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.


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.

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.


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


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!

Dilbert Life Series: Mediocrity Kills aka Show Me Your Strategy Or Be Doomed

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.

“Some men are born mediocre, some men achieve mediocrity, and some men have mediocrity trust upon them.”
― Joseph Heller, Catch-22

I don’t do mediocre. There, I said it. I only do good to great. Well sort of Smile.  The point is that no matter how good you are, you still mess up. While perfection is not of this world it doesn’t look too great on my résumé when I have to write “As a real team player I collaborated enthusiastically to achieve mediocrity”. Sure I might cover it up with fluff like “I integrated the lateral dynamics of horizontally deployed technologies across a vertically integrated stack to realize an optimal use of resources exposing their inherent value to the business while leveraging the synergies of the cloud”, but I won’t. image

As no one likes to be mediocre we sometimes see creative attempts to make sure we all pass the bar but we won’t discuss that here. Whilst every organization will have its share of mediocre processes, way too many are mediocre as an entire organization.

Indicators of mediocrity

Claiming to be innovative

Avoiding mediocrity is not about being original or “innovative” all of the time. Quite the opposite! Sometimes not being mediocre means using plain good commodity solutions that are great for the issue at hand. The good old 80/20 rule, “good enough is good enough” & commoditization delivers the best value for money here. Don’t spend vast amounts of money and time on custom or “boutique” solutions when a commodity will do. This has secondary benefits as well. That time and money can be used for some custom or creative design & work on the things that do matter a lot and make a big difference.

Groups providing false security

For some reasons mediocrity tends to flourish more often in groups and committees. I see this way too much. This danger of sliding into mediocrity exists as an individual but it seems to become more prevalent in a group or organization. Some of my peers call the “this the race to the bottom”:

”Mediocre people working for mediocre organizations delivering mediocre results”

Nobody wants to be that way, it just turns out like that. It has many reasons. The Peter Principle, The Dilbert Principle, B People hiring B people, human behavior in an environment where it’s wiser to conform & play politics than to get results etc. Don’t underestimate the group pressure to conform, avoid mistakes, be a team player or a “can do” person. And then there is the desire to avoid responsibility. Which also happens to be easier in group. The bigger the group in a meeting the bigger the risk of this, a group enforces indecisiveness & caters to fears.

Some organizations tolerate and even reward mediocrity. Management lead by example, whether they like it or not. The effects of this can be partially hidden and mitigated by real leadership in the group (competent employees, highly skilled external help), but it cannot be stopped. If management doesn’t care, they can’t expect others to care. If managers talks about team work & going the extra miles but don’t do so themselves, things break. If the need for safety, fear for failure or not looking good is what drives them you won’t progress & see success. Success cannot be bought and you can’t lead from behind.

Mediocre groups can be manipulated quite easily. “Politicians” like this. It’s like water following the path of least resistance. By leveraging the group you make them accomplices and they can’t complain about decisions made over their heads. Some (most) probably know all to well that they are being manipulated, but why struggle if there is no benefit in it? It safer to conform a when risk aversion sets in, great ideas die. Here’s a beautiful summary (thanks to Kathy Sierra):


Avoiding reality is game we all play to some extent. The abuse of best practices, methodologies and such by clinging to time like a life craft or actually thinking that following the bullet points will magically result in stellar results. This leads to needing ever more resources for ever diminishing returns on investment. The organization becomes an overly complex entity where avoiding responsibility is a top priority and perception is everything. ITIL done wrong will achieve exactly that. It drains the all the fun out of work, and grinds progress to a halt. But no one is to blame as all rules where adhered to. Risk Avoidance As a Service (RAAS™).

Personal note: The power of a group lies in the excellence of the individuals and their ideas. Harvesting those to create the best possible solution is far from conformity to different points of view. It’s about leveraging the discussions, the different or opposite points of view to come to better solutions. In this respect I find the view that “people should learn to do what they’re told” misguided, dangerous & counter productive.

Who’s managing and who’s leading, if anyone?

It doesn’t take very long to walk into a group and observe who the real leaders are. Often these are not the people with the rank, title, mandate. In a lot of cases they are very different persons. This might sound great as a fail safe, but there’s only so many wrongs bottom up approaches can prevent or mitigate, let alone solve. “Bottom up” can only do so much.

This isn’t surprising as middle management is used a dumping ground for people they can do without in critical functions and are willing to sell their souls for the illusion of advancement. They often become a burden to employees & progress.

Now employees do notice this and it ruins trust. Sure you can blame the culture and bad attitude but hey when the team or the organization fails it is their fault and their responsibility. No this is not to harsh. They are all to eager to claim higher wages & ownership of success. Well that knife has two edges and you can’t blame it on the culture. You get the culture you cultivate Smile. Those that can’t handle that responsibility are the ones to fail as managers & most certainly as leaders. You cannot complain to your subordinates as a managers. Shit flows down, gripes flow up. Go it?

