COVID-19: People Over Profit

I have to share this, because regardless of how you feel about COVID-19, when there is a virus that has a contagion level that we believe this virus has, avoiding confined spaces like a steel tube with 300 other people, mass transit, festivals, conferences, etc. is probably a prudent decision.

In my case, this is not an economic decision. Still, the idea that many who have scheduled personal travel could lose thousands of dollars because they are making the responsible decision to delay their plans is unconscionable. Many people will travel because they can’t afford NOT to, this doesn’t seem right, it’s stupid, and it’s wrong.

I am not in a state of fear. In fact, I have no issues traveling. I believe humanity will go on, but it demonstrates good corporate responsibility to create travel restrictions, to encourage people to work from home, and to avoid mass transit and areas where contagion is more likely. These responsibilities extend to all corporations, especially those in the travel and leisure industry because many people will make the wrong decisions because of your imposed policies and the economic hardships you impose upon them. No individual should feel that they do not have a choice in a time like this.

Regardless of if I get the money I seek below, in the form of a credit or refund, I will not be traveling next week, but this is not a luxury everyone has, and it seriously disturbs me. I have faith that humanity will go on, and I have hope that organizations that do not do the right things will suffer the perils of their decisions.

See more of the conversation on Twitter:

Below is my dialog with a corporate travel agent.

ME: Hello, I need to cancel my trip to San Francisco next week as a result of a corporate travel ban due to COVID-19. Can you please cancel my flights and hotel and let me know the outcome (refund, credit, etc.). I suspect this will be the first of many cancellations, just waiting to hear about future events. Thank you.

AGENT: Hello Richard!

ME: Hello

AGENT: I hope you are doing well today. I’ll be happy to assist!

ME: Thanks

AGENT: No problem! For your flight, you will have about a $256.80 credit, and for the hotel, it is non-refundable.

ME: Ummmm, so given the national panic, the hotel is holding that line. Wow!!

ME: And United is waiving all change fees for all flights in March, so that makes no sense.

ME: If the above is true, do NOT cancel, and I will call United and the hotel directly because this cannot be.

AGENT: I understand your concern, Richard. The waived fees are for new flights booked between March 3 and March 31, 2020. Unfortunately, your flight was booked Feb 4th.

ME: I will handle it. Thank you.

ME: Please confirm you canceled nothing.

AGENT: I apologize for this, Richard. No changes have been made.

AGENT: Richard, If you need anything else, please feel free to reach out to our 24/7 support team. Have a great day. ?

ME: Thought you might like to know that Hyatt says that it’s your policy, not theirs.

ME: Also United canceled my flight for full credit with no change fee.

AGENT: Hello Richard! I’m glad that you were able to avoid any penalty. The details I provided are what we are following and if the airline or hotel is able to make an exception for individuals that is what we want. We are just going off what they are providing us. Not everyone is getting fees waived which is unfortunate but it all depending on them.

ME: That’s interesting given they say it’s you, not them. So I will relay the message that it’s them, not you.

AGENT: As for the Hotel response, I’m not sure they understood. The booking was made directly with the hotel using our platform. We can cancel it on our end, but they would need to process a refund on their end. You might be chatting with the reservation team. We would need to check with the hotel directly. They might think we are like Expedia, etc.

ME: Yeah, I know this. And given the situation, I believe it’s the hotel that should be able to make the change. I have done this before, and I am only asking that they credit the $s for a future stay, not that they refund the dollars.

ME: Whether you believe COVID-19 will end the world or not, there is a sense of corporate responsibility that should be in play, given the situation.

ME: Would you like to try to call the property?

AGENT: I completely understand Richard. Its been pretty much a case by case situation for everyone who has needed to cancel their traveling plans. We want all our travelers to have the best outcome with their cancellations.

AGENT: I’ll be happy to call them and see if they will refund the reservation.

ME: I don’t want a refund. That would not be equitable. I only want the ability to rebook in the future.

ME: A credit with the property. It is reasonable on my part and reasonable on the hotel’s part to do this because we would both be acting responsibly at a time when this is the right thing to do.

ME: This isn’t even my money, but I find it unconscionable that someone would travel because they feel boxed in because of the financial impact.

ME: It’s really pretty sad.

AGENT: I can ask about that. The only difficulty I see is that they may say no due to not keeping the same room rates. Did you have a specific time in mind to change to?

AGENT: If you don’t have a specific date range, I’ll see what they can do.

AGENT: I’m calling the property now.

ME: The est cost of the stay is $1,219.73. Just give me a year to rebook, if there is a rate fluctuation up, I will pay the difference, if there is rate fluctuation down the hotel can keep the difference. 

ME: I wish I knew when the COVID-19 situation would over, but I don’t. If I did, I probably would fly private and own a property in NorCal that I would stay at.

AGENT: Richard I spoke to the property, and they advised we would need to speak to their in house reservation team. They are currently unable to make changes or cancel due to being an advance purchased non-refundable room. They said we could speak to the in house reservation team on Monday and see if they could further assist.

ME: OK, I guess we will wait until Monday. Thanks

AGENT: No problem Richard. Please chat back in on Monday, and we can give them a call and see what can be done for your booking.


FWIW, I think it’s pretty sad given the COVID-19 situation that anyone taking calls in the travel industry right now on a 24×7 basis would not be personally empowered or have someone to go to who is empowered to make the logical and responsible decisions. This is the corporate brand you are playing with, I can only hope that your desire for short-term gain delivers long-term pain. If COVID-19 is teaching us one thing it’s that the world is flat, and in 2020 I believe that good and bad corporate behavior has an unprecedented contagion rate.

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Dominate Thy Destiny!

The year is 2020, and the world has changed and continues to change, in many ways, some of the changes concern me, but in many ways, the changes are fantastic! I am personally most excited by the reinvention of the American Dream. The American Dream is no longer a job for life and homeownership; it’s our ability to take control of our destiny, our ability to expect more and accept less. While there are many powerful lessons to be learned from the assimilation and stoicism of the silent generation, it is our desire to blaze the trail and our willingness to fail that has shifted energy from assimilation to creation, and this is fantastic! But make no mistake, in order to dominate thy destiny in a market with unprecedented opportunity, unprecedented new entrants, and unprecedented velocity we will need to have unprecedented focus, discipline, and ability. Doing the ‘job’ is no longer enough because being a creator requires inspiration that transcends the work, our destiny will be determined by our desire and ability to envision the future and our commitment to making it so.

I was on a flight back from AWS re:Invent 2019 (LAS => EWR) in early December, and I had a thought, not the first time I had the idea, but the first time I realized how I might make the idea into something tangible that would allow me to support my thought process.

The thought goes something like this: While I am not independently monetarily wealthy, I’ve worked hard to construct a lifestyle that measures wealth in terms of what makes me happy and satisfied. My satisfaction and motivation are derived from mastery, purpose, and autonomy. It is this idea that got me to thinking about the type of environment that I need to be in to feel fulfilled as opposed to frustrated, and my ability to influence satisfaction. Fulfillment and satisfaction are complicated topics, and it’s easy to get frustrated. What we need to realize is that we have an immense amount of control over our fulfillment and satisfaction, but we also need to hold ourselves accountable. Then I started thinking about the work, and the fact that mastery, purpose, and autonomy drive me, and these are profoundly personal. Most who know me have heard me reference achieved versus ascribed status at least once or twice. I don’t believe in ascribed status, in fact, it is one of the things in life that frustrates me the most. I believe that I was put here on earth to work hard, to build knowledge, to consider context, to apply logic and reason to decision making, to expect more of myself and others, and to challenge everything that I cannot rationalize. There are no sacred cows grazing in my pasture! The shift from achieved to ascribed status is an easy one, and it can be a dangerous shift, it is at this point that our drive and our influence are in decline. I then asked myself, what do I respect? Hypothetically speaking, if I were to go out and interview tomorrow, what sort of organization and culture would fulfill me versus frustrate me. I then started to think that fulfillment and satisfaction are hard when those around you don’t look at mastery, purpose, and autonomy in the same way you view these satisfaction hygiene factors.

