Subscribe to Blog feed Blog
Connecting the world of software delivery.
Updated: 14 min 41 sec ago

Tasktop Partner Day 2018 – A Community Coming Together Around Value Stream Management

Thu, 12/13/2018 - 12:00

The speakers at Tasktop Partner Day 2018 were very informative, and their message was thought provoking. It was very refreshing to hear a message that was focused almost entirely upon client business results (value, cost, quality and happiness) – Henry Potts, Director, Business Development, Melillo Consulting

Last week Tasktop ran its first ever Tasktop Partner Day in Washington, DC ahead of the second Tasktop Connect. Over 20 attendees from our influential and far-reaching partner network, including OEMs, resellers and consultants, participated as they sought to learn more about Value Stream Management, the Flow Framework, moving from Project to Product, and in identifying a common language between technologists and the business.

Nick and I prepped and excited to welcome our valued partners Project to Product and the Flow Framework

After Wesley Coelho, Senior Director of Business Development, greeted the room with the day’s agenda and some light stand up, Dr. Mik Kersten – Tasktop’s CEO and founder – presented on his new vision that is piquing the interest of the world’s leading organizations. Touching on the excitement of the launch of his book Project to Product, Dr. Kersten was keen to focus on the industry response to the book and the Flow Framework that he created.

Dr. Kersten noted that Project to Product currently sits ahead of leading bodies of work on Project Management on Amazon within the ‘Business Management’ section. “Lots of organizations are realizing that project management doesn’t really apply to building great enterprise software.” He added that this change in mindset, this movement, is something that Tasktop wants to work with partners on to galvanize its impact. “We want to help you understand the vision and the things that we can achieve together.”

Dr. Mik Kersen, Tasktop’s CEO and founder, presents his new vision

One message is clear – Tasktop, its partners and the wider community (including IT Revolution and its arsenal of books) – must work together to combine our experience and knowledge, warts and all, to propel the movement and help each other to be successful with our digital transformations


Dr. Kersten highlighted key learnings from working with Nokia, who lost the mobile market they created, and a top 25 bank who failed multiple transformations despite good intentions and billions spent. Highlighting the illusions of DevOps and Agile transformations and their actual impact on the business, Dr. Kersten underlined just how critical it is to architect around product value streams, as Amazon and Bezos have done, to find bottlenecks and opportunities for optimization to extract more business value from IT.

Following those cautionary customer tales, Dr. Kersten stressed that “it’s not that they weren’t committed to their digital transformation, they just had the wrong model.” Walking the room through Perez’s technological cycles and revolutions, and how we’re in the Turning Point of the Age of Software, he hammered home that our shared customers core goal must be mastering the means of production to survive the Turning Point. Sink and swim, in other words. And that that we now have the right model, the Flow Framework, to make a success of our transformations.

Business update and strategy

Firstly, I want to say a big genuine thank you to all of you today, we couldn’t have done it without you,” opened Neelan Choksi, Tasktop’s President and COO. Neelan then provided an update on Tasktop’s business and partner strategy, highlighting BMW’s incredible transformational journey with Tasktop as “proof in the pudding”, as well as referencing the Forrester reports that validate Tasktop’s Value Stream Management approach. “What’s cool when you look at these reports is that it’s not a bunch of competitors, it’s many of our partners – many of whom are in this room.”

Tasktop’s President and COO, Neelan Choksi, dives into the Forrester report that identified Tasktop as a “strong performer” in Value Stream Management

Neelan stressed that partner enablement is, as ever, a core focus for Tasktop. “As the famous adage goes, teach a man to fish….” He then elaborated on how Tasktop’s ongoing partner enablement program – including the new Flow Framework Partner Program – has been developed through Tasktop’s own journey into VSM and flow. “We always walk the path first before you. While our experiences may differ in certain areas, we have validated advice to give you to improve your service offering. We want to sell our product and vision through you all – we want the community to fill up around our proposition to grow the market.”

The Flow Framework Partner Program Me presenting on the benefits of Tasktop’s new Flow Framework Partner Program

I then presented on the ins and outs of the Flow Framework Partner Program. “The main objective of this program is to enable the benefits of the framework through sales resources, technical training, marketing resources and community support. We want to grow your sales, increase your competitive advantage.”



Backing what Neelan noted about Tasktop “walking the walk first”, I spoke about the impact that the framework is having on me as a former IT consultant with 15 years’ experience in the trenches. Before my calling at Tasktop, I could clearly see that the project-oriented approach was not working. Tasktop truly is IT professionals helping IT professionals to better communicate with the business and to help break organizational silos.

Why resell Tasktop?

Nick Wilson, Partner Account Manager, provided an overview of why partners should be excited about what Tasktop and Value Stream Integration and Management can do for their customers. He expanded the current state of play, including the general consensus that Agile and DevOps are not enough.

“We know of so many horror stories of customers coming back after wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to create or deploy alternative solution.” Nick Wilson warns of the perils of underestimating how complex and important value stream integration is.

“That’s where Tasktop comes in,” explained Nick. “There’s nothing else like it on the market – it’s a sophisticated model-based integration infrastructure that’s easy to use, reliable and scalable. We know of so many horror stories of customers coming back after wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to create or deploy alternative solution. We can help you help your customers understand that. The impact of Tasktop will be immediate and profound for everyone involved.”

Tasktop is a customer-driven product, added Nick. “We currently connect with 58 best-of-breed tools now, adding more every quarter, and it’s all based on demand from customers – something that you, our partners, can help with. If a customer requests a tool, don’t say Tasktop doesn’t do it – tell us! By closely monitoring these trends, we can expand our dynamic network and increase the end user value of our solution for your customers.”

Value Stream Management

To close the day, Carmen DeArdo, Tasktop’s Senior Value Stream Management Strategist and former customer, gave an end user perspective from his time at Nationwide as Technology Director. He spoke about the insurance company’s transition from project to product, the epiphanies he had, and the lessons he learned. “How do you understand what a customer wants from a product or is thinking about a product until they get it? You need to be focusing on end-to-end flow that involves all stakeholders and, of course, the customer. To reach that state, there’s three fundamental things you need to do: connect, flow, measure.”

Who better than to sing the praises of moving to a product-centric model and value stream mindset than a former customer? Carmen DeArdo has been there and done it and is always forthcoming about the lessons he learnt from his vast experience

Carmen acknowledged that it’s not easy to move from project to product, that culture is a constant barrier, and that there can be gap between what people want to be happening and the reality of the situation.

“At Nationwide, we did a lot of mapping. We talked about process. But I would often wonder if how much people’s perception of the process was wishful thinking. It would often depend on who was there and in the room at the time. Either way, it was hard to substantiate and prove what worked and what didn’t. Tasktop offers to you and customers is the opportunity to actually get the position where you can hold of real-time accurate metrics of the value stream to reveal the truth. That truth that helped us know what was and wasn’t working because you can’t trick it.”

Thoughts from our Partner attendees

“The Tasktop Partner Day gave us an opportunity to enjoy vibrant discussion with partners ranging from the height of Washington DC buildings (restricted to the width of the street they face + 20 feet), to the need for training and tooling to realise the Flow Framework. It’s early days, but we got a glimpse of bridging the gap between business and engineering through a common language, model, and visualization of the flow of value. Read all about it in Dr. Kersten’s Project to Product book – it is an infectious read!” – Willy Peter-Schaub, Software Engineer, Director, AJATO Transformations, Ltd.

“I want to take this opportunity to thank the Tasktop team for including Melillo Consulting in your Partner events last week. The speakers were very informative, and their message was thought provoking. It was very refreshing to hear a message that was focused almost entirely upon client business results (value, cost, quality and happiness). The Tasktop approach to improving results provides a concise and understandable methodology that helps clients to focus on areas of improvement in their value stream; thereby reducing the lead time from business idea to delivery of their product. We look forward to our partnership and becoming a Tasktop delivery partner to assist clients in adopting the “Flow Framework” from Tasktop. “ – Henry Potts, Director, Business Development, Melillo Consulting

“Tasktop Partner Day was very informative. Many key team members took time to talk to us about the essentials of being great partners and the ins and outs of the sales process including hurdles and how to get over them.” – Heather Morgan, ReleaseTEAM, Inc.

“Tasktop’s Partner Day was really inspiring and will take our company in some really cool directions! So much good stuff! Project To Product is pretty much a must read for everyone on our team.” – Partner Day attendee

What next for existing or new Tasktop partners

Partners – become a member of Tasktop’s Flow Framework Partner Program to:

  • Help your customers increase their business value by adopting Tasktop’s Flow Framework
  • Enable customers to join the age of software and take advantage of successes enjoyed by tech giants and digital startups
  • Get access to training and content for Flow Framework consulting services delivery.
  • Join the partner community discussion about Flow Framework training and implementations

To register your interest about this exciting movement along with the Flow Framework Partner Program, please register here. You can also contact me with any questions.

Interested in joining the Tasktop Partner Program?

If you’d like to learn more about joining the Tasktop Partner Program as a Reseller, Referral Partner, or Flow Framework Partner – please reach out to us at for more information and we’ll be happy to help!

The post Tasktop Partner Day 2018 – A Community Coming Together Around Value Stream Management appeared first on Tasktop Blog.

Tasktop Connect 2018 Recap – IT community descends on DC for latest insights on thriving in Age of Digital Disruption

Tue, 12/11/2018 - 08:53

It was somewhat fitting that the second Tasktop Connect (December 6, 2018) took place just a stone’s throw from Congress in Washington DC. After all, one of the chief aims of the event is to help enterprises, agencies and institutions to improve governance over their software delivery value streams to generate more business value from IT. And judging by the reaction and feedback of the delegates in the room, many organizations left the event with a much clearer vision of how to reach that critical goal.

On a brisk clear day in the US capital on the 7th floor of the iconic Newseum overlooking Pennsylvania Avenue, over 80 attendees from leading organizations listened intently to a fascinating array of presentations from Tasktopians, industry thought leaders, and visionary customers on the power of Value Stream Integration and Management, the Project to Product revolution, the Flow Framework and much, much more.

Neelan Choki, Tasktop President and COO, looks back on the year which included the launch of Project to Product, written by our CEO and founder Dr. Mik Kersten.

Tasktop’s CEO and co-founder, Dr. Mik Kersten, and President and COO, Neelan Choksi, kicked off proceedings by reflecting on a remarkable year for Tasktop and the wider IT industry. Citing the emergence of Value Stream Management and the launch of Mik’s Project to Product book, both Tasktop leaders agreed the industry is moving in the right direction. “It was great to see validation of our vision for Value Stream Management via the Forrester Reports on the VSM market,” beamed Neelan. “Even better was the fact that the vendors involved in the Forrester New Wave are not competitors. They are Tasktop’s partners. We’re all in it together.”

Mik and Neelan also considered the impact of Mik’s book and the criticality of moving from project to product. “When I asked Mik to write the book, I don’t think we quite expected the reaction we’re seeing,” Neelan admitted. “Currently, Project to Product is the number four Amazon best seller in Business Management.”

Neelan was bouyed by Forrester’s validation of the Value Stream Management market – and Tasktop and its partners role within it.

Mik – who highlighted that all the author proceeds of the book will go to supporting women and minorities in tech – added: “The fact that the book is ahead of leading bodies of work on project management further illustrates that we need to move to a product-centric model to become software innovators. The potential of the Flow Framework, in particular, to help drive change and transformation is immense – it’s bigger than Tasktop, bigger than any one company.”

Dave West,’s CEO, helped framed the world we live in and software delivery’s role within it.

The entertaining and conversant Dave West – CEO, – provided context to the sheer enormity of the challenges facing organizations in an unpredictable digital world. One that is being shaped by digital globalization, mother nature and, of course, technology. “All things that were true in mass production in the past age are fundamentally changing, demanding a new means of production,” explained West. “For that, we need a grand unifying theory for software delivery. Scrum, DevOps, design thinking and Lean are great tools, but it’s basically about scaling empiricism – which is hard. Yet with the right teams, focus on skills, and the­­­­ right production environment, you can do great things.”

Talking of doing great things, steps forward Jeff Zahorchak from Select Medical. While Select Medical’s solutions and services were extremely integrated across teams and domains, its solution and software delivery methodology were not. The healthcare services provider identified five key problems that the company wanted to address across a successful 90-day implementation initiative:

  •       Work requests from multiple sources
  •       Entry of data into multiple tracking systems
  •       Planning and execution across teams
  •       Missed opportunities to deliver more
  •       Heroics to meet deadlines
Jeff Zahorchak from Select Medical provided a compelling account of the medical services’ organization’s integration transformation

“With fragmented systems, we had to be heroic to meet deadlines and expectations, with everyone working at 110 percent,” explain Jeff. “The first thing to address was work intake, so we developed a web-based intake form to create one channel and enable leadership to vote on priorities.” The company also needed to improve on workflow between teams so “it didn’t fall off the stage – so we used Tasktop and consolidated onto two tools to improve our system of record. It was up and running in couple of days with 48 users and we received 1,274 help tickets in 24 hours! We can also map our product value stream to how we deliver services to manage velocity and use resources wisely against user demand.”

Carmen DeArdo, Tasktop’s Senior Value Stream Strategist, takes to the stage in front of 100+ attendees

With ears pricked and interest piqued on the Flow Framework, Mik and Tasktop’s Senior Value Stream Strategist (and former customer), Carmen DeArdo, presented on the nuts and bolts of the pioneering new management paradigm to connect IT to the business. “As technologists, we know we need to change something – but heaven forbid we speak to the business,” joked DeArdo. “But as Microsoft’s Jeffrey Snover said at DevOps Enterprise Summit Las Vegas in October, if you’re operating as a cost centre, people on the business side are going to see you as a cost.”

Mik continued on this thread. “We need a common language between the two sides and that’s what the Flow Framework is about. We need a new lens to look at product value streams as an investment portfolio, not a cost.” After breaking down the main components of the Flow Framework, the discussion landed on how to improve end-to-end flow of work from ideation to operation and back through customer feedback to improve end user, and business, value.

Drawing on his experience as a Technology Director at Nationwide, Carmen posed a rhetorical question: “How do you know if your transformational investments are working and that you’re going faster if you’re not measuring the whole value stream? You need to know what’s slowing you down. What you’re waiting for. As Dominica (DeGrandis) says, a lot of answers lie in your wait states.” Mik nodded enthusiastically and pointed out that “data is only meaningful if it’s end-to-end when you can see the whole picture.”


Veteran speaker and Tasktop customer, Mark Ford from TIAA, gave a fantastic overview of the company’s journey from Tasktop Sync to Tasktop Integration Hub. “I knew I wanted it as soon as I heard about it at the first Tasktop Connect last year!”

Another Tasktop customer reaping the myriad benefits of a value stream approach is Mark Ford, Lead Developer at TIAA, who was once again presenting at Connect. Mark’s session focused on the Fortune 100 financial services company’s transition, and transformation, from Tasktop Sync to Tasktop Integration Hub. “We all face disruption and change and need to be prepared. What happens if you come to work one day and your tool has been taken out? Or there’s been an M&A? That’s why connecting your tools in a modular way is so important. Tasktop helps us weather the storm to swap tools in and out and mitigate that disruption to your workflow and existing product value streams.”

We were delighted to learn that Mark can take a rest now and again too. “Tasktop is so intuitive and easy to use that even people with no development background can set up and manage an integration – which means I can take a vacation without my laptop!” Describing Tasktop as a “universal adaptor” for TIAA’s production environment, Ford was also buoyed by the value stream visualization that Tasktop provides via its landscape view feature: “I saw that and thought – oh wow! Who doesn’t want to plug in their endpoints and artifacts into the tool and see how work flows?”

The ever-impressive Dominica DeGrandis – Tasktop’s Director of Digital Transformation and author of Making Work Visible – showed the audience how to defrag their value streams.

Music to the next speaker’s ears, no doubt. Dominica DeGrandis, Director of Tasktop and author of the highly popular Making Work Visible, masterfully walked through the parallels between poor communication and hands-off between medical professionals and institutions, and software delivery, with regards to the depreciation of end user value. “With specialization comes more complexity and more means for communication at different stages of the value stream. This causes fragmentation, work build up, and manual hand-offs that cost time and money. Just as the Circus De Soleil demands perfect hand-offs, so should your value stream.”

So where exactly do you begin with creating a visible value stream? Carmen returned to the stage with Tasktopians Jeff Downs (Senior Director, North American Pre-Sales), and Mara Puisite (Senior Pre-Sales Engineer) about the powers of the Value Stream Architecture Mapping. “When I was at Nationwide, Jeff came into work with us with Tasktop’s Value Stream Architecture diagrams exercise,” regaled Carmen. “We printed the diagram out and blew it up on the wall so you couldn’t miss it and everyone could see where our work was. This idea was incredibly powerful and integral in changing the way we saw and analyzed our work. Because if you don’t take control of your process, your process will take control of you.”

Mara Puisite and Jeff Downs from Tasktop’s Pre-Sales team, hammer home on the importance of mapping your Value Stream Architecture.

