Tom Peruzzi's thoughts on digital, innovation, IT and operations

Frame it

Posted in general, organizational by opstakes on August 7, 2020

It’s been a while ago since I last wrote an article. I started joining a board in 2017 and was quite busy till then. Today I want to share my main lesson I have learned in the last 3 years – frame it to win it.

What is framing?

We all have different or nearly the same opinions and we all want to find “the north star”. But the way how to get there may be different and the way the north star looks like too and whether it is north or south 😉

Framing means getting everyone on board regarding the frame , the boarder and the limitations and the applicability of the one thing you want to achieve. Having done so you have made a huge step forward. This does not necessary mean that the road to success is now free to ride but having framed it correctly means you have achieved a certain type of alignment and you can go forward and avoid fruitless discussion during the kickoff meeting.

When is framing necessary?

Anytime, every time, every meeting is a chance to frame correctly. Generally saying: the larger the organization the more you have to frame or the higher you are in hierarchy the more framing effort is needed (As a fan of flat hierarchies or even hierarchy-less organisations I recommend not building too much hierarchy). You can set the tone, you can set the frame but having framed it correctly with all your colleagues and peers is much more satisfying and has a higher chance to succeed.

Why is it needed?

We are all humans, we want to interact, win, bring our best in. The more purpose driven, the more strategy driven the less effort may be needed. But as we are humans willing to interact and engage framing will always be necessary. Get your brains on board, show what is possible, achievable and what we should avoid. Kick the shit off and make it working. The more alignment, the better the initiative is framed, the clearer the direction.

What comes next?

There is never an end. There exist framing technologies and tooling and some do bring in their own skills and have some kind of natural behavior regarding framing. My personal tip is to strengthen your framing skills if you want to achieve something good or great.


Focus baby

Posted in general failures, organizational, startup failures by opstakes on November 27, 2017

(thanks to pixabay)

There are tons of books out there claiming the importance of focus. Hence it seems like it is not as easy as written. After having done more than 150 due diligences in the tech space in Europe, having fulfilled 4 Interims CTO positions and now being board member of a digital marketing tech company I still do read such posts and books about focus. Why? Because as Sean Covey has written in his book about the 4 disciplines of execution we have to differentiate between urgent and import.

Eisenhower knew about that already and there is a matrix named after him which easily makes the necessary action transparent:

And I assume everybody could name a few more. The important thing is:

You need to focus yourself in order to be able to focus the organization!!!

Reading a book – fine, reading a blog and listening to a podcast – fine too. You cannot demand focus without being focused. So how do I focus myself? Simple said, use the matrix above 😉 But that is half of the truth. How do you know what is important, which battles need to be won to win the overall war? Yes, it’s strategy time again but in a more lean way.

Strategy is team effort!

I like to share what I have learned in a company: Build a grand vision which allows people to connect to, become passionate and be addicted. How to do so? Let it be their strategy. Strategy work is no longer the CEO thinking in the dark. Foster a common understanding there to go (with special thanks to Laloux’s Reinventing Organization) by letting all participate and no, it is not a basic democracy, it is a shared believe system. If you have done the strategy work each department will need some time to think about how to best support that strategy and then please let everyone know, what the departments think they need to do. The larger the audience, the higher the commitment. (we have tested strategy know-how before and after that and reached incredibly high scores). It is then the leaders work to support the organization to focus on the strategic direction and get rid of everything else which is distracting, produces friction and does not support the path towards success. As we always have to face day-to-day operational duties you will get some friction and reluctance anyhow. Even if you have a good understanding of the strategy and the tactics to make it happen, still there are plenty of reasons to stop, wait, slow down or turn the wrong direction. This is where discipline and focus come into play again.

It is often no fun for nobody to meet on a regular basis, share the goals and metrics and talk about next important steps but without discipline and focus you will either have a lucky punch or run into really big troubles. Either you do waterfall or agile (which is strict too) you will need a methodology to focus on (maybe I use the word too often).

In order to achieve that routine towards success I do prefer 2 methods, the older “Get things done” method or the 4DX mentioned above already. While “Get things done” is build on “Set focus” “Set time limits” “avoid perfectionism” “realistic expectations” and “update the way you work” the 4DX is similar but different. 4DX wants you to set 2-3 WIGs (Wildly important goals) max for each department and then you have to find correct lag measurements (what you want to achieve, e.g. getting down to 80 kg) and lead measurement (what leads you in the right direction, eg. movement per day, calories ..). To ensure success the affected team(s) meet on a regular basis and discuss the numbers which are open and transparent and ideally the dashboard is generated by the team members itself. The lead and lag example is easy for weight reduction. It is not that easy for distributed development or other IT related tasks. Being a friend of Daniel Pink and Frederic Laloux I want to encourage you to let your team think about the measurements, it is always astonishing how creative your own employees are if you just let them grow and flourish. And again, you and your team need to be focussed to get the right numbers. Being the leader of a engaged team which is delivering on high speed you need to be really focussed in what you are doing ,how you tweak the team and how you support the team.

