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Success Invoice – Wednesay 29th July

29 July 2015
What difference do I want to make? I didn’t have a specific objective for today – this makes me think that I definitely need some for tomorrow!
Successes today Agreed with a client the content of her presentation at our next Technology Innovation Exchange event

Came up with an idea for an internal patent competition that is currently running

Value I’m adding Provided a colleague with information about the service innovation capabilities that we can provide to our managed service clients

Made a number of suggestions of innovation content for an event a colleague is organising

Key contribution today Helped a colleague with a number of ideas and input for a proposal he is producing
Who is benefiting from what I’m doing? Mostly my colleagues

Success Invoice – Tuesday 28th July – a day of mentoring and planning

28 July 2015
What difference do I want to make? Support the student I am mentoring to help her with her academic and career choices

Establish how we can collaborate effectively with a business partner so that our mutual clients can benefit from their technology.

Share the approach I use to track the progress with our clients’ innovation agendas so that it can be aligned to other management systems

Successes today Met a business partner and learned about the technology and services they offer. Agreed to include them in client innovation workshops where appropriate. Also suggested that some education be provided for colleagues to broaden the understanding within my organisation.

Agreed a scope and plan for the demonstration of a new service at our next Technology Innovation Exchange (TIE)

Agreed a plan for the TIE team to buddy with the presenters to help them prepare for their presentations and demos

Learned about a new management system and explored some ideas about how to align it with the innovation management system.

Value I’m adding Helped my mentee with her thoughts about career plans and developing professional relationships.
Key contribution today Sharing the innovation management system with business operations colleagues
Who is benefiting from what I’m doing? My mentee; the TIE attendees (in the future); internal business operations colleagues

Success Invoice – Monday 27th July

27 July 2015

Recently I have found that there are so many demands on my time. This has caused my focus to be dragged from pillar to post. So I thought I’d use Robert Holden’s success invoice approach to help me concentrate on doing the things that really matter.

What difference do I want to make? Support a colleague in deploying some sensor’s in a client’s retail store for a PoC of some location sensing technology.

Gain agreement from various colleagues to move forward with an internal text analytics project

Share IBM’s approach to innovation with a client to help them see IBM as an innovation partner

Successes today We managed to get the sensors installed and some data flowing – but it’s not working perfectly – the challenge of working on bleeding-edge technology! We have a plan to work with the development team to find out what’s going on.

Gained clarity on two related projects to perform some data analyss – along with the support of influential colleagues.

Delivered my presentation on innovation and believe it was well received.

Value I’m adding Mostly driving things forward – often I am a facilitator rather than a subject-matter expert. This leadership is often invaluable as without it things just don’t progress.
Key contribution today Facilitating the installation of the sensors. It did involve climbing ladders and getting my hands dirty – it’s good to be doing hands-on work!
Who is benefiting from what I’m doing? I reviewed the requirements document produced by a team of student interns. My feedback should benefit the students and the client for whom they are delivering the project.

The development team for the sensor system should benefit from seeing the live data flowing – to help them improve the technology.

The parable of the Good Samaritan Roofer

15 June 2015

A few weeks ago in bad weather one of the tiles fell off the roof of my house overnight – we didn’t hear it happen but saw the debris on the front doorstep in the morning. Fortunately nobody was standing underneath at the time!

The tile had been cut to fit against a Velux Window – so it wasn’t the full width. This might have contributed to why it slipped out – not enough friction to hold it in.

I resolved to at least try and fix the problem myself – as paying someone to fit a single tile felt a little daft. Fortunately the previous owner of our house had left a pile of spare tiles. So all I needed was a way to cut the tile to the required width.

All of my research indicated that I needed power tools with suitable blades. I wasn’t happy with the idea of buying the equipment for just one tile so did a little more research. I found a technique for cutting bricks where you use a chisel to score a line and then hammer the chisel (gently) to make the cut. I knew that the tile was more brittle than a brick but I had lots of spares so thought I’d give it a go.

After a quick trip to B&Q where a very helpful sales assistant helped me select the most suitable hammer and chisel I was back home ready to start work. My first attempt resulted in the tile splitting in the wrong place. So my second attempt was more gentle and patient. And it worked! I cut the tile just where I wanted.

The next step was to install the tile. This was harder than I expected. I thought I’d just lift up the two tiles above the gap and slip it in. Unfortunately that just wasn’t working.

And then along came the Good Samaritan Roofer. A young man (boy do I feel old typing those three words) was walking past and saw me leaning out of the upstairs window. He asked what I was doing and offered to help. Turned out he’s a roofer and he just moved in down the road. I invited him upstairs, and he fitted the tile in a few seconds!

It was really kind of him to notice my predicament and offer to help. This small act of kindness made me really happy – and I now my roof is fixed too!

Are DevOps and Outsourcing compatible?

11 May 2014

The great promise of DevOps is the ability to regularly deliver new business function in an application portfolio through the process of continuous integration and excellent collaboration between the application developers and the IT operations team. This is eminently achievable when everyone works for the same company, but can it work in the world of outsourcing?

Importance of Systems Thinking

There are many organisations that have embraced IT outsourcing, acknowledging that they are not expert application developers or IT technicians, but certainly know their business and customers. These organisatons rarely put all their eggs in one basket. It’s quite common to outsource IT infrastructure to one company, networks to another, with application development and maintenance going to a third. The companies that provide the outsourced services are often capable of delivering more than they are contracted to. So there is often a lot of competition going on between the service providers – vying to take over a larger scope of the outsourced services. If you’ve read The Three Ways  you’ll be aware of the First Way being Systems Thinking. I am stressing the importance of Systems Thinking being enforced (is that too strong a word) by the client across their Apps and Infra providers.