Mara reflected on the epiphanies that occur when undertaking the exercise. “Does everyone know every tool your organization is using and is involved in your product value streams? We asked one customer if they used Jira and they said no – after speaking to another team, it turned out they actually used many instances of Jira!” To which Jeff added: “If you don’t know where work is flowing, how do you know where work is or even originates from? Get your people, and tools, talking. And keep asking questions about where work stems from until it’s crystal clear.”  Carmen bobbed his head knowingly: “These maps give you and your teams something to talk about. They stimulate “a-ha!” moments to help everyone better understand their roles, their work, and what a thought-out integration strategy can really do for your business.”

You wouldn’t have known it was her first conference presentation! Kristen Biddulph from Nationwide extolled the virtues of moving from project to product with quantifiable stats and stories.

Carmen’s former colleague, Kristen Biddulph, Scrum Master at Nationwide, spoke around her experience on helping integrated cross-functional teams to produce better work faster and move from project to product. She borrowed a term from the military to help forge stronger collaboration across a product value stream: “Commander’s intent defines what success is within an uncertain, dynamic and resource-constrained environment. Does that, or does that not, sound like software delivery to you?”

To build on this definition and develop a steadfast hypothesis to improve certainty and control in such environments, Kristen reiterated the importance of “shifting left” in the value stream – dropping a mind-boggling stat in the process: “We incorporated Lean and Agile into our planning and organizing stages. The result? 64 percent improvement in cycle time!” The organization has also moved to fast flow and feedback Lean approach to meet its new Minimum Marketable Product (MMP) baseline to reduce time-to-market. The focus of the approach, Kristen explained, was on the “Happy User Peak” – the sweet spot between number of features and user happiness.

Kyle Williams and Favio Echavarria from Deloitte’s Federal Team showing how they were able to create a modern flow layer across US gov tools, departments and networks.

It’s not just the insurance, financial and other commercial sectors that are thinking beyond Agile and DevOps to improve speed, accuracy and quality of their end-to-end value streams. The government sector, and their agencies, are ramping up their transformations too – despite the space’s well-known hesitation to fully embrace Agile and other IT innovations. Deloitte’s Federal team presented on their experiences with both cross-team and cross-agency communication barriers. “With multiple different tools being used by the government agency and vendors, nobody could agree on what an “issue” is,” explained Kyle Williams from Deloitte. “Meaning no one source of truth and a lot of heartache and confusion.”

“Coupled with the usual challenges of contractual hurdles, cyber security, and stretched out implementation periods for programs, this made real-time collaboration nearly impossible,” added Kyle’s colleague, Fabio Echavarria. “No one was speaking to the same language and this undermined the validity of the data. By finding that common vernacular between tools and teams through Tasktop, we were able to improve collaboration between government and vendors using real-time dashboards that highlighted discrepancies in the process.” By connecting tools and making work visible, concluded Fabio, the utilization of Agile and other tracking tools “skyrocketed” in the agency.

If there’s two people who understand software delivery in the government sector, it’s Suzette Johnson (Norhrop Grumman) and Robin Yeman (Lockheed Martin).

It appears that the federal government is gradually beginning to wake up to realities of large-scale software delivery. According to Robin Yeman from Lockheed Martin, presenting at Connect for a second year in row, the Department of Defence is seeking inspiration from the commercial sector to create and optimize “software factories”. Research into tech giants like Google and Amazon) has resulted into the DOD’s Defense System Board’s influential recommendation report to transform the agency’s software delivery and digital prowess.

Highlighting the “explosive increase” in demand for software-implemented features in weapons, Robin added her own recommendation – “securing the software factories and the entire value stream; security used to be out of the equation, now it must be part of the product lifecycle”. She also advised that fed agencies think beyond cross-functional teams to provide a broader skill set to the individual “who have fears around keeping their job, understanding where they fit in and how they can provide value.”

Data and flow play a crucial role too, as Robin’s co-presenter, Suzette Johnson from Northrop Grumman, explained. With the lifespan of tools becoming shorter, Suzette spoke on the importance of standardizing the data layer across the lifecycle for better metrics – “not SLOC!” – as well as making risk stories a primary part of the backlog.

Tasktop’s journey through Flow Metrics with Dominica and Mik

Mik and Dominica elaborated on what these better metrics look like – and how it can improve the business decision-making and strategy. Breaking down  five core metrics of the Flow Framework – Flow Distribution, Flow Velocity, Flow Efficiency, Flow Time, and Flow Load – Mik walked attendees through Tasktop’s own journey using these metrics. One story Mik shared was about a product team which had gone through a feature-rich release.  After the release, the number of defects and debts increased which drove up the team’s WIP (Flow Load). This overload of work negatively impacted the team’s happiness. So Mik responded to this by reducing the team’s Flow Load and prioritizing working off the accumulated debts and defects. This resulted in this team, which had been the unhappiest the prior year, becoming the happiest team.

The energetic and always inspiring Nicole Bryan, VP of Product Management, then brought proceedings to a close by discussing how Tasktop’s metric journey is driving the company and product roadmap, including some fascinating stats into how our customers are using integration:

What Attendees Had To Say

Tasktop Connect provided insight into the emerging ideas of enterprise flow with the Flow Framework. Connecting up the value stream of agile product delivery. The event combined great customer case studies with focused content on the ideas of flow. A great event for anyone who needs to knit together a product value stream.’ Dave West, CEO,

“For me, Tasktop Connect 2019 was a great success as Tasktop continues to outshine itself year after year.  I really enjoyed hearing from thought leaders such as Dave West, Carmen DeArdo, and Dominica DeGrandis. They spoke around central themes of reducing complexity, the importance of keeping your infrastructure current, and ways to measure output over the entire delivery pipeline. Those are key points that I need to take back to my day job and turn into realities.

It was also great to hear from fellow Tasktop customers regarding their implementation success stories. I learned several tips that I can use to set up new integrations in Tasktop Integration Hub, such as getting people to speak a common language early on and the benefits of standardizing tools and processes. I especially liked Kristen Biddulph’s suggestion of vertically slicing feature sets to consider UX, Service Layer, and Persistence in one shot (versus the more traditional horizontal development approach). That’s a great idea! And of course, Tasktopians Jeff Downs,  Mara Puisite, and Nicole Bryan gave some great advice on integration preparation and additional insights into the future directions of Tasktop.

The conference provided a terrific opportunity to share our collective voice as customers and to really feel that our opinions and our support is greatly valued. Well done Tasktop – I’m already looking forward to next year!” Mark Ford, Lead Developer, Global Corporate Solution Technology, TIAA

“Tasktop Connect gave me the opportunity to reconfirm the intent and purpose of Tasktop as an integration infrastructure for measuring and managing IT value.  At Nationwide, we deployed Tasktop a few years back to simplify our 3rd party IT asset integrations, and the ground work we’ve laid enables us to architect a visible value pipeline. As Nationwide shifts its focus to products, using the data from our applications to measure product value will be critical. Connect provided me insight into the journey of other Tasktop customers, and an industry perspective of the importance that a visible value stream has on great IT companies.” Joe Schlegel, Manager, ITBSA Data & Analytics, Nationwide

“Best part for me was the knowledge sharing with other customers.” Trina Molnar, DevOps Leader, Nationwide

“As a new business partner, attending Tasktop Connect 2018 was a great introduction for us to the Tasktop ecosystem. We were able to learn a lot about the products and their use, as well as meet the Tasktop team and customers. Most impressive is the energy and enthusiasm that everyone brought to the event. Seeing how passionate Tasktop customers are is very motivating. Looking forward to Connect 2019.” Scott Althouse, VP of Everything Else, Alidade Technology

“The Tasktop Connect event provided a ton of insight into everything that makes the Tasktop Integration Hub the awesome tool that it is. Hearing the inspiring stories of how other teams, like Dave West from, use the Hub for their mission critical operations to provide clean, concise reports, gave me a much stronger understanding of what is possible with the tools. We looking forward to helping more of our clients with their Tasktop deployment!” Alex Baldwin, Agile and Technology Practice Manager, cPrime.

This year’s Tasktop Connect provided first hand insights into Mik’s Flow Framework and Dominica’s Making Work Visible as practices to guide application delivery owners in their digital transformation journey. 2019 will be the year of up leveling – up leveling DevOps, Agile and simplistic metrics into managing the entire value stream. Projects will transform into cross-functional product teams utilizing best of breed tools with business governance enabled by the transparency provided into each team,”   Jeff Keyes, Director of Marketing, Plutora

A BIG thank you to our sponsors

We’re ever so proud of our comprehensive and ever-growing partner network. Our partners plays a vital role in supporting our customers’ diverse and exacting needs, and greatly help us make a success of Tasktop Connect every year. Check out the links below to learn more on how they can help you with various facets of your software delivery value stream:



The post Tasktop Connect 2018 Recap – IT community descends on DC for latest insights on thriving in Age of Digital Disruption appeared first on Tasktop Blog.

To Transform to Have Agility, Don’t Do a Capital A, Capital T Agile Transformation

Fri, 11/30/2018 - 08:36

The concept of “flow” is a common thread in DevOps. Fin Goulding and Hayden Shaughnessy do a great job summarizing the concept of flow and how it relates to digital transformation in their book Flow: A Handbook for Change-Makers, Mavericks, Innovation Activists and Leaders: Digital Transformation Simplified. In a previous article, “Modular Architectures Make You Agile in the Long Run”, Dan Sturtevant summarized how our thinking about software architecture needs to change to support flow. But software architecture alone isn’t enough. If we’re going to take a holistic view of DevOps and agile development, we need to consider how the organization and business need to change.

This notion is easy to consider on a small scale but is an entirely different problem when an organization has tens of thousands of IT staff. Consequently, few people have the experience of implementing flow at scale. Jon Smart – Partner, Enterprise Agility Lead at Deloitte Digital (previously Enterprise Agility Lead at Barclays) – is a rare exception and one of the best thinkers I know on this topic. Here, he shares his experiences on how to shift our perspective on organizational transformation and objectives to take DevOps’ benefits from the small scale of startups and “unicorns” to the massively more complex scale of enterprise IT. Mik Kersten,  CEO & founder Tasktop, author of Project to Product, creator of the Flow Framework

Historically, in large, old, complex organizations (the horses rather than the unicorns) that have adopted agile and DevOps principles and practices, the adoption has been at the team level. From my experience of delivering software with agile principles since the early 1990s, these “islands of agile” most often arise despite the firm, not because of the firm, owing to employees with a growth mind-set willing to take a personal risk.

The agile islands are a local optimization in the end-to-end value stream. A 90 percent reduction in a development team’s lead time might have a negligible impact on the time from when customer needs are identified to when those needs are met. Look to the right, the constraint could be IT operations staff, who are incentivized to protect up-time, batching up change. Look to the left, the constraint is the portfolio management and funding black hole, with an annual cycle. Look up, there’s a command-and-control leadership style, with low levels of psychological safety. Look around, other teams aren’t agile and dependencies aren’t broken, such that the end-to-end lead time for customer value doesn’t decrease.

As of 2017, only 10 percent of Fortune 500 companies from 1955 were still in the Fortune 500.1 At the current churn rate of the S&P 500, half of the firms will be replaced over the next 10 years.2 Tectonic shifts in the competitive landscape are occurring owing to:

  • cloud computing;
  • mobile devices’ prevalence and capabilities;
  • increased communication bandwidth and information transparency;
  • increased venture capital funding chasing a return, owing to historically low interest rates and volatility;
  • government regulation increasing competition; and
  • increased competition from nontraditional born-agile competitors.

These shifts are leading companies to realize that a business-as-usual approach won’t result in business as usual.

In recent years, enterprise-wide DevOps and agile at scale have surged. Compared to nearly 30 years of “lightweight methodologies” for team-level software development, this is a new field. DevOps emerged as a term in 2009, with scaled agile frameworks coming out comparatively recently: SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework) in 2011, Disciplined Agile in 2012, and LeSS (Large-Scale Scrum) in 2013. However, relatively little research is available about these frameworks’ effectiveness in practice, especially on an enterprise scale.

Here, I share lessons learned from being a servant leader for agility at scale across Barclays. Barclays is a global financial-services firm, with 80,000 employees in 40 countries, founded in 1690 in the City of London. Every day Barclays processes the equivalent of one-third of the UK’s annual GDP—approximately £600 billion. Barclays meets a financial need of almost 50 percent of UK adults and operates in a highly regulated industry.

Context is key; the context here is large, old, complex, not born-agile organizations with many diverse product offerings, colleagues, and customers, used to working in a traditional way. Reinventing organizations with legacy and complexity as we enter the digital revolution is a difficult and interesting challenge in which only the most adaptable will survive. On the basis of my experience, here are the main anti-patterns related to scaling agility and DevOps, paired with the patterns that have helped us succeed at Barclays’ scale.

Antipattern 1: Doing a Capital A, Capital T Agile Transformation

A capital A, capital T Agile Transformation, from an employee’s perspective, implies involuntary, mandatory change being done to you, whether you like it or not. The capital T denotes that you must change; the capital A denotes exactly how you’ll change. This provokes fear and resistance for many reasons,3 including the fear for your survival, which in turn leads to less rational thought as the primitive brain takes over.4

Dan Pink posited three key drivers of motivation: autonomy, purpose, and mastery.5 In this antipattern, two of those drivers—autonomy and mastery—have been taken away. If the “why” isn’t well articulated, meaningful purpose is also removed, eliminating all three key drivers.

Pattern 1: Start with “Why,” and Focus on Outcomes

As Simon Sinek articulated, start with “why.”6 There should be a clear, well-communicated “why” of the need to change. The “why” should be more than profitability, shareholder returns, or stock price. In “The Irrational Side of Change Management,” Carolyn Aiken and Scott Keller stated,

What the leader cares about (and typically bases at least 80 percent of his or her message to others on) does not tap into roughly 80 percent of the workforce’s primary motivators.7

This research shows that employees are most motivated by a purpose that’s split equally across five forms of impact: society, the customer, the company, the team, and the individual.

From the “why,” identify high-level, thematic desired outcomes, rather than agile for agile’s sake. For us, the desired outcomes are described as Better, Value, Sooner, Safer, and Happier, each of which is measurable.

Antipattern 2: The Bigger the Capital T, the Bigger the Change Curve

The Kübler-Ross Curve (see Figure 1) originated from psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s work on grief. We’ve repeatedly observed these behaviors to hold true in the context of change, via feedback from employee surveys.

The bigger the capital T Transformation, the bigger the change curve. If embarking on one large Transformation, expect a deep dip in the curve. Such a transformation doesn’t apply an agile mind-set to increase organizational agility. It will make the journey more challenging, with more denial, frustration, and anger. The change stands a higher chance of cultural rejection, with more ammunition for those averse to change.

FIGURE  1.  The  Kübler-Ross  curve.8  The  behaviors  during grief  also hold true  in the contenxt of  corporate change. Antipattern 2: Achieve Big through Small

Instead of a big bang transformation, with one big dip in the curve, achieve a big outcome through early, frequent, and small slices of value. Pursue evolutionary and continuous transformation aligned to outcomes, linking together a series of smaller change curves. Start in areas that are naturally receptive. The dips aren’t as deep, the learning comes quicker, there’s less risk, and the champions, who have been trying to do this despite the firm in the past, are best placed to beat a path through the organizational jungle.

Antipattern 3: One Size Fits All

Often combined with the previous antipatterns is the imposition of a one-size-fits-all approach across an organization. Large, old organizations are heterogeneous, not homogeneous. A one-size-fits-all approach won’t maximize the desired outcomes. Scaling is about complexity, diversity, and building a learning and continuous improvement (CI) capability. With many unique contexts, the practices should differ:

Principles + Context = Practices9

Pattern 3: Focus on the Outcomes, with an Empowered and Federated Model

Each area has autonomy and is empowered via a federated model to improve on the desired outcomes as it sees fit, with fast feedback supported by training, coaching, and data. The context, culture, history, starting point, and impediments are unique. There’s no silver bullet. People are more likely to accept change if they have autonomy and empowerment to figure out the “how” for themselves, building mastery in the process.5 There should be a small “center of enablement” team that provides servant leadership, coordination, and sharing and owns the resolution of impediments that span business units.

A few areas exist that share a common approach, to ensure organizational consistency. This includes consistent role names (e.g., Product Owner, Agile Team Lead, and Architecture Owner), a consistent target-state organizational-design model, and, especially for regulated firms, a consistent lifecycle that supports continuous delivery.

Antipattern 4: Transformation Treated as a Project with an End Date

A capital T Transformation is launched with fanfare and an initiative name, articulated as a program with an end date, at which the transformation will be done. There’s a significant investment, with significant savings predicted, which further fuels the capital T in Transformation with the need to do more, faster.

Pattern 4: Transformation Is Continuous

For organizational agility, there is no end date. Transformation is never done; it’s a constant process of learning, retrospection, experimentation, and improvement. The environment in which organizations operate changes constantly, more quickly and unpredictably than ever. Progress is tracked via measures in line with the overall desired outcomes. The goals are to be the best at being better and become a learning organization.