A good team has the right to have a good and focussed leader! 

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the knowing-doing gap

Posted in general failures, organizational by opstakes on February 8, 2013

Bildschirmfoto 2013-02-08 um 08.40.36There is a great book out there from Pfeffer and Sutton writing about the difference in knowing and doing. Even if you know it will not become reality you often start doing something in that direction. Even if you know this brings you into a dangerous situation, you keep on running. It is scary, honestly but human too.

The same often happens when talking about operations, QA and development. Some examples: Even if developers know that untested code often results in bad behaviour, stress and pain, the code gets deployed. Even if operators know that they should provide a service (the infrastructure and related daemons) they much more try to build barriers to “ensure stability”. Even if QA knows that controlling isn’t enough it is much easier to tell somebody that he did not reach the line instead of helping him/her coming there. We are all obliged to support the company we work for. If the company is run by idiots, please leave otherwise do your work as you promised with your signature.

We all live in a time where time becomes an evident issue, pressure is high, likelihood to fail too, but we are no longer allowed to fail even if a lot of enterpreneural books write about fail-learn-improve cycles. Often this happens as we react not like we know we should react. Business pressure, politics, friendships and sometimes the missing willing to change make us to some sort of organisational animal, no longer reacting rational in a human manner, much more rational in a corporate manner.

But as we are all obliged to Quality, as it is our wish to product high quality products/services, as achieving mastery is one if the fundamental personal goals of “running” we should try to bring in more evidence, react on what we know and not what best fits know and stop doing if we recognize the difference in knowing and doing. Another reason why this is that hard: the organisational culture has to support such behaviour. Saying “no” or “we must change …” has nothing to do with blaming, it’s a positive escalation showing new ways of working and thinking and propably (hopefully) better ones.  This has nothing to do with basic democracy, everyone should bring in his/her expertise and evidence to allow the company grow and prosper – knowing without doing isn’t enough!

Missing seniority

Posted in general failures, organizational by opstakes on December 20, 2012

I thought for a very long term whether to write that post or not. The reason why thinking is that it should not be a claim for people with more experience like me, it is a claim for more seniority and you can gain that seniority even earlier.

BUT – and ofcourse there is a huge but – you never can run a good product launch project without seniority. This happens all days to all different types of companies, small enterpreneurial ones as well as large corporates. Define who you gonna go with before what to do and make sure you have the right skills and expertise on board upfront. If you, for example come to a point during a project that e.g. the PO or the Scrum Master is lacking expertise thus getting ignored or absorbed makes it much harder to change and refresh than spending some more time at the beginning.

If he/she lacks methodolgy, ok, get her a training, but you cannot train expertise and seniority and especially not within a week or month! There exist plenty of good people out there being well educated but not skilled, there are others doing a job for 6 months and gain a lot of insights and there are others working for 20 years more or less without thinking. This means for you that you do not search for a special age category nor for a special educated one. Education and age can be an indicator, but not the total truth. You have to search for the excellence by talking to them, becoming inspired by their drive and capabilities. Than you know you are right. For people there is one special rule you should always take care on: If you are not 100% sure, than leave it. You should never change the organisation to make the one fit. Either he/she fits into culture, climate and organisation or not. It is up to him/her.

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the wrong trust in cloud computing

Posted in BCM, general failures, startup failures by opstakes on April 29, 2011

What we have seen last week is that even large companies like Amazon can fail – on whatever reasons and with their tons of engineers, processes, procedures, technologies and mass of systems and servers. The question for you as a (potential) customer should not be why did they fail?

They had a rapid growth and even with the best engineers ever both growth and quality cannot run the same speed, their must be some sort of risk even if we still talk about human created systems. And to be honest I really believe that it can happen to all service providers out there soon, maybe tomorrow, next week or never, the likelihood to fail is a built-in function.