So I started pondering, what if I could create a simple gate that would quickly identify if a prospective culture was the right or the wrong culture, a culture that would embrace my profession as a spiritual calling, not a paycheck. These ideas frame how I think about my mission in life, my vision of how I can continue to push myself, the values I hold dear that I hope to instill in my children, but they also influence my expectations.

Say hello to version 1 of the CV API.

Run CV API GET Request

Read the full API documentation.

So as of today, if you want to review my CV (curriculum vitae, aka resume), make a REST call to my CV API. Can’t make a REST call to my API, don’t want to discuss how I built the API, my CI/CD process, etc. then we would likely spend our days together frustrated, unsatisfied and unfulfilled, so this is probably not a fit. It’s 2020, as employers, we should desire to interview less and to be questioned more by those looking to join a team and a culture that satisfies and fulfills them. It’s an individual’s desire for mastery, purpose and autonomy and our ability to nurture these individuals that will satisfy them and create organizational success that others will look at in awe!

Go ahead and give the CV API a try, and if you find yourself interviewing with me (or presenting at my kickoff meeting), make it different, challenge me, make me uncomfortable, make me leave the interview feeling like I am a worthless piece of matter that lacks mastery and purpose.

Version 1 of the CV API only allows for REST GET requests. I am currently working on the ability to inquire via API with a REST POST request, where inquiries can be made programmatically and will notify me via Pushover, Telegram or Slack.

This post is not 100% complete, but with the 2020 Digital Innovation Kickoff fast approaching, I wanted to get it published and shared with my team so they could understand the thought I put into my 2020 Digital Innovation Kickoff Project. I am holding off on making my GitHub and Docker Hub repositories publicly visible because I want the team to do the research and build their app and DevOps pipeline. Before our kickoff on March 12, 2020, I will update this post to include links to my public GitHub and Docker Hub repositories as well as documentation on my build and deploy process.

In 1971 while at Xerox PARC Alan Key in response to managers wanting to know how to plan future products, stated that “The most reliable way to forecast the future is to invent it.” We have the ability to create our future, we have a responsibility to influence the future and we have accountability for what our tomorrow will look like.

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Operational Elegance

Those who know me, know I like to write, they also know I like to use the phrase “operational elegance”. Being elegant is not as easy as it may seem, after all, we are human, and our human nature generally does not allow us to persistently conduct ourselves like Claire Underwood. This is a good thing. As I was thinking about the value of being operational elegant, Claire Underwood popped into my head because let’s face it, she is about as mechanical as it gets, but most human beings can’t rely on themselves to function like Claire Underwood. Generally speaking, manual execution is usually accompanied by mistakes.

Last week I had the opportunity and pleasure to present to our sales team at their national sales meeting, and operational elegance was one of the topics I touched on.

Image may contain: one or more people and indoor

Sometimes this concept can be hard to visualize, luckily while on my way home from Phoenix, I received a Slack message from a project manager on our team which provided the fuel for this musing. Her message was to share some operational elegance, operational elegance that I thought was worth writing about and sharing. In addition to liking to write, disliking brute force solutions and obfuscation, I also value DNA over resume and innovation over imitation. What was great about this Slack message was how it spoke to me about how far we have come, how it is now part of our DNA to innovate and elegantly solve problems. Innovation is happening organically, team members are looking at problems and working to address them elegantly, they are not satisfied with just getting things done, they are incubating new solutions and iterating on them until they achieve elegance. If I were the sort of person to ever claim success, it would be because of changes to the organizational genome that look like this.

We are about a month away from our 2019 team kickoff, last year the theme of our kickoff was #PUSH. The idea was to challenge everything and push our boundaries to become more operationally elegant, accept failure as a means to push ourselves further and faster. The output from last years kickoff was inspirational, many team members who had never written a line of code showed up with impressive projects showcasing innovations that combined their mechanical, electrical, computer and software engineering skills to elegantly solve real-world problems, that were meaningful to them, like how to deliver a treat to your puppy while not at home. Engineering an operational elegant solution that addresses empathy, how do you not love this!

This year for our 2019 kickoff challenge we will have two teams building 1/16th scale autonomous vehicles. This project is about teamwork, creativity, and developing technical skills that extend beyond marchitecture in areas that are driving our industry, like AI/ML/DL, Keras, Tensorflow, etc. Everyone from project managers to engineers has to participate because everyone has the ability and desire to develop skills because they possess the DNA that says the more I know the better I can be; knowledge gives way to perspective, perspective and know-how give way to elegance. This is why DNA reigns supreme over resume. As a team, we have a responsibility to push each other and to help each other grow.

Innovation and operational elegance are not things you do; they are a way of life. Looking at a problem, being frustrated by inefficiencies, brute force tactical solutions, and taking ownership of developing a more elegant solution and continuously improving that solution requires a mindset.

When we think about project management we think about organizing a work effort, managing budget, risk, resourcing, stakeholders, expectations, escalations, communication, etc. But I believe there is room for operational elegance here, where the process becomes automated and measurable. Not only do I believe this, but I also have examples that prove when you have someone with a broader perspective, frustrated by a lack of elegance, with the know-how and freedom to innovate they can quickly convert vision to reality and deliver operational elegance.

This brings me to the latest example of operational elegance and the catalyst for this blog, our very own code loving project manager. Two years ago when I interviewed this individual we had a really good conversation. Having spent most of her career in academia she was a bit frustrated by the politics and ready to move into the private sector and take on new challenges. This person would be working remotely so being self-driven was important, and I certainly got that vibe during our conversations. What I really liked about her was that she was a programmer who moved into project management because she had lost her zest for programming, much of this was due to how so many legacy institutions apply rigid constraints on developers, sucking all the fun out of the creative process. The great news was she possessed the skill, and we possessed the environment to reignite something she once loved. Our culture is one that focuses on outcomes, documentation, reuse, and elegance but polyglots are welcome, even those who chose to speak PHP. 🙂 The focus is always on solving problems, maximizing reuse, removing constraints like solve this complex problem inside these fifty parameters. The world has changed and it favors the innovator over the imitator, to innovate effectively the innovator requires creative freedom. Fast forward to today and this individual is thriving on the freedom to innovate, she is looking at problems, innovating and solving them elegantly on her own. She is detailed, she values the process, she is convicted, she is willing to change and adapt, but not without a battle. 🙂 She will expect you to be as committed as she is.

Last year we took on a project that required us to build a process and systems to support a customer with 300 sites in 52 countries in 41 different languages. We had never done anything like this, we identified a call center partner and began to build a process, but the year was filled with challenges, the provider was not executing very well and worse they could not provide is detailed metrics so we could identify where the failures were occurring, this really put us in a bad position. Our approach was to be transparent with our customer, we started a search for a new provider, once we decided on a new provider we worked on a transition plan and focused on addressing some of the issues we could identify using our year of experience. We developed and introduced IVR (Interactive Voice Response) to reduce call abandonment, we focused on CDRs (Call Detail Records) so we could provide detailed reporting to the customer, see where we were having issues with hold times, call abandonment, etc. While our delivery in 2018 was less than stellar due to third-party provider constraints and failures our transparency and desire to invest in building a better service for the customer is what makes us a good partner and created the opportunity for us to improve our quality of service and grow our business 2019. We are not solving problems that have been solved thousands of times before, we are innovating solutions for our customers that provide a competitive advantage; innovation requires a partnership where we plan for failure, where we take the necessary precautions to limit the blast radius, where we iterate and incrementally improve our execution.

