Heading Home after Ignite 2016

While traveling back home here are some musings on Microsoft Ignite 2016. I’m not going to regurgitate all the news and announcements here.

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There were many and they were divers. Azure Identity, Security, storage, management, Windows Server 2016, Hyper-V, Storage Spaces, Storage Replica … are all offering a wide variety of new capabilities and options. It’s impressive now and it will be even more impressive in the future. When I connect the dots and look at the opportunities my take on what the future roadmap can and might be visualizes in front of my eyes. That’s the value I can add to an organization that’s committed to its future and realizes it needs to leverage IT to it’s fullest potential. That means you cannot treat IT as a facility because we build it on commodity products. Every success is build on creative and well directed use of the components and the capabilities. This requires a lot more than lip service or merely covering up bad choices and political ambitions with a thin layer of “big principles”. The key to success is speed, agility, insight in a world where mobile and cloud offer tremendous new opportunities. Large, long term, centralized projects have their place but sticking to them by default in the wrong place, the wrong way and manner will lead to failure in a 24/7/365 mobile world where federation, collaboration across boundaries are paramount. The small, cost effective and efficient projects delivering real value with a purpose will make giants, bot in government and the private sectors stumble and even fall.

We have so much opportunity here that many cannot see the trees through the forest anymore. This will lead to many failed projects, ambitions and organizations in combination with a waste of time and money. That’s were we can make the difference.

As an attendee and MVP I was very happy to be able to attend in order to calibrate my compass and correct course. In good tradition I signed the billboard for attending MVPs at Ignite 2016  I’m already looking forward to heading back to Redmond for the MVP Global Summit and continue the discussion at the Microsoft Head Quarters.

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To me, the Ignite 2016 edition was one of intensive networking with Microsoft experts and management. This extended to 3rd party vendors and partners of Microsoft. This, in combination with the discussions with my peers  to discover their views and insights have given me a very up to date view on where we are at and where things are going. That’s the value I’m taking back home to work with and help people reach their full potential. That’s not an easy task as many today are or feel at least a bit out of balance to completely lost. Technologists are the one to step up all the way to the board level and steer their organizations towards a successful future.  Many companies are not ready for this and some management feels threatened by this. There’s basically no need for that fear as we are technologists, not politicians. We solve problems, we don’t create them. We drive companies towards success, if you let us.

Innovation As A Service

Disclaimer: The Dilbert® Life series is a string of post on corporate culture from hell and dysfunctional organizations running wild. This can be quite shocking and sobering. A sense of humor will help when reading this. If you need to live in a sugar coated world were all is well and bliss and think all you do is close to godliness, stop reading right now and forget about the blog entries. It’s going to be dark. Pitch black at times actually, with a twist of humor, if you can laugh at yourself.

Innovation As A Service for sale

Innovation! Get your fresh, real innovation right here ladies and gentlemen! Buy 3 innovations and pay only two! That’s right, the economies of scale at your fingertips. Get your innovation right here and now at pennies to the dollar!

You cannot buy innovation as a service. Maybe that’s why this website is painfully accurate. There is no such thing.

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Results and success don’t come as the outcome of a process you can buy and follow. Creating some incubators, handing out some funds or price money isn’t going to help you innovate one bit.

This is especially true when you’re an organization that hasn’t got a culture to stimulate it. Not because culture will always determinate an outcome but because if your culture doesn’t evolve to enable what you need it probably isn’t a cause but a result. The result of lacking a real strategy.

When you’re not a small, agile, talent and motivation driven company it’s hard to become one by acquiring the resources (ideas, talent, motivation, products) you need. Many try but fail. Some succeed but even then it’s a time limited success. Innovation is an ongoing activity. Success is a temporary result. It’s not a long term, well defined and understood process or product. If it was it wouldn’t be innovative.

When you’re you need to optimize your processes or replace them if they can be optimized.

The organizational paradox

Innovation, or any “hot” item in business is like sex. The more people talk about it and want it the less it’s going to happen. This is frustrating too many so they try to facilitate or force some success. This leads to disappointing, second rate, clumsy and poor experiences compared to what it’s supposed to be.

As production, distribution and services are being disrupted by automation or even automatic / autonomous technology we see that profits come under stress. That means more with less, reduction of the work force & optimizing processes to reduce cost & optimize profits. This leads to more and more commodity driven businesses and organizations that are trying to compete on cost. - Dilbert by Scott Adams

A magic word has appeared that’s supposed to deliver a prosperous future for all of us. All this while we save ourselves into poverty and reduce our value into nothing more than 1 or 2 % better efficiencies than any other organizations at delivering commodities. If you don’t have a factual (Energy, “to big to fail” banking, …) or legal (notaries, IRS, …) monopoly you have very little margin as an excuse for your existence. So now we all have to be innovative. Never mind that you’re in the least innovative business on earth. Innovation it is as everyone is doing it, has or wants it. So must we or we’re clearly “out of touch”.