But what’s the question you should ask and answer yourself: How could I survive if my (wherever) instances or data goes down? It is not the fault of your provider if you miss all your data, it’s your fault if you had no strategy on how to deal with such a disaster? Nobody will expect you to come back to live and operations within 30 min if such a case occurs but you should have your BCM work done before. I know, if you – like many running on clouds now – are within online business time and speed matters, risk is ok as long as it is not happening, afterwards you get asked what happened and why you had no plan against …

So keep in mind, data security (integrity, authenticity, availability) is always your job, you can outsource (move to cloud) parts of the technical stuff, but the management and umbrella function always belongs to you. Yes it is a pity if your service provider goes done, but it is a shame if you have no plan how to cover such scenarios and come back to ops immediately.

This is the wrong trust in cloud computing, cloud computing can help you a lot, it can mitigate your volatility, it can enable you immediate growth, fast test and beta and whatever but you should know what your cloud provider is and what he delivers, do not overtrust. The provider delivers technology, you do the mesh-up, so keep an eye on the availability and security of your mesh-up!

the missing IT and Ops strategy

Posted in general failures, organizational, startup failures by opstakes on February 8, 2011

It often sounds like operators – or in specific IT operators – just operate on a day2day basis independent of what’s coming from the business and where the business is going to.

In fact this is bullshit. You cannot act as an operator if you do not know where your company is willing to go to! And even you cannot operate if your IT and your IT Ops department don’t knows how to answer on the business challenge and on how to challenge the own IT department. There is difference between “headless” and strategy less. We often see organisations with strong management in terms of discipline, procedures and routines but they still fail. The reason why is not bad engineering … it is a lack of understanding that beside discipline and processes you need 2 more factors (I would not call them soft or whatever and I will not write about culture!)

  • a strategy showing people there to go to
  • challenge from the market

It is quite interesting to see that the less IT strategy exists the more you hear something like “we are so extra complex and not comparable to market … we have superior engineering on board …. we cannot compare to market as we have special self written applications …. the market will not understand our demand …. ” Potentially we will be able to name tons more of those bullshit arguments.

I worked a serious long time as a systems engineer with potential the same “ideas” regarding our rocket science ops platform ;-). Once I went to the CTO as he asked me to have a look at a special solution being on the market. I told him the pros and cons for about an hour and explained why this is shit. At the end he pointed out that if 1000 people think this is good solution and I think this is shit …. who will be the right one? The funny thing behind …. we used that solution and were quite happy, it was near market standards and we started to build our special ops platform market conform and got tons of more possibilities; on the economic and on the tech value!

Why this is important? The CTO had the strategy to be as market compliant as possible but staying rocket science in the business related tasks, processes and programmes. He showed us that this strategy is able to work and how the company benefits from the strategy (he did not mention in detail that engineers are easier to exchange if you use market standard hardware and software 😉 )

Next thing is that if you do not be on your own on both, organisational and technical, than you can take part on market innovation and inspiration. Mostly market will be much faster and innovative than you are, especially this should help you in the security environment. Keep an eye on being as secure as the market allows you to be. The most innovative internal solution will not help if you cannot participate in security development speed!

Let’s summarize: Have a strategy, give your people a mission, a scope and an idea of how to go forward, don’t forget to check the market and do not hesitate to accept that market is faster and more innovative than you and your department, nothing  to shame on, only if you think you can be much faster as the rest of the world. Hopefully or potentially you will be able to exactly tell the “I’m the fastest” story to your business than talking about core processes, metrics and IT/business behaviour!

Ops Predictions 2011

Posted in general failures, ITSM, organizational, startup failures by opstakes on December 21, 2010

End of year is coming, time for review and predictions …

What we have seen this year is the emerging trend to try to move to the cloud. Why say try? Cause a lot of different lacks did delay decisions: lack of experience, lack of manageability, lack of security, lack of commodity, lack of portability and much more but the train cannot be stopped anymore. We will continue to see different diverse ways to the cloud, the aggressive one (we just do it), the one’s moving via private virtualization, the one’s doing outtasking to the cloud and the one’s not knowing that they are already in the cloud.

So what’s next? According to the analysts cloud is directly on the way to the phase of desilusion. Sounds bad but isn’t so. We now reach the working scene, the marketing whow is over and we can start working on a deep and permanent way. So think about it: cloud will become commodity in 2011, we will stop talking about who’s in the cloud or not, we will start just using it.

This leads to another trend for 2011: cloud operations. We did central operations, decentral operations, virtual operations, outsourced operations, outtasking and whatever, next is cloud operations. Maybe you will not take care on it but potentially you will have to think about how to operate your IT then parts of your IT are somewhere (you do not even know exactly the location, just the name/identifier of the cloud).