Antipattern 5: Leaders Say, “Tell Me When It’s Done”

Leaders have initiated an agile transformation, and the behavior observed is “tell me when it’s done,” with arms metaphorically crossed and little or no change in the leader’s or leadership team’s behavior.

As Frederic Laloux commented, “The level of consciousness of an organization cannot exceed the level of consciousness of its leader.”10

Pattern 5: Leaders Go First

Transformational leadership is a critical factor for successful ongoing continuous transformations. The 2017 State of DevOps Report showed that teams with the least transformative leaders were half as likely to exhibit high IT performance.11

Leadership can’t be outsourced. It can be supported with coaching, training, and advice to shortcut learning. The first team to adopt continuous transformation should be the leadership team, role-modeling the desired behaviors.

Antipattern 6: Middle Management Has No Role

A common antipattern is when middle management, also called the “Frozen Middle,” has no clear role to play in the continuous transformation.12

Middle management not only has a hard job of delivering complex change and keeping stakeholders happy but also now needs to change the way of working at the same time, to a way it hasn’t experienced before. This can be deeply unsettling. Not only am I flying the plane through storms, with expectations on the landing time, I’m also now being asked to both fly it differently and upgrade the plane mid-flight.

Pattern 6: Middle Management Has an Explicit Role

Middle management, as well as leaders, needs an explicit role in the continuous transformation. That role is being a coach, trainer, and teacher to one or more mentees, as per the Toyota Improvement Kata:

The primary task of Toyota’s managers and leaders does not revolve around improvement per se, but around increasing the improvement capability of people.13

This gives leaders at all levels a role to play that’s built into the daily work rather than simultaneously being classroom based and empowering the mentee.

Antipattern 7: Not Institutionalizing the Change

As John Kotter observed, one anti-pattern is the failure to institutionalize the change.12 This is manifested in not tackling systemic or behavioral norms in the organization, such that as soon as a key leader who’s championing the change moves on, the organization snaps back to how it used to be with surprising speed.

According to Accelerating Performance, organizations take five years to move up one performance sector and only 18 months to slip back again.14

Pattern 7: Institutionalize the Change

For large, old, bureaucratic, complex organizations, especially regulated ones, driving change through official standards can be effective. We’ve re-written internal standards and the product development lifecycle to embed desired behaviors, such as continuous delivery, long-lived products, and a focus on outcomes over output.

This isn’t scary or intimidating; the “A word” isn’t being used. Internal audits are your friend; they help to independently verify that the standards are implemented and driving the right outcomes.

Antipattern 8: Measuring Nothing or the Wrong Things

There are five easy ways to reduce the likelihood of a transformation’s success via the inappropriate use of metrics. First, don’t take a data-driven approach. Second, focus on team-level metrics (such as velocity or the “say–do ratio”) and weaponize them. Third, measure just one thing, such that it’s achieved at the expense of other things (for example, measuring flow at the expense of quality). Fourth, measure the workers, not the work system, aiming for busy people. Finally, align top-down targets with anything other than outcomes.

Pattern 8: Measure the Desired Outcomes

Take a data-driven approach, with measures that are in line with the desired outcomes (for example, flow, incidents, and the colleague and customer Net Promoter Score). Make this data transparent to all, showing the trend over time.

Focus on the work, not the workers

The biggest issues will be where the work isn’t—that is, the big wait times due to handoffs and dependencies. Measure the flow efficiency in the value stream. In our experience, and anecdotally from other large companies, work typically is being worked on only 10 percent of the time between when it starts and when it reaches the customer’s hands.

Antipattern 9: Not Prioritizing Technical Excellence

The 2017 State of DevOps Report showed that the gap between high- and low-performing organizations is closing regarding deployment frequency and lead time.11 However, the gap is widening for the change failure rate and mean time to recovery. This implies that the low-performing teams are working to improve speed but aren’t sufficiently prioritizing technical excellence or building quality into the process.

Pattern 9: Prioritize Technical Excellence

Along with adopting agile ways of working and reducing lead time, it’s equally important to prioritize investment in automation and the shifting left of quality (that is, incorporating testing early during development), with test-first development and high levels of automation. Tests, code quality analysis, and security scanning are built into the CI pipeline, with the assembly line stopping when an issue arises. Quality becomes part of everyone’s job.

So, here are the takeaways from this article:

  • Have a compelling “why.”
  • Focus on outcomes, not agile for agile’s sake
  • Achieve big through small.
  • Foster autonomy, purpose, and mastery with psychological safety.
  • Don’t take a one-size-fits-all approach.
  • Pursue continuous transformation and CI.
  • Leaders go first.
  • Give middle management a role.
  • Institutionalize the change.
  • Measure the desired outcomes.
  • Prioritize technical excellence.

In short, apply an agile mind-set to the rollout of agility, and treat it as a tool in the toolbox to achieve desired organizational outcomes. Approach continuous transformation as a capability to be nurtured rather than as a project with a silver-bullet solution. Be the best at being better.

See Jonathan in action

DevOps Enterprise Summit 2018, London

DevOps Enteprise Summit 2018, Las Vegas

Begin your Project to Product journey

For more on making a success of your Agile and other IT transformations, grab Project to Product – available in print, Kindle and audio – by clicking on the front cover below:

Click image to pre-order a copy of the book. Sign up to the Product To Project newsletter

This is the seventh blog in a series promoting the genesis of Mik’s book Project To Product. If you missed the first six blogs, click here. And to ensure you don’t miss any further blogs, you can receive future articles and other insights delivered directly to your inbox by signing up to the Project To Product newsletter.


  1. M.J. Perry, “Fortune 500 Firms 1955 v. 2017: Only 60 Remain, Thanks to the Creative Destruction That Fuels Economic Prosperity,” Am. Enterprise Inst., 20 Oct. 2017;
  2. S.D. Anthony, S.P. Viguerie, and A. Waldeck, Corporate Longevity: Turbulence Ahead for Large Organizations, Innosight, 2016;
  3. R.M. Kanter, “Ten Reasons People Resist Change,” Harvard Business Rev., 25 Sept. 2012;
  4. R. Maurer, One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way, Workman, 2014.
  5. D.H. Pink, Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us, Riverhead Books, 2009.
  6. S. Sinek, “Start with Why,” TED Talk, Sept. 2009;
  7. C. Aiken and S. Keller, “The Irrational Side of Change Management,” McKinsey Q., Apr. 2009;
  8. Anastasia, “Understanding the Kubler-Ross Curve,” Cleverism, 24 June 2015;
  9. D. North, “Kicking the Complexity Habit,” 2014;
  10. F. Laloux, Reinventing Organizations, Nelson Parker, 2014.
  11. N. Forsgren et al., 2017 State of DevOps Report, Puppet, 2017;
  12. J.P. Kotter, Leading Change, Harvard Business Rev. Press, 2012.
  13. M. Rother, Toyota Kata: Managing People for Improvement, Adaptiveness, and Superior Results, McGraw-Hill, 2009, p. 186.
  14. C Price and S. Toye, Accelerating Performance: How Organizations Can Mobilize, Execute, and Transform with Agility, 2017, John Wiley & Sons.

A version of this article was originally published in the November/December 2018 issue of IEEE Software: J.Smart, “To Transform to Have Agility, Don’t Do a Capital A, Capital T Agile Transformation,”  IEEE Software, vol. 35, no. 6, pp. 56-60, ©2018 IEEE doi: 10.1109/MS.2018.4321245 – Original article

The post To Transform to Have Agility, Don’t Do a Capital A, Capital T Agile Transformation appeared first on Tasktop Blog.

Mic Check: “It’s been a watershed year” – Nicole Bryan ahead of Tasktop Connect 2018

Wed, 11/28/2018 - 10:10

Ahead of Tasktop Connect next week (December 6th, Washington, DC) I’ve been speaking to some of the scheduled speakers to give you a flavour of what to expect from the event. In the last interview of the series, Nicole Bryan – Tasktop’s VP of Product Management – reflects on the last 12 months between the two events and the emergence of Value Stream Management.

Nicole during last year’s Connect. Photo: Robb McCormick Photography –

Hi Nicole! As a speaker at the inaugural Tasktop Connect 2017, how did you find the experience as both as a speaker and as an attendee?

What inspired me most about Connect 2017 was how personal and focused the content was. Unsurprisingly, Gene Kim gave a fabulous keynote, but what inspired me most was hearing our customers talk about their varied experiences in trying to improve their software delivery. That inspiration is really what has driven Tasktop Integration Hub for the last year in terms of what features and functionality we’ve added to support our customers’ journeys. As a speaker, I certainly appreciated an engaged and interested audience – especially since I was the last speaker and everyone was quite tired.

What were you main takeaways from last year’s event?

It was crystal clear from all of the talks that, fundamentally, Agile and DevOps is not enough. At the same time, it was not entirely clear what the missing piece was. This last 12 months has been a watershed year in the sense that the notion of Value Stream Management has emerged as that missing piece.

You’re speaking again this year. What will you be talking about and what do you hope the audience will glean from your session?

I’ll be focusing on how Tasktop Integration Hub and our roadmap has evolved and talking about how complex integration scenarios are accomplished with Hub. We want our customers to feel confident that they understand how Hub is evolving to address their core needs and enable them to use integration to implement a end-to-end value stream approach to software delivery.

With so many annual industry events serving the DevOps, Agile and IT communities, what value does Tasktop Connect offer time- and cash-strapped attendees?

In my experience, sometimes industry events just have too much good stuff to see because of a large number of attendees with diverse interests and problems. Meaning you spend a lot of time racing around between sessions, often sacrificing session X for session Y.  At Connect, we still have lots of good stuff but in one place – and more tailored towards our customers needs – enterprise integration, flow, value streams, project to product, shared experiences. Still lively and informative discussion, but at a more focused and digestible pace.

What excites you about this year’s event? Any particular topics or discussions you’re hoping to have with the Connect Community? What do you want to get out of the conference?

I’m most excited to hear more about Mik’s Flow Framework and the underpinnings of moving from Project to Product. The topic of project to product was extremely popular at DOES Vegas and London this year, and I think Connect will help give concrete ways to really move to product-thinking by implementing the Flow Framework.

Your session at DevOps Enterprise Summit 2018 in Vegas with Nationwide’s Kevin Fisher seemed like a huge success. There was only standing room by the time you started. I noticed that a lot attendees made a beeline for you immediately after the session? What did they want to know?

“How, how, how?” That was what everyone was asking – help us to know how to move to product thinking and how to do product modelling. Supporting our customers on that journey is now a huge priority for Tasktop.

During your presentation last year, you were looking to define the concept of value stream networks. How has that message evolved over the last year?

Well, as I mentioned above, I think the industry really recognizes that Agile and DevOps is not enough, and once people see that then it is really a natural progression to “well, what is needed?” And Value Stream Management, of which Value Stream Networks is a core component, really is that missing piece. Forrester’s reports on Value Stream Management (see below) have helped get the word out about this new approach to delivering software – and now the Flow Framework goes into great detail about Value Stream Networks specifically. So in terms of evolving, we’ve gone beyond theory now as there’s a clear path to realizing the vision we’ve been setting out.

Any final words to tempt people sitting on the fence about attending?

If you don’t come to Connect, you’ll miss out on all of Carmen DeArdo’s off the cuff jokes! But seriously, how often do you get three industry luminaries – Mik Kersten, Carmen DeArdo and Dominica DeGrandis – together in a very intimate environment for one day? Where you can ask them anything? And, the Newseum in DC is a terrific venue – not a boring hotel with no windows. The stage is set for a hell of an event.

Nicole in action!

DevOps Enterprise Summit 2018

Tasktop Connect 2017

Register for Tasktop Connect and our new Partner Day – 50% off registration

Register today!

Interest is high but seats are limited – register now and use code LASTCHANCE for 50% off registration.

See full agenda.

Join our Flow Framework Partner Day – December 5th

We have also seen a big spike of interest from consultants and services provides who are supporting customers on this journey, and see the Flow Framework as a key enabler. To address this, we’re running a Flow Framework Partner Day on the day prior to the conference. Those attending the partner day will benefit from our very latest materials and practices. To sign up for this exclusive opportunity, please contact Grace Smith.

Want to know more about Tasktop Connect 2018?

Mic Check: Dominica DeGrandis excited for her first Tasktop Connect

Mic Check: TIAA’s Mark Ford returns for Tasktop Connect 2018

Download Forrester reports on Value Stream Management Click image to download report Click to download report

The post Mic Check: “It’s been a watershed year” – Nicole Bryan ahead of Tasktop Connect 2018 appeared first on Tasktop Blog.

Mic Check: TIAA’s Mark Ford returns for Tasktop Connect 2018

Tue, 11/27/2018 - 09:10

We live in an amazing age of technology and online connectedness, but sometimes there’s just no real substitute for being there in person and experiencing that human connection – Mark Ford, Lead Developer, TIAA 

Ahead of Tasktop Connect next week (December 6th, Washington, DC) I’ve been speaking to some of the scheduled speakers to give you flavour of what to expect from the event. Next up is Mark Ford, Lead Developer from Fortune 100 financial services company TIAA. Mark is also Vivit Board Director/Community Chair.

Mark at last year’s Tasktop Connect, explaining how Tasktop works “like magic” for TIAA (Photo: Robb McCormick Photography –

Hi Mark! You attended and spoke last year – what was your experience of the first Tasktop Connect?

I found it to be a great investment of time. Getting out of my day-to-day environment and being immersed in the topics of Tasktop Integration Hub and Value Stream Management really helped me to focus on the concepts and step back to reassess our strategies at TIAA. Being able to meet the Tasktop Product Management team and provide input and feedback was awesome. It was also a great opportunity to speak with other Tasktop customers, sharing implementation strategies and ideas. The conference was very well organized and executed. Very impressed!

Tell us a little bit about you’re looking to speak about Tasktop Connect 2018?

I departed the Tasktop Connect 2017 conference energized to move from Tasktop Sync to Tasktop Integration Hub. The 2017 conference was perfectly timed for us as we had several new integrations we were starting to work on and I decided to launch them on Hub instead. We’ve also moved nearly all of our previous Tasktop Sync integrations over to Hub as well, so I want to share the details of our journey from Sync to Hub, what I’ve learned along the way, and share some tips to help others get more out of Hub.

What would you like the audience to get out of your session?

I would like the audience to learn a few things about Tasktop Hub that they didn’t know before.  If they haven’t yet moved from Sync to Hub, it is my hope that I could inspire them to consider making that move by hearing the benefits that we’ve been able to observe.  I look forward to some great discussions as well throughout the conference.

What do you think are the 3 main trends driving enterprise software delivery?

CI/CD, easier and more integrated form of automated testing, and lighter weight cloud-based tools. Financial institutions have been fearful of cloud but are embracing it more and more. I expect us to eventually return to the concept of a “dumb terminal” as everything will be completely in the cloud.

Why do you think people should attend Tasktop Connect?

I’m a big fan of attending conferences in person because there is so much to be gained personally and professionally when you place yourself into another environment temporarily, allowing you to really think outside the box.  At Tasktop Connect, you get to hear visions from thought leaders, future directions from Tasktop’s Product Management team, and success stories from Tasktop customers that you can take home and integrate back into your own daily life. We live in an amazing age of technology and online connectedness, but sometimes there’s just no real substitute for being there in person and experiencing that human connection.

Mark in action!

Tastkop Connect 2017

Register for Tasktop Connect and our new Partner Day – 50% off registration

Register today!

Interest is high but seats are limited – register now and use code LASTCHANCE for 50% off registration.

See full agenda.

Join our Flow Framework Partner Day – December 5th

We have also seen a big spike of interest from consultants and services provides who are supporting customers on this journey, and see the Flow Framework as a key enabler. To address this, we’re running a Flow Framework Partner Day on the day prior to the conference. Those attending the partner day will benefit from our very latest materials and practices. To sign up for this exclusive opportunity, please contact Grace Smith.

The post Mic Check: TIAA’s Mark Ford returns for Tasktop Connect 2018 appeared first on Tasktop Blog.

Mic Check: Dominica DeGrandis excited for her first Tasktop Connect

Mon, 11/26/2018 - 11:45

Ahead of Tasktop Connect next week (6th December Washington, DC) I’ve been speaking to some of the scheduled speakers to give you flavour of what to expect from the event. Next up is Making Work Visible author, Dominica DeGrandis, who joined Tasktop last September as the company’s Director of Digital Transformation.

Hi Dominica! Thanks for taking the time to chat. What were the key factors that led to you joining our company?

So many things to love about Tasktop. Outside of the people, the culture, and the leadership strategy, I love how Tasktop works to fix communication debt. All my career I’ve worked at the boundary between different teams – between Dev and Test, Engineering and Ops, Product and Marketing. If there’s an intersection point between teams, I’ve been there. It’s these handoffs of work that create problems with siloes and fragmentation and delay in the flow of work. This is one of the main reasons that attracted me to Tasktop – they are taking on communication debt and I’m thrilled to contribute towards the effort.

It’s your first Tasktop Connect – what are you looking forward to?

