Christopher Pepe

Christopher Pepe


Recent posts by Christopher Pepe

6 min read

Leadership required when moving to Cloud and Digital

By Christopher Pepe on Apr 6, 2021 2:32:00 PM

Blogpost-display-image_Leadership required when moving to Cloud and Digital

2020 – What a change!

By now, every technology leader has torn up their plans and strategies as they began a ten-month tactical, fire-fighting effort to move their organization to virtual. In some cases, they were able to assist with changing how people performed their jobs, not just their staff but everyone, in which case they now joined the Digital Age.

CIOs further realized that moving to digital required a move to the cloud, and with it completely new ways of working that took advantage of the internet capabilities and bandwidth. Transferring your data center to a cloud service provider is no more going to cloud than moving your teams to Zoom makes you digital. Cloud requires a different mindset, skillset, and culture on how technology will enable your organization.

2021 is the year CIOs can own the Digital watercooler and change their role to being a Business Technology Officer, integrating software into every aspect of how their company performs tasks and services customers. But first, CIOs must address new ways of hiring, financing, and benefitting from technology, their people, their processes, and their IT. Accelerating the path to digital and cloud is the only way to remain sustainable, competitive, and compliant going forward.

The path has two main steps: funding and the creation of a new operating model

  1. The innovation funding model – iterative investments using VOI as the guide to obtain technology value sustainably

Before you decide on your cloud service provider (CSP) partner and how to migrate your applications, you will need to determine how you fund the migration to enable your organization to do work better, sooner, and safer. You need to separate the process of budgeting – a plan on what resources will be required – and funding, which is the action of providing those resources.

Current budgeting practices limit moving to the cloud and digital by:

  • Asking individuals to annually decide what they will need – and how would you know in this VUCA world?
  • Constricting work to be feature-focused but with no indication of what it will add to customer satisfaction or help staff perform better
  • Adding to technical and cultural debt with no strategy as to paying it off

The central dilemma of every executive board is how to plan, fund, and prioritize technology activities. The current best practice is not to use cost savings as a goal and instead let that be an outcome as you do things differently aided by software. You can prioritize by:

  • Application review
  • Moving from a Project mindset to a Product culture
  • Cost of Delay
  • Creating platforms for products
  • Decide on the WHY of moving to the cloud and digital, on HOW it will help, and WHAT tasks will accomplish your goals
    • Faster time to market
    • Reduction of manual activities
    • Making work more compliant
    • Creating workflows that provide agility and flexibility to meet customer demand, staff requirements, competitive threats, and external issues such as Brexit or COVID19
  • Get your entire workforce and significant suppliers to be part of the planning and allow them to focus and contribute to the proposed strategy

Shift-left! Think as your customer or staff and deeply analyze your applications, products, and services. Which ones are unique to you, and which ones could you source from a SaaS provider? Which ones do you no longer need? Now group the applications into product groups and allow your IT teams to create platforms (see next section) to service these groupings from the cloud.

Many organizations follow McKinsey's advice to create a FinOPS team of cross-functional product business leaders or at least a team comprised of IT, Finance, Risk, and HR. FinOPS will frequently negotiate with stakeholders to allocate resources (money, people, etc.) to continue the innovation or improve services. They will base their decisions on the value of investment towards the company. Frequently repeating and communicating this interaction creates the ability to pivot or stop work quickly, creating new behaviors, and embedding new disciplines on technology use.

FinOPS will rely on analytics, reporting dashboards with real-time data, and automated processes to make decisions visible and linked to business activities. Leaders will have to coach a new culture of moving from CAPEX funding to OPEX. This team will also introduce training to upskill the entire organization on how technology is applied and that by making use of cloud and digital, they will not lose their roles.

Where needed, a partner such as Atlassian and Praecipio Consulting can help you begin this journey of becoming a sustainable business, maximizing resources while reducing costs and making the entire process transparent.

 2. You have the funding model, and now you need the digital cloud operating attitudes, behaviors, and culture to achieve scalability, agility, and continuity

Can you answer these questions?

  • Which business workloads are most important to your company?
  • What are your goals by business line for the next quarter and year?
  • What are your obstacles to these goals?
  • What are your strengths for achieving these goals?

Taking the answers to these questions, review what activities you have planned in your IT department. If a user story or request is not helping solve a problem or achieve a goal, stop it. The FinOps should ask these questions monthly, which will influence resource allocation decisions for technology tasks. Visualizing findings to the company will illustrate the importance of product stories while embedding the capability of pivoting or stopping work, as necessary.