This leads to tons of aspects in terms of all ITSM processes, especially change mgmt (do you still own your cloud virtual environment … how to combine those releases …), incident, event and problem mgmt. (who manages what?), SL management and all others, with special focus on IT financials.

Next trend, partly invoked by ideas like DevOps is agile operations. The more agile the company, the more agile development the more event driven the IT. This leads to agile operations for the IT ops department. So how to do so?

Agility means being very flexible and self responsible within a certain frame/border. Agile operations mean being very reactive, fast and flexible within a fixed set of frameworks/standards to deliver prompt IT resources on a very $$based approach.

So agile operations relies on cloud operations and vice versa. In my understanding and strong believe the trend per se for 2011 should then be called

agile Ops operations

So what does this mean for you? Think about strong boundaries and frameworks married with a high level of ops automation. This superset is then offered to your company / development enabling them to use ops resources on demand and cost sensitive. You as the ops entity do all the cloud stuff either private, hybrid or public within your defined subset to deliver on a regular and flexible bases predictable IT.
For me this sounds reasonable good. Remember, I’m an ops man … doing agile ops operations even means you create your ops platform (DevOps), you keep the releases within your responsibility but you stop from reacting and being the holy grail nobody knows about within your company. Ops get’s public, viable and business enabling to the company! This is our all time goal and this must be the goal for all of us.

We will see what happens exactly in 2011, hopefully my predictions comes to truth by 80 %.

External help

Posted in organizational by opstakes on December 2, 2010

External help is always good … you were named as being worth getting support, you get external expertise and more work power and effort … Really? As I do external support for years I have one thing to say: If an organization cannot manage my external help than  I’m not worth being paid for. An external might have additional knowledge, he might have deep market insights, he might have extraordinary experience but he/she is still a person with human belongings, acceptance, communication and coordination.

So before bringing in external support ask yourself a question:

  • Is my organization ready to use them?
  • How will we manage them?
  • Do we have the proper security framework in place to share information and desktop with them?
  • Which capabilities do we grant?
  • Is it a task,  a project, an interims job and how to cover?
  • Do we have the proper legal framework?

If you can answer those easily than feel free to start using externals, if not think about how to best work with.

Next question is how to best find the correct partner of choice? Is it the fabulous 4 which best fit to your StartUp organization or should there an equal size between you and the external consultant company? Do you need expertise, market research or real working forces?  Do you want to support your organization or stress your organization?

There are tons of external consultants out there, all of them will show you that they are the correct ones, with exactly the experience you are looking for and with tons of currently free consultants perfectly fitting into your organization and with the exact requested skill level. Isn’t it amazing?

To be honest .. yes. We often fail if we cannot deliver the right person within right time, but we have never pimped CVs to get into a company. We often – and that is the funny part – see companies failing because time is much more important than trust. If you are under pressure, why will the wrong people be the better choice? Is it a matter of hope that the person will get better during the project? Or is it a mutual failing as you were the one who decided to work with?

Another risk often seen: you start with one consulting company, you are satisfied, the company too. Your orga changes, new people take over responsibility and they bring in new (their) externals. From that on the former external party gets the looser image, everything is proven twice and people stop routing important infos to the former consultant so there is no longer a chance to work properly. A quarter later the former consultant company is out of contract and the new (buddied) one is the big star, they haven’t changed anything but they had the stronger buddy.
Think about the following: you always meet twice!

The last external help, the interims with hidden agenda. You often get asked as external to do the bad staff, firing people, reorg things like that. The longer you do the more you start reacting and healing open wounds than acting and going forward. This is what I kall the “no prisoner” mode. Nobody likes this except the one who gave you the order. But same again here: You always meet twice!

There are plenty of reasons to not use externals (costs, culture ….) and plenty of reasons to use them (additional resources, market knowhow, expertise). Always think about whether it is a permanent issue (internal) or an additional (external) one. And stay fair to you, your organization and the external partner – you always meet twice!

Paradigms change – and you?

Posted in organizational, technical by opstakes on November 15, 2010

Paradigms intend to change after a (long) while and if so it may be disruptive. Disruptive … today this is a synonym for cloud computing? Anybody out there still willing to hear that word cloud? As we know from market research we have reached the peak of the cloud hype and will go over to the desillusion phase. As we know from market, this phase is the one there business is going over from hype to business-as-usual, concepts are already on the market, early-adopters are on the solution and more than “first experience” is reached by the company. This is a very important phase because

  • market has learned the working concepts
  • marketing is up and running in a very efficient way
  • business knows wording and more or less understands main USPs

So everybody out there knows what’s going on despite your IT organization? No, they even heard the word but for them, cloud computing is not “just another machine” it is 100% new way of working, especially for operations!