I’m looking forward to meeting leaders at large enterprise IT orgs who are winning by focusing on systems thinking and optimizing their value streams with a focus on flow. Very excited to talk attendees through our Value Stream Canvas Exercise and get some welcome feedback. The exercise provides a practical learning experience for how teams can start applying concepts from the Flow Framework, as captured in Project to Product.

Your presentation and Lean Coffees sessions at DevOps Enterprise Summit last month were a huge hit! What did you learn from your experience at the event?

Yes – standing room only around the Lean Coffee tables! Biggest takeaway for me was hearing people describe how they struggle with organizational structure and process. For example, lots of “a-ha!” moments occurred during discussion around problems related to “bringing people to the work” versus “bringing work to the people”. Operations teams can get “brought to the work” when projects are thrown over the wall to them to maintain. Bringing Product teams to the work ensures the same group of people with the expert domain knowledge are consistently involved in the product’s lifecycle. They stick around to deliver those changes to production. They care. They are invested. Managing work by product versus project certainly turned some heads during these sessions – and we hope it will at Tasktop Connect too.

You’re speaking at the event. What will you be talking about and what do you hope the audience will glean from your session?

I will be talking about making connections visible to defrag your value stream. I will help attendees to reduce communication debt by focusing on handoffs between teams. Often, details get lost in email (or a messaging tool), which impacts communication, collaboration and delays delivery. For example, when Dev works in Jira, and Ops works in an ITSM tool, how can they see possible impacts to each others’ work to avoid miscommunication? Synchronized handoffs help teams become aware of mutually critical information and reduce delays. “Things take too long” is a problem that all companies grumble about, especially in large enterprise IT. Across my session and everything else that Connect has in store, we will help attendees to solve this issue and more.

Dominica in action!

DevOps Enterprise Summit 2018, Las Vegas

Register for Tasktop Connect and our new Partner Day – 50% off

Register today!

Interest is high but seats are limited – register now and use code DOMINICA for 50% off registration.

Join our Flow Framework Partner Day – December 5th

We have also seen a big spike of interest from consultants and services provides who are supporting customers on this journey, and see the Flow Framework as a key enabler. To address this, we are adding a Flow Framework Partner Day on the day prior to the conference. Those attending the partner day will benefit from our very latest materials and practices. To sign up for this exclusive opportunity, please contact Grace Smith.

Want to know more about Tasktop Connect 2018?

Mic Check: Carmen DeArdo ready for Tasktop Connect 2018

The post Mic Check: Dominica DeGrandis excited for her first Tasktop Connect appeared first on Tasktop Blog.

Tasktop recognized for “Advancing Technology & Innovation” in the BC Export Awards 2018

Fri, 11/23/2018 - 11:17

Surrounded by an impressive collection of innovative BC businesses, yesterday the Tasktop team was proud to attend the Business in Vancouver BC Export Awards as a finalist within the ‘Advancing Technology & Innovation’ category.

The prestigious BC Export Awards recognizes and celebrates the innovative approaches and unique contributions of BC registered export companies, and the individuals who contribute to their success, across all sectors and from all regions of the province.

The last 12 months have been a very exciting time for Tasktop, with plenty to celebrate. Not only has the company seen a 95 percent subscription growth over the past year, with global staffing expanding by 23 percent, Tasktop has also seen a 25 percent increase in new customer brands. Almost 500 organizations across many different sectors became new customers the past year, and we are proud to be working with 43 of the Fortune 100.

According to Neelan Choksi, Tasktop President and COO, “Our Tasktop Integration Hub has taken the market by storm, proving invaluable to the industry in integrating the software delivery toolchain at scale, reducing integration setup by 75 percent and maintenance overhead by 90 percent, thanks to Tasktop’s innovative model-based integration. As a result, we’ve seen dramatic revenue increases and have subsequently invested further in products, employees and our customers.”

Tasktop also welcomed three major thought-leaders within the industry: Dominica Degrandis as Director of Digital Transformation; Carmen DeArdo as Senior Strategist to head up our Value Stream Management consulting practice; and Tim Beditz, Vice President of Operations.

In addition to this, in August 2018, the new Forrester New Wave report cited Tasktop as a strong performer in Value Stream Management, an achievement that was music to our ears, and further cemented the need for complete visibility into how work and value flows across the software delivery value stream.

Not to mention the launch of Tasktop’s CEO, Mik Kersten’s, new book Project to Product, which was released to the world this week. The book introduces a new new conceptual and concrete framework – the Flow Framework – to help organizations better manage, support and deliver software at scale to accelerate the success of their digital transformations.

Tasktop looks forward to the next 12 months, which includes the second annual Tasktop Connect, an event taking place in December 2018 that will bring together the entire community for an inspirational and thought-provoking two days.

4 weeks until Tasktop Connect 2018 – Top 10 Reasons to Attend

The post Tasktop recognized for “Advancing Technology & Innovation” in the BC Export Awards 2018 appeared first on Tasktop Blog.

Project to Product arrives to help your business survive and thrive in The Digital Age

Thu, 11/22/2018 - 11:04

“This is going to be an incredible and kick-butt book for every DevOps leader…guaranteed to be in every MBA curriculum in 10 years.” —Gene Kim, co-author The Phoenix Project, The DevOps Handbook

The wait is over – Project To Product and the Flow Framework is finally here! Following the exciting pre-launch of our CEO and co-founder Dr. Mik Kersten’s book at DevOps Enterprise Summit in Las Vegas last month, the official launch took place at Tasktop HQ in Vancouver on Tuesday night. There was sparkling wine, a magnificent cake – and an exuberant Mik! And there was certainly cause for celebration – the book was number four bestseller in “Business Management” and number one for Kindle in “Production and Operations” on Amazon as the day came to a close.

Project To Product author and Tasktop CEO and co-founder, Mik Kersten, was in a celebratory mood A new movement: Project to Product

Project to Product arrives at a crucial time in the Age of Software. As startups disrupt every market and tech giants continue to pull further ahead of entrenched businesses, the majority of traditional enterprises are facing an existential crisis. Either they quickly become much better at software delivery and extract more business value from IT, or they risk becoming a digital relic.

Project To Product: From Stories To Scenius

In the age of digital disruption, survival is dependent on an organization’s ability to deliver software products and digital experiences. This doesn’t just mean delivering software faster – it’s about continuously delivering software that is reliable, predictable, flexible and, crucially, tied to business outcomes. And, last but least, it’s about ensuring that the people who help plan, build and deliver the software are empowered and motivated.

“My goal for Project to Product is to provide a common language and framework that helps us meet Gene Kim’s goal of elevating our impact to improve the happiness and productivity of 40 million IT workers worldwide.” Mik Kersten, CEO and co-founder of Tasktop, author of Project to Product

With a deeper cross-organizational understanding of software’s value and role in helping the business to transform and thrive in the Age of Software, organizations can begin to address the chasm between IT and the business. By adopting product-centric thinking and focusing on how business value flows from customer request to operation, IT can transition from an outdated “cost model” to a profit centre. In other words, IT can become the heartbeat of the business in the same way that has enabled tech giants like Amazon and co to become market disruptors and leaders.

The Turning Point

Project to Product kicks off by outlining where we are in the current technology revolution. “Each technological revolution has required existing businesses to master a new means of production, such as steam or the assembly line” Mik expounds. “For the digital revolution, the means of production is software.”

Citing Carlota Perez’s Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital, Mik outlines the two key distinct periods in each revolutionary cycle. First is the Installation Period, where new tech and financial capital combine to create a “Cambrian explosion of startups” that disrupt entire industries from a previous age. The second half is the Deployment Period, where “the production capital of new industrial giants starts taking over.”

Between these two periods is what Perez calls “the Turning Point” – where businesses either master the new means of production, or they will be left behind. Project to Product has arrived at just the right time in the Turning Point, providing readers with a new framework – the Flow Framework– to master the means of production of this age. It provides a common language and framework for business leaders and technologists to work together to achieve long-term business strategies.

For more on genesis of the book, be sure to check out Mik’s Project to Product series of articles and sign up to book’s newsletter for more insights and optimization opportunities for your business.

The Flow Framework

The Flow Framework, created by Mik Kersten, CEO of Tasktop, is designed to work at the largest of organizational scales and to support stringent regulatory requirements where needed. Even the most traditional, complex, or safety-critical organizations can apply the concepts to drive software innovation at the right pace for their business. The Value Stream Metrics you can derive from this framework allow organizations to track the flow of business value in software delivery, in a way that both the software delivery organization and the business can understand. They correlate the investment in flow for each product’s value stream with the business results for that value stream.

The social mission of Project to Product

Social Mission of Project to Product

Grab your copy today and begin your journey from Project to Product Click image to order a copy of the book.

The book is available now in print, for Kindle and audio.

Reaction to Project to Product

Project to Product, a breakthrough book from @mik_kersten , is now available along with a companion guide I had the pleasure of working on with Mik and @dominicad . #ProductToProduct #vsm #Devops #lean

— Carmen DeArdo (@carmendeardo) November 21, 2018

Wow, has hit #1 Best Seller on the Kindle store in the Production & Operations on its first day! Thank you all for your support! I think I may just go and either celebrate or collapse now…

— Mik Kersten (@mik_kersten) November 20, 2018

Excited to start reading “Project to Product” by @mik_kersten. If other @ITRevBooks are to go by, it will be excellent!

— Jon Vines (@_jonvines) November 20, 2018

This is one of my favorites books that I’ve read this decade.

Congrats to @mik_kersten on completing this book that I think is incredibly important to our profession: “Project to Product”

Now available!!!

— Gene Kim (@RealGeneKim) November 20, 2018

Reading an excerpt of Project to Product by @mik_kersten from a colleague at #DOES18 Riveting. Comes out Tuesday. Seriously, peeps at large companies need to read this. Align your measures to what matters to business. Look @ whole value stream #noprojects #productpeople

— Em from Cleveland (@EmFromCleveland) November 18, 2018

Starting reading Project to Product by @mik_kersten. Definitely recommend this book if you’re trying to survive this Age of Software or bring a new startup life into it.

— Ahmed Mustafa (@Ahkunamutata) November 19, 2018

Loved #ProjectToProduct by @mik_kersten. If you haven’t read it you should. Focus on flow and learn how your work contributes to the business.

— Low Gravity DevOps (@LowGravDevOps) November 21, 2018

Learn more about the creation of Project to Product and the Flow Framework

Meet the author at Tasktop Connect 2018 Photo: Robb McCormick Photography –

To learn more about how to apply the teachings of Project to Product and getting under the hood of the Flow Framework, join us at Tasktop Connect next month (6th December, Washington, DC). Not only can you meet and hear from Mik,  you will learn, from industry leaders, ways to achieve end-to-end visibility and traceability across your software development and delivery value stream. You will also find out how the Flow Framework will enable your company’s evolution from project-oriented dinosaur to product-centric innovator that thrives in the Age of Software

Interest is high – to avoid missing out, register today using code NOVEMBER for 30% off registration! Check out the day’s agenda.

The post Project to Product arrives to help your business survive and thrive in The Digital Age appeared first on Tasktop Blog.

Project To Product: From Stories To Scenius

Wed, 11/21/2018 - 09:23

This blog was originally posted on the IT Revolution blog on November 19, 2018.

We learn through stories—either through our own or through those passed on by others that we admire. When I first read The Phoenix Project, I was amazed at how much technological wisdom could be passed on in story form. That story, perhaps more than any other, motivated people to find a new perspective on the current problems that plague enterprise IT, and to seek a better way.

I saw the publication of The Phoenix Project as a flare shot high into the sky, and those who took enough time to look up see knew that it meant they had to act. I didn’t fully understand the direction of the flare until I heard Gene Kim state, on the main stage of DevOps Enterprise Summit 2016 in San Francisco, that we had both the imperative and the ability to improve the lives of one million software practitioners worldwide.

Like many others who saw the flare, I was motivated. And I realized then that I had learned something unique in my work with open source and with Fortune 500 organizations. It was those learnings that I wanted to contribute to the community. With this inspiration in mind, I approached Gene at the CA World conference a couple of weeks later. Gracious as always, he took the time to sit with me at the back of the exhibit hall and hear out my perspective even though we didn’t know each other.

I showed him some prototype visualizations that I had created to illustrate the effect that value streams have on software architecture over months and years. We then started geeking out on how programming language constructs defined software architecture, and how different languages could result in very different future value stream flows. For example, languages that had stronger type checking could mean much more work and many more conversations required to add a feature than a dynamic language. We even quipped that a new metric, called the “lunch factor” was needed to determine how tangled an architecture was, as measured by the number of people you needed to take out to lunch in order to make a change. This was where we found our mutual fascination in the intersection of programming, architecture, and software delivery value streams.

At the end of that conversation I got excited enough that I told Gene I wanted to document the various value stream integration patterns I had witnessed in organizations that were able to break the mold. I shared with him that one of the most influential books in my career as a developer was Design Patterns by Erich Gamma et al. I wanted to create a similarly simple catalog of all the integration patterns that I had encountered, and give each a small story on how it could help support the Three Ways of DevOps—flow, feedback, and continual learning. Gene was positive about the idea and encouraged me to write a skeleton book proposal. When he read it, he emailed the IT Revolution Press editor, CC’ing me, and put the following line in his email.

“This is going to be an incredible and kick-butt book for every DevOps leader…guaranteed to be in every MBA curriculum in 10 years.” —Gene Kim, 2016

At that point, I was sure that Gene had misunderstood what I was planning on writing. I was intending to write a patterns catalog with a few stories embedded, not a proper book. I deliberated whether I should point this out to him or not, but instead chose to play out the scenario where Gene had heard what I said and just interpreted it very differently than me. I went on to better understand his perspective by reading almost all the books from IT Revolution Press. At that point I realized I wanted to do everything I could to contribute to the scenius that Gene helped foster.

Scenius stands for the intelligence and the intuition of a whole cultural scene. It is the communal form of the concept of the genius.” —Brian Eno

At this year’s DevOps Enterprise Summit (DOES) Las Vegas conference, Gene introduced the concept of scenius to the audience. IT Revolution Press have done an amazing thing by nurturing and publishing books that have become the milestones on the journey of our scenius. I am honored to have been given the opportunity to try and produce one more of those milestones. In that process, I have learned just how open, far reaching, and fast moving the scenius that Gene willed into being through the DevOps Enterprise community is. For example, I have seen individual comments and tweets make it into multiple plenary talks in a matter of days. In other words, speakers not only pay attention to other scenius members, they also incorporate the broader communities’ insights into their talks. A new experience, report, or idea can influence the thinking of the entire community as soon as it is blogged. We are working in such a frenzied time that our collective ability to learn is what will direct our community, as well as the success of our organizations.

At DOES, Gene stated that it’s no longer about the 1 million software practitioners. It is now about the approximately 40 million people involved in an ever-growing number of specializations across all software value streams. For us to work and collaborate effectively, we need a common language. We can no longer have the jargon of one discipline muddy communication with another. We need to make the Three Ways of DevOps span all the way from a support ticket to the boardroom. My goal for Project to Product is to add to our scenius a common language and framework that helps us meet Gene’s goal of elevating our impact to improve the happiness and productivity of 40 million IT workers worldwide.

While I took Gene’s “MBA curriculum” goal as a lofty and aspirational one, I’m happy to note that in spite of not being released yet, Project to Product is in now ranking in the top 20 new releases for textbooks under the “Business & Finance>Management” category on Amazon.

While I am pretty sure that it is not a textbook, I am hopeful that it will help us as a stepping stone on this journey. If you find it inspirational, please remember that what matters most is how you contribute to the scenius, whether publicly or through the influence that you make on your team or in your organization. IT Revolution is providing us with the playbooks. I hope that Project to Product provides you with a whole new play to maximize your impact in 2019 and beyond.

Click image to pre-order a copy!

Sign up to the Product To Project newsletter

This is the seventh blog in a series promoting the genesis of my book Project To ProductIf you missed the first six blogs, click here. And to ensure you don’t miss any further blogs, you can receive future articles and other insights delivered directly to your inbox by signing up to the Project To Product newsletter.

The post Project To Product: From Stories To Scenius appeared first on Tasktop Blog.

Social Mission of Project to Product

Fri, 11/16/2018 - 09:18

The back cover of the Project to Product book states that: “All author royalties will be donated to the P2P scholarship and not-for-profit organizations supporting diversity, women, and minorities in technology”.  This post provides a short summary into why I decided to do this, and why I think this mission is important and aligned with the vision of the book.

The goal of Project to Product is to help organizations survive and thrive in the age of digital disruption.  The mastery of software delivery at scale is so unevenly distributed that the majority of the world’s economy and wealth will be concentrated in the hands of a small number of tech giants if things don’t change.  While the model in the book predicts that the rise of the giants will continue, it also offers hope to the other organizations that still form 80 percent of the world economy.

We need a much broader set of organizations to drive competition, fuel innovation, and better support our social and economic systems.  The tech giants don’t need any help mastering software delivery, they already have, and the only interesting question is what markets will they disrupt next.  Project to Product is intended for every other IT and business leader wanting to help their company thrive, and spread the wealth generated in the Age of Software to go beyond a small handful of tech giants towards fueling a much more diverse and healthy economy.

