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

Mastering Excellence in Technology

Posted in development, Skill, startup failures by opstakes on March 30, 2017


(thanks to pixabay)

I visited a company and talked to the CTO. Like many he complained about skilled people leaving the company as they could not become a manager post being a senior developer. I simply asked why tech career will stop after becoming senior and his answer was something like “it always was Junior-Regular-Senior”.

I’ve seen so many companies failing in letting become technologist real masters in what they are doing and I assume it happens in Marketing, Sales and other departments too.  But simply said there is no reason doing so. There is no rule that after becoming Senior you either go down the management path, stay as Senior or leave to become Senior somewhere else.

What I did in my last few jobs as Interims CTO or advisor to the company was establishing a path to mastery beyond Senior. It may sound obvious to go further and create new profiles like lead developer (architect, operator, QA engineer …) or principal. The question is, how do you manage to move them towards those goals and what kinds of additional freedom do those roles imply.

When I started establishing such rules I was mainly motivated by Daniel Pink, the author of “Drive”. In his book he writes about the 3 pillars to get into a flow. While freedom in team, task, technology and time is one of them and purpose of the organization the other, the 3rd one is mastery. He asked the simply question why skilled and well-paid developers leave office to get home coding open source for free. His answer was beside the 2 others that people always want to get better in what they are doing. May it be coding, playing guitar or painting.

Next I figured out that mastery in technology can be tricky. Who is the better engineer to become lead developer. The one who knows everything about technology or the one who knows a lot about technology and is really good in supporting and educating others in the organization? The answer is: Both are essential for a working team. So figure out, how to best address their needs, desires and interests!

Finally we asked ourself what the benefit beside payment could be. The answer is freedom and responsibility. Freedom because you want them to become master. You only become master if you have a good trainer/teacher, the right environment and the ambition to become master. The more rigid the system the less the willingness was our approach so we defined levels of freedom. The better you are, the more responsibility you should get. There is tons of responsibility in a tech team without the need for a manager. Architectural decisions, devops design, assistance in product tech design, representation of the company on tech events and much more.

As a result we created an excel sheet showing everyone what we expect them to do in order to get promoted. It is a 2 path approach with the extras of freedom and responsibility. I learned from different organizations that it helped them in mastering technology. So I decided to publish it for free. Feel free to use it, adapt and change it. You are very welcome to send back feedback or your version of a tech mastery plan.


Download as XLS: skillmatrixv04generic


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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cloud reloaded

Posted in financial, startup failures, technical by opstakes on October 7, 2010

I had the chance to present some general thoughts on cloud computing on an aicooma and Microsoft event yesterday.
While being in general a pro cloud geek especially for operations I got some more hints to cover:

  • scrum & cloud really cooperate well on a very high level (aicooma will present some whitepaper regarding that topic soon)
  • the deeper you look at all potential hidden costs the less interesting a cloud offer looks like in the first, but keep in mind that you always have to take care on a service lifecycle perspective
  • Moving from Managed Services to a real cloud offering is quite hard, on the one hand side for the moving organization to get an understanding and feeling for the cloud, on the other hand side for the partner, right now nearly all major outsourcing parties claim to offer cloud but the contract looks quite different afterwards …
  • Even cloud vendors now tell the truth: a cloud will never ever fit into each setup

Dealing with that topics it shows that there is still some FUD in regarding how cloud computing could help me, my department my organization and whether it fits or not. A quite good way would be like I do in general:

  1. Get your service catalogue and your service portfolio up
  2. Include lifecycle infos into portfolio (time of reinvest …)
  3. take the 5 out where reinvest should occur within next 18 months
  4. have a very deep look (organizational, technical, financial) on those 5
  5. find a potential cloud substitute
  6. compare in depth

After doing this once or twice it’s getting quite easy to deal with, it is not that much work as it looks like in the beginning but it offers you a very transparent view on your portfolio and on the potential of cloud offerings being out and stable right now, more or less it demystifies cloud offerings and makes them compareable to your internal or external managed services like comparing apples with apples, and that’s the goal, nothing about emotions, coolness or hype, realistic and transparent decision taking is king.

