"enterprise" entries

Unleash innovation in the enterprise

Winning organizations continually experiment.

I constantly hear how enterprises are poor at innovation, bad at product development and unresponsive to business change. So it begs the question, why do so many organizations get it wrong? And what are the key factors to consider when trying to innovate in large organizations?

Typically the factors constraining innovation are conflicting business goals, competing priorities, localized performance measures and success criteria. While these have traditionally been the tools of management — to control workforce behavior and output — in highly competitive and quickly evolving business environments they also have had the adverse effects of killing creativity, responsiveness and ingenuity.

So what are the components needed to unleash innovation in enterprise?

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What is DevOps (yet again)?

Empathy, communication, and collaboration across organizational boundaries.

Cropped image "Kilobot robot swarm" by asuscreative - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons.http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kilobot_robot_swarm.JPG#mediaviewer/File:Kilobot_robot_swarm.JPG

I might try to define DevOps as the movement that doesn’t want to be defined. Or as the movement that wants to evade the inevitable cargo-culting that goes with most technical movements. Or the non-movement that’s resisting becoming a movement. I’ve written enough about “what is DevOps” that I should probably be given an honorary doctorate in DevOps Studies.

Baron Schwartz (among others) thinks it’s high time to have a definition, and that only a definition will save DevOps from an identity crisis. Without a definition, it’s subject to the whims of individual interest groups, and ultimately might become a movement that’s defined by nothing more than the desire to “not be like them.” Dave Zwieback (among others) says that the lack of a definition is more of a blessing than a curse, because it “continues to be an open conversation about making our organizations better.” Both have good points. Is it possible to frame DevOps in a way that preserves the openness of the conversation, while giving it some definition? I think so.

DevOps started as an attempt to think long and hard about the realities of running a modern web site, a problem that has only gotten more difficult over the years. How do we build and maintain critical sites that are increasingly complex, have stringent requirements for performance and uptime, and support thousands or millions of users? How do we avoid the “throw it over the wall” mentality, in which an operations team gets the fallout of the development teams’ bugs? How do we involve developers in maintenance without compromising their ability to release new software?

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Avoid disruption through exploration

Support experimentation and continuously evaluate to stay ahead.

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Businesses have always come and gone, but these days it seems that companies can fall from market dominance to bankruptcy in the blink of an eye. Kodak, Blockbuster and HMV are just a few recent victims of the rapid market disruption that defines the current era.

Where did these once iconic companies go wrong? To my mind, they forgot to keep challenging their assumptions about what business they were actually in.

Businesses have two options when they plan for the road ahead: they can put all their eggs into one basket, and risk losing everything if that basket has a hole in the bottom, or they can make a number of small bets, accepting that some will fail while others succeed.

Taking the latter approach, and making many small bets on innovation, transforms the boardroom into a roulette table. Unlike a punter in a casino, however, businesses cannot afford to stop making bets.

Business models are transient and prone to disruption by changes in markets and the external competitive environment, advances in design and technology, and wider social and economic change. Organizations that misjudge their purpose, or cannot sense and then adapt to these changes, will perish.

The sad truth is that too many established organizations focus most of their time and resources on executing and optimizing their existing business models in order to maximize profits. They forget to experiment and explore new ideas for customer needs of tomorrow.

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DevOps keeps it cool with ICE

How inclusivity, complexity, and empathy are shaping DevOps.

ice

Over the next five years, three ideas will be central to DevOps: the need for the DevOps community to become more Inclusive; the realization that increasing Complexity of systems is the underlying reason for DevOps; and the critical role of Empathy in the growth and adoption of DevOps. Channeling John Willis, I’ll coin my own DevOps acronym, ICE, which is shorthand for Inclusivity, Complexity, Empathy.

Inclusivity

There is a major expansion of the DevOps community underway, and it’s taking DevOps far beyond its roots in agile systems administration at “unicorn” companies (e.g., Etsy or Netflix). For instance, a significant majority (80-90%) of participants at the Ghent conference were first-time attendees, and this was also the case for many of the devopsdays in 2014 (NYC, Chicago, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, and others). Moreover, although areas outside development and operations were still underrepresented, there was a more even split between developers and operations folks than at previous events. It’s also not an accident that the DevOps Enterprise conference took place the week prior to the fifth anniversary devopsdays and included talks about the DevOps journeys at large “traditional” organizations like Blackboard, Disney, GE, Macy’s, Nordstrom, Raytheon, Target, UK.gov, US DHS, and many others.

The DevOps community has always been open and inclusive, and that’s one of the reasons why in the five years since the word “DevOps” was coined, no single, widely accepted definition or practice has emerged. The lack of definition is more of a blessing than a curse, as DevOps continues to be an open conversation about ways of making our organizations better. Within the DevOps community, old-time practitioners and “newbies” have much to learn from each other.

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Business at web speed

A "Coded Business" harnesses feedback loops, optimization, ubiquitous delivery, and other web-centric methods.

Business at web speed: A Coded Business harnesses feedback loops, optimization, ubiquitous delivery and other web-centric methods.

Seven years ago, Steve Souders and Jesse Robbins came to the realization that they both worked within “tribes” that, while ostensibly quite different, were talking about many of the same things. Front-end developers and engineers were figuring out how to make web pages faster and more reliable, and web operations folks were making deployments faster and more resilient.