Your operating model will require:

  • A compensation model mapped to the technical activities that are not divisive
  • A full review of your applications mapped to the business lines
  • A map of the way data flows throughout your organization
    • What it entails
    • How it is used
    • Storage, archival, and continuity requirements
    • Security and access obligations
    • Tools that maintain the applications
    • A full list of proposed enhancements
    • Server, network, storage, and operating system supporting them
    • If provided to a specific location, why and how

Using this list, technology leadership needs to help the company move from a project model to a product model. Services must be led by an owner fully accountable for the resources and associated workload, including packaging software into chunks (platforms) that can be used interchangeably throughout the company.

FinOPS and the Product Owners can collaborate on which business domains would benefit most from enhancing the applications used to provide their services. Management can utilize the model to ensure that the right CSP is chosen for each platform. As you mature, you can empower your development teams to decide the best CSP for designing and deploying platforms, be they SaaS or containers. At the beginning of your journey, the strategy should be to communicate the intent and collaborate on the outcomes.

FinOPS also needs to be cloud-savvy. The pricing and SLA options are numerous and complicated. You need to ensure that what you choose is the right decision. You also need to affirm the best path for migrating your application and data to the CSP. Should you port it as it is (provides little benefit), rewrite the application, switch the workload to a SaaS provider? Remember that the avoidance of technical debt, adding to cloud migration's complexity, must be avoided.

There is no shortcut or other option to having Product Owners. You cannot interject a translator or business analyst between what people call the business and your IT. You are all part of the same company, and technology needs to be owned by the business area that provides that service. Further, the people that support these services need to feel that they also own and contribute to these services. This change in attitude and behavior will reduce incidents, increase innovation agility, and enhance your employees' satisfaction, who will feel empowered to see their contribution to the business goals.

The cloud offers the capability of completely altering the way you use technology. Do you need a new instance or environment? Build it, use it, dismantle it, and all within a few minutes at a minimum cost. The software lifecycle of products will be a combination of IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS, depending on the services' platform. Data lakes can share information across the company powered by analytic and reporting tools that would not be accessible to you unless you are quite large.

Security and continuity are other strengths of the cloud as you adopt the framework used by your CSP. Using IAM and Zero-trust security concepts will ensure that you do not become front-page news. Product Owners will have to maintain the governance model required and test it as part of any software change using DevSecOps practices. Scalability, both up and down, is another cloud and digital feature, enabling you to offer new products that can sense and respond to demand.

Are you worried about regulations? Globally FinOPS and Product Owners are finding that regulatory bodies, such as the Bank of England, are moving to the cloud themselves and more than willing to help ensure that their mandates are provisioned accordingly by your CSP. Even if you use a hybrid approach of more than one CSP, which leadership needs to consider, the governance and management models exist via SIAM® to support cloud and digital operating models' best strategies.

The business product operating model is not to become vendor dependent but instead use microservices and containers so that you can migrate your applications as needed to another CSP or a different offering with little effort. This abstraction mode offers the best efficiency in technology enablement. The FinOPS and Product Owners will help to create the loose guardrails to be used by your staff and IT teams as they develop software provisioned products and workloads of your business

In summary

Done correctly, the number of technology instances and applications you currently maintain will decrease but not the requirement of technical skills. Your business flexibility behaviors should be to create agility via innovative use of software, cloud, and digital. Done correctly, the time to market and lower technology costs will be your outcomes. Let all of your organization be involved in the migration strategy as you join the Digital Age, and if you need help, Praecipio Consulting is here for you.

Topics: blog efficiency finance plan saas cloud culture digital-transformation leadership frameworks
8 min read

Transitioning to SaaS: Pizzas and Pitfalls

By Christopher Pepe on Dec 29, 2020 1:14:00 PM

Blogpost-display-image_The Gotchas of SaaS blog

What is SaaS (Software as a Service)?

COVID-19 has changed the world in many ways, accelerating the pace in which the digital transformation has upended traditional modes of working and living. Whatever your organization was planning to do in 2020, whatever 5-year plan you had, is no longer valid. No matter what sort of business you are, your dependence on technology has escalated. You have probably built the services in the table below or at least run them on your infrastructure, managed by your IT teams.  COVID-19 has forced you to ask the question: do I still need to run and manage this service internally, or can I save money and time by letting someone else perform this service for me?