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all time cloud

Posted in general failures, KnowHow, startup failures, technical by opstakes on July 20, 2010

I stop writing about operational failures only, potentially this blog will go on to write about “hot” topics within IT operations. It will still stay focused on operations, as I am an ops guy.

Good reason for telling, why I stopped writing for the last weeks: I wondered where cloud computing will go to!

We do quite a lot of different cloud projects and right now it seems that either there is no space left to deal with clouds or on the other hand side there is still a lack of experience out there on all sides of business. This is just a short draft about my ongoing thoughts, discussion welcome!

Cloud topics on business side:

why do we still believe, that it is as easy as writtin in the prospect? Haven’t we learned from all former proposed functionality? Yepp there is high potential to get it done and delivered in a smarter and more cost sensitive way, but at what risk and cost? And how does operations look like afterwards?

Cloud topics on IT side:

Clouds is nothing we can pass by. Clouds have to be worked with, IT has to understand pros and cons of clouds and how to live with them for the next decade. Clouds are neither friends nor enemies, they are a new way of delivering services to customers, more service based than ever before. Clouds are not VMWare and are not xen or kvm, clouds are a business case thou IT has to understand business and business methodology otherwise they will deliver virtualization. Not bad at all but only a few percent of cloud power.

As IT I would strongly recommend not to put to much pressure on compliance, legal and data security. There exist several organisations covering that topic and it is max. a question of weeks or months to get it fully done. Secondly there are already SAS70 ready solutions out there and other standards are met too, if you cover that topic it is OK, cause it is a risk, but nothing more. Using compliance as IT against cloud will mark you as the one securing your own office place …

Cloud topics on operations side:

clouds mean to no longer be the prime operations partner. To be honest, then thinking about all the complexity getting more and more clouds can even help you reducing YOUR complexity and getting things done. Yeah, number of systems will potentially go down, lot will be delivered out of cloud, partly you will act as an cloud offer. BUT, this is good news, you can transform yourself from an 24/7 operator to a platform architect handling tons of tons of tons of different systems without dealing with the day2day problems, they are within the cloud handeled by others 🙂

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Deliver and own services

Posted in general failures, organizational, technical by opstakes on February 1, 2010

Mostly technicians seem to have an incredible understanding about service delivery. For them this means that they own and control the whole delivery chain, beginning by each stored bit and byte going over to the databases, the apps, the network, the associated (and hopefully existing) security, the frontend, the user training and and and … and if possible please forget documentation, we know what we do 🙂

But world changes, even now we stand on another step forward within a realy service oriented, clouded environment and the more you think about clouds, the more you have to dematerialize service delivery. It is not a bunch of servers connected with a bunch of network devices, secured with a bunch of security appliances which creates the service, the service is much more and the goal of modern IT should not be to deliver hardware-related stuff to non IT staff. For them IT does not matter (btw. thanks to the great book, Nicolas Carr) they just want to use. And non IT thinks different, they think – as we intend to say – emotional not rational about IT; either it works appropriate and the service desk is OK or it is not sufficient delivered. And they think in terms of economy.

An IT service delivered to the non IT people should be competitive in terms of service and pricing and it should be interoperable and portable. As we know, lots of offers out their try to do so and making a deeper view into it offers incredible stuff …

And what happens now? All the cloud offers, IaaS, PaaS, SaaS, internal and external, private, enterprise or public, shortly the clouds offer new innovative services with much more speed, power, resources and economies of scale.

Why should I continue maintaining my own hardware, software … if I do commodity stuff? It will be more expensive, more to integrate, more to maintain … so my resources are secured but nobody knows for how long.

Right now there exist only a few real issues for not going to a cloud:

  • cloud to cloud data exchange is still lacking true interoperable and useable security
  • the right size, if you have reached a size where you can gain profit from the top discounts too the gap within money will be closed.
  • Real-Time, if you need Real Time you will have to build it for yourself (now)
  • compliance: potentially, especially in the financial industry you will not be allowed to move your user data out of the computing country.