So today we have entirely rebuilt the delivery process, we have detailed metrics being provided by our third-party call center and language translation provider, but it doesn’t stop there, we want to ensure that the path to transparency is efficient, automated, consistent, auditable, and elegant. We should not be downloading data, pulling it into Excel, manipulating it, and emailing weekly reports to our customers because that is inefficient and suspect AF! APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) to the rescue! The automation of collection, aggregation, and presentation of information with the right skills and perspective is easy, the line between inefficient and suspect AF, and elegant and transparent AF depends on DNA that compels people to recognize that there has to be a better way to do something, the knowledge to possess this perspective, the desire to challenge yourself and execute, and the wisdom to recognize that Charles Babbage built the difference engine to automate a repetitive task.

We should strive to deliver EaC (Everything as Code), because elegance is rooted in our ability to remove humans from executing repetitive tasks, allowing the human mind to focus on reasoning through complex problems which are not binary and highly repetitive.

The heavy lifting might look something like this:

And deliver an elegant outcome like this:

Bravo to this individual for innovating, even if code is PHP. 🙂 But freedom is the fuel for innovation so great work and keep pushing!

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Creating a Narrative

After a week in London, I spent my weekend like I have spent most of my weekends for the past two years, in front of the computer. To stay sane, I often take small breaks from academic research and writing while trying to retain my flow; this usually involves a shift to leisure reading or creative writing. In this case, I visited my notes from the past week, when I say notes I mean not just the ones from daytime working sessions, but all my notes including the ones I made at 3 AM on my nightstand. When I have notes taken over a period I always try to organize the information and my opinions into a narrative that I will use to challenge my views and inform others; I find bullets to be uninspiring, so a narrative is important to me. As I distill these ideas, a macro takeaway almost always emerges and this becomes and fuel for my reflection and the core of my narrative.

It is always great to spend time with organizational peers and leadership; don’t have the opportunity to do it enough, but the fact is that when it does happen, it makes me think about and appreciate the people I have in my life and the incredible opportunities I have. Having a natural and agendaless dialog with organizational peers and leadership becomes a significant portion of the fuel that I use to reflect and recalibrate. Believe it or not, I have a takeaway from just about every conversation and interaction I have, these takeaways often become a short note to myself or an idea that I jot down at 3 AM when I awake with something on my mind as a result of a conversation or interaction. Over weeks or months, I use these takeaways, ideas, and thoughts to fuel my reflection and challenge myself. What an incredible luxury and opportunity. Some of these interactions are incredibly trivial, but they occupy precious space in my mind, heart, and soul for long periods of time. For instance, while having lunch at Heathrow airport on Friday, apparently I kept looking at my feet (which were under the table) during a conversation. The person I was talking to asked me if he was kicking me, I said no, he then asked why do you keep looking down, a great question, to which I responded: “there is a bolt holding the table to the floor, and it is under my foot.” For some reason this bolt had consumed a portion of my attention; after all, why was this bolt so protruded from the floor? Why do I tell this story? First off, odd behavior on my part, second without feeling safe I am not sure how this strange dialog takes place. Without the dialog how would I ever have the fuel to reflect on the bizarre behavior of staring at my feet in the middle of a conversation? More on the value of feeling safe in a bit.

I love what I do, so much that my profession, has become a spiritual calling. I recently sent a thank you email, and in the email, I referenced a Simon Sinek quote that reads like this: “When we feel safe inside the organization, we will naturally combine our talents and our strengths and work tirelessly to face the dangers outside and seize the opportunities.” Over the last twelve years, this individual made me and others feel safe when things weren’t so safe, he created stability amid volatility, and this allowed many of us to do remarkable things. It is easy to pick apart details of anything or anyone, but in my mind, there may be no better macro-level representation of leadership. I always appreciated all the latitude this person provided me over the years and the faith he put in me, even though I know my convicted and passionate visions are often overly complicated and unrelatable. I feel these similar sentiments about so many others in my life who have entrusted me and provided me with incredible opportunities throughout my life. I have enough self-awareness to realize that my vision and passion often outrun my ability to execute, but I am OK with this because it keeps me pushing myself and others and working tirelessly to make vision meet execution. As I reflected this weekend on the past week and last thirty days, it got me thinking about the broader scope of feeling safe and achieving remarkable things together. When we feel safe we will challenge each other, we will admit fear, and we will stand together to take it on, feeling safe amongst each other is incredibly powerful. I believe this is what great leadership is about; great leaders don’t rely on organizational hierarchy or specific accomplishments to lead because leadership is an intangible influencer that has nothing to do with ascribed authority and everything to do with achieved influence.

My mind is always racing, so much so that I often wish I could shut it off for the sake of others, my family and myself, but at this point in my life, I’ve come to accept it. While I have come to accept the anxious thought as intrinsically me, progression (personally, professionally, spiritually, etc.) is also inherently me. I’ve begun to focus on reflection and pivoting my mind to focus on listening and how perception and adaptation can significantly impact influence. While I am still frustrated by so many things (it’s a journey), I am working to capture valuable cycles which I traditionally spent thinking about situations where the probability of influence was low. The methods outlined by Tim Ferris in “Tools of Titans” have helped me, I constantly ask myself: “What is the absolute worst that could happen if I did what I am considering? Is it recoverable? Why or why not? What positive impact might there be? Is fear blinding me to the future?” My need for contrarian debate will always exist as a tool that I use to challenge myself with the hope of personal enlightenment. I credit my wife who has figured out how to live with my contrarian personality for twenty-three years with planting the seed of taking the positive contrarian view, digging deeper into the reason of why something is and identifying and defending the positive position. FWIW, I have been trying to use this tactic, and I find it quite effective, proving that being left or right of center is annoying to most regardless of the direction. 🙂 I am committed to a life of progression, and this takes commitment and perseverance, luckily I am passionately curious and looking to and willing to learn from anyone or anything. One of the notes that I have from my nightstand in the UK reads like this: “… thinks I don’t like salespeople. Why is this?” Perception is a reality, and this can’t be the perception because it’s far from the truth, I admire a vast array of skills, and the optimism and perseverance of the salesperson are at the top of my list. FTR, I like salespeople; it’s people that I sometimes struggle with. 🙂

It’s interesting because the sentiments I have shared in this blog started with me revisiting an unpublished email (longer than this blog) that I began composing two weeks ago about organizational structure, focus, growth, etc. FWIW, I often write something, let it sit for weeks or months, come back to it, and find I have a different perspective and often a lot more to say; hence I write some very long emails. The reason for the revisit was a comment made this week during a casual conversation where someone said: “I don’t think anyone knows that.” My first mental reaction (and probably verbal, because there isn’t much I think that I don’t say) was “How is that possible?”, But then I thought, why does it matter? What does matter is perception and time spent asking why is not time well spent, time spent changing the perception is where I need to focus my time.