Traditionally in-house Managed Services

Human Resources and Payroll

Web-based services

Customer support

Internal communications

Finance reporting, accounting, and invoicing

News and knowledge sharing

Project Management

Enterprise Data and Service management

Security

Sales and Marketing

 

The definition of SaaS by the East Sussex Council highlights what software is achieving today as businesses move towards a digital future: "SaaS is the focus for innovation and investment for major system providers and is specifically designed to meet the needs of an agile and mobile workforce, enhancing self-service business processes and significantly improving the use of management information. (Cabinet Office report for East Sussex council)".

Another view to help the discussion comes from Albert Barron using pizza as a stand in for software, with this fun visual of how the transition to SaaS changes from "You do IT" to "They do IT for you". 

Screen Shot 2020-12-05 at 10.03.18 AM

There are caveats that you need to be aware of such that your experience with a SaaS provide is valuable to your organization and customers: it's vital to go through these with your team before making decisions.  The rest of this article explores these and if you have any questions, please let us know.

1: Security, Risk and Data

Your data is now their responsibility!

  • Who in their organization has access to it?
  • How is it backed up and does that comply with your regulatory bodies?
  • Where is the data stored and does that contravene any local laws?
  • If they have an issue, what is their business continuity plan and how does that align to yours?
  • If they are compromised, what processes will they enable to let you know, but more importantly, protect your customers?
  • Will they agree to participate in your business continuity tests and decide on their role in a business continuity event?
  • Will the transference of data from you to them be exchanged safely and securely?
  • What will it cost to perform the data transfers and tests?
  • What level of access will your staff receive? Even if they assume responsibility for an activity, you are still accountable to require some level of access over time.
  • What defense does the vendor offer against hackers, and is this an extra-tiered service or part of the basic package? If extra, you might want to look elsewhere.
  • What processes need to change within your organization to enter, use, modify, delete, backup or restore information and have you been trained by the vendor appropriately?
  • Your data is now their responsibility. How portable is it if you want to switch?
  • Does the vendor support MFA
  • Do they allow penetration tests?
  • What policies have you introduced to manage your data in the SaaS provider cloud?
  • If the SaaS vendor changes the schema or worse-cancels it, what impact will that have and are you contractually protected?

2: SaaS Vendor Performance

The perception and experience of your staff and customers are now based on the SaaS provider's performance.

  • Did you create a clearly defined view of expectations supported by metrics and examples? Do you know bad from good from great service?
  • How did you explain to your customers and staff that you were now going to use a SaaS provider? What was the reaction?
  • What happens if your customers complain? What happens if your customers leave you because of a SaaS performance?
  • Is it contractually clear under what circumstances a complaint can be made, the timeframe it must be addressed and any penalties that could be applied for non-conformance?
  • Who does the customer or staff call if there is an issue? Your teams or the SaaS provider?
  • What level of support do they provide and how will you test that the service is delivered as expected?
  • What messages do you receive in case of a data entry issue or general performance issue?
  • Do you have regular performance and improvement meetings with the vendor?
  • If you want a new feature based on customer feedback, is the SaaS provider responsive?
  • If the SaaS provider changes their product procedures, what will be the impact on your customers? Can you pilot the changes? If you do not want the new procedures, can you leave the SaaS provider?

3: Vendor lock-in

SaaS vendors bet that once you let them perform an activity, that you will remain a customer for several years. In other words, you are locked-in to their practices, processes, support, improvements and remediation and so are your staff and customers.

  • How does the SaaS vendor recruit, train and keep their staff? You do not want a constantly changing workforce and there are examples where 30% of a SaaS workforce changes every 90 days.
  • You might have saved money by not having to hire or train your staff, but what will you do with the knowledge they possess?
  • Contractually obligating certain staff to remain until the transition is complete is best practice.
  • Your IT is now their IT. If you want to benefit from the latest technology and they do not support that product then you are stuck. Make sure your contract allows for changes or even cancellation if needed.
  • If the vendor changes their price, what protections have you contractually initiated to ensure that you should remain with that vendor? How will you prove value over time?
  • COVID-19 has seen a number of vendors have issues causing them to default on a service or even go out of business. How will you protect yourself in case this happens to your provider? 
  • SaaS vendors price in three main ways: by user license, by use, by feature. Make sure that you have chosen the model most appropriate for your needs and that if your work model changes, then you can move to another tier without penalty.

