows what they’re doing

Usually we’re told that improving IT means changing the old organization. I’ve been re-reading The Art of Business Value, and re-came across this, to the contrary:

This way of thinking has always struck me as a little strange. Our goal is to deliver value, to figure out how to meet the needs that are determined by the organization, and yet we consider the organization to be the biggest impediment to doing so. The only explanation I can think of for this is that we are implicitly assuming that there is a stable, objective, preordained definition of business value, and we are determined to deliver on that definition despite the organization around us. In my experience, this arrogance is not warranted; in fact, the organization probably understands value in ways that the Agile team does not, and the obstacles to Agile adoption actually tell us something useful about business value in the organization.

Because, in fact, the organization knows the “business value,” the strategy, it’s in charge of reliving:

The organization has had to learn what business strategies, values, protocols, and behaviors work in its environment to support its ultimate aims, whether those are maximizing shareholder value or accomplishing mission objectives. That learning forms the basis of tacit assumptions and norms, the organization’s collected wisdom about what behaviors foster success. And if success means accomplishing the ultimate goals that serve as the sources of business value, then the Agile team must come to understand those values, strategies, goals, and operational modes that are embedded in the culture around it—that is, the business values that have been known to foster success.

From The Art of Business Value.

Management, as practiced by a young IBM

Of course, there were countercurrents. Managers wanted to control activities. That impetus for control and management of potential risks led to the rise of bureaucracy, characterized by highly defined processes. Generations of executives micromanaged people all the way down the organization while fighting the growth of paperwork and “signoffs.” Such behavior also originated with Watson Sr., who exhibited such contradictory behavior. A vast number of decisions came to him, so many that when his son Tom took over the business in the mid-1950s, one of the first things he did was reorganize IBM to move decision making out of headquarters and into the broader organization.

Yet, simultaneously, the Old Man admonished employees to take individual responsibility for running their “piece of the business,” a phrase used frequently by executives with their staffs. Reflecting back on his first ten years at IBM in 1924, Watson Sr. told a class of the company’s executives that, “It is our policy not to burden any one man, or any group of men, with the responsibility of running this business.” 17 He gave thousands of talks to employees extolling these themes and a positive philosophy about IBM sales. By the early 1920s, this eternal optimist had begun telling salesmen that only 5 percent of all business information was handled by data processing, leaving 95 percent yet to be seized, a magnificent sales opportunity. He spent more time talking to his employees around the world than most future CEOs at IBM would. He met continuously with customers and public officials, far less so with the media.” from “IBM: The Rise and Fall and Reinvention of a Global Icon (History of Computing)” by James W. Cortada

From the history of IBM book I’ve been reading. See more…

Link: Adam Smith, Misanthrope

‘The feminist writer Katrine Marcal recently wrote a critique of modern economics under the title “Who Cooked Adam Smith’s Dinner?” A fair question; for most of Smith’s life the answer was his mother, who predeceased him by only six years.’
Original source: Adam Smith, Misanthrope

Churchill’s Daily Practice

This was despite his continuing large daily intake of alcohol. Harold Nicolson recalls a friend coming away from lunch with Churchill “rather shocked by . . . the immense amount of port and brandy he consumed.” On a typical day, according to his aide Sir Ian Jacob, Churchill drank champagne and brandy with lunch, then, after his afternoon nap, had two or three glasses of whisky and soda, then champagne and brandy with dinner, followed by more whisky and soda. Jacob noted that he also sometimes accompanied his breakfast with white wine.

From Churchill and Orwell: The Fight for Freedom.

“[E]verybody likes growth in someone else’s backyard”

So, long run growth comes from one thing, and one thing only: Productivity. New and better ways of doing things. New and better products, new and better companies. It doesn’t come from 90% of the things that we talk about. So, the Federal Reserve, stimulus programs, even anti-inequality programs–over 10-20 years, it’s about productivity. Our ancestors may have, you know, you might have had a grandparent who dug coal with a pickaxe; and how did you get so much richer? Not by your union getting him higher wages and he still digs coal with a pickaxe at 20 cents an hour, not 10 cents. It’s because one guy left and he uses a bulldozer. Right? Growth comes from productivity. And productivity–everybody likes growth in someone else’s backyard. Productivity comes from new companies, doing things new ways, and making life very uncomfortable for everybody else. Uber is the great example. Uber is–that’s a great productivity enhancement. It’s putting a lot of people to work who otherwise couldn’t go to work. And the taxi companies hate it. And most of economic regulation is designed to stop growth. It’s designed to protect the old ways of doing things. So, what we need for growth-oriented policies is exactly that kind of innovation, that kind of new companies coming in an upending the status quo, that make everybody uncomfortable and run to their politician to say, ‘You’ve got to stop this.’

