Reflections from DevOps Enterprise Summit 2019 + Day Three Recap

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It’s been just over a week since this year’s DevOps Enterprise Summit 2019 in Las Vegas came to a close. And while we’re happy to be away from the artificial air that’s continuously pumped out at The Cosmopolitan, we will miss the breath of fresh air that many attendees and speakers brought to the DevOps discussion.  

The third and final day of the conference saw our CEO and founder, Dr. Mik Kersten, return to the stage a year on from launching his Amazon best-selling book Project to Product and the pioneering Flow Framework™. Mik picked up the thread once again to share his and Tasktop’s experience of working with Fortune 100 organizations to help them transition to a product-centric operating model.

“I’ve traveled the world asking business executives how do they measure the value of software delivery,” began Mik. “Typically I’m greeted by blank stares. I also ask them do they know where their bottlenecks are and receive the same response. I understand that language gap; when I started talking story points to our CFO, Simon Bodymore, I think he thought I was crazy and momentarily regretted joining Tasktop!”

As Mik highlighted what needs to be done to improve conversations between IT and the business—a common language, broadening understanding across both sides, defining what value is and how it flows—he tackled the evergreen challenge of measurement, a major theme of DOES 2019. “When you find new ways to measure, you find new ways to innovate. Proxy metrics, like tracking activities instead of outcomes, coupled with treating IT as cost centre, will kill your transformation.”

After using a story about a big U.S. bank to illustrate how billions can be squandered on transformation without reaping or measuring the benefits, Mik asked the audience to consider why they’re building software delivery in the first place. “Production is all about what customers are pulling, not what you’re producing. How you can help them pull what they want faster? And by that, we don’t mean lead time from when a Jira task is opened and closed, we mean the customer’s view of delivery from request to delivery. That’s all that matters.”

Thinking like your customers is not a groundbreaking concept in itself, but in a complex practice like software delivery, it helps cut through the fog — especially at scale. “From a customer point of view, they just want more features and fast. It’s what makes them like your company’s mobile experience rather than your competitors. But that’s not the only thing that flows and impacts delivery…”(Learn more about what flows across your software delivery value streams). 

Expanding on how defects impact product quality, risk work undermines customer trust, and tech debt impacts the ability to accelerate delivery of the key flow items, Mik drew on Tasktop’s experience on applying the Flow Framework™. By connecting toolchains, automating and visualizing how the key four work items flow across defined product value streams, Tasktop was able to generate flow metrics (through our new Viz product) to measure performance from the customer’s perspective and make data-driven decisions to improve business outcomes.

“When we identified that velocity was down for one product, we did exactly what I just told you we shouldn’t do. We increased manpower for that value stream, increasing our Flow Load. That led to velocity actually going down. But thanks to our visibility into our flow, we could see that problem and make a decision to address the bottleneck.” You can read more about Tasktop’s work with flow metrics and the development of Tastkop Viz, in Mik’s blog below (we’ll also update the blog with the video of the presentation once it’s available). 

Measuring What Matters in Software Delivery: The Tasktop Viz Story

BMW

Two other Tasktop customers spoke on the same day — BMW Group and Comcast. Tasktop’s work with BMW forms the spine of Project to Product and inspired much of Mik’s thinking around a new approach to software delivery. The automotive giant kicked off proceedings by sharing their ongoing transformation. “Our aim is a move away from bimodal IT to become 100% Agile with a BizDevOps product portfolio,” explained Frank Ramsak, IT Governance, BMW Group. “And BizDevOps is not just a buzzword, it’s a holistic journey that focuses on four dimensions – process, structure, technology and culture.”

A key component of that journey is the end of projects for the German company, “tearing down the wall of confusion between business, development and IT ops”, as they seek “a 360 view of their products”. Crucially, BMW is committed to looking at the business through the lens of the customer by focusing on user experience.

“UX matters and we needed to make as easy as possible for internal and external customers. That means moving away from mainframe on legacy frameworks — the mother of dark mode! That’s not how we want to treat users. It’s like a joke; if you have to explain the joke then it’s probably not very good! Instead of experts writing applications for experts, we want users to write for users.” To help with that goal, BMW has created a specialized user centre for design, a 530 sqm office with an open door philosophy to provide software delivery teams with professional UX support.

Comcast

Given the prominence of Comcast in the communications landscape, it’s hard to imagine the company being anything but a widely successful software company. Ranga Muvavarirwa—VP, Entertainment Technology, Comcast, and Jessica Sant, Senior Manager, Engineering, Comcast Interactive Media—were on hand to shatter that perception, providing insights into the earlier days of the company’s transformation.

In 2006, Comcast Interactive Media was conceived to build software, an isolated part of the business that fostered a different culture and was allowed to grow before being brought in. “Back then, we only had one video product that we didn’t build,” recalled Jessica. “We were just a 50-year old startup with a pole!”

Jess continued, “When we did start building our own products, it was a big waterfall endeavor. Comprising two processes; “Scope, Architect, Impact, Delivery” and “Joint Application Design”, abbreviated as SAID and JAD respectively. During one call, Jonathan Moore [Chief Software Architect and Senior Fellow] accidentally combined the two to say “SAD” – which was probably a Freudian slip…”    

They knew this approach, with its three-year cadence, wasn’t fast enough to transform them into a tech company. A holy trinity across departments was formed “between the practitioners doing the work and defining best practice, the champion—a tech lead/manager providing direction) and on the hook for delivering results to investors—and the investors who have the vision, the business case and the cash. It was crucial we built and earnt trust between those groups and between IT and the business.”

