Challenging IT “Enablement”

“I don’t want my guys to be technical. That’s your team’s job.”

Imagine if Information Technology pushed “day-to-day support” to the business. Before you shoot this idea down, the concept is already actively being embraced by many smaller technical companies. Go read “A Year Without Pants”, by Scott Berkun, the story of WordPress.com where this idea and other evolutionary collaborative work space ideas has roots.

I call it, “IT Enablement”.  A focus on giving people the tools and trust, with strong oversight and governance from IT.  The alternative is zero trust, which is the popular direction for a majority of risk-adverse IT organizations.  Enablement is a philosophical challenge to today’s status quo and not embraced by many.

As with all disruptive ideas, success is determined through buy in and culture. So, when a strategic directive to eliminate the necessity for a help desk landed, we responded with goals to enable business units with a heightened degree of endpoint control while IT provides just governance and security controls.

Long story short, this direction bombed. I wish to write to talk briefly about what happened and why.

Problem 1.  A Misunderstanding.  As what often happens in leadership meetings, it’s often not what’s said, but what wasn’t.  In the discourse, I realized that my interpretation of what our senior leaders want translated to situations that put IT directly in opposition with our conventional business leaders.  How so?  Read on.

Problem 2.  An Revolution.  As this new direction took flight, did I prepare leaders?  Socialize this direction?  Align to goals or strategy?  Not satisfactorily.  In fact, the culture shift attempted occurred at the send of an email:  Effective immediately, support responsibilities are owned by our end users.  And as you might have guessed, leaders did not embrace.  In fact, we were criticized in town hall and by other leaders.  A series of ouch moments.

Problem 3.   Road map to Transformation.  About this time, IT leaders met and realized the bigger challenges in front of us, based on our misread and failed embrace of technical ownership.  The ‘digital transformation’ was born.  Here is our transformation road map:

Solution 1.  Simplify The Landscape.  From policies, standards, and procedures to technology, software, and networking.

Solution 2.  Monitor & Transparency.  Every single thing in IT should be measurable.  A tool will not just focus on measuring and reporting, but giving our technical support teams access for transparency.

Solution 3.  Education and Consult.  Information Technology should be consulting our business leaders, educating our people, and establishing the knowledge culture.  A baseline of technical skills and measuring the values of providing.

The goal:  To eliminate the help desk (Level 1) by 2020.

This blog took me more than a few weeks to write.  How to talk about a subject like this is not easily done nor written about.  And our journey about this topic consumed 3-4 months.  Upon reflection, it was a difficult time.  However, it was worth the attempt, I learned quite a bit from many leaders with legitimate perspectives, turning this fail into learning moments.

If you have successfully put to rest your IT help desk and embraced Enablement, please write me.  I would love to learn how you did it and challenges faced…

\\ JMM

Week 37, 2017, “Microsoft Kills Mobile”

Joe Belfiore @joebelfiore – Oct 8
Actually, a huge, huge majority of our Windows/Office (and Xbox) users are mixed-ecosystem. MOST people have a different phone than “PC”

Ingo @LaktoseIgnoranz
Replying to @joebelfiore
When people switch to iOS or Android they will switch ecosystems, too. No more need for Microsoft then. That’ll be your next big problem.

It has never been a more confusing… frustrating… no infuriating time for Microsoft developers and professionals. Twenty years of evangelizing the technologies, investing in the products, moving organizations, friends, and family, and for a time enjoying the benefits of a homogeneous ecosystem. Yet, this year, a constant barrage of fear, uncertainty, and doubt about Microsoft strategy from Microsoft pundits, talking heads, industry leaders, and peers.

The Microsoft code strategy has been under attack for decades, yet Microsoft appears to be succumbing to Linux via Android. It’s absolutely no secret Microsoft is heavily invested in Android. It’s disturbing to see this manifesting in Microsoft stores proudly selling Samsung Galaxy phones promoting the Office productivity suite.

Shifting away from Windows mobile is a questionable strategy. Our next phone now requires me to have a Google or Apple account with similar cloud strategies. A Microsoft failure to deliver on either of those platforms will speed a demise due to the lack of a unified endpoint platform. This is an uncomfortable gamble shifting from OS platforms to applications/cloud platforms. Untrue? No Windows mobile or universal app developers will continue to diminish the OS, folks. Why would consumers pay for this platform?

We are very different companies [from Apple and Google] …We are a tool creator … not a luxury good manufacturer. We are about creating technologies so that others can build. [With] Surface, we created a premium product … every OEM should create a lower-priced model. We want to democratize things. – CEO Satya Nadella

I would never believed I would have seen or heard in my Microsoft career at a Microsoft store, the sales person actively telling groups of people in the store, “Microsoft technologies are actually better on Android.” I am equally shocked to read a recent Joe Belfiore tweet, “Go download Edge from Google Play”.