An accelerating shift of the means of production and wealth creation to software is the key implication of the book.  As predicted by Carlota Perez in 2002, and very evident today, social systems and regulations will only now start to slowly catch up to the way that technology has changed our economy and our lives.  As such, the decisions made by companies who thrive through the creative destruction brought about by the Age of Software will have a major impact on our society.

I come from an academic background, and had the opportunity to spend a decade working with researchers across the globe.  I then spent the following decade working with enterprise IT leaders across the globe.  And I noticed a stark difference.  In academic and research circles I took diversity for granted.  While we still have a long way to go, in my own experience, women and minorities were represented in debates, workshops and brainstorming sessions.  I didn’t appreciate how important this was until I attended dozens of meetings with senior IT leaders where the only attendees were white middle aged males.

Outside of some small improvements at tech companies, I can’t say I’ve seen much of a change since I left academia a decade ago.  Just this past summer, I sat in on a meeting with over 30 IT leaders who rolled up to a global IT executive.  All attendees were completely uniform demographic except for a single woman, who was clearly practiced at interrupting with very precise timing in order to break through the groupthink that was happening in the room.

The middle men, much as I respected a lot of what they were saying, were simply piling on.  That scene made the problem very vivid for me.  It’s not that the white men weren’t brilliant, many of them were.  It’s that too much of the same perspective generates too little new information.  A key problem is that this kind of lack of diversity causes an unhealthy amount of groupthink and fuels any tyrannies of a single dominant view or perspective that may exist.

In order to solve difficult problems, we need the different points of view, perspectives and communication styles that make for better problem solving.  The more gender, socio-economic and ethnic diversity we get into tech, the better the ideas and solutions we will discover.  I have two young daughters, and I would prefer they grown up in a world where decisions about technology and AI are made by diverse teams instead of uniform groups of men of a single socio-economic status.

At Tasktop, we have been trying to lead by example, with our long standing core value around “diversity in thought” and support of programs for women and socio-economic diversity in tech.  But that’s only a drop in the bucket. To help the bigger cause, all of my author proceeds from the Project to Product book will go towards helping support the brilliant minds of people who are underrepresented in technology delivery and leadership. With initiatives of this sort, I hope that our community can help change the status quo, generate more inspiring ideas and conversations, and help our organizations create both the business and the social results that the Age of Software is poised to deliver.

The book is out next week (November 20th) – you can pre-order your copy now by clicking on the front cover below:

Click image to pre-order a copy of the book. Women In Tech

Bridging the STEM Gender Divide: One High Schooler at a Time

What I took away from Women In Product: Austin 2018

The post Social Mission of Project to Product appeared first on Tasktop Blog.

Tasktop Connect 2018: A word from our speakers…Carmen DeArdo

Thu, 11/15/2018 - 09:37

It provides a one-day experience that mimics what one could learn at a larger conference but at a fraction of the time and cost – Carmen DeArdo, Senior Value Stream Strategist, Tasktop

Ahead of Tasktop Connect next month, I sat down with some of the scheduled speakers to give you flavour of what to expect from the event. First up is Carmen DeArdo, who spoke as a customer last year at our inaugural event as Technology Director of Nationwide. He returns this year as a Tasktopian as a our Senior Value Stream Strategist. 

Carmen talking through Nationwide’s journey to accelerate delivery via continuous delivery (Photo: Robb McCormick Photography –

Hi Carmen, tell us a little about your role at Tasktop? You came out of retirement right? What persuaded you to postpone a life on the beach sipping cocktails?

Yes, my retirement didn’t last too long! Actually after my previous role, I was looking for a way to help other enterprises. I had met Mik at previous DevOps Enterprise Summit, and as a customer I had been able to see and appreciate his vision and what Tasktop could provide. This attracted me to want to work with Mik and help to realize his vision around the Flow Framework.

As a speaker at the inaugural Tasktop Connect last year, what attracted you to speak at a vendor event?

I always loved attending the DOES conferences because of the ability to exchange ideas and learn from others. The Connect conference last year presented the same type of opportunity, as well as time to hear from other customers from all sorts of industries – such as Macy’s, McKeeson, Lockheed Martin, TIAA, Bank of America, US Bank and many more – about what they are doing so that we could all learn and improve from each other.

What were you three main takeaways from last year’s event? What did you learn that you could apply to your former company Nationwide?

The conference last year was fantastic because I got to hear from experts like Mik and Nicole Bryan about not only Tasktop, but key insights into how companies are attempting to address key issues like how to better serve the business through IT. This includes how better to integrate and model our value stream to increase flow, and how other customers are utilizing Tasktop as part of their journeys to be more responsive to their business. There were also plenty of insights on how the Value Stream Architecture models that Tasktop produces can be used to help influence the culture at my company. This helped my colleagues and I to better understand the importance of modeling our value stream.

With so many annual industry events serving the DevOps, Agile and IT communities, what value does Tasktop Connect offer time and cash-strapped attendees?

It provides a one-day experience that mimics what one could learn at a larger conference but at a fraction of the time and cost. This is the type of conference where every session has key information that can be applied to the journey that you and your company are on to continuously improve.  

What excites you about this year’s event? Any particular topics or discussions you’re hoping to have with the Connect Community?

As a member of Tasktop, I am excited about listening to customers and learning what is working for them and how we can better serve them. I also think that with Mik’s upcoming Project to Product book and the Flow Framework, we have a lot of exciting material to share with folks and get feedback on. And as always, it’s great to be treated by talks from our very own Dominica DeGrandis and Nicole Bryan!

During your presentation last year, you said “Take control of your value stream, or your value stream will control you!” How has that message evolved over the last year?

I think that message plays well into what I am starting to do in my role at Tasktop as Senior Value Stream Strategist. I want to work with customers to better visualize, connect and measure their flow across key value streams. I think the message of making connections visible to understand where work is flowing and more importantly, where it isn’t, is key to driving improvements. Also I believe as Mik discusses in his book, we are approaching a Turning Point where companies need to move to a product model to stay successful and I look forward to seeing how I can help customers on this journey.

You’re speaking again this year. What will you be talking about and what do you hope the audience will glean from your session?

I have the pleasure of teaming up with Mik on a some sessions which will explain what the Flow Framework is, provide some guidance on how companies can start to apply it, and the application of the metrics that are produced to drive improvements. I hope this helps attendees in their understanding of the Flow Framework concepts and “make it come alive” and actionable.

Any final words for people sitting on the fence?

I would simply encourage folks to join us in DC because I know that we can all learn from each other and help improve the way our companies can better serve our businesses and customers.

Carmen in action!

Tasktop Connect 2017

DevOps Enterprise Summit 2018, Las Vegas

Register for Tasktop Connect and our new Partner Day

Register today!

Interest is high – to avoid disappointment, register now and use code NOVEMBER for 30% off registration.

Join our Flow Framework Partner Day – December 5th

We have also seen a big spike of interest from consultants and services provides who are supporting customers on this journey, and see the Flow Framework as a key enabler. To address this, we are adding a Flow Framework Partner Day on the day prior to the conference. Those attending the partner day will benefit from our very latest materials and practices. To sign up for this exclusive opportunity, please contact Grace Smith.

Want to know more about Tasktop Connect 2018?

Tasktop Connect 2018: Tools for the Turning Point

4 weeks until Tasktop Connect 2018 – Top 10 Reasons to Attend

The post Tasktop Connect 2018: A word from our speakers…Carmen DeArdo appeared first on Tasktop Blog.

Tasktop Partner Day 2018: Hear from industry thought leaders on the Flow Framework™ and latest Partner opportunities

Tue, 11/13/2018 - 09:42

Ahead of Tasktop Connect 2018 next month (December 6th, Washington, DC), we are introducing a Partner Day ahead of the event. Taking place at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill on December 5th, this opportunity is reserved exclusively for our much-valued partner community.

What to expect from Partner Day?

Partners who have registered for Tasktop Connect will automatically gain admittance to our Partner Day. Attendees will hear from industry thought leaders alongside Tasktop CEO and co-founder, Dr. Mik Kersten, on how to leverage the Flow Framework – a pioneering new approach that spans the language of the business with the language of technology and enables the transition from project to product.

The Partner Day includes:

  • The latest on Tasktop’s new Flow Framework Partner Program, designed to help partners take advantage of the concepts from the Project to Product book
  • Comprehensive overview of Tasktop’s approach to Value Stream Management
  • Unveiling of new Integration Pattern resources to help you communicate the value of integration for common cross-team collaboration scenarios
  • Information about training resources and materials available to Tasktop partners

Our aim is to enable our partners to help customer innovators and visionaries with the conceptual tools for finding flow, in addition to the technical tools needed to implement it. By attending our Partner Day, you can become part of the Project to Product movement that is changing the way enterprises deliver software and extract more business value from IT.

For further information and/or to confirm your attendance to the Partner Day, please contact me. We look forward to you joining us on this enlightening journey.

Want to know more about Tasktop Connect?

Tasktop Connect 2018: Tools for the Turning Point

4 weeks until Tasktop Connect 2018 – Top 10 Reasons to Attend

The post Tasktop Partner Day 2018: Hear from industry thought leaders on the Flow Framework™ and latest Partner opportunities appeared first on Tasktop Blog.

Project to Product: What Flows through a Software Value Stream?

Fri, 11/09/2018 - 08:00

Throughout this series of articles I’ve explored how we need to bring the same rigour to architecting our software delivery value streams as what we’re witnessing in advanced manufacturing plants. Once we agree on what flows, we can analyze those flows to identify bottlenecks and opportunities to remove them. However, every time I’ve asked an executive-level IT leader where his or her bottleneck is, I’ve received either a blank stare or a vague answer, from otherwise extremely capable people.

To look for a bottleneck in a production system, we must first understand what flows through that system. We’ve seen many measures of software delivery flow proposed and analyzed, including lines of code (LOC), function points, work items, story points, deployments, and releases.1 Each captures a notion of value flow from a different perspective, but each has its limitations, especially when you consider the end-to-end flow of business value through a delivery pipeline. If my experience talking to IT leaders is a guide, from a business perspective, we simply don’t have enough consensus on this core question of what flows through a software value stream. Yet this should be the most fundamental question to answer if we are to apply lean principles to software delivery.

That lack of agreement means that the vast majority of enterprise IT organizations don’t have a well-defined productivity measure for what flows through their software production process. Contrast that with the automotive industry, where the number of cars produced is a clear measure of automotive value streams. Another measure is lifecycle profits, which Donald Reinertsen proposed in his seminal book The Principles of Product Development Flow.2 Reinertsen warned of proxy metrics for value and productivity. Measures such as LOC and the number of deployments per day fall into that category because they’re proxies for value delivered to the software consumer, not direct representations of that value. For example, a one-line code change could deliver as much value as a 1,000-line code change. But without a clear agreement on what’s flowing and what the units of production are, we’re far from delivering on anything like the lifecycle profits measurement that Reinertsen suggested.

Business leaders know productivity when they see it—for example, through products that drive market adoption or revenue results faster than others. But correlating development activities to those results has been more of an opaque art than a disciplined activity. To define productivity in a value stream, and where the bottleneck lies, we must first define what flows.

The Four Flow Items

To define the flow, we can go back to the first principles of lean thinking that drove improvement in mass production.3 Lean thinking first considers not what we produce, but what value the customer pulls. If we think back to the early days of software, with companies stamping out installation CDs in shrink-wrapped boxes, we can try to draw an analogy to car production and define that what software produces is boxes, and perhaps stretch that analogy to releases in the modern world of DevOps. But that analogy was weak then and is further rendered irrelevant in the age of cloud computing and software as a service, where releases are so frequent and automatic that they’re becoming invisible to the user. If customers aren’t pulling releases, what units of value are they pulling?

To pull value, customers must be able to see that value and be willing to exchange something for it. They might exchange money, or, in the case of a product with indirect and ad-based monetization such as a social media tool, they might exchange the time engaged with the product. Consider the last time you derived new value from a product or went back to using a product you hadn’t been using for a while. What triggered that exchange of value in terms of spending your time or money? Chances are it was a new feature that met your needs or delighted you in some way. Or, perhaps it was a fix of a defect that prevented you from using a product you had otherwise valued. And here lies the key to defining what flows through a software value stream. If what customers are pulling are new features and defect fixes, those must form part of that flow.

If we consider feature additions and defect fixes as the units of production—that is, the flow items—we can characterize work across all the people and teams in a value stream as applying to one of these units. Given full visibility into every process and tool in an organization, we could identify exactly how many designers, developers, managers, testers, and help desk professionals were involved in creating, deploying, and supporting a particular feature. The same goes for a defect fix. But is this the only work that’s being done in the value streams?

In an analysis of 308 toolchains, my colleagues and I identified two other kinds of work that are invisible to users and are pulled through the value stream by a different kind of stakeholder.4 First, there’s work on risks. This includes the security, regulatory, and compliance work that must be defined by business analysts, scheduled onto development back-logs, implemented, tested, deployed, and maintained. This work competes for priority against features and defects. It isn’t pulled by the customer because the customer usually can’t see it until it’s too late—for example, a security incident that leads to a number of security defects being fixed and security features being added. Instead, this work is pulled internally by the organization—for example, by the chief risk officer and his or her team.

The fourth type of work we observed is debt reduction. The concept of technical debt was introduced by Ward Cunningham5 and describes the need to perform work on the software and infrastructure code base that, if not done, will result in the reduced ability to modify or maintain that code in the future. For example, a focus on feature delivery can result in a large accumulation of technical debt. Scaling an operational environment without sufficient automation can result in infrastructure debt. If work isn’t done to reduce that debt, it could impede the future ability to deliver features—for example, by making the software architecture too tangled to innovate on. This work tends to be pulled by software architects.

Table 1 summarizes the four flow items.

In analyzing the 308 toolchains, we found a large variety of types of work items that were defined in an agile, an Application Lifecycle Management, or a DevOps tool. Each corresponded to work being delivered. Some organizations used detailed agile taxonomies. The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) offers one such taxonomy that provides fine-grained distinctions between the types of work flowing through a value stream.6 Other organizations used more ad hoc approaches, creating their own classifications of work items such as requirements and defects. In some cases, these approaches resulted in dozens of defect types.

No matter what the approach was, when we looked at it through the lens of customer pull, we could classify all types of work into the four flow items in Table 1. These flow items follow the MECE principle: they’re mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive. In other words, all work that flows through a software value stream is characterized by one, and only one, of the flow items.

Other Views of Software Delivery

Other characterizations of software delivery work exist, such as Philippe Kruchten and his colleagues’ positive/negative versus visible/invisible quadrant7 (see Figure 1) and the characterizations described in The DevOps Handbook.8 Such characterizations can be useful for identifying types of development work. For example, the ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) process defines important differences between problems, incidents, and changes.

FIGURE 1. Philippe Kruchten and his colleagues’ depiction of tasks related to improving software.10

H1owever, these characterizations are a layer down from the flow items in that they’re more delivery specific and less customer and value stream specific. As such, we believe they’re more useful for characterizing the artifact types being worked on in the delivery of the flow items. For example, in SAFe terminology, the term for architectural work is enablers. This work can be done to support a new feature, fix a defect, reduce technical debt, or address a risk by providing the infrastructure needed to support compliance. We’ve observed such architecture work items flowing under several of the flow items I described.

Although that layer directly below the flow items is critical, from the customer and business stakeholder viewpoint, the delivery of the flow items is what determines whether something flowed through the value stream. How that was done, and whether it was done by adding new APIs or simply by creating additions to the UI, is just an implementation detail from this high-level viewpoint.

We’re continuing to analyze every toolchain we receive to determine whether other top-level types of work exist. But to date, all the work item types we’ve analyzed can be mapped to these four flow items. We believe they’re a useful abstraction for analyzing flow through software value streams and that studying software delivery through the lens that these flow items provide could yield interesting results. Because these flow items provide a different, more business- and customer-centric look at what flows through software value streams, we hope they result in further debate and discussion and help lead us to a productivity model that’s based on the value delivered to the customer rather than on proxies for the work that was done.

For more on how work flows through your software value stream, see the full learnings summarized in Project to Product by clicking on the front cover below:

Click image to pre-order a copy!

Sign up to the Product To Project newsletter

This is the sixth blog in a series promoting the genesis of my book Project To Product. If you missed the first five blogs, click here. And to ensure you don’t miss any further blogs, you can receive future articles and other insights delivered directly to your inbox by signing up to the Project To Product newsletter.