The fact that CMI was allowed to grow at its own pace and do its own thing has clearly paid dividends for the company – and not just in terms of profitability. “We had cross-functional teams featuring engineers, operation and product to remove the Neopolitan structure between silos,” Ranga Muvavarirwa adds. “They were allowed to create their own culture that was right for building products and it quickly earnt the trust of the business. The fact that two-thirds of CMI are still at Comcast over this long period is a great engagement measure.”

Echoing Mik’s sentiments are around defining value and clarifying the ‘why’ behind building software, Jess adds that trust enabled them to shake off business reservations and rules. “A few years ago, John received a phone call from the business side about estimates for a project. He just sighed and said, “We’ll get it done”. The caller responded “I’ll put down you’re committed”, which speaks volumes for the belief they had in us. They understood what we were trying to do. Revolution starts with a small act of rebellion.”

News from afar – Tasktopian takeaways from DOES

John Kapral, VP American Sales

“I always enjoy my conversations at DOES because integration is often bigger and more profound than attendees realize. For many, they presume integration refers to automating the activities and flow in the release pipeline. I always tell them: you’re on the right track. You’ve automated and optimized one key stage in the value stream, but what about everything else that happens in planning, building and delivering a product? What about the teams and tools in those stages before the build and after deploy? You need to connect that too – and that’s what Tasktop are leading experts in. 

We’re not just some lightweight integration that automates activities between two tools for a project here or there. We’re here for the long haul for your longlasting products – a robust and adaptable hub that links all tools and activities in your product value stream from ideation to production, automatically flowing and tracing the high volume, velocity and variety of rich data that your specialists need to do their job effectively in real-time.

And now, with Tasktop Viz, we can take all that consolidated data to create flow metrics dashboards that will tell them how their value streams are performing for the business. That’s when the penny drops. That’s when they realize integration is a serious business. That’s when they realize that because of our comprehensive set of connectors, the strongest on the market by a country mile, we can improve all parts of the value stream (not just the DevOps stages) to optimize flow from end-to-end. And that we will be there for them as they grow their complex business-critical software portfolio and move from project to product.” 

Dominica DeGrandis, Principal Flow Advisor 

“A vital part of the shift to a product-centric operating model is the role that project managers and the PMO can play. At DOES, project managers voiced their concerns about their jobs, and I also heard stories about PMO directors who are nervous about the shift away from a project way of working. My response? “Don’t fret!” The very nature of working in tech means we have to constantly reinvent ourselves as technology changes. It’s just the PMO’s turn to adapt – and they can play a key role in helping their organization move from scope-based outcomes to value-based outcomes at a program-level. They have so much to bring to the product table – strong relationships, business knowledge, and skills that transfer over to a product-centric model with experience of vendor management, risk management, cost management, and revenue management.”

Jeff Downs, Senior Director of Value Stream Architecture

“For years, the DevOps community has been focused on integrating the CI/CD pipeline and optimizing it for flow. At DOES 2019, it will evident that people are starting to see the need to apply those same principals across the whole value stream from ideation to production. With no one tool that can manage all the specialist stages of enterprise software delivery, organizations are looking to create a connected modular infrastructure that enables practitioners to plug their preferred tools in and out without disrupting flow across product value streams. Tool agnostic integration at scale, which only Tasktop can do, enables toolchains to act like one well-oiled machine, automating manual handoffs and establishing end-to-end visibility and traceability for easy reporting and measurement.”

Vilji Kavanal, Product Manager

“At DOES 2019, it was great to see that Tasktop is on the right path to solving many of the market’s pain points. Fortune 1000 companies are all facing the same problems: reduced productivity and collaboration between teams due to silos, long wait times across key stages including user feedback, and no end-to-end visibility or traceability into the product flow to continuously improve quality. Yet many organizations are still trying to reinvent and innovate their silos, not realizing the amount of potential they are leaving on the table due to lack of a broader overarching view of the value stream.

That’s what makes Tasktop’s two products—Hub and Viz—such a powerful value proposition. Tasktop Viz provides real-time insights with flow metrics to help you adapt the shift from a project/silo mindset to a value stream/product mindset. You don’t have to get your processes or culture right for Tasktop Viz to do its magic; organizations can use Viz to implement the Flow Framework to see how their transforming today. What’s working, what’s not, where the bottlenecks are before it’s too late, and where to invest resources to accelerate and optimize the flow of business value. 

The power of Tasktop Hub and Viz was illustrated beautifully by Jeff Zahorchak from Select Medical in his session with our VP of Product Development, Nicole Bryan. I can’t wait to help other customers to transform their software delivery too.”

Tasktopians in action

Check out the below sessions from Tasktopians – we will all presentations as they’re made available.

Product-thinking and secure delivery – DevOps Enterprise Summit 2019 – Day One Recap 

Tasktop Viz launch – DevOps Enterprise Summit 2019 – Day Two Recap

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