I was extraordinarily impressed by so many of the people that I met last week. The attention to detail, focus, consistency of messaging, the handle they had on their business was impressive. Nothing is perfect, and sure I walked away with some questions, but the details do not detract from the macro-level story. From a cultural fit perspective, I am not sure how much better the week could have gone. What I think made me happiest were the conversations and the personal time I spent with people I have known forever and people I just met this past week. We are all human, we will make poor decisions, we will make mistakes, but when we feel safe, we can have conversations that help us grow together and avoid poor future choices. As leaders, we have the responsibility to empower others and make them feel safe. I genuinely believe that if we feel safe, setting and executing on clear expectations becomes exponentially easier.

I had set out to write a one paragraph intro to the email I reference above, and this is what I ended up with, more of a spiritual examination of my thoughts in the context of the last thirty days.

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VMworld 2018 Goodness and the Purpose Motive

Greetings from VMworld 2018, my first VMworld in many years. To be honest, VMware had become like milk for me, couldn’t afford to not carry it in the convenience store, functioning as the catalyst for nearly every customer visit, but as the proprietor, my hope was that the patron who walked through the door looking for milk would buy some of my homemade Ho-Hos or better yet they showed up to buy milk at my convenience store because they couldn’t resist my homemade Ho-Hos. It’s always been my opinion that the tech business we are in is evolutionary and certainly Darwinian. “The Innovator’s Dilemma” in the context of first-movers and fast-followers has never been more relevant, we live in a world where the duality of cost and capability needs to be carefully managed, the subscription economy makes this delicate balancing act even more complex. Innovations early to market, the wrong balance of capability and cost become good ideas that die only to re-emerge at a time when the market is ready and the capability and cost balance is right. Most have heard the phrase “Imitate to Innovate”, or the idea that there are no original ideas, we live in a world of idea refinement, but there’s a twist called purpose. The paper straw was invented in 1888, we replaced it with the plastic straw because the paper straw sucked (no pun intended); guess what, the paper straw is back and it still sucks. I don’t really know what a paper straw in 1888 was like, the ones in 2018 suck pretty bad, so I wonder how much worse they could have been. While I am not sure when we replaced the paper straw with the plastic straw, I am pretty confident that our ability to thinly extrude a polymer gave us what seemed to be a better answer; the plastic straw was born and the paper straw was gone. So what’s different? We live in a purpose-driven society; this is what’s different. We are now willing to deal with a straw that falls apart in favor of the sustainability of our planet, some might say we are maturing. What does this have to do with VMworld or technology in general? It has everything to do with the consumer condition and the consumer condition creates a certain type of demand which is fulfilled by suppliers, it’s a simple model that impacts every sector. Purpose matters more than ever before and we live in a subscription economy, in enterprise information technology we call this subscription economy “The Cloud”, we measure purpose with things like carbon footprint and philanthropy, and we translate this into outcomes or economic value delivered. Outcomes like lower power consumption = lower power costs = lower carbon emissions; a financial win for the business with purpose. The technology is great stuff, but the velocity of innovation is driven by a purpose and the outcomes have a multifaceted deeper meaning. The purpose is the awesomesauce.

Let’s start with Pel Gelsinger’s (CEO, VMware) “Technology Superpowers” keynote on day one. Gelsinger starts by wishing VMware a happy 20th birthday, paying homage to the VMware community, the passion, loyalty and what he terms almost cult-like behavior. This is followed by a video montage which highlights VMware’s corporate culture showcasing a culture of innovation, passion, and commitment. Gelsinger finishes his opening by displaying his commitment with a VMware tattoo (obviously a temporary tattoo, but you get the idea).

Gelsinger’s close to his “Technology Superpowers” keynote on day one is an “I believe…” monologue that would make Simon Sinek proud.

  • “Together we have the opportunity to build on the things that collectively we have done over the last four decades and truly have a positive global impact.”
  • “I believe together we can successfully extend the lifespan of every human being.”
  • “I believe together we can eradicate chronic diseases that have plagued mankind for centuries.”
  • “I believe we can lift the remaining 10% of humanity out of extreme poverty.”
  • “I believe that we can reskill every worker in the age of the superpowers.”
  • “I believe that we can give modern education to every child on the planet; even in the remotest slums.”
  • “I believe that together we can reverse the impact of climate change.”
  • “I believe that together we have the opportunity to make these a reality.”
  • “I believe that this possibility is only possible together with you.”

Gelsinger starts with why and ends with why, driving home the idea that purpose matters most.

Gelsinger answers the question of “Why VMware” from the “Why” choose VMware perspective and “Why” there is a purpose imperative that is deeper than a hypervisor. Well done!

Let’s move on to the day two and Sanjay Poonen’s (COO, Customer Operations, VMware) “Possible Begins With You” keynote, this is going to blow your purpose-driven mind. Gone are the days of the sports superstar on stage talking about what it takes to win, because we’re trying to win on a totally different level now, a far more complex level, a level with true purpose, a level that brings more than one tear to your eye, a level of bravery and inspiration that you can feel course through your soul. More on this later.

Sanjay Poonen opens with his commitment to the VMware culture by showing his dual tattoos. Sanjay spends time talking about the engines that fuel VMware, innovation and customer obsession. Stating that innovation and customer obsession are what are core to VMware, core to the culture. Sanjay then moves on to the economic value (the outcome) that VMware has delivered, stating that the ~ 50 billion in VMware revenue has delivered ~ 500 billion in economic value.

The Technology Superpowers of Cloud, Mobile, AI/ML, Edge/IoT are the “What”. IMO “What?” is the easiest question to answer. The difficult question is always “Why?” and the most compelling answer is always the answer to the question “Why?” VMware did a good job of painting the picture of “How”, and asking and answering the question of “Why?” Creating a message with a purpose that is about more than the infrastructure or software, it’s about how the infrastructure will provide a foundation that will allow us to transform our lives.

The fireside chat between Sanjay Poonen and Malala Yousafzai was truly amazing. The talk touched my soul, so much so that it feels irreverent for me to try to summarize this amazing young woman’s journey, her incredible perspective and her impact on the world using my words. We live in a time where purpose can limit our perspective and cloud (no pun intended) our judgment, but Malala has elevated herself to a place filled with love, acceptance and a desire for change, not judgment and hate. To hear her speak about her experiences and her perspectives was truly an honor and perspective-altering experience for me and I imagine it was for the nearly 25,000 in attendance (this is my hope). I am very thankful for having had the opportunity to be present.

Okay, so let me pull this back to a place where I don’t have tears in my eyes. My main reason for being at VMworld this week was to continue to shepherd our relationship with OVHcloud, a partnership that I believe will help our customers (FusionStorm’s, OVHcloud’s and VMware’s) transform their businesses in such a way that they can focus on their core business, increase agility and reduce risk. Pat Gelsinger’s Technology Superpowers of Cloud, Mobile, AI/ML and Edge/IoT all have something in common, they are superpowers which have a clear line of sight to business and economic value.

What’s great about the subscription economy is it provides us (the consumer) with the ability to get what we want when we want it, in an agile and elastic delivery model. We have instant access to the assets, but we don’t have to be the custodian of these assets, we have the elasticity to increase, contract or terminate our subscriptions based on our needs or constraints. The subscription economy is everywhere, it’s a consumer condition, and consumers make up the enterprise. When I think about FusionStorm and OVHcloud I have a clear vision of what we can deliver to the market, together, and it looks something like this:

OVHcloud builds and operates data centers. They deliver Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) in an agile, elastic and fully automated way. OVHcloud provides a strong foundation for the IT infrastructure subscription economy, this is OVHcloud’s core business, and they do it really well. OVHcloud provides FusionStorm the “Freedom to Build and the Freedom to Innovate” business solutions on behalf of our collective customers on a market leading IaaS platform.