So the goal or mission of the IT of the (near) future will be, to aggregate the service delivery which is spread over the world. The IT will take care of

  • interoperability
  • portability
  • first level
  • combined service catalogue
  • economics

If so, what should you change today? Yes maybe ITIL, but ITIL should be no more than it is, a goo practice. Use, what’s useable for you but think about your service definition and how to get that deep into the organization that you know which IT is needed and why. Acting as an account manager and understanding the own company as the key customer would potentially help. Leave IT behind, think in solutions and services and deliver them in time and with appropriate objectives (nobody asks who delivers, so if it looks like you but it comes trom anywhere else ….)

So please start thinking about the tremendous change what will happen in the near future and don’t repeat the last 20 years standard opstake: you can’t deliver and own all services within a more and more complex IT world.

Test is evil

Posted in organizational, technical by opstakes on January 11, 2010

It does not depend on whether we talk about testing for software, hardware, configuration all of them or processes. You will either have no/less time, resources, money or the will to do so. Interesting to see that the more they talk about why they cannot test, the more they misuse time in talking about it.

And QA/test is part of the management team. If you don’t live QA and testing, why should your employees then do so? If you don’t give them time to make all the houskeeping stuff and keep code clean and tidy why should they use their extratime for doing so?

2 things on testing, do it whenever you change anything relevant for you, your IT, your department, your business! Second: If you test think about how and why? It does not make as much sense to test the resilience of a known working cluster instead of testing the new code and how business processes are built in.

This leads me to the last point, the acceptance criteria. If you start a project, think about how the desired goal should look like. I don’t talk about the gui, I talk about the functionality. At end test, whether functionality is met or not. It is very often really hard to find correct numbers and values for acceptance criterias but the longer you run your QA, the better you will be.

QA consists of many more, an adequate test environment (near live), systems and routines, unit testing ,functional testing, integrational testing, load testing and and and. But if you don’t start, you will never come to that point of thinking about which test you need when and why.

Continual improvement is the key to successful QA!

Our own datacenter is the best

Posted in financial, general failures, technical by opstakes on December 8, 2009

Potentially no, but there is still a sub reality out there showing IT Operators or Facility Managers that owning their own datacenter is much cheaper, cooler, greaner, leaner, and whatever even if they just want to run 50 servers.

To be honest it could make sense, depending on your location, some geographic stuff and depending on the growth. But even google did not start by building their own datacenters. They rented before and now step by step they migrate to their owns – because they have reached a size of interest for having their own ones!

And if you think about your datacenter think about:

  • who’s operating the facility
  • who keeps care on USV, Diesel …
  • who keeps care on getting all licence stuff done?
  • who cleans the filters
  • who is responsible for CCU & friends
  • who is the cabling expert?
  • who is the power expert?
  • who is responsible for rack planing and provisioning …

and all of that in a twenty-four-seven environment …. ? Do you really want to be the Facility guy PLUS the Ops Leader? Can you combine those two or run them in a professional manner? Will you get headcounts for an electric expert as an IT Ops Leader? Tons of questions and nearly all – especially if you think about associated risks – should lead to the decision to NOT rund your own DC before you reached critical size.

The next interesting topic which always happens: If we still do not have the critical size, why don’t we do some shared hosting too? Because you do not have the skillset to do this? Because you are an internal service unit and you are not set up to offer on market prize on the external market? Because your SLAs are not that strong? Not really, potentially no, the main answer is: Because it is not your business!

So when do you reach the critical size? It does not depend on the number of systems, it depends on strategic and economic questions

  • is running own datacenters a potential USP and can I run it cheaper/equal market?
  • Sum of mass discount smaller than savings by own DC (economic value)
  • extra flexibility needed (keep care! flex against price, and flex. against coolness)

The how and when will vary and potentially we will have to work on a new definition of critical size with regards to cloud computing, the price modell and the new datacenters (generation IV) which should reduce costs too.

Borders for prod. environment

Posted in startup failures, technical by opstakes on December 3, 2009

A good developer will potentially never be a good operator and vice versa. But there is a grey area of work behind, mostly within transition from development to production environment, technically speaking the test, validation and pre/near-live environment.

The question is, who is responsible for that environment and why and at what level?