4: SaaS requires an internet connection and belief the cloud is secure

  • What if something terrible happens to your web servers? Do you have backups of your metadata? You might want to consider using third party backup services such as SpanningBarracuda, and Backupify.
  • If you have communication issues from your office, what is your backup to ensure that the SaaS service remains accessible?
  • If your staff are working from home and they have issues, then how will they continue to work until normal service is restored?
  • Can your staff download data to their home office? If so, this is a security and perhaps even a compliance risk. How will you know?
  • If they invoke contingency, does this place your business in a location where you
  • What is the web page loading time? How complicated is the page to read or use?
  • If data is transferred to other applications to complete the journey, can this be monitored for security and improvement?
  • Is the SaaS service usable across a variety of mobile devices or internet browsers?

5: Integration into your other software

SaaS implies that all of the technology required to perform a service is now under the control and management of the vendor.

  • How easy is it to transfer their data into your systems such as corporate finance?
  • What happens if they make a change to a schema that you were unaware of and this damages your data or causes you lost time to introduce new ways of addressing their change?
  • Everyone performs regular maintenance activities and how will this be coordinated?
  • If you use multiple SaaS vendors (Accounting and Sales for example), how will you keep them in sync with each other and any internal applications you maintain?
  • How do you test that interoperability remains as expected?
  • What is the impact to your business continuity of multiple SaaS providers?
  • If a vendor has an issue, how will that impact other vendors you rely upon?
  • Will you require 3rd party to help you integrate their software with yours? This can be costly.
  • Not every vendor follows standard APIs, protocols, and tools, so the impact to your business practices should be piloted prior to accepting the SaaS provider.

6: You may have to change your business practices to use the SaaS

  • This is a culture change for your staff. How will you prepare them?
  • What training and documentation will you receive and is it sufficient?
  • If something requires customization, is that even possible or practical? Many SaaS vendors will only allow this if a significant number of customers also request that feature.
  • How will you ensure that other business practices can pivot based on competition, compliance or performance needs?
  • How will you ensure that the SaaS provider supports all of the ways your customers want to interact with you? Browsers, mobile technology, VPN, etc.?
  • What and when is their maintenance window? How does that impact your business customers? What happens if a change goes awry?
  • What information do you receive on incidents related to you? Is it in a format that your ITSM tools can read and archive?

SaaS is a brilliant technology capability that can benefit your organization. You must closely manage them if you are to remain in business, service customers safely, and receive the expected cost benefits. Ensuring that you have a way to mitigate this list of caveats will ensure that your experience is as valuable as possible. Letting go of services you have built in-house can be hard, and moving to a SaaS model can be intimidating: have no fear, Praecipio Consulting is here to help. Contact us for any questions you might have of successfully transition to a faster, more efficient way of doing business.

Topics: plan saas digital-transformation
5 min read

How Your SaaS Provider Contributes to the Customer Experience

By Christopher Pepe on Dec 16, 2020 1:44:00 PM

Blogpost-display-image_SaaS Requires Delightful Customer Service

SaaS Providers & Customer Service

The year 2020 has forced organizations to consider how they service customers and enable staff to do their work by having them reconsider the benefits and value of their current technology practices. 

Look at the fun visual below: most businesses use a combination of managing their own data centers and software or by using cloud-based facilities. Software as a Service (SaaS) allows a provider to perform a service on their technology. You pay for the provider's expertise and convenience to maintain the servers, networks, security, software, and the upgrades or changes. No more cooking as you always eat out!

pizza as a service

SaaS providers now perform almost any main business functions: HR, Accounting, Sales, Finance, Communication, Coding, Marketing, Websites, and more. The cost benefits dazzle the eyes but consider that when you allow someone else to perform a business function that the customer still sees you.

At a restaurant, if the service is terrible, you never return to that restaurant. In the eyes of your customer – you are the restaurant! Therefore, how you interrogate the provider before deciding to use them and how you monitor and respond afterward is paramount to your business's success.

The rest of this article offers insights and tips to ensure that your relationship with a SaaS provider does not ruin the relationships with your staff and customers.

Training

  • Transitioning to SaaS changes your workflow – how will you be trained, and what documentation will you receive?
  • Are any other vendors impacted, which will also require training, and who pays for this?
  • Your products will require integration with the SaaS provider, so how will you train them?
  • How will changes to the SaaS provider service be addressed?
  • Do customers require new FAQs?
  • If someone has a question, do they go to an internal team, the service desk, or the SaaS provider?