Solution: Return to your roots and focus.

  1. Compete with Linux on their own ground. How? Open source the base Windows OS.
  2. Tier the OS based on function to support business. “Windows Basic” should align to Linux features and functions. “Windows Enterprise Desktop” for endpoints needing business features. “Windows Enterprise Server” for the server.
  3. Give away Visual Studio and continue to train people through MVA.
  4. Get out of the hardware business. Support your partners and OEMs.

Make Windows attractive again to both consumers, businesses, and developers!

\\ JMM

Week 36, 2017, “Death By Meeting”

I discovered Patrick Lencioni’s book, Death By Meeting, while employed at Texas Health Partners.  The problem is one many leaders face, how to control the onslaught of uncontrolled meetings.  Upon finding the book and digesting its pages, the strategies outlined were compelling and worth investing in. I made the personal commitment to try it see if it made any difference.  I gave it three months and moving on if unsuccessful.  After transitioning, I was astonished how it changed me and my team.

Here is the approach for my implementation at LANVERA:

Start with daily stand up meeting.  We hold it daily at 9am.  Focus on what is happening today.  The initial goal is getting the team to think tactically about what needs to be accomplished today.  Second goal, learning how to communicate to team members and optomize schedules.  After three weeks, the team had embraced.

Next was scheduling the weekly tactical.  We hold it Monday’s at 11am.  All IT is invited.  I take minutes.  This meeting serves two purposes:  What was accomplished last week and what each team member is working on this week.  Items unresolved are tagged for follow-up next week.  Everyone listens.

This meeting takes time to bear fruit as the teams are forced to think through planning their week, highlighting the support issues, and talking about the accomplishments.  Or lack thereof.  The meeting breaks down into three parts:  Lightning round (2 minutes per team member), KPI/Reporting Review, and Adhoc-Agenda.  Don’t let this meeting exceed 90 minutes.

Last, the monthly and quarterly strategic meetings.  Arguably, the most important part of Lencioni’s book and the hardest meeting to get up and running with consistency.  The meetings break down like this:

The monthly strategic is the “discuss, analyze, brainstorm, and decide upon critical issues affecting long-term success” meeting.  Limit to 2-4 hours, one or two topics, prepare and do research, and ensure participants are engaged in good conflict.

The quarterly strategic is the “review strategy, industry trends, competitive landscape, key personnel, team development” meeting.  Critical meeting, so get out of the office, focus on the work with limited social activities, and limit the structure.  The key is developing leadership cohesion, communication, and working together making decisions.

Strategic meetings will be difficult initally as many will question their value, not want to work collectively, and political leaders will try their hardest to avoid the meeting citing priorities and work while depreciating you and the effort.  Watch for this.

These meetings fail if not everyone is all in.  Culture is king and continual education of the message, the process, and the goals are keys to adoption.

At Texas Health Partners, I cut meetings down by 60% in the first year.  70% the second year.  My monthly meetings capped at a dozen per month my last year.  At Santander Consumer USA, I got leadership buy in the first year and the adoption took six month with considerable resistance culturally.  My last year, my meeting were again at the highest point twelve per month and the teams were routinely sharing information tactically.  A Santander first.

Mileage will, of course, vary by leader.  This month’s milestone marks when I attempt to introduce Strategic meetings at LANBVERA.  More to come on my progress.

Add the book to your reading.  Feel free to email or comment to ask questions.

\\ JMM

Week 35, 2017, “Technology Roadmap”

One of the masterful idea’s contributed by Steve Moore, Director, IT Operations, at Santander Consumer USA, was introducing the Technology Roadmap.  This tool is not just about tracking what technology is owned, but serves a very specific purpose:  managing upgrades, identifying risk, communicating timeframes.

If your looking for a way to set up up transparency in IT systems engineering and communicate timeframes with leadership, this tool accomplishes that aim.  If you need to report to auditors the review cycles and pros/cons to the versionsm, this tool meets that need.

You can find this tool here.

\\ JMM

Week 34, 2017, “R-I-C-E: Integrity”

Recently, our team event focused on the importance of integrity as a part of Team Rule #1, R-I-C-E, Respect, Integrity, Communication, and Excellence.  Here were the take aways from this event:

“We all don’t have the same abilities.  We all do have the same opportunity.”

“Failure to fulfill our potential is not because of talent, intellect, ability, or opportunity, it’s because of a lack of character.”

“A character issue can keep you from getting started, cause you to get stuck, or be the reason for your collapse.”

The three pillars of integrity:  (1) Uprightness – Oriented to the truth, (2) Completeness – Complete and Whole, and (3) Soundness – Strong and Solid.