Doing so we often get the question on how to make that change happen? There is no real answer, maybe it is more a technical issue, more an organizational, more a cultural one but all time a mixture of all of them. And don’t underestimate the power of politics within the organization. Maybe some of the business-guys like to see how internal operations is loosing more and more of their former “importance”?!

What we see right now is that you – as operations – need some special phases:

  • Phase 1: Know your enemy: Understand the concepts, understand their pros and cons and how to best interact and interface with those methodologies
  • Phase 2: Architect YOUR solution based on your enemies one: Build your operational framework upon those solutions, make yourself (major and/or important) part of that concept and drive that concept, act as a driver, not a defender!
  • Phase 3: Here we go!: You have reached your goal, business supports you, you are a brave man/woman being able to change, you are now a challenger, not a defender, you are on the edge of technology. Now do the change and make it happen
  • Phase 4: Keep on running!: After the change is before the change. You did your project very good now it is time to let things run the way you want them to be. But: Market is much larger than you and your department so keep on staying on the market and on trends. You don’t need to be an early-adopter, you need to be an early-understander! Whenever the models change, your mindset should change too.

This 4 Phase methodology is neither new nor high intellectual brainwork but it can help you staying on the market, acting as a real business value driver within your organization and it potentially helps you to get the ability to reflect your organization and act based on that findings.

Paradigms changing is all time hard to understand, to oversee and to properly react. Stay informed and accept that parts of your organization may not follow you. Not all people are right for all the time and phases of an organization, this is normal business living. You should communicate very often and act very transparent to help your organization going with you, potentially this is your personal paradigm change?

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The art of Ops projects

Posted in general failures, organizational by opstakes on October 25, 2010

During my article about DevOps I started thinking about the way Ops projects work or should work. By doing so I came to the end that it is quite worth having a deeper look on it. In general you can differ between 3 types of projects within Ops:

  • Business Projects delivering new functionality, driven and owned within Business
  • Internal Ops projects, mostly new / adapted platforms, new ops or management platforms
  • External Projects driven by Hardware or Software Updates, Security Upgrades and others

Doing so let’s have a look on how those projects work and what you need to deliver best:

Business Projects are – focussing on Ops – more Project Controlling and Coordination tasks than real Project Management, scope, timeline … is mostly driven by Business even if Ops had the chance to plug into that project very early. Thinking so it is very useful to have one person acting as a project coordination instance, triggering people, timelines … within ops, but not doing full Project Management, as this will fail. Thinking on that you will recognise that the Project Coordination Instance is cross functional over all departments of IT Operations, each department has to agree on time of their people being used and managed/coordinated by the Ops Project Coordinator. But it will help the Ops Manager, all his/her Head Ofs and the overall organization as projects will pass through more successfully being coordinated by one instance than being managed by the engineer itself.

Internal Ops Projects are mostly hard to cover as they are managed by engineers and, much worser, mostly don’t fit into focus of the company. To get this sorted the Ops Manager has to talk to the companies’ Steering Comitee (if existing) or communicate very early and clear the goal of the project to all related stakeholders. Remember: goal should not be the “much better” Firewall, it should be countable business value. If you are a lucky guy you will get a PM resource from another department or you have a very skilled engnineer within your department … but always keep in mind: Engineering is a skill, PM is a skill too, a very good PM engineer isn’t met that often and secondly your organization has to be able to support a PM entity (lot of you think you do but tbh PM means day2day transparency and most of us don’t like it in that detail, we often feel too genious to submit tasks and end dates and how and why we will reach that date …)

External driven projects seem to be driven easily but there is one major conflict that the release date from external will not fit within the maintenance window calendar of your organization and – much worser – the features which change don’t fit into your orga either or they potentially threaten exactly the one you use most … So keep in mind that even it looks like easy to cover you need to communicate very early and distinct to avoid later pain. Who’s doing that? In my personal view this is the only project an engineer can cover beside/within his normal operations tasks as it is mainly the most technical approach of changes within the IT landscape.

Thinking so the result is the following:

  • get a project coordination instance in for all IT ops disciplines
  • use internal/external PM help for larger IT ops projects if you have no extra skilled resources
  • use your engineers for updating/patching if feasible and affordable by workload

Potentially you can keep on discussing and what I don’t want to mention in that article is the question about the right PM methodology for each flavour of projects or whether one would fit for all (most organizations tend to think so knowing that they all differ by > 80% …)

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