Get in the ring!

Pretending to be a boxer is lots of fun until you have to get into the ring and fight. When you step into the ring and your opponent smacks you in the face even your best plans fall apart. Let alone that sorry excuses of a plan you have in lieu of training, skills and motivation.

It’s very hard for established, highly regulated companies to really innovate. They’re about avoiding risks, optimizing processes & following procedures. The aim is to get the best predictable results with the fewest cost & overhead as long as this doesn’t endanger the processes and regulations. It just isn’t compatible with agility and innovation.

Now some large organizations can deal with this and make it a success.  It requires truly great strategies, strategists and some serious skills to make them materialize. Not a small feat to pull off! But way to many can’t. Nothing has eternal live. It’s even worse when such organizations make their innovation islands or incubators dependent on centralized, slow moving, process driven services & processes. That’s like swimming with an anvil tied around your ankle. Good luck!

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Let small organizations exist. Give them the freedom and independency they need to function. This entire mindset of centralized large entities that are driven by economies of scale with a giant focus (or at least the pretense of that) on efficiency of what already exists is mind numbing to most of us. Let alone to the best and brightest. It only “rewards” the accountant mindset. Trying to fix this with “pockets” of innovation and agility is like a reservation. It keeps a species alive artificially but it doesn’t make that species have a future and be all it can be to fulfill its potential It rewards opportunists who claim to be pioneers. Those that want the benefits and rewards that comes with that status without having to do the hard work. It’s lip service, smoke and mirrors.

The fallacy of bimodal IT in this regard is that a schizophrenic organization, with only two opposite extremes, is supposed to transition the fruits between those two “just like that”. The entire process, the evolution required and the gradual cultural shifts to bring the results of agility and innovation to the process driven highly regulated side of the business is never ever discussed or mentioned.

That “integration” is supposed to happen naturally & apparently without issues or effort. That’s a very hard order to fill It’s as if you can zip up the files of your project and e-mail them to the regulated part of the business and that’s all what’s needed. At best they’ll give you SharePoint Online and claim they’ve dealt with that issue as they don’t use attachments anymore. And no, a “Chief Integration Officer” is not going to help. But I’m sure you’ll find plenty of candidates to fill that function when you attach a higher pay grade to it. But just like innovation we’ll see the call for “bimodal” it along with many practitioners, consultants and coaches selling it. The successes will be rare and hard to find.

Barnacles, strategists, consultants and coaches at the office

Disclaimer: The Dilbert® Life series is a string of post on corporate culture from hell and dysfunctional organizations running wild. This can be quite shocking and sobering. A sense of humor will help when reading this. If you need to live in a sugar coated world were all is well and bliss and think all you do is close to godliness, stop reading right now and forget about the blog entries. It’s going to be dark. Pitch black at times actually, with a twist of humor, if you can laugh at yourself.

When people tell me they have strategy consultants, ITIL, SCRUM, KABAN, … coaches, architects and these are well embedded in their organization to ensure operational and long term success I always try to envision this. No matter how hard I try to see “marketing brochure” mental picture and the connotation of professionalism and success this is supposed to inspire, I never succeed.

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In reality this is the mental picture I get: barnacles!

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Barnacles, strategists, consultants and coaches at the office inspire me to get a chisel and high pressure cleaner to get rid of these. Barnacles slow us down, reduce efficiency and lead to structural damage.

Most organizations are failing due to their obsession with failing. That’s why ITIL is considered a success. All evidence to the contrary I must add. I have never found an IT professional who had seen any benefits to the success of IT come from ITIL.

ITIL is considered a success by people who are trying to manage IT but who do not understand IT. That’s business analysts, project managers, architect and way to often way too many IT managers. I’m not picking on ITIL per se. Take any methodology in the hands of scared, clueless people and they cling to them like a ship wrecked person to a life preserver. It’s a tool to be used where and when needed. Walking around in one at the office is pretty silly.

ITIL caters to their fears and their childish need to avoid failure. You might say that’s a result, but I think we can at least agree this is not a success or progress, which is the type of result your looking for a business. Still, why do so many waste so much time on processes of control that will not be sustainable in the reality of the field? It soothes fears, if feeds the need to be seen as in charge and having things under control. They think it makes them perceived as being in charge. Basically they’re acting. Like kids, pretending to be what they are not and will never be. It’s a sad day when I have to quote from Corinthians but desperate times call for desperate measures.

“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.”

Clearly too many people have missed some essential and significant steps or got stuck in them in professional life. Clever consultants and coaches cash in on delivering the instruments to anticipate problems, avoid problems, detect problems, manage change to avoid problems and last but not least provide framework to proactively deal with anything up to and including nuclear warfare. In my reality these people are more on par with racketeers, con men, liars and priest of false religions. As in real life they can make big money and gain a lot of influence and power, but only if you allow them to. However, does not make them right.