  1. A.N. Meyer et al., “Software Developers’ Perceptions of Productivity,” Proc. 22nd ACM SIGSOFT Int’l Symp. Foundations of Software Eng. (FSE 14), 2014, pp. 19–29.
  2. D. Reinertsen, The Principles of Product Development Flow: Second Generation Lean Product Development, Celeritas, 2009.
  3. J.P. Womak and D.T. Jones, Lean Thinking: Banish Waste and Create Wealth in Your Corporation, 2nd ed., Free Press, 2003.
  4. M. Kersten, “Mining the Ground Truth of Enterprise Toolchains,” IEEE Software, vol. 35, no. 3, 2018, pp. 12–17.
  5. W. Cunningham, “The WyCash Portfolio Management System,” Proc. 1992 Conf. Object-Oriented Programming Systems, Languages, and Applications (OOPSLA 92), 1992;
  6. D. Leffingwell et al., SAFe 4.0 Reference Guide: Scaled Agile Framework for Lean Software and Systems Engineering, Addison-Wesley Professional, 2016.
  7. P. Kruchten, R.L. Nord, and I. Ozkaya, “Technical Debt: From Metaphor to Theory and Practice,” IEEE Software, vol. 29, no. 6, pp. 18–21.
  8. G. Kim et al., The DevOps Handbook: How to Create World-Class Agility, Reliability, and Security in Technology Organizations, IT Revolution Press, 2016.
  9. K. Karu, ITIL and DevOps: Getting Started, white paper, Axelos, 2017;
  10. P. Kruchten, “Agility and Architecture or: What Colour Is Your Backlog?,” presentation at Agile New England, 2011;

A version of this article was originally published in the July 2018 issue of IEEE Software: M. Kersten, “What flows through the software value stream,”  IEEE Software, vol. 35, no. 4, pp. 8-11, ©2018 IEEE doi: 10.1109/MS.2018.2801538 – Original article

The post Project to Product: What Flows through a Software Value Stream? appeared first on Tasktop Blog.

4 weeks until Tasktop Connect 2018 – Top 10 Reasons to Attend

Thu, 11/08/2018 - 12:57

It was great to hear from visionaries, practitioners, and enterprise IT leaders who are using Tasktop to help bridge the data divide that exists in the tool landscape. It was exciting to hear the vision of where Tasktop hopes to evolve their product offering to expose the flow of work in software development shops to improve the rapid delivery of high value software.” – Jon Harding, Executive Product Manager, Bank of America

We’re one week into November, which means that there’s two important US holidays approaching fast – Thanksgiving and Tasktop Connect 2018 (not an official US holiday but we’re celebrating as if it is!).

While I’m personally still digesting my Thanksgiving dinner from last year, I wanted to take some time to help you digest what’s in store for this year’s event (December 6, Washington, DC). In no particular order, here are the top 10 reasons you should attend. 

1. Join the Project to Product movement

Tasktop CEO and co-founder, Dr. Mik Kersten, finally unveiled his eagerly-anticipated book Project To Product to the world in Las Vegas during his keynote, Project To Product: How Value Stream Networks will Transform IT and Business. In the book, Mik introduces the Flow Framework – a new pioneering new approach to see, measure, and manage software delivery to extract more business value from IT. Tasktop Connect attendees will not only receive a copy of Project To Product, but also receive exclusive access to sessions on how to start the Flow Framework and enable the transition towards a product mindset and execution.

As an admirer of Dr. Mik Kersten’s decade long history of contributions to our field, it was a genuine pleasure to participate in Tasktop’s first customer conference. Now more than ever, we need software architectures to enable fast flow through our value streams.” – Gene Kim, co-author of The DevOps Handbook, The Phoenix Project

2. Deep drive in the Flow Framework

The event will feature a three-session deep dive into the Flow Framework led by its creator Dr. Mik Kersten as well as Dominica DeGrandis (Tasktop Director of Digital Transformation), and Carmen DeArdo (Senior Value Stream Strategist). In the morning, attendees will break down the framework and develop and understanding of what’s required to get started. Following lunch, you’ll learn how to apply the core concepts of the framework to product value streams that exist within your organization today. In the afternoon, attendees will gain a deeper understanding of Flow Metrics, how they can be obtained and applied to make better decisions to optimize business value. View the full agenda.

The first Tasktop Connect was amazing. Mik’s vision on ‘Value Stream Networks’, and the direction Tasktop is going in, will enable to customers gain more visibility and insights into their bottlenecks. This will revolutionize how enterprises build architecture and optimize their capability to deliver business value to their customers faster.” – Carmen DeArdo, Senior Value Stream Strategist, Tasktop (formerly Technology Director, Nationwide Insurance)


3. Continuing the inspiring conversation from DevOps Enterprise Summit 2018

It’s fair to say that DevOps Enterprise Summit 2018 in Las Vegas last month was a resounding success. The DevOps and wider IT community thoroughly engaged with with the “Project to Product” movement, flow and Value Stream Management. Whether you were there or not, the conversation continues in the US capital within a more hands-on, intimate setting with Tasktop’s leadership and the company’s inspiring customers. If you did it miss DOES 2018, you can get a flavour of the event from our review blogs of Day One and Day Two, as well as post-event reflections from Carmen DeArdo (Tasktop’s Senior Value Stream Strategist).

4. Hear from customers about their transformational journeys A insightful and lively panel discussion from last year. Photo: Robb McCormick Photography –

Tasktop customers from across the Federal, Global Aerospace, Healthcare, and Insurance industries will share their inspiring and thought-provoking individual journeys towards an integrated value stream. Despite varying business content, you’ll learn from “those that have done it” on how to unleash your organization’s full software delivery potential and come away with new ideas on how to best utilize Tasktop and Value Stream Management at your organization.

Watch individual presentations from Tasktop Connect 2017 from the likes of Gene Kim, Robin Yeman,  Keith Pemberton and more.

5. Presentations from IT leaders

You’ll hear from 12 IT and Business leaders on they’re using Value Stream Integration to pave their way through the myriad complex challenges of enterprise software delivery, including:

  • Dave West (
  • Kyle Williams and Fabio Echavarria (Deloitte)
  • Robin Yeman (Lockheed Martin)
  • Kristen Biddulph (Nationwide)
  • Suzette Johnson (Northrop Grumman)
  • Mark Ford (TIAA)
  • Jeff Zahorchak (Select Medical)

Attendees will also hear presentations from Dr. Mik Kersten, Dominica DeGrandis, Carmen DeArdo and Nicole Bryan (Tasktop’s VP of Product Management).

“I thought Tasktop Connect 2017 had a great mix of honest User Stories and helpful Tasktop information. The event had the feel of a well-seasoned conference, I was stunned to find out it was the first one!” – Tom Horn, Collaboration Lead for Development Solutions, US Bank


6. Onsite support


Completed your first deployment and looking to scale? Have an issue but never reported it? Considering a new tool for your suite? Wanting to maximize your investment in Tasktop and other tools in your value stream? You’ll have the opportunity to meet with Tasktop’s Customer Success, Product, and Support teams on-site (including the one and only, Shawn Minto). Bring your questions and we’ll have the answers in real-time about how to create a clear roadmap for success.

7. Beyond CI/CD The productivity benefits of Agile and DevOps do not impact total end-to-end flow time without integrating tools and team from the ideate and operate stages.

If you already have Release Automation, that’s great to hear. It’s a vital step to help you deliver software products faster and eliminate the bottleneck between “Dev” and “Ops”. However, what if your bottleneck is further upstream or downstream? To be truly Agile and a DevOps high performer, you need Value Stream Integration alongside Release Automation to accelerate delivery from ideation to operation and back through the customer feedback loop, as well as end-to-end traceability and visibility for compliance and continuous improvement. We’ll show you how you can go beyond CI/CD to be successful with your digital transformation.

8. Access to Tasktop’s wide partner network Access to Tasktop’s wide Partner network – come talk to us about joining! Photo: Robb McCormick Photography –

Without our vast partner network, Tasktop wouldn’t be the organization we are today. Tasktop Connect will provide access to our Business Development team onsite and include attendance from numerous partners and Tasktop Connect Sponsors. Are you a partner interested in attending Connect? Reach out to Grace Smith for more information on how you can get involved and attend our Partner Enablement on December 5th.

9. Stay ahead of the curve

To survive in the Age of Software, your organization will need to survive digital disruption. To survive digital disruption, your organization needs the Flow Framework. Tasktop Connect will help you keep pace with the latest software delivery methodologies and give you a level up on competition not in attendance. Who doesn’t want to return to the boss with actionable opportunity and be the hero of their organization?

10. Networking galore Mingle with Tasktopians, industry thought leaders and likeminded industry players. Photo: Robb McCormick Photography –

The opportunity to mingle and talk with other Tasktop customers regarding their tool syncs was extremely valuable. I had direct access to Tasktop product management, providing me with information that I can take back and apply immediately. And after gaining insight into the importance of value streams from industry experts, I am now re-invigorated and ready to visualize our own value stream network.” – Mark Ford, Lead Developer, Global Corporate Solution Technology (GCST), TIAA

In addition to our insightful agenda, we’ve made sure to leave plenty of breaks and opportunities for meaningful conversations with your peers. Between breakfast, lunch, and multiple breaks, we promise your stomach, nor your appetite to learn, will go unsatisfied.

Bonus! Become a spy (sort of)

After a full day of informative sessions, the excitement continues at the International Spy Museum! Sponsored by our evening event sponsor, iRise, Tasktop Connect attendees will enjoy food, drinks, and networking in the fictional country of Khandar. An ideal wrap up for an exciting day of VSM.

If that doesn’t entice you to attend Tasktop Connect 2018, I’m not sure what will. But to sweeten the deal, use code NOVEMBER for 30% off registration.

We hope to see you in DC!

For any questions about attending, exhibiting or sponsoring Tasktop Connect, don’t hesitate to contact me.

Join our Flow Framework Partner Day – December 5th

We have also seen a big spike of interest from consultants and services provides who are supporting customers on this journey, and see the Flow Framework as a key enabler. To address this, we are adding a Flow Framework Partner Day on the day prior to the conference. Those attending the partner day will benefit from our very latest materials and practices. To sign up for this exclusive opportunity, please contact Grace Smith.

Missed the action from Tasktop Connect 2017?

Tasktop Connect 2017 captures the imagination of the software development community

Click image to watch last year’s presentations, including sessions like “McKeeson’s Tasktop journey on traceability”

The post 4 weeks until Tasktop Connect 2018 – Top 10 Reasons to Attend appeared first on Tasktop Blog.

Tasktop Connect 2018: Learn from those staying ahead of digital disruption

Wed, 11/07/2018 - 15:23

My mission is to help organizations survive the Turning Point of the Age of Software, during which those who do not keep up with the trajectory set by the tech giants face an existential threat. The goal of my upcoming Project to Product book is to provide a business framework for this transition. But given the pace of change, organizations need more than a framework – they need the tools and practices for modernizing software delivery in a way that focuses on the flow and visibility of business value.

Today, every organization that is not a tech giant or a small business must define their value stream architecture and implement a tool network that supports it. As a career-long believer in the power of tools and architecture, I am happy to state that the company I founded 11 years ago is the only organization dedicated to modeling, connecting and visualizing value stream networks.

This capability, expertise and skill set has allowed us to establish a very unique kind of partnership with our top customers. We do not focus on any particular segment of the Agile or DevOps toolchain, but on providing an infrastructure layer that enables both end-to-end visibility and flow from ideation to value delivery. We provide a fascinating vantage point in supporting some of the most ambitious digital transformations in the industry, right from the CIO or CDO’s initiatives to the connective tissue between each tool’s APIs.

Tasktop Connect 2018 – what’s in store?

The second Tasktop Connect conference – taking place on December 6th in Washington, DC – is where our customers and staff present our key learnings from the last year of transformation, and share success patterns for the coming year.

Unlike the great industry conferences, such as DevOps Enterprise Summit, Tasktop Connect is a vendor conference. That means it focuses on tools, and targets those who see their fastest time to value through a commercial solution rather than building everything in-house.

However, as made clear by last year’s presentations during our successful inaugural event, Connect is a very different kind of vendor conference. Instead of product pitches and demos, the audience hear strategies for selecting and connecting tool networks, visualizing business value, and discover technical patterns that pave the path for successful digital transformations. This year we are going to double down on those themes by adding talks specific to the Flow Framework that go beyond any specific tool, even Tasktop, and focus on the architectural and business practices needed to connect and inspect Value Stream Networks.

Attendees will hear from IT and Business leaders about their inspiring journeys through the myriad complex challenges of enterprise software delivery, with presentations from:

  • Dave West (
  • Kyle William and Fabio Echavarria (Deloitte)
  • Robin Yeman (Lockheed Martin)
  • Kristen Biddulph (Nationwide)
  • Suzette Johnson (Northrop Grumman)
  • Mark Ford (TIAA)

View the current agenda.

The Flow Framework

We have seen tremendous interest in the Flow Framework, and want to provide innovators and visionaries with the conceptual tools for finding flow, in addition to the technical tools needed to implement it. We are also launching to support this movement that needs to go beyond any technology.

We have also seen a big spike of interest from consultants and services provides who are supporting customers on this journey, and see the Flow Framework as a key enabler. To address this, we are adding a Flow Framework Partner Day on the day prior to the conference. Those attending the partner day will benefit from our very latest materials and practices. To sign up for this exclusive opportunity, please contact Grace Smith.

We are limited on space for both the conference event and the partner day, so if you are interested in participating make sure that you register soon. I am already looking forward to an amazing day of learning and providing our customers and partners with the conceptual and technical tools needed to thrive in the coming year as they continue to battle through the Turning Point!

The post Tasktop Connect 2018: Learn from those staying ahead of digital disruption appeared first on Tasktop Blog.

Tony Hsieh, Culture, and Tasktop’s Version of Delivering Happiness

Wed, 11/07/2018 - 12:01

Eight years ago when Mik was trying to convince me to move from an advisory role at Tasktop to joining the company full-time, we had a different hiring process for executives. Back then, as part of your interview process, you were told on the morning of your interview that you were going to deliver a speech to the entire company in just a few hours.

In my speech, the main thing I talked about was Tony Hsieh and Zappos. My former employer, Amazon, had recently acquired Zappos, and I had an opportunity to hear Tony talk at a company “All Hands”. I loved what Tony was talking about and ended up buying his book Delivering Happiness. In that book, Tony talked about how he had started successful companies in the past where the culture fell apart, and as a result he hated getting up in the morning and going to work. He realized that even in successful companies, what mattered to him most was the people and the culture. So, Tony built Zappos with culture at its forefront – and made sure he filled the company with people who were committed.

We took those ideas and tried to do something similar at Tasktop. We continuously look to build a company where we love to work. Achieving this goal means cultivating a culture which is founded on mutual respect, talent, professionalism, and caring for one another. At our size, I don’t get to spend 1:1 time with everyone like I used to be able to. But when I do, I genuinely like each and every person I get to spend time with. We have great individuals who are in this for the right reasons and are committed to seeing Tasktop be successful. And now with Mik’s eagerly anticipated book Project to Product giving us the words and the vision we need, we’ve built a company where we are daring to do big things.

Given Zappos is headquartered in Las Vegas, it is only fitting that the events that drove me to write this piece on culture took place in the same exact city where Zappos shares its own culture via campus tours. In late October we participated in DevOps Enterprise Summit 2018 in Las Vegas. This was a major event for Tasktop as we were Platinum Sponsors of the conference.

During our planning, we realized that we were going to send ~25 Tasktopians to the conference between the booth duty, the speaker sessions, and the various meetings. So, in some really twisted logic, I decided to have my entire go-to-market team (nearly 90 people) come to Las Vegas for a three-day meeting across the weekend prior to DOES. Talk about commitment. Tony would have been so proud of this team for giving up their weekends, time with the family, time on the sofa watching football and so on, to spend 10 hours in a windowless room for learning, participating, and teaming.

Three full days in a windowless room could send the best of us mad. But not the Tasktop team.

And for the 25–30 people who stayed on for DOES, that is a just a lot. Not enough sleep, averaging 10 miles of walking a day, lost voices after talking non-stop for three days – not to mention the poor six Tasktopians who contracted food poisoning. I am so sorry! A week in Vegas really does take a year off your life. But there’s not a single person in our team who hasn’t commented on just how awesome the event was. No regrets.

Tasktop Thought Leadership

Tasktop’s thought leaders were everywhere at DOES. Dominica DeGrandis, one of our brilliant forward thinkers and visionaries, had launched her book Making Work Visible at the 2017 iteration of the event. She was there again doing a book signing, giving away hundreds of copies of her book (sponsored by IT Revolution), who in the words of our very own Carmen DeArdo “is beloved” by a community that she’s been a key influencer within since the beginning of the DevOps movement and DOES events. She did a masterful job in her presentation of using very real and relatable examples to teach the world that it’s important to make connections visible.

Carmen DeArdo, another recent hire at Tasktop and our Senior Value Stream Strategist, not only delivered a very popular talk with BMW Group’s René Te-Strote, he also came to rescue of the organizers when a scheduled speaker fell sick, delivering another talk entitled “Dickens and DevOps”. If you haven’t seen Carmen speak, he has real gravitas (you just want to do what he tells you to do), and he may be the funniest man at Tasktop (not that you would know as he is so understated).

