LANVERA’s System Engineering Team – 2018

“NIHIL SINE MAGNO LABORE”
– Translated ‘Nothing Without Hard Work’

Rebuilding technology is no small feat.  It takes people who are willing to work the extra hours, have the attention to detail, put their technical skill to the test, and work with peers who expect the same.  It takes a team.

ITO SE 2018

LANVERA System Engineering Team – 2018

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Rob England IS the IT Skeptic

“You don’t change culture team by team or app by app. You don’t get to pick and choose where you DevOps. You can do it for a while – operating bi-modally – in order to experiment, to allow new ways of working to incubate, but it is essential to converge quickly. DevOps is not a piecemeal tool, it is an organisational transformation.” – The IT Skeptic Blog, July 22, 2017

This blog isn’t about DevOps.  There are now thousands to choose from with authors off all walks.  This blog is about Rob England and his blog, The IT Skeptic.

If you haven’t read this blog, start.  It’s a must read.  In fact, I’ve spent evenings rolling through his old content to follow his train of thought in the hottest topics all IT shops struggle with:  How to do IT service delivery, effectively.  It’s an art.  It’s not simple.  And done poorly, costs organizations dearly.

I do not have a recommendation where to start.  If you read his last blog, currently on December 5, 2017, it’s titled, “Project Management was the worst thing that ever happened to IT“… Wow.  And right on target.  Do organizations think this way?  Most can not.

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Companies Expect Updated Information Security Documents

“Below is a list of documents that is requested by a vendor management company.   Information Technology needs to be able to provide these documents on demand:

-Information Security Policies (Current)

-Cyber/Network Security Policies with Testing Requirements and Results (i.e. Vulnerability and/or Penetration Testing) (Current)

-Incident Response Policies with client notification protocols (Current)

-Disaster Recovery/Business Continuity Plan(s) (Current)

-Disaster Recovery Testing Results (Current)

Whether it is a partnership, vendor relationship, or just being a customer, it’s no longer unusual to get asked how companies treat security.  Risk Management survey’s include questions like, “Has your company been hacked in the last 12 months” and “What was your incident response plan to the breach”.

Where to go to get this stuff?  Where do you keep it?  How to manage?  Many larger companies hire the talent to write it.  Alternately, resources exist that can help with what is needed to cover.  Here are a couple of resources:

I have used all three in my career with success.  Managing these documents should be no different than other IT policies.  In other words, manage collectively with yearly reviews and periodic changes as the organization matures.

What tools or resources have you used to help write security documentation?  Drop me a link to add to the list!

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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…

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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.

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The 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.

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Team Rule #1 is R-I-C-E. Let’s look at 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.

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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

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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

The Force Of Movement… It’s On You.

“You decide. To have a good attitude or to have a bad attitude. To respond or to react. To give generously or to give begrudgingly. To offer a helping hand or to look away. To help others up or to look past them. To invest in yourself or to coast through life. You decide.” – Tom Ziglar

Today’s blog’s message came through the various communications with former colleagues that put a reoccurring theme to the week. In essence, many verbalized frustration with the lack of career opportunities and disappointment that careers are motionless and not financially meeting goals at that point in there life.

Before I give words of encouragement, let’s talk about you. Let’s talk about your performance over the past twelve months. How did you progress on your goals? What did you achieve so far this year? What education goals did you hit? Who did you mentor with? How have you invested in yourself?  Now prove it.

Many of my colleagues who are stuck will leave the organization they are in at the same state of self investment as they arrived. And still fail to recognize the competitive nature of our market and complain to anyone who will listen about their circumstances.  Experience alone doesn’t give the force of movement to careers.  Something must propel it forward, intentionally and consistently.

This is the message: You are accountable for your career. Not your employer, not your family, not your community, and not your government. You have the power to change you. The resources are out there. Your leaders gave you opportunities to grow and you chose not to.

Hard message. But necessary in this time of indignation and entitlement.  Consistent Action = Consistent Results.  Put that Xbox controller down.  Turn off Dr. Who.  Open a book.  Talk to a teacher.  Get a plan for yourself.

Zig Ziglar often has extolled the virtues of attitude, goals, and investing in yourself.  This is the roadmap of winners.  You have the capability to win.   No more excuses, team!  Go do it.  Today.

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