Failure is not an option. It is, for all practical purposes, guaranteed and free of charge. What you need is smart people, who understand the context, have a great situational awareness and possess the ability to think and act fast. This is not the same as wasting time and money in endless meetings, task forces and procedures. It’s always what you never considered that will get you in the end. Solve the problems you have fast, effective and decisively to the best of your abilities and in alignment with the environment. If you can do that, you have just made progress on route to success! The results are fast, measurable and simple enough as they are noticeable without a microscope.

There is way too much waste in governance leading to the exact opposite of what one is, supposedly, trying to achieve which is a better and more successful business. In fact, these activities in cost and head count outnumber people delivering tangible results by 3 to 1 and in some cases even more. They appoint blame and steal success as in reality the main purpose is to avoid being blamed themselves and to look good in order to get ahead.

Meanwhile your organization keeps failing as you keep adding overhead, head count and expenses. What you need to do is let your good and best employees excel at what they do best: achieve progress and move along. You need to steer that effort and ability towards the company goals and stimulate your employees.

Move fast, navigate through the unpredictable waters and learn how to deal with the fallout effectively. Whatever you do, don’t think that more governance is the way forward or is real work versus actual progress through results. Face it, you are probably not a nuclear power plant or highly regulated medical institution. You’re most likely a SME trying to thrive with limited budgets, resources and time. So not wasting any of it is paramount. Get rid of the crud, mend your sails and chop the barnacles of your ship’s hull. You can achieve more with men of steel on wooden ships than vice versa. The latter tend to stay and rust in safe harbors. In the end this does not mean you’re reckless!

Is the cloud failing or are you?

The cloud is not failing. That’s the good news. Now for the bad.

Many people complain about the mess their cloud usage has become and how cloud sales people did not tell them to read the small print. As a business, whether for profit or a non profit you need people in charge with a reasonably amount of intelligence and a drive to push the organization forward, not just themselves.  You can not take the easy way out, pocket your pay check and let the “details and annoying technicalities” to your employees. Basically you’re saying “screw you” to them so don’t be surprised when that works both ways. If your cloud projects are failing is due to the same reason your other IT projects were failing. You’re doing it wrong.

In a world of political correctness, this is going to sound harsh. But that’s not the problem. The problem is that you as a business, a manager, a “leader” are failing. You are failing and you’re incapable of dealing with that fact. Because it hurts your sensitivities. Well you are hurting your employees, your customers, your future.

Way to many cloud (private/hybrid/public) projects are done as “self service” or minimal effort projects. There is no design. There is no expertise, experience, knowledge, context or a deeper understanding of the systems, their interactions, capabilities and needs. In this commodity world it just has to work. Nothing just works. Deal with it. If you don’t put value on the above that’s how things end up.

Cloud project in many environments look way too much like a classic house where they bolted on new fashioned extensions without a clue about how to do what they were doing. By doing so they ruined the roof, the wiring, the isolation, the functionality and livability. It’s leaking, it’s rotting the house and fungi rule the realm.

You did not get what you paid for but you get exactly what you value: nothing.

It’s not that you don’t spend ridiculous amounts of money. You outsourced all your in house capabilities and expertise and on top of that you’re are paying 3 to 5 times too much for services and “consultants” that have been on your payroll for decade. You don’t even even have the capabilities in house to realize the above anymore. If you do they probably have gone into hiding. You buy over priced shit on a daily basis and are told it’s great and what the industries best practices dictate.

The fallacy that IT, which is the cloud and nothing but the cloud for many today, is nothing but a commodity that has to work out of the box at the cheapest possible price is making you fail. But how could that be?  After all it’s just computers in the cloud so you don’t even have to hook up the power and a cable any more. No? These almost absurd simplifications that are in play here are totally pushing aside knowledge, experience, skills, a continuous educational effort. The end result, excellent service to your business and / or customers, dies a thousand small deaths in collateral damage.

You’re deploying cloud solutions without planning, coordination, design, governance, responsibilities, skills and what not. You’ve lost control over your (cloud)  IT. You’ve lost control over the data, the access, the backups, disaster recovery, the accounts of the service subscription, everything. These are the essential parts of a functional, maintainable, cost effective and supportable IT environment. This will bite you hard, deep and will perhaps bleed you to death.

This is not the cloud failure. It’s you. If you go about “old school” on premises IT the same way the failures are there as well. So you hate the solutions you pay way too much for, you hate the lousy service and the lack results. You get shafted every day.

The easy fix you come up with is just more of the same. More consulting, more work and responsibility avoiding, more meetings, task forces, more multi year over sized super projects that are doomed to fail because there a more than enough people to take your money form idiots.

How is this possible? Because I way too many places criticism has been banned and died. Meanwhile in that political correct always peaceful and quiet environment real damage is done to people as talent, motivation, money and value is destroyed along with a better future. No one in those places has any skin in the game as you risk more by doing your job than by watching the place go to hell. Good luck!

To any one else: there are real experts out there that can really help you. All you have to do is value results, your business and your clients.