FusionStorm takes cloud-based infrastructure provided by OVHcloud as either HPC (Hybrid-Private Cloud) or bare metal and builds, delivers and operates business Platforms-as-a-Service that deliver the right mix of cost and capability to meet the customer requirements. Delivering the business Platform-as-a-Service extends far beyond lifting and shifting workloads into the cloud or refactoring an application. FusionStorm helps customers build business platforms that focus on the infrastructure and operations in the public, private or hybrid-cloud, while considering all the nuance of a cloud transformation from connectivity, to the mobile workforce, to the edge. We do this by leveraging deep subject matter expertise in each area of the stack that allows us to design, build, deliver and operate a transformative and complete business solution.

Customers are now enabled and free to focus on their core business rather than on the designing, procuring, building, delivering and operating the underlying infrastructure. Customers can focus on solving business problems and changing the world.

This market is not about on-prem vs off-prem, it’s not about the public, private or hybrid cloud. It’s about focus, agility, and elasticity; it’s about enabling the innovation of game-changing technologies; it’s about speeding time to market for technologies that are consumer-facing; it’s about the realization that the number of new market entrants and disruptive technologies is unprecedented; it’s about realizing that the infrastructure barrier has been removed and anyone with a good idea can compete; it’s about creating the room to fail, the ability to expand, contract and pivot on demand to satisfy an evolving consumer condition; it’s about focusing and aligning human capital with the organizational purpose.

To close out my thoughts in the context of why, how and what regarding FusionStorm and OVHcloud.


  • The “Technology Superpowers” are Cloud, Mobile, AI/ML and Edge/IoT. Calculating kVA and BTUs, racking and stacking components, performing structured cabling, OS loads, patching, waking up at 3 AM to replace a failed component or restart a service, managing RMAs and logistics are not on the superpower list and there is a good reason.
  • If the metal provides the competitive advantage then you will build. E.g. – Cloud providers, these could be SaaS providers, CDN providers, etc… may opt to build their own cloud. These hyperscale customers will have bespoke designs, they will need someone to manage the supply change, perform zero defect builds against a defined specification, manage logistics, etc… While these organization may own and operate their own cloud I would argue they probably will not want to be a cloud builder, at least not at the physical metal and low-level logical level. FusionStorm can help here.
  • If the infrastructure is a commodity on which you run your core business, I believe you will look to the cloud. If you run legacy applications, if you have no plans to refactor applications, no need for auto-scaling, etc… you will still have the need to exit the data center business, maybe not today or tomorrow, but a decision will need to be made on where to focus finite resources, and building and maintaining data centers and infrastructure operations will not likely be the choice. This represents a massive segment of the market, a segment that FusionStorm and OVHcloud have a great solution for.
  • When it comes to virtualized workloads, it is estimated that VMware has a 75% market share regardless of market segment or sector. The quickest path to lift-and-shift is to move workloads without transforming them. Customers can experience the agility and elasticity of the cloud without the risk. Trust a skilled partner like FusionStorm, OVHcloud a VMware Cloud Verified partner with 28 global data centers and VMware the platform you know and trust to simplify, accelerate and de-risk your cloud transformation.
  • FusionStorm and OVHcloud can deliver the right balance of cost and capability.
  • As a FusionStorm and OVHcloud customer, you can focus on your core business and change the world. Knowing that an experienced organization has delivered the right design and is operating your infrastructure so you can focus on what matter most, all this backed by OVHcloud a leader in the IaaS space.


  • FusionStorm will work with your organization to understand requirements and design a public or hybrid cloud infrastructure powered by OVHcloud an industry leading IaaS cloud platform that can accommodate virtualized and bare metal workloads. These workloads can be production workloads, they can be dev/test workloads, they can be disaster recovery workloads. If you can envision it we can help you design, build, deliver and operate it.
  • FusionStorm will help your organization seamlessly migrate workloads to OVHcloud taking into consideration all the aspects of a cloud transformation, not just workload migration. Everything from migrating the workloads, connectivity and user experience.


  • A fully managed private, public or hybrid infrastructure with increased agility and elasticity in a paradigm aimed at accelerating the cloud transformation and de-risking you, the customer.
  • A pivot from CapEx to OpEx and the subscription-based economy.
  • On-demand agile and elastic cloud infrastructure providing the ability to expand or contract based on need.
  • Platform consistency with VMware, a platform that owns ~ 75% of the virtualization market. This means that there is no learning curve, tomorrow feels just like today with much greater agility and elasticity.

I believe that together we can accelerate cloud transformation for countless customers, delivering increased agility and elasticity and allowing them to focus on their core business. I also believe that together we can chart a course that dramatically reduces the risk associated with cloud transformation.

Finally, let me be clear, I am not anti abolishing the plastic straw. Personally, I don’t like straws, but why not just say no more straws? This is a great example of a shift driven by the purpose motive. The conspiracy theorist in me says some nascent paper straw manufacturer has a connection to a politician and there may be a financial win for someone here as well as an ecological win. One thing is for sure, there is plenty to read and debate regarding the move from plastic to paper straws.

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Everything-as-a-Service (XaaS)

As I sit here this Tuesday before Thanksgiving, in seat 9C on a United flight flying west to east, I am crowded and agitated by the individual sitting in seat 8C who has been trying to get their seat to lay horizontal for the last two hours (hey buddy it’s a limited recline), but thankful for the time I am afforded to ponder what was, what is and what will be. Fueled by thoughts from a meeting I am returning from, some other recent conversations and encounters I’ve had over the past few weeks. This blog post is a digest of some of my thoughts and their genesis. I should note that there are a few thoughts conveyed on various topics in this post which I tweaked over a one month period. I apologize in advance for anything that may seem incoherent or disconnected.

With a National Sales Meeting (NSM) approaching and a short presentation slot to fill, I have been thinking about the best way to convey my thoughts, my vision and a call to action. I’ve started to crystallize my ideas over the last few weeks, as I have been critically thinking through the business, what once was, what is, what will be, why and most importantly my reasoning. I am also thinking about some of the thoughts conveyed in a book I recently read entitled “The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon”.  In the book, the author (Brad Stone) discusses how Amazon (specifically Jeff Bezos) replaced the use of Powerpoint to convey ideas, instituting what has become known as the six-pager, a four-to-six-page memo/narrative. The reasoning is that Powerpoint-style presentations somehow provide permission to gloss over ideas, flatten out any sense of relative importance, and ignore the interconnectedness of ideas. I am a “narrative” sort of person, I enjoy thinking deeply and conveying not only my ideas but my reasoning, my inspirations, my thoughts on potential outcomes, etc… I enjoy context, and I believe context is a critical component when trying to convey intangibles like belief, passion and motivation. I like and respect how Amazon forces people to think deeply, far too often we assume people will not read memos, emails, etc… We live in a world where we seem to believe cognition is assisted by attempting to get our point across using pictures and captions of 140 characters or less (lousy spelling and grammar, with the all too familiar excuse of favoring velocity of response over coherency, are a bonus). What a sad state of affairs! I am both insulted and frightened by the trend, and I expect more, much more. The big question is, are these the people you want to consider leaders within your organization? We need to expect more! The six-pager represents, demands and tests everything that we should expect of leadership. My presentation at this year’s NSM will be delivered via a Jupyter Notebook and will highlight innovation and try to force people to think deeply about what is possible, to take the examples provided and visualize what could be rather than what is. I hope this will be an interactive 30 mins and my goal is to challenge and test the audience’s cognitive skills.