(For brevity for the rest of this article I’ll refer to the IT Infrastructure provider and what they provide as Infra and the Application Development & Maintenance provider as Apps)

Encourage a blameless culture

It is this ongoing competition that I feel is a major barrier to the successful implementation of a DevOps culture alongside outsourcing. But I believe that it can work, if the client puts in place effective governance and rules of engagement. One aspect of this governance is defining and agreeing clear roles & responsibilities within the DevOps framework. This can be challenging even in the simple example of two providers: one delivering IT infrastructure and the other in the application development & maintenance space. Another aspect of this governance is to implement a blameless culture see Blameless Postmortems. If the Apps and Infra providers can be encouraged to focus on solving problems together then this should be a good step towards harmonious collaboration.

One DevOps environment – governed by the client

It is common for the Apps provider to use their own environments for development and unit testing. The Infra environment is then used for later stages of test (integration, operations, system, acceptance), production and disaster recovery environments. If code needs to flow through the various stages of development, test and production deployment using a single set of tools and processes then it’s a lot easier to have a single IT infrastructure to work with.

Apps will be a major source of requirements for Infra. It would be unreasonable to expect one outsourcing provider to directly specify requirements to another. Therefore one of the main governance roles that the client should perform is to facilitate this requirements gathering and validation. The Infra should be evolving over time as the platform is increasingly used. Examples of regular enhancements include support for new versions of operating systems, databases and middleware, and the addition of the associated monitoring capability. It would be unreasonable to expect Infra to support everything from day one so the client should also agree a plan that describes what facilities will be made available and when.

DevOps requires integrated, automated tools used by all parties

If we think about how DevOps works, one building block is an Infra that is fully automated with a self-service interface that the developers use. Therefore the client should work with Infra to get such a platform implemented. It needs to be done in concert with the developers to ensure it meets their requirements, but it can also work as a standalone platform. Many Infrastructure as a Service Cloud platforms already provide some of the constituent parts – but the key is integrating the infrastructure platform with the development tools. I recently saw a great example of Urbancode Deploy being integrated with SmartCloud Orchestrator to provide a DevOps platform using existing servers in an in-house data center. DevOps doesn’t have to mean Cloud.

One sticking point could be the integration of the tools. Infra will have their tools and Apps will have theirs. Engineering them to work together is often feasible but the politics of integrating tools used by two different companies is likely to be a tricky negotiation. Again, this is where the client needs to take the lead and define, in agreement with all parties, exactly what needs to be done. One option is that the client purchases the development tools rather than the Apps provider. This might present a software license challenge as the Apps provider might already have very favourable terms with their tooling provider. However, given that many tools that DevOps professionals use are open source then this might not always be a roadblock.

Conclusion

As an optimist I believe that DevOps can be achieved when application and infrastructure work has been outsourced. But it requires the active buy-in of all providers and excellent governance from the client. Tools can be integrated and commercial challenges can usually be resolved. It’s the attitude and governance that are key to DevOps and outsourcing success.

£168 for a fuse! How this could have been avoided!

18 December 2013

We have a NEFF combination microwave / oven in our kitchen. It was installed by the previous owners and has been an applicance we have used almost every day since we moved in. So when it stopped working it needed fixing quick!

I have a degree in Electronic Engineering so I’m not usually put off attempting to repair something electrical. This time I was a little concerned as Microwaves means high voltages (~4000V I think). I trawled the Internet for some quick fixes but didn’t find anything obvious. The oven didn’t display any error codes – it just stoped working after three seconds when being used as a Microwave. (The traditional oven and grill both worked fine)
So I decided to contact NEFF to see what my options were. It apears there are two – either a 1-time repair of £99 + parts or £168 for a 12-month contract, which included parts. (More details here) I opted for the 12-month contract as if the Magnetron needed replacing the single visit would work out more expensive than the contract. Arranging the contract was easy – and fortunately it’s 12 monthly payments of £14. The engineer was booked and he turned up today.
Extracting the oven would have been tricky for me as it’s quite heavy, but the engineer had a height-ajustable table that he could pull the oven directly on to. Once he had the lid off he saw there was a fuse. A quick test with his multimeter indicated it was blown. So he replaced it and got on with testing the oven. Everything worked fine so he reinstalled the oven, completed his paperwork and was on his way.
So why didn’t I do this myself? Basically because it felt too risky. But having seen it done – and learning that opening up a microwave oven and looking for obvious faults is no different than any other appliance, I’d be confident to do it myself. (But I don’t need to for the next 12 months!). It’s a shame that the oven didn’t display an error code – as that would have made diagnosis simpler. But then they aren’t designed for home maintenance are they?

Early morning runs are good for the soul

4 September 2013
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This morning  I went out for a run at 6am – a luxury that I can’t remember last time I enjoyed. To many people the idea of going out for a 6-mile run, let alone so early, might seem anywhere on a spectrum from foreign to extreme. However it’s something I enjoyed since I started running properly in 1995.

My 1-year old daughter has been teething for the last couple of weeks, so my wife and I haven’t had a solid night’s sleep for quite a while. This morning I awoke naturally at 5.:45 feeling relatively refreshed having slept through. So I thought I’d take the opportunity to go out for a run.

It was a great decision. There is a very calm feeling at that time of the morning. The world is slowly awakening  and everything is still quiet. For much of my run all I could hear was my feet on the ground, my breathing, and birds tweeting (not the 140-character type either!) I find early morning runs are a great time to let my mind wander and just relax. I guess it’s somewhat like meditation – but I’ve never done that so I can’t be sure.

If you haven’t tried it, make the time to get out for an early morning run. Especially on a day like today when there’s a lovely blue sky and the rising sun looks is a warm orange globe in the sky.

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