One of the small reliefs afforded by working from home during COVID-19 is that I no longer have to race home from the office to drive my son all around Austin for his extra-curricular activities. Just like the rest of us, his trumpet and piano lessons are now held over FaceTime or Zoom, and we’ve canceled swimming and an Orangetheory membership in favor of 5k runs around the neighborhood.
Lately, while I’m on Zoom calls of my own, I can hear his adolescent voice practicing the Torah reading with his Hebrew teacher during their bi-weekly online Bar Mitzvah prep lessons. In Jewish tradition, 13 is the age when boys (and in the last few decades, also girls) officially transition into adulthood, becoming accountable for their own deeds and taking on a more active role in Jewish rituals. The Bar Mitzvah ceremony is the first time they lead the Sabbath prayers and have the privilege to read from the Torah (Old Testament) scrolls.
It is admittedly unfortunate that this monumental event happens at the most awkward age for a young man to be the center of attention, what with the pimples, the braces, the changing voice, and a mustache too faint to shave but too visible to ignore. Perhaps it’s braving all that in front of an audience that really does turn you into a man.
Nevertheless, it’s certainly appropriate that at this pivotal age, a hair’s breadth away from high school, a teen gets up in front of their loved ones and community and, in their obligatory Bar Mitzvah speech, declares who it is that they want to be as an adult; what kind of life they want to live; and which values will govern their choices.
This week it dawned on me that 2020 is Tasktop’s Bar Mitzvah year! We turned 13 this January. And as tradition would have it, it’s time to reflect on what this milestone means to us.
In a year characterized by a global pandemic and a devastating economic crisis, you learn to take nothing for granted. In the grand tradition of our sages, I’ve been contemplating existential questions about Tasktop and wrote a Bar Mitzvah speech of my own.
Fate or Free Will
When I joined Tasktop back in October of 2017, Tasktop was doing really well. We had the best integration platform for the software delivery toolchain—with truly differentiated capabilities, and a leadership position in the market. As a product marketer, I was lucky. I wouldn’t have to spin gold from hay. But Tasktop was also ready for its next big step.
I recall a question I posed to Nicole Bryan (now Tasktop’s Chief Product Officer) in those early days: If Tasktop provides the information highway for data to flow faster between collaborators, why don’t we also provide metrics and analytics on the speed and efficiency of their work? Her answer: It’s coming.
And it has. In 2020 we completed our value stream management vision with the launch of Tasktop Viz™, a value stream metrics solution that measures the rate of business value delivered for each software product value stream, correlated to actual business outcomes.
Looking back from today’s vantage point, we took considerable care in planning our entrance into an admittedly crowded world of IT metrics. We didn’t want to slap together executive eye-candy just because we had access to the data. Our dashboards had to help organizations ask and answer the right questions.
Like a Bar Mitzvah boy contemplating why they were put on this planet, we too started by asking ourselves how specifically Tasktop can make a positive difference in this world.
If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
This famous quote from Hillel the Elder, a second-century Jewish scholar and sage, means one is responsible for one’s own actions and fate. If you don’t do righteous deeds, no one will do them for you.
Observing the digital disruption eroding traditional businesses, at Tasktop we felt we were accountable for serving a higher purpose, delivering a benefit we can be proud of. We centered our vision on protecting the livelihoods of the millions of people directly employed and indirectly supported by at-risk businesses.
The prosperity of these businesses, not to mention their very existence, hinges on an ability to master software delivery at scale. We, at Tasktop, had the knowledge, experience and technology to help them learn to do that.
First, Tasktop CEO and founder Dr. Mik Kersten conceived of the Flow Framework®, a lean and prescriptive blueprint for traditional businesses to operate their software delivery organizations like the digital natives. The Flow Framework diagram was intentionally licensed under a creative commons license to make it easy for any organization to adopt.
Second, the Flow Framework was published in Mik’s bestselling book Project to Product, where readers could deeply learn why the Flow Framework was created and how to use it to shift from project to product and practice value stream management within the complex realities of large scale enterprise IT.
And third, since the publication of the book, Tasktop has taken every opportunity to educate the executive leadership of traditional businesses on the importance of recentering their organizations on measurable value creation and fast, efficient flow from customer request to customer delivery.