With all of the above said let’s move on. I believe that it is undeniable that the market is shifting in such a way that cognition may be the most critical skill for success. The ability to carry knowledge forward is diminishing; the market is moving too fast. Our ability to convert knowledge to wisdom which aids cognition is the difference maker. We all sell a widget of some sort; the key is how we will differentiate our widget, I believe more than ever that differentiation requires relevant intellectual property, something you possess that no one else possesses. This intellectual property needs to be translated into a dialect our customers can understand. The ability to articulate how our unique value adds value to our customers business is critical. In my business, this is services, but we all operate against objectives and within constraints, this next set of thoughts will focus on my perspective on services and required decision making.

This following attempts to outline my thoughts on service engagement types, markets,  challenges and required decisions.





Above the line

  • Large-scale enterprises where professional services workflow is programmatic and sustained. These engagements by default fall into the as-a-service model. Thes accounts understand the cost of program management; they understand opportunity cost, they value quality, on-time delivery in areas of their business which typically they would classify as context.

The potential sweet spot

  • Customers who have enterprise needs but unlike large-scale enterprises who organize areas of the business as core and context the sweet spot customer often classifies all areas of the business as core, but there are core areas of the business which are underfunded and underserved. The challenges in this space are as follow:
  1. Massive market segment.
  2. Lots of work to segment the market into those who understand that we run a “Professional Services Practice” and NOT “Professional Services Perfection”.
    • Those who grasp a professional services practice, understand and accept failure with the understanding that improvement is continuous and iterative.
    • Those who expect perfection will be disappointed. For this segment happiness only exists due to obfuscation and being blissfully unaware. Obfuscation is not a good strategy for developing an equitable business relationship and fostering iterative continuous improvement. The goal should always be continuous improvement, right?
  3. An incredible struggle to align ability with needs, desires, and expectations.

Success is measured by how quickly and engagement sitting in the “potential sweet spot” queue can be assessed and either pushed above or below the line. Engagements which are pushed above the line are often the most successful and value-added engagements.

Below the line

  • Pretty self-explanatory. Our job is to determine if there is a way to move above the line. If not today, maybe tomorrow, but given objectives and constraints playing below the line is not an option.

Those who know me know that I like anecdotal stories. Simple stories (narratives) which dramatize a situation with the goal creating a compelling reason to think deeply. So in this post, I will share a story which is compelling enough to have me think deeply about the idea of Everything-as-a-Service. What I will share in this post is all real, real information, real data, real anecdotes which I have used and most importantly a real market shift.

First, let me start by outlining some business objectives:

  1. Linear growth
    • Not all that exciting because 1+1=2 which means there is not much efficiency or elegance being injected into the business.
  2. Exponential growth
    • A desirable outcome which is more interesting and likely more efficient, but not the objective.
  3. Combinatorial growth
    • This is where we want to be. A focus on efficiency and elegance in our approach creates the ability to do far more with far less.

While exponential growth is an acceptable trajectory, combinatorial growth remains the objective. Our desire for combinatorial growth is what will allow exponential growth to persist.

A few weeks ago (update: a couple of months ago) I was engaged in an opportunity. I was asked by an account executive to have a call with a prospect to talk about a fairly complex consulting engagement. After spending about an hour on the phone with the prospect, explaining our approach, answering questions, etc… the feedback was positive, the customer was considering moving forward, with us on this consulting engagement. As always my next step was to begin to think about execution, how would we execute? Realizing that placing myself on the project is not possible, I crafted an engagement model, identified the resources, engagement cadence, timeframe, etc… and started the wheels in motion to align these things to reduce risk and increase the probability of a successful engagement. This engagement had a finite scope, a reasonably clear set of requirements, a finite timeframe, etc… Fast forward a few weeks (update: a couple of months), and we are many revisions of a proposal later, and it has become a deal which is questionable, distracting and probably not worth doing. Why?

  1. Unbalanced engagement model.
    • The carrot is being oversold.
    • While future opportunity should be considered, an engagement needs to stand on its own merits. If not, the probability of success is dramatically lowered, the quid pro quo is easily escaped due to lack of quality delivery, all the while this was the system that was created from the onset.
  2. Scope creep.
    • What starts as a well defined and finite scope begins to shift to a Maytag repairman model with what is essentially an open-ended T&M scope.
  3. The facade of a commitment and the expectation created.
    • A purchase order creates an implied commitment, but in reality, there’s no commitment by any of the parties involved.
  4. Misalignment of expectations becoming increasingly apparent.
    • A feeling of ownership rather than partnership permeates the air.

I believe Everything-as-a-Service (XaaS) has become the trend. When I say trend, I’m implying trending towards the standard, if not already there.

Let me share some anecdotes across a variety of markets (outside tech) which I believe support my belief:

Landscape professionals.  My lawn care company shows up for a mow and leaf cleanup every Friday. They require a contract, they require that the contract is for the entire season, they are rigid on the day of the week they provide (e.g. – I get a coveted Friday mow which took me years to get). If I want something different, there are no hard feelings; my landscaper is just the wrong guy.

Pool service.  I have a pool service, they provide chemicals, clean my pool weekly, etc… The pool service requires a contract for the season, they visit each week, often the pool is clean, but the billing remains the same.




OK let’s move up the stack a bit:

About ten years ago I had pneumonia, I was walking around with it for a year or so, and it was pretty bad, in both my lungs. I was hit so hard that I passed out in Penn Station, made it home on the train and landed in the hospital for over a week while they figured out what was wrong with me. The internal medicine doctor who finally diagnosed me was an excellent doctor and remained my primary care physician for the following three or four years. One day I get a letter that they are shifting the practice to a membership required practice. For $2,500 a year (that was then) you could buy into the practice, if you did not want to pay the $2,500 a year that was OK and they wished you luck in your search for new primary care physician. With managed healthcare erosion impacting service quality this doctor wanted patients that valued high-quality care and wasn’t afraid put faith in his value, to expose what was occurring in the industry and the constraints he needed to work within, he went as far as to hold seminars for patients so they could understand the why.  Sure he lost some patients, but in the end, he moved upstream to service patients (customers) with a higher quality of service.

Let’s look at another medical example. My wife needed Mohs surgery years ago; she went to a doctor who took no insurance, who was very expensive, who was backlogged for months yet this doctor is thriving.

Let’s look at a so-called T&M business model. How about the auto repair industry.

For anyone who knows how this industry works they know that auto mechanics use what are called Chilton rates to quote jobs. E.g. – Front breaks on a 1979 Pinto is four hours of labor at N rate. What’s important here is that the average mechanic can perform these jobs in 1/4th the time.


I went a step further, racking my brain to think about time and material (T&M) business that is viable.

Some might say that software developers work on a T&M basis. I would say the T&M, in this case, protects the developer from scope creep and the reality that in an Agile model scope will change. The scope and timeframe are understood and defined, dollars are allocated to each sprint/milestone, and yes this maps back to complexity (story points) and/or required level-of-effort, but the goal is to execute against the milestone and track burndown against the estimations.

As a parent, babysitting popped into my head.

Even my babysitter metrics opportunity cost and maintains an expectation of an equitable supplier and buyer relationship. What sort of person rounds down to the nearest hour when paying their babysitter?



Now, how about that Maytag repairman? They are not even T&M any longer. The Maytag repairman is associated with appliance repair. Let’s look at how people do appliance repair:



  1. Manufacturer warranty
    • Fixed cost baked into the price of the new purchase for some period. Highly predictable model.
  2. Extended warranty services, like an American Home Shield (AHS).
    • Large-scale break-fix operations which require an insurance plan with a premium, a deductible for each service incident.