I don’t know the politics of economics enough to figure out if that’s a dick thing to say or not, but it sure makes grim-sense. The rest of the interview has some fun mental gymnastics and suave “turns out”’ing.

(And check out the show notes! That’s some intimidating work.)

Source: “EconTalk: John Cochrane on Economic Growth and Changing the Policy Debate”

Millions of words

When I was about nineteen, a professor in college sat me down once with a sad look on his face and said to me, almost like he was giving a cancer diagnosis, “You’re going to be a writer.” If you’re old enough to read this, you probably already know if this is your fate, too.The only rule is you have to write millions of words continuously until your death. If you have no problem with that, you’ll probably be fine. Conversely if you can imagine not doing that, you probably shouldn’t try to be a writer.

Source: Behind the Books with Matt Taibbi

From “The Call of Cthulhu”

The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.

“The Call of Cthulhu,” H.P. Lovecraft

From “The Haunter of the Dark”

Against these, some two miles away, rose the spectral hump of Federal Hill, bristling with huddled roofs and steeples whose remote outlines wavered mysteriously, taking fantastic forms as the smoke of the city swirled up and enmeshed them. Blake had a curious sense that he was looking upon some unknown, ethereal world which might or might not vanish in dream if ever he tried to seek it out and enter it in person.

“The Haunter of the Dark,” H.P. Lovecraft.

I wrote that one morning when I woke up in a pool of my own sick.

Perhaps the greatest skit in the history of poetry took place on this SNL setpiece: Dieter introduced “the Great American Poet of the Abyss, Jimmy Stewart.” Dana Carvey came out and read some of those “my loyal dog” poems that the now-defunct Stewart read on the tonight show (sorry, I can’t quote them from memory, and my copy is not at hand), and then explained to the rapt Dieter that “I wrote that poem while hitchhiking through South America with a 14 year old Mexican whore. One morning I woke up in a pool of my own sick and found out she robbed me. . .” Suggestions of a darker side to Jimmy Stewart’s poetic persona.

Source: LISTSERV 16.0 – POETICS Archives

Link: Billionaire CEO and investor Marc Benioff says unicorn startups manipulated private markets and he’s done investing in them

“The unicorn thing, I’ve been saying for a while now, is not great,” Benioff told Stephanie Ruhle on Bloomberg GO earlier this week. “The reason why it’s not great is not necessarily that these companies are not worth this much money or whatever — we don’t actually know because they’ve manipulated the private markets to achieve these valuations.”

“There is no reason why these companies who claim to be worth billions of dollars and making billions of dollars to stay private,” he continued. “They need to get out on the market, run their companies with the right level of governance, and let the market rationalize these valuations.”

“Being a public company is good. It forces us to make sure we keep the cadence…we have to keep our eye on the ball,” Benioff said. “The unicorn mania that’s going on, that’s dangerous for our Silicon Valley economy.”

Hey, he’s got all sorts of biases where this view favors him and Salesforce…but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong-think.

Source: Billionaire CEO and investor Marc Benioff says unicorn startups manipulated private markets and he’s done investing in them

Analysts leaking info

This is a clever way of addressing a common question about analysts:

Frankly, as far as competitive information leaking — that assumes that the vendors actually shared anything worthwhile with the analysts in the first place! Half truths and hype are hardly competitive info, eh?

Software is infinitely flexible. It can be changed right up to the time the product is introduced. Sometimes it can be changed even later than that with things like software or firmware upgrades, websites, and software as a service (SaaS).

Software does have its disadvantages, too. Accurately scheduling long-term deliveries is difficult, and more than 50% of all software developed is either not used or does not meet its business intent. If executives managing software do not take these differences into account in their planning processes, they are likely to make the classic mistake of creating detailed, inaccurate plans for developing unused features. At the same time they are eliminating flexibility, which is the biggest advantage of software, by locking in commitments to these long-range plans.

You can’t eat eight hours a day

There were many things I could do for two or three days and earn enough money to live on for the rest of the month. By temperament I’m a vagabond and a tramp. I don’t want money badly enough to work for it. In my opinion it’s a shame that there is so much work in the world. One of the saddest things is that the only thing a man can do for eight hours a day, day after day, is work. You can’t eat eight hours a day nor drink for eight hours a day nor make love for eight hours—all you can do for eight hours is work. Which is the reason why man makes himself and everybody else so miserable and unhappy.

EMC’s Marching Orders

From EMC World:

This is how we set up federation: Build a digital agenda, go to cloud, go mobile and protect yourself. These things snap together like building blocks, like Legos. (Customers) get the speed and agility of a smaller company within a bigger company. To do this is not for the faint of heart, but the philosophy is choice, not to lock you in.

Also, the piece has some figures on R&D and M&A spend, as well as revenue for recent acquisitions.