Know Your User

Before you move a service to SaaS, you need to define the user of that service. Deep dive:

  • What is the user of this service in terms of ability, technology, the reason to use the service, expected benefits from their view, and dislikes?
  • What is the journey of that user as they use the service? Where will there be issues?
  • How can the SaaS provider mitigate these issues? How will you know that problems are occurring?
  • What messages can you provide the user to help them on their journey or if they get stuck? Can the message be personalized?
  • What can you automate for the users, such as renewals, reminders, or upsells, or anything to make the journey more enjoyable?
  • Can users form part of your test team to improve the journey's flow or provide feedback on proposed changes before go-live or to develop future releases?

IT Service Management

ITSM is the practice of allowing technology to benefit someone. It is a required business set of processes that engender better, faster, safer technology applications that deliver value. Initially the IT domain, Enterprise Service Management (ESM), is now commonplace as organizations take advantage of the cloud, SaaS, or move to digital products.

Not long ago, more technology services supported a single department, with only Finance reaching out across all areas. Now technology services are so integrated into your work that a change in one place impacts the entire organization and could disrupt your customers. ITSM processes and tools can help by:

  • Logging all incidents or requests, no matter who sees them, the SaaS provider or your teams.
  • Merging the incident and request data for performance reporting, improvement actions and decision-making. Daily integration is best practice.
  • Helping to determine how long it takes for incidents or requests to be resolved or some sort of communication is issued to the customer? Lack of service will increase customer churn, and they might disparage you in social media.
  • Creating alerts for monitored services.
  • Obtaining historical information to ensure that improvements are of value.
  • Enabling user support via live chat, AI chat, easy to find widgets, easy to read FAQs, and reporting on these interfaces' satisfaction.
  • Acquiring your customers' level of satisfaction and does this match to the XLAs (Experiences Levels Agreement) with your provider.
  • Informing support staff on offers as refunds or incentives during disruptive events or poor service.
  • To know when to follow up with customers that require special care.

Metrics of SaaS

At some point, your customers will have issues that highlight your value stream or service pipeline's weaknesses. The tools that you use to monitor, alert, investigate, and respond to these issues can be improved by agreed metrics that make sense, such as the ones below:

  • How fast do customers receive a response?
  • What do they feel about that response?
  • How fast are incidents or requests resolved?
  • What is the lifetime value of a customer?
  • What is the cost of servicing a customer?
  • What is the cost of acquiring a customer?
  • What is your customer churn?
  • What is the total investment of SaaS over your customer value or cost?
  • Is there a group of customers that benefit more from a SaaS provider than others allowing you to decide how best to service those customers?

Final thoughts

The economy of tomorrow will be fully customer (user) centered. SaaS, cloud, digital and ESM will enable your products and services to become more individualized. Your SaaS provider has little value to you if the user journey is full of bad service. Your goal is to leverage the provider to retain and attract customers and staff. Thinking about how this will happen, setting clear expectations, expectations, documenting service examples with metrics in the contract, testing and monitoring service delivery, and having active conversation with your SaaS provider will ensure that the customers' experiences are delightful.

If you are looking for ways to improve your customer experience through technology and digital transformation, let's chat!

Topics: atlassian saas cloud hosting customer-experience
3 min read

Community-driven Pollinator Garden at Bristol Elementary School

By Christopher Pepe on Dec 15, 2020 4:33:00 PM

Blogpost-display-image_Pollinator Garden for Elementary school

It took a village to create this natural space for children to explore.

garden

Parents discussed the joy of the Bristol Elementary School's (BES) Forest Fridays and how our kids thrived outdoors (the year before one student formed a petition, gathered signatures, and lobbied the administration for more outdoor recess time). Parents and school administration began meeting to remove hurdles to students being outdoors. The focus of the effort became:

  1. Outdoor classroom space to facilitate classroom based learning outdoors
  2. Natural playscape to encourage engaging with and observing the natural world
  3. Water management during the spring thaw and freeze cycles

During a training session, Four Winds, a community-based natural science education organization, announced a mini-grant program to improve area schools. We felt a pollinator garden was the most achievable project to increase the diversity of the playground landscape without adding much maintenance overhead. Four Winds agreed and BES was awarded the grant.