My point here is you can’t even get the Maytag repairman in the Maytag repairman model anymore.

Finally, let’s explore an anecdote about implied commitment and expectations:

I live and work in the New York metro area; there is a common practice of street vendors who sell umbrellas when it rains at exponentially higher prices, simple supply and demand economics. Imagine that the cost of these cheap umbrellas on a sunny day is $2, but when it rains, New Yorkers are willing to pay $10. Now imagine me walking out to the street vendor with an IOU for $100 bucks and telling the vendor that I am committed to them. In this case, I am providing nothing more than an IOU with an expectation that my intent to buy an umbrella from them in the future (at the height of demand BTW) entitles me to be able to buy the umbrella for $2 (50 umbrellas @ $2). In return, my carrot is I will tell my friends that this vendor has quality umbrellas. What response do you think I would receive? Probably very similar to my response to many deals I look at: “WTF are you talking about?”

None of these services model or anecdotes should be challenging to grasp. To deliver quality services, predictability is required, costs are predictable thus revenue streams need to be predictable. To provide quality service delivery you have to staff using a predictable revenue stream, you have to harden schedules, resource allocation, etc… If you can’t; service delivery problems, unhappy customers, etc… are a foregone conclusion. Accommodation is not a strategy for quality delivery or survival.

Everything-as-a-Service is real and powered by Humans-as-a-Service (HuaaS).  Given the finite nature of the human species we’ve begun leveraging automation (call it ML/DL/AI or just old-fashioned automation) to create value beyond viewing HuaaS as just another widget.  To accomplish value creation, finite resources need to be applied to high yield investments.  This will always mean that decisions will continuously need to be made on where to focus, and these decisions may differ from day-to-day as conditions change.  Doing things faster, with greater accuracy, less risk, etc… requires intellect.  The shift from a 100:1 time to value (TtV) ratio to a 1:100 TtV ratios is at the heart of the knowledge economy.  The economic principals of an industrial economy cannot be applied to a knowledge economy.

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I’m a skeptic, satiated by large raw data sets, analysis & inference

Speak to anyone who knows me, and they will likely characterize me as a skeptical, pessimistic, anxious, intense, and persistent individual.

If someone sends me a spreadsheet and then calls me to walk me through the numbers my immediate assumption is that the purpose of the follow-up call is to shape my perception. If someone provides me a composite of the figures without the raw data, visible formulas and documented data sources, I also assume manipulation. With this said I am a realist, and I am willing to accept manipulation, but I am honest about acceptance rather than convincing myself otherwise. I am just wired to be vigilant.

For me the glass being half-full represents a lack of fear of it being half-empty, I am motivated to refill the glass by the reality that it is half-empty and what is likely an unhealthy fear of dying from dehydration, but it works for me. From my perspective, the half-empty glass is not depressing or a demotivator it is a potential reality. Now don’t get me wrong, I know there is water in the glass and death is not imminent, but I am incredibly aware and grateful for the opportunity to find a water source to refill my glass.

I spend my days listening to dozens of pitches, where I need to focus, why I need to do x or y, what I am missing out on by not doing x or y, etc… The pitches almost always start with a half-full perspective, selling the positive but it’s amazing how when it doesn’t go the way the pitchman expects the approach shifts to the half-empty perspective, relying on FOMO (fear of missing out) as a last ditch attempt at motivation.

Now let’s face it, no one likes to miss out, but as a realist, I recognize that I can’t do everything, so decisions are required. Forks in the road appear every minute of every hour of every day, and I am greeted at each fork by a host espousing the merits of their righteous path. For someone like me, these decisions need to be my own, driven by raw data (as raw as it can be), analysis and inference. I try to check the near-term outcomes at the door and focus on and visualizing the long-term strategic outcomes, the vision. In my mind tactical activities require little to no thought, they just happen. For example, a visionary looking for a more sustainable model for garbage disposal doesn’t stop taking their garbage to the curb every Monday and Thursday. Accepting what is and executing without much thought IMO avoids paralyzation and makes room in your life and brain for what will be.

So now we arrive at the origin of this blog. I have to make personal and professional bets on where the market is going, what is most relevant and where I should focus my time. Of course, I have a subjective opinion on where I believe the market is going but I like to validate my opinions with some data and with so many people, organizations and news outlets selling their version of the future the question becomes, how do I validate my opinions objectively. Social chatter is meaningful to me as is sentiment analysis. The great news is with a little Python, the use of some APIs and the ELK stack it’s pretty easy to collect data from social media platforms, store it, analyze it and draw some conclusions. One such question that is very relevant to me is what technologies and what OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) have mindshare? I’ve been pulling social media data for a few weeks using #hashtags to see what techs and OEMs have the most buzz; I have also been doing sentiment analysis to see if the buzz is good or bad.

Here is my view of the market using social media buzz to determine mindshare (it actually feels pretty on the money):

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The world has changed, are you paying attention?

This blog is the result of a restless night where I pondered a recent event where the idea (or existence) of NOC (Network Operations Center) was conveyed as a key component of the ITSM (Information Technology Service Management) paradigm. I find this to be an uber interesting topic and position given that the world has moved (and continues to move) in every way from a centralized to a disaggregated and distributed model. I believe this is true in computing (think cloud, microservices, twelve-factor apps, etc…) and it’s true in the area of human capital management and service delivery.

I thought I would share some of my opinions on the topic, my position as well as some anecdotes that I believe support my thoughts.

First, let me start by saying that we are engaged in a war, a war for human capital, a war where the best knowledge workers don’t look anything like what they looked like twenty years ago, they live in the shadows, digital nomads inhabiting a digital universe.

When I think NOC, here is what I envision:

Image result for wargames pic

The above is a picture of the NOC from the movie WarGames which was released in 1983, this was cool and impressed the audience, but it was 35 years ago! It’s probably obvious from looking at my blog header that I am a big WarGames fan. Let’s stay with the Hollywood portrayal of tech for a moment because I think it’s relevant.

Fast forward from 1983 to 2001, 18 years later, and the NOC has given way to the lone hacker, with umteen monitors (quite a setup) working alone to High Voltage by The Frank Popp Ensemble.

Disaggregation and decentralization have become a pervasive theme, message and a way of life. Nowhere is this more evident in than in the Open Source community. Disaggregation and decentralization coupled with a shifting culture that has shifted the motivation of the knowledge worker has given way to an unprecedented pace of innovation which would otherwise be impossible.

The Open Source statistics are truly staggering:

Couple what the Open Source movement has taught us about the power of disaggregated and decentralized teams with “the surprising truth about what motivates us” and you’ll realize that the disaggregated and decentralized cultures being built are unlike anything we could have dreamed. The passion, commitment, engagement, communication, execution, and velocity are astounding.

Ask yourself where people (yourself included) go for help, how they build communities, what are trusted sources of information, etc…
Where do developers look for help? StackOverflow, Slack, IRC, Quora, etc…?
Where does the average person look for help? Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, etc…?

These are all platforms which enable the construction of disaggregated and decentralized communities which create cultures, subcultures, increase engagement, provide better time to value, etc… Are there no lessons to be learned here? There are lessons to be learned, and many are learning these lessons and adapting their engagement models.

I am a techie, and I believe that substance will always prevail over style and the question I continually ask myself as I adjust to keep up with a market which is innovating and changing at an unprecedented pace is how to define the culture? Is what we are doing relevant today and does it put us on a trajectory to where we’ll need to be in 24 months?