\\ JMM

Week 33, 2017, “Half the R&D staff will be Programmers…”

“Days before BMW’s 100th birthday, its board member for research and development described plans for a completely overhauled company, where half the R&D staff will be computer programmers, competing with the likes of Google parent Alphabet to build the brains for self-driving cars. (GOOGL.O)” – Article from UK Routers, “Exclusive – At 100, BMW sees radical new future in world of driverless cars”, March 4, 2016

Not commonly known, LANVERA is a 30 year old organization in document solutions. As I walk the print floor, it’s maturity is absolutely felt in the print operation. The professionalism of the team and attention to detail by all the supporting people. Printing documents is our business and we take it serious.

Nevertheless, why our organization is taking a turn is the recognition that this industry must include digital or eDocuments. Our development efforts have been kicked up a notch to focus on making our solution more accessible in the digital world.

Just like BMW, organizations must constantly be looking for ways to offer more valuable services to customers. And like BMW, we are shifting to meet this new challenge.

“LANVERA’s technology and delivery capabilities are the future of our company.” – John Baldridge

\\ JMM

Week 32, 2017, “Confidence Is Building…”

August is my three month mark working at LANVERA. The IT transformation is in full swing and much of the work we have been working on is being felt.  The leaders report three months of network infrastructure stability and confidence is building. This is good for morale across the organization and I am humbled by the hard work.

Our highlights to this point are:

  1.  We hired our security-focused system engineer, Jeromey Lange.  A seasoned technical veteran and leader, Jeromey is going to bring a dimension to the team to reinforce the DevOps culture Steve Taff and I are trying to build.  Certifications include VCP, MCSA, MTA, ITILv3, and Tintri.  He is going to take on Alien Vault USM and run our security practice. A next level player.
  2. The commitment to VMWARE NSX and SDN. With heated discussion and negotiation, the engineers are taking on VMWARE’s NSX technology. We’ve chosen Mobius to partner with us to lead us through our NSX rollout. This milestone is particularly significant as our hopes this decision will see meaningful gains as our DevOps platform.
  3. Workstation Technology Refresh projects kicks off earnestly with work on hardware standards and continued support to develop on the Microsoft platform. Considerable time being spent working the requirements and desired specifications nets decisions of continued use of Dell hardware.
  4. McGuire Solutions has wrapped up the network engineering work and submitted his recommendations. The physical network is comprised of mostly security components on a Cisco Nexus backend. Greg’s team will be engaged to realize the solution starting in September!
  5. Investment in Coppell’s datacenter. We will be upgrading the internal infrastructure to uplift the technology foundation. Examples are patch panel rewire, electrical re-wire, electrical redistribution, and upgrading to cabinets.

Always forward!

\\ JMM

Week 31, 2017, “Obtains Certification = Display Knowledge = Shows Confidence”

“The good news is that certification provides you with a verified foundation of expert, real-world knowledge to build on, so you’ll be ready to ramp up on the job 39% faster than your peers. If you’re still not convinced, 38% of IT pros said that certification helped them perform complicated tasks more confidently. It’s science.” – Born To Learn Blog

We’ve agreed as a team that there is a need for baseline competencies. That skills and experience are vital to our success. If any one area lacks, the team has to compensate for our weak areas that we accepted. When those weak areas accumulate because we couldn’t trust team members to perform complicated tasks, the team fails.

As such, we’ve made a bold move to mandate VMWARE VCA DCV certification as a baseline team member qualification. Expectations laid to stay current. We are implementing advanced VMWARE technologies and there is too much risk to bring in unskilled people.

Goal: Everyone on the team has VCP, MTA, and Nimble certifications.

Before And After Certification\\ JMM

Week 30, 2017, “Faster, Cheaper, Or Better”

“Technology is only valuable if it results in faster, cheaper, or better. If not, it just sucks up time and money that could be put to better use somewhere else.” – Jeff Haden, INC. Magazine

This quote is timely as we are actively investigating VMWARE’s virtual networking technology NSX.  Remarkably, the technology is capable and connected deeply with our strategic DevOps philosophy.

However, my struggle is NSX’s cost.  Sans discussing the specifics of our pricing, the math roughly equates to $2000 per server for 3 years.

Organizations with a small technology footprint, is NSX valuable enough for faster, cheaper, or better results?

\\ JMM

“Everything You Want Is On The Other Side Of Fear”

Quote from the movie Atomic Blonde, a slogan scrawled across a Berlin wall in the pre-Berlin wall era.  Having lived in that time period, the movie certainly plays out the 80s themes with music to match.  The characters blithley lighting up cigarettes and often pouring themselves a drink as the plot rains down violence in a world of secret agents and film noir.

And yet, the movie has an unsettling grittiness that is surmised in this quote.

\\ JMM