Four Winds Nature Institute is a non-profit organization advancing the understanding, appreciation, and protection of the environment through community-based natural science education and research. 

While the beloved playground boasts a vast flat area with many play structures there is not much natural diversity. Our goal has been to rewild the playground and celebrate seasonality with an ever-changing display of flowers and foliage made of native plants. This project would establish a naturalized island that will promote native plants and pollinators, as well as cultivate creative play. The students can watch the garden evolve, watch the insects, birds, and other life that thrives there, and to be a part of it themselves.

I would like to thank our vendors, who were easy to work with, generous with their time, gave us favorable pricing, and donations. All of our plants came from Full Circle Gardens. Sarah helped build our plant list, added in several plants as donations, and delivered them for free. Great communication and coordination made working through the pandemic a non-issue. Our mulch and top soil came from Livingston Farm, nearly half of which was donated to this project. Without the generosity of our vendors we could not have built the garden that we had envisioned. Thank you.

I would also like to thank the school administration for their support and commitment to our community. This effort began with principal Kevin Robinson who was an enthusiastic supporter of our parent driven efforts. That was handed off to Thomas Buzzell who is a strong advocate for outdoor play and its many benefits on behavior and development of children. With the community, he is building a collective vision of the future of play at BES. No job too small, Tom has even offered to hand water the fledgling garden. Joel Fitzgerald has also been a strong advocate for this project and playground improvements including a student driven project to build an outdoor classroom. Sheila Gebo was kind and patient while shepherding me through vendor management and financial operations. And of course thank you to Four Winds for funding this project and encouraging us along the way. I would also like to thank the other parents that have given their time and energy at every phase of this project. Finally, a special thank you to the Urban girls for their hard work in installing the garden on a sweltering summer day. Thank you all, and those that were not named. Without your help we would not have completed this project.

IMG_6516

There were a lot of hot dry days between delivery and installation. Sam was a big help in keeping the plants happy.

IMG_6687

The Urbans came out in force for installation day!

Topics: environment do-good social-responsibility education
7 min read

SaaS can be SAFe®

By Christopher Pepe on Dec 11, 2020 2:30:00 PM

Blogpost-display-image_SaaS can be SAFe Blog

SaaS is the future

2020 has caused the world to work from the internet. Whatever you used to do in your own data centers can now be performed by vendors, be they cloud or software service providers, better, faster, more securely, and at less cost than you.

The diagram below indicates the trajectory of change from traditional to SaaS (software as a service). Learning how to manage SaaS providers is the new skill that must be learned and introduced into your strategy.

Screen Shot 2020-12-05 at 10.03.18 AM

The hardships of this year have also proven that you need agility in your 5 year plan so that you can change along the way.  The capability to pivot based on circumstances is the other new capability of an organization moving towards a digital and VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity) future. You have to be agile, not just in IT, but the way you think, act, and react. Leadership has to manage and accelerate this change in culture and behavior, which means scaling new ways of working enabled by technology is the new management paradigm.

Allowing a SaaS provider to manage a core function such as Marketing, HR, or Sales is the norm, freeing you to concentrate on creating unique services that benefit your customers and save time for your staff. 

Scaled Agile Framework SAFe®

No matter what blend of Agile that you are using (Scrum, Kanban, DevOps, AgileITSM, XP, TDD, BDD, etc.), you will need to spread these practices across your business. New ways of working, constant improvement, collaboration, and the elimination of siloes, benefitting from technology, be it your own or others, is the only way to survive. 

Accomplishing this change means a dramatic, and in some cases, drastic, alteration to how things are currently performed:

  • You keep your program office but lose your project mentality
  • Product and Service Owners are the new organizational role with accountable budgets and teams
  • Agile Budgeting replaces annual budgets, and the same occurs to annual reviews as constant and consistent feedback is provided top-down
  • Multi-year contracts are swapped for partners that facilitate your agility
  • The use of technology to keep you in business enables every aspect of your business
  • Staff are not made redundant but instead acquire t-shaped skills
  • Customer focus and shifting left from their request or needs drives your product strategy

Organizations need guidance to make these types of change successfully. Enter Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe®).  The diagram on their website visualizes the breadth of their philosophy and impact on an organization. 