Our VP of Product Development, Nicole Bryan, delivered a talk with Nationwide’s Kevin Fisher on the practical realities of moving from project to product at a large-scale enterprise. Based on what people kept telling us after the talk, they are absolutely desperate to learn more – immediately after the session, many attendees made beeline for the pair to keep the conservation going! If you weren’t at DOES or want to continue the conversation with Nicole, Carmen, Dominica and Mik, make sure to register for Tasktop Connect 2018 (December 6, Washington, DC).

The star of the show, however, was Tasktop’s very own CEO and co-founder Mik Kersten, who delivered a memorable keynote that had the DOES audience abuzz (thank you Gene Kim for pushing all the right buttons with him to ensure that Mik delivered the best presentation I’ve ever seen him deliver).

Mik sacrificed almost every minute of free time over the past 12 months to write Project to Product. We know his work is industry changing. In the book, Mik introduces a pioneering new management framework for connecting business and technology and is a must read for anyone trying to deal with the Age of Software and the disruption it’s creating.

The proud author and his game-changing work.


DOES attendees queue patiently to be the first in the world with a copy of Mik Kersten’s Project to Product book

The book signing was truly epic, with attendees queuing around the block to be the first to get their hands-on IT Revolution’s latest release. But that’s not what this article is about

And heck even if you don’t have those thought leaders, when you can show off a BMW i8 in the lobby of the Cosmopolitan Hotel & Casino, you know you are playing with house money.

Sitting in the fourth floor lobby of The Cosmopolitan during DOES, “people wanted to sit in, with, and on the BMW i8 with the beautiful wing doors”.

Thank you, René Te-Strote for making that happen. There should be an equally long article about how we got the BMW into the hotel. It involved taking a taxi to the BMW dealership, picking up the car, filling it with gas, going to Walmart to buy Saran Wrap (needed to wrap the tires so it doesn’t leave road dirt all over the hotel), learning we need to be under a quarter tank per the fire chief resulting in a gratuitous joy ride on the strip in “Sports Mode” to burn off the excess gas, and then eventually pushing the car onto a freight elevator and through the bowels of the casino (see below time-lapse video) to the appropriate location outside the conference area. But that’s not what this article is about

How to get a BMW i8 out of a casino

Tuesday 8pm

This article is really about getting the BMW out of the casino. On Tuesday night, after Mik and Dominica’s book signings, the five intrepid volunteers (Jarek, Jeff, Mara, Laurel and I) meet René to start the process of reversing the steps that we took to get the car into the Cosmo. Everything is going relatively smoothly until we get to the freight elevator. The thing I hadn’t realized until we brought the car into the casino is that freight elevators in big casinos like the Cosmo are incredibly busy. When you get a window to use it, you have to jump on it as that window may not appear again for hours.

Turns out pushing an i8 can be just as fun as driving it…kindof.

So we’re at the freight elevator. Our contact with the casino presses the button to call the elevator to our floor but nothing happens. He makes a call and then heads downstairs. We figure the elevator is being used or something. We are having fun talking about how no one ever gets to see this side of a casino, how pretty this carbon fiber body is, etc. Most of us had been out super late the night before entertaining a customer (ok ok, entertaining ourselves as well) so after a full day of intense conversations, the candle flame is flickering and wavering as we wait. Half an hour then passes, and we haven’t seen anything, so we text our contact. His exact response was “The elevator is not moving and we are working on it”.  We wait another 30 minutes. Another text from our contact: “Nothing yet, they’re working diligently”. Jarek at this point is slumped against a wall and barely looks himself. None of us are looking too good as we wait. Las Vegas is having her revenge on us.


While we wait, we see wait staff pushing carts of food and beverages. None of us have eaten dinner. And did I say that most of us were operating on fumes as it’s our sixth night in Sin City?  Well, if we are going to be stuck here, we might as well at least enjoy an adult beverage. So, Mara volunteers to go in search of adult beverages. She eventually ends up at the convenience store in the Cosmopolitan and buys a bottle of wine and finds some plastic cups. One of our company advisors, Jason, who knows how big a deal Mik’s book is, decides to surprise us and unbeknownst to anyone, shows up at the casino. He spots Mara on her way back from the convenience store (how that ever happens in a place as big as the Cosmopolitan is beyond me) and accompanies her back…

Myself, Mik and Jason reflecting on how far Tasktop has come


Wine is gone. Still waiting. Our contact has finally returned from downstairs where the freight elevator is stuck (apparently the door is bent and can’t be opened) and asks René to go with him downstairs to look the elevator. René is gone for at least 30 minutes. I meant to ask him what they were doing down there for so long but forgot to ask. My theory was that since the elevator was made in Germany, maybe they thought the German guy from BMW could help fix it.


The remaining Tasktopians who hadn’t had food poisoning then all show up in the 4th floor basement which we had started calling “the bowels”. They bring more adult beverages. Carmen brings one of his former employees from Nationwide whom he was having dinner with. Mik was apparently sitting down for a drink with Gene Kim but bails without even taking a sip because he heard we were in trouble. There are now 20+ people hanging out in the most unattractive venue in Las Vegas (yes, this is worse than the old Imperial Palace or the Platinum or even Circus Circus). We’ve cranked the i8’s speakers up so we have music. We’re hanging out. We’re chatting because we haven’t spent enough time with each other over the past six days.

Team with a capital T


When René and our contact at the hotel finally return, we learn that the chain on the elevator is broken and they won’t be able to fix it till the next day.

The poor i8 was resigned to another night in Sin City. A culture to be proud of

Talk about taking lemons and making lemonade. There are so many other things people could have been doing at this hour in Las Vegas (including sleeping!). And for this many people to have chosen to come support the five of us, I truly feel that we have built the company that I talked about during my interview.

Yes, we had amazing stories from presentations by Mik, Carmen, Dominica and Nicole. We had tremendous traffic at our booth. People wanted to sit in, with, and on the BMW with the beautiful wing doors. But fondest memory will be the cheapest night we had in Las Vegas (think pizza and beer) in the worst setting because we were in it together as a team.

I am so proud to wake up and go to work at Tasktop. We are solving a big hairy problem. We have a leader that is passionate and inspires. We have customers that want to be around us and want to promote us. We help people improve their lives. We help companies compete better. We have a lot of people doing so much hard work. And we support each other, helping us to continuously deliver happiness even as we rapidly grow.

The post Tony Hsieh, Culture, and Tasktop’s Version of Delivering Happiness appeared first on Tasktop Blog.

Measuring your software delivery – Flow time vs. Lead time

Tue, 11/06/2018 - 13:45

Last month the entire Tasktop Customer Success team met in Las Vegas ahead of DevOps Enterprise Summit 2018 for our annual face-to-face. During the meeting I had the opportunity to present Tasktop’s own journey into Value Stream Management and the Flow Framework.

There were some great discussions around gathering data and measuring both flow time and lead time to help teams better understand how fast they are delivering customer-facing outcomes. Such data can be used to gain vital insights into how they can accelerate speed of delivery and time to value – insights that would elude them if they solely relied on anecdotal information.

One question from the day that struck me the most was, “Will lead time ever be part of the Flow Framework?”

Lead time vs. Flow time

Lead time measures the time elapsed from the point a piece of work – such as defect or feature – is requested (usually by a customer) to the point that it’s delivered. For example, a defect’s lead time starts at the point a customer reports the problem and ends when the fix has been delivered in a patch or version of the software. For new functionality requested, lead time would be measured from the moment a customer requests a new feature to the point it is made available in the software.

Flow time, on the other hand, measures the time it takes for a work item to go from the point that it is accepted into the value stream – i.e., from its first “active state” – to when it’s available to the customer (deployed or delivered). Let’s break that down a bit. All work items go through various workflow states like New, In Progress, In Dev, In Review, Verification and so forth. These states can be generalized into four broad states:

  • New (work item is created)
  • Active (when value adding work is being carried out on the item)
  • Wait (item is waiting on external dependencies)
  • Done (complete state)

A work item can be “accepted” into the value stream at different points of the workflow. For example, incidents that are escaped defects (a bug found in software in production) will enter the value stream as soon as triage is complete and it is determined that a patch or service release is required. New enhancements may only be accepted into a value stream when it is scheduled in the backlog.

There is no right answer. The first “Active state” can start at different points, largely varying on the product and on the type of work. As flow time only starts from the first active state of the work item, the calculation of flow time excludes time taken for initial triage and business prioritization, but does include all states that the work item goes through across the lifecycle – from design, development, testing, verification through to delivery.

Mik Kersten, in his upcoming book Project to Product (which launches November 20), goes into some detail about lead time vs. flow time. Mik talks about open source projects that have a myriad of feature requests spread across a small number of developers. This means that some requests can sit in the backlog for long periods before work is ever started on them, elongating lead time (and time to value).

Trevor Bruner, Tasktop’s Product Manager of Tasktop Integration Hub, will tell you that Hub – which is in its second year – has about five years’ worth of features requested so far. In each of the above cases, a large part of the lead time that is calculated includes wait times before the request is triaged, approved and prioritized, and thus doesn’t truly represent the flow of value, or more importantly the cost of delay.  

For products such as Hub, where the product manager has to carefully manage when features can be accepted for a build, flow time provides a more realistic view of the flow of value. 

A graph representing the flow velocity of core flow work items.

Within Tasktop, we categories certain requests as Deal Breaking Feature Requests (DBFRs), which are any type of product related request that, if not implemented, would cause a customer deal to be lost, a contract renewal to cancel, or the relationship to be irrevocably damaged. Sometimes these will need to be Fast Tracked (FT) into a current cycle due to urgent nature of the request.

Such requests that have a tighter correlation to business value (i.e., revenue of Hub) over regular features. The sooner these DBFR+FTs are delivered, the better impact they have on business value (increased revenues from renewals/sale). Hence the flow time for DBFR+FTs will start almost as soon as they are raised (with short triage times) and would trend closely to lead time demonstrating faster delivery of value.

So, as you can see, flow time is a better representation of business value. To circle back to the initial question “Will lead time ever be part of the Flow Framework?”, while lead time is an interesting measure from a customer perspective, and teams have derived a lot of insights on speed in delivery by measuring and reporting on it, flow time is more valuable from a business perspective. Even without lead time, the Flow Framework is powerful and flexible approach to meet the demands of products and individual flow items in a way that aligns with the most critical business needs.

To learn more about Flow Time, check out The 5 Best Metrics You’ve Never Met by Tasktop’s Director of Digital Transformation, Dominica DeGrandis, and speak to us about her Flow 101 Workshop.

The post Measuring your software delivery – Flow time vs. Lead time appeared first on Tasktop Blog.

Mining the Ground Truth of Enterprise Toolchains

Thu, 11/01/2018 - 09:09

To learn more about what works and what doesn’t in large-scale DevOps and agile deployments, we need data. The problem is, that data is notoriously difficult to get ahold of because much of it lies hidden across numerous private repositories.

Efforts such as The State of DevOps reports have helped us gain some understanding by using survey data to answer questions about practices such as the frequency of deployments in a team or organization. However, survey data has its limitations, as Nicole Forsgren and I described in “DevOps Metrics,” which we wrote to clarify the trade-offs of system and survey data collection.1 Today, our understanding of DevOps practices is based largely on this survey data and on anecdotal evidence. Is there a way to expand our view of DevOps to include studies of system data of DevOps at work?

One approach is to examine publicly available repositories, such as those hosted by GitHub or the Eclipse and Apache foundations. However, the conclusions from this research are limited to how open source projects work. Large-scale and enterprise software delivery differs considerably from open source delivery in terms of the scale, scope, and type of work.

In my PhD research, I initially studied open source developers.2 Gail Murphy, my supervisor, pushed me to expand my study to professional developers in enterprise settings. Having spent most of my career doing open source development, I was shocked at how different the work was. The most interesting thing I learned was the additional complexity with which the professional developers worked on a daily basis. The number of applications, systems, processes, and requirements dwarfed anything I encountered in the much more elegant world of open source.

In my article “The End of the Manufacturing Line Analogy“, I discussed how advanced car manufacturing relates to software production.3 One of the amazing things about car manufacturing is that the “ground truth” of production is visible on the factory floor. Walking the assembly line provides an instant view of the workflow. Where can we find the ground truth of enterprise software delivery? How might that ground truth change our understanding of what works and what fails in software delivery at scale?

Exploiting the Cambrian Explosion of Tools

In my last post, I summarized how a “Cambrian explosion” has led to the proliferation of hundreds of DevOps tools.4 One key reason for this explosion is how specialized the tools have become for various stakeholder needs. For example, a large enterprise might have a dozen different specialists involved in software delivery, such as Java experts, AWS (Amazon Web Services) experts, design experts, or support staff. There’s now a specialized tool for each role.

That presents an interesting opportunity. The more that these tools are used, the more those particular practitioners’ work is captured within them. If only we could get at that data, we would have a unique chance to better understand how DevOps, and software delivery in general, works in practice.

The challenge is that such end-to-end system data is inaccessible. It’s hidden behind organizations’ firewalls or locked in private repositories. Occasionally, a vendor will have a slice accessible—for example, a software-as-a-service support desk tool vendor might have cross-company information on support tickets. However, that’s only one slice of the value stream; it misses all the development and other upstream data and does not provide an end-to-end view.

In my study of open source and professional developers, the trick was to use the developers’ access to tool repositories as a proxy for what was happening in those repositories. But, again, that was just a slice of the value stream. However, through that experiment, I realized I had access to exactly the people who had visibility into the end-to-end set of repositories: the enterprise IT tool administrators.

Value Stream Integration Diagrams

My company Tasktop works closely with many enterprise IT tool administrators responsible for the agile and DevOps toolchain. Each engagement that our solutions architects undertake results in the creation of a value stream integration diagram. The first time I looked at these diagrams in aggregate, I realized I had a data-set that was as interesting as the one Gail and I collected during my PhD studies. These diagrams depict each of the tool repositories in the value stream, each artifact type stored in those repositories, and, most important, how the artifact types are related. These diagrams were collected not through an academic study but through a data collection process put in place for working with the enterprise IT tool administrators and their tools. The data is biased toward Tasktop’s customers and prospects, who tend to be Fortune 500 enterprise IT organizations seeking integration across one or more tools.

FIGURE  1.  Value-stream-integration  diagrams. These diagrams  depict an organization’s tool  repositories, each artifact type  stored in the repositories, and how  the artifact types are currently related  or are planned to be related.

Tasktop has collected 308 of these diagrams. Figure 1 shows some of them. They’re a fascinating window into the ground truth of enterprise toolchains. As such, they might inform future efforts in the collection of software delivery data in interesting ways. Here, I provide a very high-level overview of what we learned from them. A more detailed analysis will appear in my upcoming book Project to Product

The diagrams provide a moment-in-time summary of each tool in the value stream and information on what the key artifacts captured in each tool are, as well as how they are or should be connected. The diagrams do not exhaustively list all the tool repositories in an organization or all the artifact types. Nor do they provide information about the data in those tools—for example, the number and types of defects. But they do provide the ground truth about the composition of these organizations’ enterprise IT toolchains.

There could be relevant tools outside this set. For example, these organizations have only recently been reporting vulnerability tracking tools as part of their DevOps tool-chains. A tool’s absence from the results doesn’t mean that it wasn’t present, just that it wasn’t considered for inclusion in the organization’s view of the connected value stream at that time.

What the Data Revealed

The diagrams were sourced from Tasktop customers and prospects defining what tools and artifacts they wanted to connect. The majority of the diagrams came from enterprise IT organizations in the Fortune 1000. Table 1 shows the industry breakdown.

Table 2 lists the types of tools used. As expected, agile-planning and application lifecycle management (ALM) tools dominated, but IT service management, project portfolio management, and requirements management also formed a key part of the toolchains. Requirements management tools continued to see significant use, even in the age of agile and DevOps. In contrast, initiatives to connect customer relationship management (CRM) and security tools were still rare. Al-together, the dataset included the use of 55 tools.

Even more interesting is what information was tracked in the tools. Table 3 provides insight into the artifacts created and thus the types of work. At a high level, imagine these artifacts corresponding to the widgets that flow through the various tools that perform software delivery. In an upcoming article, I’ll discuss the relevance of these various types of artifacts.

Combining the data from Tables 2 and 3, we observed that the artifacts spanned multiple tools. For example, features were tracked across agile, ALM, requirements management, and sometimes IT service management tools. We interpreted this as another indication that the number of tools and their specialization in large-scale agile and DevOps environments are growing. However, the types of artifacts being stored in those tools (see Table 3) is considerably smaller, and the artifacts tend to span multiple tools. For example, a single defect can span agile, ALM, requirements management, and IT service management tools.

Some of the most interesting findings are in Table 4. We see that only 1.3 percent of organizations used a single tool. More interestingly, 69.3 percent of the organizations were connecting artifacts across three or more tools. The more surprising finding was that more than 42 percent of the organizations needed to integrate four or more tools, indicating the complexity involved in developing large-scale enterprise software. It also supports the notion that specialization of roles in software development is common.