But if I am only for myself, what am I?
The continuation of Hillel’s famous proverb says that when you focus exclusively on your own righteous deeds, you quickly realize it’s not enough. You need to be impacting others, taking care of their wellbeing, too.
While the Flow Framework can help rescue IT from the swamp of failed digital transformations, wouldn’t it be so much easier to implement it if leaders had turnkey software to guide them? Literally, is there an app for that?!
So, we built the app. It’s called Tasktop Viz and it is turnkey software you plug into your organization and let sit on top of the tools where the work gets done. In a few clicks, you set up the business view of products and configure where the work is coming from for each one. Anyone can do this; you don’t need to be an engineer or a data scientist.
The result is a Flow Metrics dashboard for each value stream, plotting a set of prescriptive flow metrics alongside the key results they aim to achieve, in terms of cost, value, quality and happiness.
Replacing one-off paper-and-pen value stream mapping exercises, Tasktop Viz continuously measures the flow of work through the configured value streams. This live feed is tagged with hotspots pointing to where work is slowing down, an illustration that helps you address the impediments to faster delivery and steers you away from local optimizations that deliver little ROI. Additional flow forensics help you probe the source of these bottlenecks.
Coupled with Tasktop Viz is Tasktop Hub, our purpose-built integration solution used by nearly half the Fortune 100. Tasktop Hub can help root out inefficiencies surfaced by Tasktop Viz, since most value streams are plagued by inefficiencies like manual updates, manual artifact creation, duplicate data entry and human-to-human handovers.
And if not now, when?
The impacts of COVID-19 are being felt by every single business in the world. It is commonly believed that this recession marks the end of the Turning Point, a time when businesses need to rapidly adapt their behavior to the new conditions. This is when the production capital of innovators starts taking over, and new lifestyles create demand for new products and services, new jobs and new skills.
Whether your budget is shrinking or growing, no one can afford to become worse at software delivery, and the imperative is that you get better. The collective work of FTEs and contractors must deliver a return on investment for the business. And since business results are reported by product line, IT needs to be measuring itself by product, too.
Tasktop’s solutions are designed to help companies turn things around fast because we realize there is no time to waste. We are talking about survival here.
Both Tasktop Viz and Tasktop Hub are powered by Flow Fabric™ and Flow Modeling for rapid time-to-value, to ensure our data can quickly start informing today’s investment decisions.
- Flow Fabric encapsulates over a decade of real-world experience and industry leadership in the domain of software delivery tool communication and integration. It connects to 60+ tools to unlock the information within them, while seamlessly supporting the inevitable changes and disruptions in your environment (tool migrations, API changes, new security standards and policies, system outages, etc.). Flow Fabric feeds a schemaless immutable storage of digital artifacts, across disciplines and functions.
- Flow Modeling provides a layperson’s visual modeling layer over your data, so that within hours of provisioning you can abstract your value streams’ work into measurable units of flow and value creation. Flow Modeling provides a changeable lens over the raw factual data, to provide actionable visibility and insights aligned with the way your CEO and board see the business.
While our technology is great, we never intended to license our products and walk away. We want to see our customers succeed on their journey, and that’s why we go on it with them. Our software is packaged with Flow Advisory services from top-notch experts who have walked this very path, like Carmen DeArdo and Dominica DeGrandis.
Not Done Growing
By now you’re probably anxious for dessert (there’s a nice buffet!) and ready to go home for a well-deserved nap. And I’m dying to get out of these fancy clothes.
So in my parting words I’ll say this: I’m pleased our work at Tasktop has purpose and meaning. I’m proud our technology makes the hardest things feel simple. I’m excited about our innovation roadmap. And I’m honored to be making a difference in the lives of so many people.
In true Tasktopian spirit, we’re gifting 1,000 copies of the Project to Product to those who want to give a copy to their CEO, CFO or board to catalyze their leadership toward quick and impactful action.
I’ll end with a loose translation of another famous Talmud nugget: “Anyone who saves a single soul is deemed as if he has saved the whole world”.
Enjoy the cake!