SAFe® is a continually changing set of practices that has blended the technology, people, and business practices into a competency-based model: 

  • Leadership based on agile and lean: empowerment, self-organization
  • Team and Technical Agility: No defects, use of cloud & internet, open-source, SaaS
  • Behavior-Driven Development (BDD): products based on the people use them
  • Test-Driven Development: code, infrastructure, people feedback in short cycles
  • Agile Product Delivery: small changes made often, usually daily
  • Lean Portfolio Management: if it is not helping someone, then you don’t do it, constant improvement, reduced technical and cultural debt
  • Lean Governance: common or standard data models, budgets are based on the value of outcomes and funded accordingly, guardrails guidelines both corporate and regulatory, business continuity and sustainability is a daily way of acting 
  • Organizational Agility: long-term goals but very short-cycle plans capable of pivoting based on breaching a KPI or OKR (Outcome based vital indicators)
  • Continuous Learning Culture: effort is rewarded, management changes to a coaching model from a telling model, relentless improvement is mentored, innovation is the goal

SAFe® is the most ambitious version of this framework's scaling technology, leadership, financial, and organizational practices. It supplies examples, training, templates, and a worldwide community of practitioners. It is not for everyone. It is not a program of introducing Safe® that will make it successful for you but instead a multi-year effort of scaling the way your business does things at every level into a new model. 

SAFe® helps you avoid and overcome these engrained practices:

  • Budgets by department or project become funding for products and services
  • Prioritization of new features or services is based on value of delivery and cost of delay
  • Creating your own software is replaced by using open source or SaaS
  • Data used and kept by your business is standardized for ease of maintenance and change to new services as needed
  • Mapping the way you work end-to-end and ensuring any changes are not localized but instead improve the flow of work and data is the new program office structure.
  • Change Approval Boards or freezes are stopped because you trust the testing and release process that has been enhanced and automated. 
  • Design thinking is encouraged to solve problems
  • Design thinking underpins making things as small and as standard as possible such that any part of your business can use it or improve it
  • Everyone is thinking about what can I do to make things better, do things faster and safer, and how can I save effort or time or money

SAFe® Benefits

  • Increase the velocity of change: ways people work and the software that supports these changes
  • The software lifecycle of Demand-Approve-Develop-Integrate with other code-Unit Test-Performance Test-Submit to Live Approval-Go live is replaced with Experiment-Develop-Test-Go live
  • SaaS + Cloud + Digital is the technology trilogy whereby owning your own technology is discouraged (still allowed where regulatory mandates leave no other option)
  • Complex projects requiring months or effort are replaced by an understanding of what a new service or feature or technical update will provide a customer or staff member and therefore, this is what is created and deployed
  • Technical stability is more critical than new service introductions (think of your customers and how angry they get when things go wrong)
  • Feedback, monitoring, alerting are the trilogy of information collaboration and coordination (no silos)
  • Legacy infrastructure or technical debt is mitigated by using cloud services aligned with your work and customer practices. Technology underpins the way you do things and not just there because!
  • Training on SAFe® culture and practices is top-down and extends to your external suppliers
  • Project Management is now Agile Product Management, coordinated across products and services instead of merely helping a department or team
  • Prioritization based on what it fixes, how it meets a regulatory demand, what outcomes it being in terms of value and customer satisfaction, or how it helps staff perform a function

Doing SAFe® means:

  • You are willing to release small chunks of change daily versus large pieces that might wait months before going live
  • You can monitor the impact of that change in terms of issued caused or customer satisfaction
  • If an issue ensues or satisfaction is not as expected, then you can easily roll-back the change with minimal effort or impact (go back to the way things were before)
  • New skills of negotiating or always thinking of enhancing products via technology are taught in a variety of formats such as hackathons, formal training, a partner working, and management coaching
  • Operating and Strategy long-term plans are replaced by short-term vision plans that are customer and market-centric
  • Centers of Excellence or Software Factories are created aligning how people working based on data and technology mapping exercises with the approved practices of the organization, which encourages:
    • Standard tooling for Enterprise Application/Service Lifecycle Management 
    • Standard data and artifact repositories
    • Use of SaaS providers for core activities
    • Always on testing, monitoring, and alerting across the value chains

A train yard is a frequent analogy to explain software factories and centers of excellence. You need a standard gauge rail for all trains to use, and an aligned place for trains to be monitored and dispatched. This allows trains to move safely across the landscape, delivering people to their locations. Your organization needs to establish the same kind of software delivery practice. This model is what SAFe® uses to foster the fast and safe distribution of technology via an engineered flow of work.