What’s clear from this dataset is that in these organizations, heterogeneous agile and DevOps toolchains are the norm. Also, the Cambrian explosion of DevOps I mentioned correlates with the breadth of tool usage this dataset revealed. However, the organizations’ value streams consist of a more common set of artifacts, many of which span multiple tools. This raises a range of questions on how these artifacts flow, how they interrelate, and what it means for them to span tools and stakeholders. For more on this data, and key lessons learned, see the full learnings summarized in Project to Product by clicking on the front cover below:

Click image to pre-order a copy!

Sign up to the Product To Project newsletter

This is the fifth blog in a series promoting the genesis of my book Project To Product. If you missed the previous blogs, click here. To ensure you don’t miss any further content, you can receive future articles and other insights delivered directly to your inbox by signing up to the Project To Product newsletter.


  1. N. Forsgren and M. Kersten, “DevOps Metrics,” ACM Queue, vol. 15, no. 6, 2018;
  2. M. Kersten and G.C. Murphy, “Using Task Context to Improve Programmer Productivity,” Proc. 14th ACM SIGSOFT Int’l Symp. Foundations of Software Eng. (SIGSOFT/FSE 06), 2006, pp. 1–11;
  3. M. Kersten, “The End of the Manufacturing-Line Analogy,” IEEE Software, vol. 34, no. 6, pp. 89–93.
  4. M. Kersten, “A Cambrian Explosion of DevOps Tools,” IEEE Software, vol. 35, no. 2, pp. 14–17.

A version of this article was originally published in the May/June 2018 issue of IEEE Software: M. Kersten, “Mining the Ground Truth of Enterprise Toolchains,”  IEEE Software, vol. 35, no. 3, pp. 12-17, ©2018 IEEE doi: 10.1109/MS.2018.2141029 – Original article

The post Mining the Ground Truth of Enterprise Toolchains appeared first on Tasktop Blog.

Reflections from DevOps Enterprise Summit 2018 with Carmen DeArdo

Wed, 10/31/2018 - 11:38

Most enterprises do not yet think of their delivery pipeline as a product. When I mentioned this concept to a few folks, they literally slapped themselves on the head and said something like “that makes so much sense and it so simple, why didn’t we think of that!” – Carmen DeArdo, Tasktop

It’s been a week since the lively and deeply enriching DevOps Enterprise Summit 2018 in Las Vegas came to a thundering close, giving us some time to digest and reflect on yet another successful event by the IT Revolution team.

I caught up with Carmen DeArdo, Tasktop’s Senior Value Stream Strategist, about his experience at the event, including his favourite speaker sessions, the event’s major themes, noteworthy conversations he had with the DevOps community, and the launch of our CEO Mik Kersten’s eagerly-awaited book Project To Product and the pioneering the Flow Framework.

Missed the action? You can catch up in our recap blogs from Day One and Day Two, as well as TechBeacon’s event review from Electric Cloud’s Anders Walgren.

Hi Carmen, so what were the big topics for you at DOES 2018?

Burnout was a big topic. While this has been touched upon since the conference’s inception in 2014, and is one of the driving forces in what motivates Gene Kim to help improve the lives of the “40 Million IT workers across the planet”, the topic has never been featured like it was at this conference.  

“Project to Product”, of course, was also a huge overarching theme. Most enterprises do not yet think of their delivery pipeline as a product. When I mentioned this concept to a few folks, they literally slapped themselves on the head and said something like “that makes so much sense and it so simple, why didn’t we think of that?”

To start thinking “horizontally” across the value stream from the bottom of the Flow Framework (see below), requires thinking about your tools as a product. Left to their own devices, entropy reigns and companies end up with a multitude of disconnected tools and disparate activities. The best one can hope for in these situations is some siloed local optimizations – Agile helping teams to build urgent/important features faster, DevOps helping accelerate “commit to cloud” – but what about everything else that impacts the total end-to-end flow time of a product’s development from ideation to operation?

I could also see that the gap is widening between those high-performing enterprises that “get it” when it comes to value streams, flow and product-thinking, and those who still haven’t started their journeys. In the Lean Coffee sessions I facilitated, I heard transformational stories that I would have expected to hear in 2014, not 2018. On a more positive note, it was these companies that really stood up and listened when we started to talk about what impedes flow and value. 

What were your favourite moments?

Anything that own very own Dominica DeGrandis touched! I have never seen anybody so loved by the community. Even if people aren’t thinking product just yet, they understood Dominica’s clear message of flow, visibility and having their time pilfered.

Judging by the popularity of Dominica’s presentation, Lean Coffee sessions, and book signing, “Making Work Visible” is striking a chord.

Dominica and I had some conversations with attendees at the booth, or in the breaks, who knew that things in their company weren’t right and were almost desperate for help. That’s so encouraging to see as it means people are being proactive and want to see the light. You can read more on Dominica’s experience at DOES 2018 in her blog below:


From my own experience at my former company Nationwide, I know how powerful having the Value Stream Architecture diagram blown up on our wall was. It really helped the light go on for many folks on what it means to start to think about modeling a value stream. And combining that with the concepts of the Flow Framework provides the perfect combination to why integration and modeling is so critical to enabling flow.

Have you mapped your Value Stream Architecture? Click image to map out how value flows through your IT organization. Mara Puisite, from Tasktop’s Pre-Sales Engineering team, demos Tasktop Integration Hub to 100+ attendees. “Managers need data to believe their people.”

As ever, Jon Smart’s talk was awesome and hit at another key topic related to happiness which was “Give people a voice”. Empowerment at many companies has become an empty term of another way to camouflage command or control or Taylorism. Giving people a voice means giving them some choices in key areas such as tools.

The 2018 State of DevOps Report makes it clear that teams which can choose their own tools are happier and more productive, however it is not cost effective for larger enterprises to support an unlimited number of tools. As Jon explained, his former role (at Barclays) was to provide guardrails for which teams were empowered to operate within.

One dimension of staying on the road is to provide a choice of tools for a given area like Agile management (e.g. LeanKit, Jira, Trello etc.). Again, this supports Tasktop’s vision around modeling to not only accommodate a broader choice but to also strangle tools out during periods of transition.

How did your own session go?

It was a pleasure to speak with René Le-Strote of BMW Group about the amazing work they are doing in moving to a Product model, and the role technology plays in the design and production of awesome cars like the i8 which was on display during the event.

Tasktop – the driving force behind BMW Group’s solution to integrate their software delivery supply chain, creating cars like the stunning i8.

BMW is featured in Mik’s book, and it’s clear from spending time with René how forward thinking the company is in applying technology to everything from car design to their apps and also to the simulation models used to improve car safety. In my session with René, he painted a clear picture of what traditional enterprises have to do to remain at the vanguard of innovation and be successful.

BMW is no longer simply an automobile company, but rather a leading provider of personalized mobility services. From DriveNow, ReachNow, ParkMobile and beyond, BMW possesses a jaw-dropping worldwide collaborative network of people. As René said, “That’s a tremendous amount of data to contend with and a lot of software – our vehicles are basically moving computers.”

The BMW Group uses Tasktop to connect all their huge software delivery supply chain, including their global partners, to support this massive transformational undertaking. “Our aim is to be truly Agile in every conceivable way, from our products to IT to the business,” René said in our talk. “We must bring all of this closer together to be able to deliver the best products quickly and to adapt them to our customers’ changing needs.”

Standing room only for Tasktop’s Nicole Bryan and Nationwide’s Kevin Fisher session on “Project To Product” in action.

Last but not least, Nicole Bryan’s talk with Nationwide’s Kevin Fisher – Nationwide: Project to Product—Practical Realities at Large Scale Enterprises – was the most crowded breakout talk I saw at the event! Dozens of folks stood for the session, and both Nicole and Kevin were inundated with questions afterwards. As you can see from the photo above, a picture says a thousand words…

Finally, what was the response to Mik’s upcoming book and the Flow Framework?

Mik in full “flow” during his packed keynote on Day One of DOES 2018.

Mik’s presentation and message were beyond a grand slam in resonating with executives.  There is no doubt that CIO, CEOs and eventually CFOs will see this as a way through the “Turning point”.  So the book and Mik’s continued message will drive top down interest in the Flow Framework and Value Stream Management. You only have to watch the video of Mik’s presentation to see why it made such a profound impact.

One of the elements that makes the Flow Framework so powerful is its connection with the happiness of the team. In his session and in his book, Mik does a masterful job explaining how he used Flow metrics to correlate too much WIP with a lower level of happiness, and that this turned around when WIP was managed appropriately.  “Sustainable pace” is a key Lean/Agile principle and many organizations don’t have a way to determine what that pace is (and believe me, it’s not points or story points!).

What to learn more about Project To Product and the Flow Framework?

Tasktop Connect 2018

Join Mik Kersten and the rest of the Tasktop team at the second Tasktop Connect (Washington, DC, December 6, 2018). Learn best practices for achieving end-to-end visibility and traceability across your software development and delivery value stream, and how the Flow Framework will enable your company’s evolution from project-oriented dinosaur to product-centric innovator that thrives in the Age of Software. Register by clicking the image below.

Click image to register for Tasktop Connect 2018

Watch Mik’s keynote from DOES 2018


Pre-order Project To Product

Click image to pre-order

The post Reflections from DevOps Enterprise Summit 2018 with Carmen DeArdo appeared first on Tasktop Blog.

DevOps Enterprise Summit 2018 – Day Two – Project To Product Is Unleashed

Tue, 10/23/2018 - 21:00

The high engagement and energy of Day One of DevOps Enterprise Summit 2018 – ending with our CEO, Mik Kersten, bringing down the house with his keynote presentation on the Flow Framework– continued into Day Two of the conference. Today was a high-octane affair with an eclectic mix of fascinating insights, stories and actionable takeaways. But even as the legendary Dr. Steven Spear brought proceedings to an entertaining and edifying close, there was still more action to come; Mik’s book, Project To Product, was finally unveiled to the world to great fanfare.

A visibly humbled Mik poses with a fan

After Mik’s well-received presentation last night, there was a visible and audible buzz around DOES 2018 today ahead of the book launch and the endless possibilities of the Flow Framework and what it could mean for businesses in the Age of Software. Lucky attendees were able to get their hands on a signed book tonight during the official launch in the Chelsea Foyer at the opulent The Cosmopolitan hotel in Las Vegas.

Attendees await patiently to be the first in the world to get their hands on ‘Project To Product’

Tasktop’s Dominica DeGrandis also drew large crowds as they sought signed copies of her book Making Work Visible, a piece of work that aligns perfectly with the ideas and vision of Project To Product.

The Queen of Flow, Dominica DeGrandis Day Two – People Drive Change Gene Kim and the power of scenius

Before Dr. Topo Pal and Jamie Specter from Capital One took to the main stage, Gene Kim spoke of the “university of problems” that IT organizations face, and how as a community it is up to us to drive change and create a movement. Citing music legend Brian Eno’s concept of “scenius” – the idea that “genius” and great new developments are the result of an intellectual community that are involved in a scene. A rallying cry of sorts, Gene encouraged business leaders to not be daunted by R&D and technology. He emboldened them to channel the same drive and intuition that has brought them success across all other areas of the business.

One suspects that Gene had the next presenters in mind. “Six years ago, Capital One’s software delivery was mostly outsourced, we were doing waterfall, using manual processes and that was slowing us down. Now through a product-centric approach, we are one of the world’s largest digital banks,” explained Topo. Capital One’s accomplishments are not just driven by automation, cloud and new-fangled tech and ideas, but by trusting development teams, giving them autonomy and, as Jamie stressed, being legally sound and secure – “employees don’t want to work with companies that don’t have a reputation for good risk management.”

Product-thinking was ubiquitous throughout Day Two’s sessions. It appears that the Project To Product movement is gathering pace, with a diverse cross-section of the intellectual community doing their bit. “It sucks when you build a bad product,” admitted a rueful Levi Geinert, Director of Engineering at Target. His co-speaker Lucas Rettigwent, Principal Product Owner, went one step further, “Building the wrong thing is a nightmare.” The major retailer’s solution? “Let your developers do their thing, do what they’re good at, and oversee healthy dialogue between them and your product teams to empower both sides.” As an example of empowering their teams, Dan Cundiff, a Principle Engineer, explained how Target uses pull request workflow. This process allows their engineers to understand what tools are being used across the organization when collaborating on products, galvanizing innovation.

Target’s product-centric model

“Agile, lean, flow, fast feedback…a lot of focus has been applied to the “Dev” side of “DevOps”, but what about “Ops”?,” mused Damon Edwards from Rundeck. “When was the last intellectual movement for Ops?” The question was rhetorical. Without missing a beat he responded, “ITIL!” While the crowd laughed, it was hard to argue with Damon’s concerns. He underlined a dire need to find a balance, highlighting that Ops are being squeezed from both the digital side and The Business. As he walked attendees through Netflix and Google’s continuously successful models, he pleaded with those in the room to think about what happens after a product has been built and to remove silos between collaborators. “Repeat after me: deployment is not a goal! There’s a lot of life after deployment.”

Don’t neglect Ops, stresses Edwards

If there’s one organization that proactively does think about what happens both before and after deployment, it’s the BMW Group. As Rene Te-Strote explained in his session with Tasktop’s “VSM Yoda” Carmen DeArdo, “We’re not only an automobile company.” From digital services like DriveNow, ReachNow, ParkMobile and beyond, BMW possesses a jaw-dropping worldwide network of people – and a tremendous amount of data to contend with. “That’s a lot of software. Our products are basically moving computers. We simply have to deliver value quickly. It’s why our Agile transformation continues to be our biggest challenge”. 

Sheer Driving Pleasure with Rene and Carmen

The BMW Group, as you will have seen from the i8 model that was in the conference lobby, uses Tasktop to connect all their huge software delivery supply chain, including their global partners, to support this massive transformational undertaking. “You have to visualize the flow of value,” expanded Carmen. “That’s the basis of the Flow Framework – to establish what the goal is, what’s the benefit of work activities, what the product is going to be, why you’re building it and how work will flow to optimize time to value. Only then do you think about the solution.” To learn more about the work of Tasktop and BMW, read Mik’s article The end of the manufacturing line analogy,  (as well as buying Project To Product, which centres around Mik’s journey with Rene at BMW Group’s state-of-the-art facility in Leipzig). 

Want a more hands-on education? Register for the second iteration of Tasktop’s own conference, Tasktop Connect, which takes place in Washington, DC (December 6).

Click image to register for Tasktop Connect 2018 Make Work Visible! “Make work visible!” Dominica DeGrandis, Tasktop’s Director of Digital Transformation

If the audience had questions about flow, Tasktop’s Dominica DeGrandis had the answers. “Building software is hard. But communication across teams is the hardest thing we do. We must fix fragmented hand-offs because they’ll cost you – especially with work becoming more complex and specialized. If there’s 10k people in engineering, that’s a lot of tools that aren’t talking, and that’s a big problem. To start, just get a pen and a blank sheet – I call it the value stream canvas – and begin mapping how work flows and what impedes it. Start with one or two hand-offs in key areas, connect the dots, and find your bottlenecks.” If you want to learn more about flow and flow metrics, speak to Dominica or our team at Booth 201 about her Flow 101 Workshop.

Shafer during his colourful presentation.

The human factor in accelerating the business value of IT was also a recurring theme. “There is no digital transformation without people, and giving people excesses that they aren’t ready for can be harmful,” riffed Andrew Clay Shafer, Senior Director of Technology at Pivotal. “Accomplishing goals keep you motivated. Digital transformation isn’t an event – it’s a progressive accumulation of habits.” He warned the audience about getting caught up in buzzwords and popular practices. “You’re Agile? Then why you so bad at software? The best methodology is smart people working together.”

“Tear down the language barrier!” – Nevine White on getting finance and IT on the same page

This view was backed up by both Dr. Steve Mayner and Nevine White in their respective sessions. “Transformational leadership can be learned, and work better than specific change management practices,” explained Steve in his talk Learning To Be A Transformative Leader. In her breakout session, Nevine agreed that it’s humans that create progress. “You need to get finance and IT in the room together. We don’t always understand what IT is saying –  sometimes it’s like they’re speaking Greek! But you can get there by tearing down that language barrier.

“Sure, IT got frustrated trying to explain their vision on whiteboards – what I called “scary pictures” – but eventually we got there. Once we understood how IT wanted to become more dynamic, release faster, and be nimbler, and could see the business value it would create, we were able to translate that into a business context for our executives.” Jonathan Smart, formerly of Barclays, was on the same page, saying concepts like Agile “were forcing rigid practices on people and organizations instead of focusing on flow, values and outcomes.”

Nicole Forsgren and Jez Humble on how high performers are accelerating ahead

Focusing on flow, value and outcomes was something that both Jez Humble and Dr. Nicole Forsgren touched upon during their closing session. The duo presented their invaluable research from the The State of DevOps Report, which found that high performing organizations were deploying 46x faster, with lead times that were 2,555x faster, with mean time to recover times that were 2,604x faster, and a 7x lower change failure rate. Or in the words of Jonathan Smart, “faster, better, safer”.

See you tomorrow for another action-packed day!

Pre-order Project To Product today! Click image to pre-order

The post DevOps Enterprise Summit 2018 – Day Two – Project To Product Is Unleashed appeared first on Tasktop Blog.