Silicon Valley is coming. There are hundreds
of startups with a lot of brains and money
working on various alternatives to traditional
banking. The ones you read about
most are in the lending business, whereby
the firms can lend to individuals and small
businesses very quickly and – these entities
believe – effectively by using Big Data
to enhance credit underwriting. They are
very good at reducing the “pain points” in
that they can make loans in minutes, which
might take banks weeks. We are going to
work hard to make our services as seamless
and competitive as theirs. And we also
are completely comfortable with partnering
where it makes sense.

Jamie Dimon, JPMC

Get your software defined business on, friends.

Data is easy

We live in a world of data overload, where any argument can find supporting data if we are not careful to validate our assumptions. Finding information to support a theory is never a problem, but testing the theory and then taking the correct action is still hard.

From Lean Enterprise.

Memories and promises

For the animal to be happy it is enough that this moment be enjoyable. But man is hardly satisfied with this at all. He is much more concerned to have enjoyable memories and expectations especially the latter. With these assured, he can put up with an extremely miserable present. Without this assurance, he can be extremely miserable in the midst of immediate physical pleasure.

The Wisdom of Insecurity

The Great Rewrite, IBM style: a “reordering”

[Big Data, cloud and social/mobile] are truly going to change the profile of this company. And, if you think about it, actually they’re going to change the profile of this industry. As I like to think of it, the industry is reordering. If you take cloud, data and engagement, those are shifts that taken in total, this convergence, it will reorder the industry and we will lead that. We’ll lead it from the enterprise perspective. –IBM’s Ginni Rometty

There’s a bunch of “reordering” to be done: injecting new technologies into creaky old enterprise tech.

The Great Rewrite, IBM style: a “reordering”

Yes. I’d stop. I’d make things for myself, for my friends at home instead. The bar needs to be high. I don’t think that will happen. We are at the beginning of a remarkable time, when a remarkable number of products will be developed. When you think about technology and what it has enabled us to do so far, and what it will enable us to do in future, we’re not even close to any kind of limit. It’s still so, so new.

Jony Ive, when asked by John Arlidge if he would quit if he felt like Apple had lost a step. (via parislemon)

Pitching Box

For me, it was a bunch of numbers. You can convince a bunch of VCs with numbers. The churn was low. The revenue was up. Talking to the customers, the sentiment was that this could grow within their companies. There was a huge market with cloud-based file sharing with both consumers but also enterprises.

And, on pivoting to “enterprise”:

In 2007, the consumer market was still the target at Box. But by 2008, individuals were using Box’s file storage and sharing services for business. In 2009, groups started using Box products within their companies. In 2010, Hamid said that “whole departments moved onto Box,” with entire businesses joining in more wholeheartedly in 2011. By 2012, the CIOs finally realized (or admitted) that hundreds of employees were using Box, essentially forcing their hands to get involved.

Pitching Box

People are much more interested in running PaaS in-house than not in-house. We see a lot of interest in PaaS but very little interest necessarily in running PaaS on cloud infrastructures. I think broadly, this is going to be much more of the era of private cloud infrastructure as a service, more so than PaaS. PaaS is still in its early days, much earlier days than IaaS.

We’ll offer complete visibility from application all the way to the end user. We have most of that technology today. Traditional IT management vendors are reducing investment and focus on managing IT systems inside the firewall. They’re running to the bright shiny object of cloud growth. The infrastructure that sits inside the firewall is not going away. We’ll support it while also doing cloud. We’re doubling down on that old market of on-premises IT while also working hard toward managing applications no matter where they sit.

Solarwinds CEO Kevin Thompson, avoiding going bonkers for public cloud

Finally, I have discovered a horrible, rather brutal method that I recommend only to men of excessive vigor, men with thick black hair and skin covered with liver spots, men with big square hands and legs shaped like bowling pins. It is a question of using finely pulverized, dense coffee, cold and anhydrous, consumed on an empty stomach. This coffee falls into your stomach, a sack whose velvety interior is lined with tapestries of suckers and papillae. The coffee finds nothing else in the sack, and so it attacks these delicate and voluptuous linings; it acts like a food and demands digestive juices; it wrings and twists the stomach for these juices, appealing as a pythoness appeals to her god; it brutalizes these beautiful stomach linings as a wagon master abuses ponies; the plexus becomes inflamed; sparks shoot all the way up to the brain. From that moment on, everything becomes agitated. Ideas quick-march into motion like battalions of a grand army to its legendary fighting ground, and the battle rages. Memories charge in, bright flags on high; the cavalry of metaphor deploys with a magnificent gallop; the artillery of logic rushes up with clattering wagons and cartridges; on imagination’s orders, sharpshooters sight and fire; forms and shapes and characters rear up; the paper is spread with ink – for the nightly labor begins and ends with torrents of this black water, as a battle opens and concludes with black powder.