Read The Dilbert Life Series – A Bad Manager’s Priorities. Your personnel already has enough crap to deal with, just like you. Don’t add to it. Not that employees can’t be total fools and pains in the proverbial behind but hey, I have posts on that to.

Strategies, Tactics & Execution

Mediocrity is seen where real strategies, tactics & execution are missing. They just do or buy stuff, often without any understanding of the ecosystems they operate in and the relations between them. Their situational awareness is zero and that’s deadly. So we have “managers”, “architects”, “analysts”, both in house and consultants, that cannot even explain what a strategy is. They might claim or believe to have one, but they don’t. It’s opportunistic actions towards the flavor of the day. Such an organization is doomed for mediocrity and survival is by chance, not skill.

Who’s to blame?

Most people just try to survive or perhaps get ahead to a nicer job and/or a better paid one. But no one will admit to it on a performance review, so we have institutionalized lying. At best you’ll get justifications when you ask, but no real explanations. It’s not just as simple as managers being stupid or lazy. When it comes to strategy many are playing a game they don’t understand, let alone master. They are out of their depth and as such they are bound to lose. They’re being used.

However it’s very in vogue to blame the lack of Business – IT alignment for the woes in these volatile IT times. The problem is not IT or the business. It is the entire organization that allows for mediocrity. Sure you read that “IT is an old school ivory tower” all over the internet and it has to prove it’s value.  It’s pure management failure who don’t seem to know who does what and why in their organization. The division is purely artificial. It’s man made and kept alive as it serves political, personal & careerist agenda’s. Book authors, coaches & business consultant smile as they collect their fees discussing this at length. Welcome to mediocrity and failure. You have exactly what you have built.


Nobody has any incentive to fix it either. There is good money to be made and job security to be had by prolonging the problem on both sides. Are these people to blame if some one keeps paying them for that? These woes are true both in the private and in the public sector. Bar some minor detail differences in buzz words they all get handled by the same players. These are the ones that deliver the lobbyists and advisers that turn out ever less services for ever higher costs. They sell “solutions”. One size fits all if possible. Gartner makes a killing from this situation and they do have a clear strategy for that.

No IT strategy? No map? You’re doomed, indecisiveness will kill you.


If you don’t map out your game on the field you play on you can have no strategy. Without that you just do stuff. At best it’s functional (which is an achievement by the way) but often not. Planning, methods, tools … al of these fall victim to indecisiveness. So execution becomes impossible.

Here the result of decisiveness & purpose of action. You create green waves. When all the lights are green, you can ride the green wave. No starting, stopping, but a fluid highly effective way of moving ahead towards your target.



You’re not always in that situation and the light will turn orange & red along the way. That’s live and it’s not too bad unless you get caught in deadlock traffic jams during rush hour.

That situation requires a solution as it’s stressing, frustrating and detrimental to achieving your goals. In extreme case the time between the colors becomes shorter and shorter and eventually drops to zero …

There is another form of deadlock. Doing everything for everyone at the same time to avoid making choices. All the lights are on, on all sides, at all times. You do not get a clear signal or guidance.


Indecisive action kills or grinds you to a halt. Whatever the case you’re losing time and fail to reach your goals. Either by doing everything for everyone at the same time or by being stuck being in a mess. Game over.

DELL CIO Executive Summit

I’ve been invited and I’m attending the CIO Executive Summit with DELL’s Executive Leadership Team on Wednesday September 17, 2014 in Brussels. It’s an opportunity to meet and network with my peers and IT leaders.  It also provide the opportunities to discuss challenges with Dell executives and where they see DELL help us with those.

It runs parallel with DELL Solutions Tour 2014 Brussels (see http://www.dellsolutionstour2014.com/ for events near you) where I’m sure many will be looking at the recently released generation 13 servers & new Intel CPU offerings.


I’ll be attending 2 “Strategic Deep Dive Sessions” that address some of critical challenges facing IT C-Level professionals. I’m doing the one on security. This is important as alone eternal vigilance, preparedness & situational awareness can help mitigate disaster. The technology is just a force multiplier.

The other track is on future ready IT solutions. That means a lot different thins to many of us. The new capabilities and ever faster evolving IT places a financial and operational burden on everyone. I’m very interested to discuss how DELL will deal with this beyond the traditional answers. The need for fast, effective & cost effective solutions that deliver great ROI & TCO is definitely there but the move to OPEX versus CAPEX and the potential loss of ownership also introduces risk that can cost us dearly if not managed right. IT, is still more than a financial model of service billing, even if sometimes it looks like that. It’s important to keep the mix in balance & do it smart.

So on Wednesday I’ll be focusing on strategy and not action or tools. Something that get’s missed way too much by way too many way too often. Michael Dell will be there and if I get the opportunity I’ll be happy to give some feedback.