And so goes the tale of how Velocity came to be — a conference that brought those tribes together and openly shared how to make the web faster and stronger. In those seven years, quite a lot has changed, and many ideas, terms, and technologies have come into being — some directly as a result of Velocity, others were already in the works. DevOps, Chef, Puppet, Continuous Delivery, HTTP Archive — these were the earlier forays. Soon to follow were AWS, Application Performance Monitoring (APM) products, many more monitoring tools, many more CDN vendors, WebPageTest, the explosion of the cloud, Chaos Monkey, mobile everything, Vagrant, Docker, and much, much more.

Out of the fire of Velocity came a New Way of doing things forged in a web-centric world. Along the way, something changed fundamentally about not just tech companies, but companies in general. As we looked around more recently, we realized it wasn’t just about the web and fast pages any more. Read more…

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DevOps in the enterprise

Follow Nordstrom's journey to continuous delivery and a DevOps culture.

DevOps in Practice CoverWould you open an email with a subject line of DevOps and pants? I’m not sure I would.

Six months ago I sent Rob Cummings an email with exactly that subject and he did. And we can be thankful he opened it, because by doing so, he invited us to look back at the fascinating history of Nordstrom’s implementation of continuous delivery and a “DevOps culture.”

The story begins in 2004, in a different era of web operations and performance. Back then, Rob and his team drove out to the colocation facility to deploy the e-commerce site. It was an era in which everything was a bit more heavyweight and things moved a bit slower. But that was OK, because most companies were still figuring the web out, almost as much as users were trying to figure it out.

Then the world started changing. Customer expectations changed. The business’ expectations changed. Heck, even developer expectations changed. As a leader in Nordstrom’s operations department, Rob had to adapt. And all of this was complicated by the fact that the increased pace was starting to strain his team and the systems he was responsible for maintaining. Read more…

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Working like a startup at IBM

How a small and passionate team used modern techniques to shift a business on a short timeline.

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:PSM_V04_D595_Blue_yellow_color_mix_experiment.jpg

Over the past year, I assisted in creating an application that helped shift a major part of IBM to a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model. I did this with the help of a small but excellent development team that was inspired by the culture and practices of web startups. To be clear, it wasn’t easy – changing how we worked led to frequent friction and conflict – but in the end it worked, and we made a difference.

In mid-2013, the IBM Service Management business and engineering leaders decided to make a big bet on moving our software to the cloud. Traditionally we have sold “on premises” software products. These are software products that a customer buys, downloads, and installs on their own equipment, in their own data centers and facilities. Although we love the on-premises business, we realized that cloud delivery of software is also a great option, and as our customers evolved to a hybrid on-premises / cloud future, we needed to be there to help them.

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Four short links: 9 January 2014

Four short links: 9 January 2014

Artificial Labour, Flexible Circuits, Vanishing Business Sexts, and Themal Imaging

  1. Artificial Labour and Ubiquitous Interactive Machine Learning (Greg Borenstein) — in which design fiction, actual machine learning, legal discovery, and comics meet. One of the major themes to emerge in the 2H2K project is something we’ve taken to calling “artificial labor”. While we’re skeptical of the claims of artificial intelligence, we do imagine ever-more sophisticated forms of automation transforming the landscape of work and economics. Or, as John puts it, robots are Marxist.
  2. Clear Flexible Circuit on a Contact Lens (Smithsonian) — ends up about 1/60th as thick as a human hair, and is as flexible.
  3. Confide (GigaOm) — Enterprise SnapChat. A Sarbanes-Oxley Litigation Printer. It’s the Internet of Undiscoverable Things. Looking forward to Enterprise Omegle.
  4. FLIR One — thermal imaging in phone form factor, another sensor for your panopticon. (via DIY Drones)
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The Feedback Principle

Gracefully maintain a desired value in the presence of uncertainty and change

In a previous post, we introduced the basic feedback concept. Now it is time to take a closer look at this idea.

Feedback is a method to keep systems on track. In other words, feedback is a way to make sure a system behaves in the desired fashion. If we have some quality-of-service metric in mind, then feedback is a reliable method to ensure that our system will achieve and maintain the desired value of this metric, even in the presence of uncertainty and change.

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What is an enterprise, anyway?

However one defines "enterprise," what really matters is an organization's culture.

This post was co-authored by Mike Loukides and Bill Higgins.

Bill Higgins of IBM and I have been working on an article about DevOps in the enterprise. DevOps is mostly closely associated with Internet giants and web startups, but increasingly we are observing companies we lump under the banner of “enterprises” trying — and often struggling — to adopt the sorts of DevOps culture and practices we see at places like Etsy. As we tried to catalog the success and failure patterns of DevOps adoption in the enterprise, we ran into an interesting problem: we couldn’t precisely define what makes a company an enterprise. Without a well understood context, it was hard to diagnose inhibitors or to prescribe any particular advice.

So, we decided to pause our article and turn our minds to the question “What is an enterprise, anyway?” We first tried to define an enterprise based on its attributes, but as you’ll see, these are problematic:

More then N employees
Definitions like this don’t interest us. What changes magically when you cross the line between 999 and 1,000 employees? Or 9,999 and 10,000? Wherever you put the line, it’s arbitrary. I’ll grant that 30-person companies work differently from 10,000 person companies, and that 100-person companies have often adopted the overhead and bureaucracy of 10,000 person companies (not a pretty sight). But drawing an arbitrary line in the sand isn’t helpful.

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