And now we have arrived at my thoughts regarding the NOC.

JetBlue made a bold move (which others followed) shifting from reservation call centers to hiring booking agents who work virtually, and their customer service is consistently rated the highest in the industry.

Relevant business models do NOT focus on resource colocation; they focus on resource capability, availability, and collaboration. I would go as far as to say that colocation favors style over substance.

The cultures we build need to focus on leveraging technology to deliver a great total customer experience (TCE). I believe that a 5.3” screen in the hands of hundreds of engineers, elegant engagement processes, procedures, and tools deliver a better TCE than a 60” monitors on the wall in a room with ten engineers with landline phones. Cultural agility over environmental rigidity.

The focus and value here is NOT a finite set of L1, L2 and L3 shift workers in a NOC. Big screen TV’s on the wall, the Bat Phone and people sitting at a desk are style decisions which have no direct correlation to the ability to deliver substance. Our focus needs to be on how to engage and nurture the best knowledge workers the market can offer. Our mission needs to be the creation and cultivation of a culture which fosters engagement. Our ability to engage and escalate to a subject-matter expert (SME) at any time, to improve the TCE by building equitable partnerships which deliver distinct value, with a meaningful escalation path that focuses on MTTW (Mean-Time-to-Workaround) while in parallel determining a root cause and resolution lies in our culture.

We must understand that the world has changed.  We live in a world where seemingly forward-thinking paradigms are obsolete before they are implemented.  The path to success relies on agility and accountability, not rigidity and responsibility.

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Reflecting on my inner nerd

Technology has become the modern day version of the ’57 Chevy – at least that is what I keep telling my wife. People are crawling out of the woodwork as self proclaimed technologist – It’s been a long road of abuse to nerdom and I think that far to many people are catching an episode of StarTek 2.0 on G4TV (BTW – if you have not seen StarTrek Cribs on YouTube you have to check it out) and laying stake to the techie guru throne. As I articulated this week to a colleague the road to nerdom is paved with 8th grade wedgies and significant weight loss in the 9th and 10th grade. But that got me thinking, was the cream puff ’57 Chevy the real winner in late 50s or was it the brush painted sleeper that disillusioned the crowd – that’s what the 9th and 10th grade nerds have become, that brush painted nova that cleaned the clock of cherry street rod. The key to the kingdom is learning how to stay true to your inner geek while polishing the external geek. This is one of the first weeks that I have not traveled in the past two months so I have been spending some time knocking some projects off the list, one of those project is a Virtual Appliance – While building the appliance – I do my best work between 8 PM and 3PM a true nerd quality, I realized that I really am a nerd. The proof is in the pictures so lets get started:

Pictures of the Mindstorm robot that guards the door to my home office:

DCP 0321DCP 0322DCP 0323DCP 0324DCP 0325DCP 0326DCP 0327 DCP 0518

As if it is not enough that I still play with Legos – BTW these are not normal legos the big box in the middle is an onboard computer – of course I have to spend countless hours writing perl and java code to make my robot do cool stuff like follow my dog around the house – My daughter thinks it is the funniest thing. If you think legos are for kids google “lego mindstorm rcx” or check out this site

Next I found some pictures that I sent to colleagues when my daughter was born – she is 6 days old in these pictures.

DCP 0504DCP 0506DCP 0509DCP 0511DCP 0515

It’s never to early to start educating 🙂

Lastly I have amassed a ridiculous amount of compute power in my house. I think the total number of systems stands at approx 15 not including a few laptops – 1 quad proc and 3 dual proc systems. Virtual machines in the 20+ realm with most major open systems Operating Systems up and running from Windows XP, 2K, 2K3, Linux (Debian and RedHat based distros – my favorites are Ubuntu on the desktop and CentOS on the server), FreeBSD, HP-UX, Solaris and others.

I have to keep the window open in my office in the winter to keep the temperature regulated and in the summer I have a portable air conditioner that runs 24×7. You can see the AC unit in the third picture just to the left of the window – 10K BTU unit does a nice job, this year I put a drain line through the floor and into the basement sink so I do not have to empty the water every day, that was a real pain.

Lots of other equipment including RAID arrays, a Cisco IOS switch, FC Switches, a SCSI bus analyzer, and a SCSI-to-FC bridge to name a few.

DCP 0520DCP 0521DCP 0522DCP 0525

DCP 0526

It’s tough work staying atop the nerd mountain but it sure is fun, and it keeps the house warm in the winter. I also like having enough compute power to do almost anything I need to at home – It’s a huge advantage when you can work a week straight without sleep or a shower 🙂

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The Compelling Event

After writing a couple of recent blogs I started thinking about opportunity creation.  I awoke this morning at 4:15 AM with the thought that successful opportunity creation lies in the ability to create a compelling event.  The best sales people I have worked with have an incredible and uncanny ability to create these events.  I believe that while customers are excited by strategy and vision ultimately purchasing patterns are tactical in nature.  Broad compelling events are often created created by industry requirements such as regulatory compliance requirements (i.e. – Sarbanes-Oxley, 17a-4, HIPAA, etc..).  Technology innovators typically create compelling events in the form of game changing technology (i.e. – data de-duplication, content addressable storage, continuous data protections, etc…) these technologies typically address a broader industry compelling event and they aim to provide a unique technological solution to a broader problem.  Lastly individuals have the ability to create a compelling events, orchestration and articulation of a solution that encompasses the problem, the technological solutions and the business process and benefit.

This idea popped into my head after reading through a one of my previous blog posts in which I spoke about VMware and partition offsets.  I was prompted following a link back to the original blog from the VMTN (VMware Technology Network) and comments such such as the following on the VMTN:

“Umm… let’s just say you need to do a better job educating. No idea what any of this means, and I’ve installed dozens of ESX farms.”

“…nobody has kept track of real geometries on drives for 10 or 15 years”

These are frightening comments.  Think of all the ESX users experiencing sub-optimal performance based on the fact that I believe this represents the rule rather than the exception.

Hence this got me to thinking about the term “Trusted Advisor” once again.  It is obvious that “Trusted Advisors” across the world are chasing the ubiquitous technology opportunities such as Microsoft, Cisco IP networking, etc… To me these advisors are analogous to the doctor you goto when you need some penicillin – you know your sick, you just can’t write the script so you goto a doctor and pay the $5 co-pay for a broad spectrum antibiotic.  At one point the diagnosis and treatment of influenza was a specialty but this train has left the station.  These advisors deal in volume and while they may harbor discrete expertise unfortunately not only are the problems ubiquitous but the solution and the expert knowledge is as well.  On the other hand there is the doctor who sees 10 patients a year who deals in a specialized field that seems to be outside the grasp of the masses, he is expensive but worth the money to those who capable of affording him or her.  BTW – Nothing precludes the specialist from playing in the volume business if he or she so chooses, it begs the question of why they don’t?

With this all said, value is measured by ones ability to comprehend and quickly cross-reference symptomatic  information with expert knowledge in an area where others are incapable of comprehending the complexity.  If anyone watches the TV show “House“, this is the advisor I am describing.  Back to my example of VMware and partition offsets, VMware two years ago was perceived as a fairly complex, the certification pass rates were far lower than they are today.  VMware made a conscious effort to remove the need for command line expertise realizing that most users were coming from the Windows world and that pervasive adoption would require simplicity, today 99% of the operational management of VMware happens from the Virtual Center console.  Most users are unaware or just don’t care that the CLI is far more efficient, simplicity has become a primary feature.  It is no wonder that most users disregard aligning partition offsets, after all this would require the command line.

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