Traditionally development feels capable or resonsible for that equipment arguing that it is their effort to get it running. I would bring in another party/role named Quality Assurance (QA). Those should run at minimum the test environment and the associated tests (functional, integrational, scenarios, plans, procedures, acceptance criteria ….)

Next is the load test which is the gate to the production environment. As it is the last border it is top prio fo operations to be responsible for that system and test. If it passes, it is live. Who runs the live system? Ops, so they must do their loadtest job too. Otherwise they will get software live and they never had chance before to put an eye on it.

And – don’t forget – being responsible for it does not mean doing the whole job, the loadtest itself can be potentially run by QA – adviced by operations. But the establishing of the near live env, the evaluation of the result, and the sign-off should always be part of operations – no qa, no dev.

Another reason why ops should do so: If you do your loadtest on a near live, you will be able to get a bunch of numbers which should show your overall requests by system as a benchmark for capacity planing of the live environment. As we know those numbers change release by release (more functions coming in, complexity decrease/increase …). So not being responsible for those tests and letting dev things done means not being proactive in terms of environmental capacity.As a result you will put reactive forces on the live environment all time, binding resources and not fulfilling the goal of a good operations framework.

We know it better

Posted in BCM, ISMS, ITSM, KnowHow, Skill, startup failures, technical by opstakes on November 17, 2009

Potentially yes, but how to be sure? It is of tremendous importance that a growing organization knows what it is able to deliver and how to get additional knowhow/expertise/resource on board. This is not a prayer for externals but:

  • understaffed organizations fail on a long term view
  • there is no more space for innovation, thus you stop developing you, your employees, your organization
  • Peaks should be offloaded, innovation stream not be broken
  • you cannot know everything the way the market does

So keep in mind, that you should only run your strategic stuff and if you start innovation, bring the market experience in. This does not mean that external partners do all the work. Where necessary, they should support, assist, coach you, but you are the one who knows your business best and if you bring in externals, do not forget to manage them. They are just people, maybe good ones with special expertise, but they are people like your employees are, the need order, direction and management. An uncontrolled external is a potential high risk for your organization as he is seen as a special knohow carrier and he can not only break your project, he can damage your organization too.

So to summit, two things to say: Bring in external partners where necessary, nobody expects you and your org to know everything better than the market. And last manage partners to deliver successful and in-time projects.

To cloud or not to cloud …

Posted in startup failures, technical by opstakes on November 12, 2009

…. that’s the question

I am not intended to talk about the general facts about clouds, cost topics and the different types (PaaS, IaaS, …) And I’m too not interested in referring about whether an offer is SaaS or Cloud or not. My topic is much more operational and what I want to show you is that a cloud as a private or public cloud does not solve all your problems as you potentially intended to do so.

If talking about PaaS/IaaS a cloud is nothing more than another type of infrastructure provisioning, nothing more, nothing less. You still lack support for your application and in terms of public clouds you will not be enabled that easy to run a loadbalancer or other resilient stuff that easy.

Despite the fact that all major cloud computing offers try to declare their cloud as save, unlimited, borderless resilient and (d)dos-attack safe, we still know that Murphy exists. Talking to vendors today talking about resilience mostly ends up by them telling ungecky sentences like “a cloud can’t fail …”

So if you are aware of potential risks and if you already know how to deploy your app(s) in your favorite inhouse or external cloud you should still think about how operations changes by using a cloud? Be aware of topics like:

  • how about backup/archiv?
  • am I still able to fulfill all my current and foreseeable compliance stuff and how?
  • how will my release process, my associated toolbox and my service support process change?
  • Is it a strategic or an economic value and how to live with?
  • Is my ops platform able to run in the cloud?
  • Is there any benefit from using a cloud or is my app still missing some major advantages?
  • Do my vendors and their license support their app in the cloud? Is the licence cloud-enabled?
  • Do I need special hardware?

The main topic I see right now is that we all talk about how cool it would be and how nice and easy everything should look like in the cloud but I will only talk about Operations and there are still a bunch of unanswered questions. So please don’t say yes or no to a cloud because of style or your personal relation to the vendor, think about the questions above and if you can easily answer all those you should really think about running a cloud.

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