SaaS Safe® tips

  • Create a vision of why SaaS and Safe® are being adopted, underpinned by training
  • Change the language used top-down from project to product
  • Have metrics that make innovation for customers or staff the prime target
  • Developers develop and operations keep things up is the most prominent IT silo. Break this by making product teams that own their product or service.
  • Technology metrics of Defect Rejected Ratio, Detected Defects, Change Time compared to Market release, Value of Delivery versus Effort are viewed on product boards
  • Create fun programs of change such as Kill the CAB, which force the introduction of standard technology components for use by any aspect of the business
  • DevSecOps is not an option but a mandatory requirement: you have to test at every opportunity and use security practices and tools to keep your business safe and compliant
  • Automate what you can as often as you can, but only if this improves the quality and speed of work

SaaS is the way of allowing someone else to perform a function via the use of their technology. Carefully avoiding vendor lock-in will make SaaS a credible option for your business. The transition to remote working has opened up a world linked by technology, and your organization needs to do the same by scaling the thinking and practices of technology to everything you do. SAFe® is a framework proving your business a set of rules that promotes scaling Agile, Lean, and DevOps across your organization. It is a radical alteration of your culture that will take time and leadership to embed successfully.

Whether implementing SaaS, SAFe® , or just generally digitally transforming your company, Praecipio Consulting can help!

Note: SAFe® is a Registered Trademark via ©Scaled Agile, Inc.

Topics: scaled-agile saas safe agile
4 min read

How Spore-Infused Canola Oil Supports the Forest Ecosystem

By Christopher Pepe on Sep 25, 2020 11:54:55 AM

Blogpost-display-image_Steering a forest (1)

Last year I switched to grocery store canola oil to lubricate my chainsaw bar. I add Oyster mushroom spores into the oil so that they are dispersed while I cut. This method was developed by Paul Stamets of Fungi Perfecti and discussed in his book Mycelium Running. There doesn’t appear to be a commercially available product; however, by making it myself at close to the cost of conventional petroleum-based bar oil (~$15/gal), I improve my forest and should have some convenient forage this fall. I am still refining the process of infusing spores into canola oil, but if you are curious to try it, I’d be happy to swap notes.

Why vegetable oil?

Available since the mid-1980s, vegetable-based bar oil usage has grown more rapidly in Europe and is gaining adoption in the US. Workers’ occupational safety and health, and environmental protection are the biggest concerns caused by the thousands of gallons of petroleum-based bar oil that is left in our forests each year.

“Petroleum-based oils are known carcinogens and medical records show that they cause discomforting eczema and oil acne. In addition, prolonged exposure to petroleum-based-oil mist can cause irritation of the respiratory tract. Environmental damage caused by petroleum-based oil spills has had extensive attention from the media.[1]”

Whereas, canola oil “has excellent lubricating properties and some studies have shown up to 40 percent reduction in consumption without sacrificing bar-and-chain life.[1]” Again looking to Europe, we see that there are 80+ brands of vegetable-based bar oil in Germany alone. Austria has gone so far as to outlaw petroleum-based bar oil. Europe has even developed a standard (CEC-L-33-T-82) that measures the amount of oil that biodegrades over a 21-day period. Within that standard, products can contain some mineral oil additives. A popular choice in the US, STIHL BioPlus, degrades 93.8% in 21 days. Commercial vegetable-based bar oils cost about twice as much as petroleum products, which has hurt adoption. But with long-term environmental concerns and sustainability driving today's business decisions more than ever before, that additional cost will be more easily justified.

Canola oil is also a renewable product. It is worth considering that conventional agriculture relies on fossil fuels, and accounts for 10% of the US greenhouse gas emissions [2]. Canola-based bar oil is still seen as a net positive as it keeps the toxins in petroleum-based bar oil out of the forests, and we have the potential to change our agricultural footprint into the future.

Why mushrooms?

Saprobic mushrooms, the decomposers, are the cornerstone of returning nutrients back to the forest. Common native fungi include oysters and Turkey tail. As tree limbs and litter fall to the forest floor, saprobes reach up and consume them. Mycelium, the vegetative part of the mushroom, invades the tree litter, brings along water, and attracts insects that feed on the mycelium. Those insects attract birds and forest creatures to tear apart the rotting wood. The mushrooms start the process, decompose the most difficult tissues (lignin and cellulose), and invite the others to continue the job. This process converts wood back into soil.

There are many functions that mushrooms serve in our world. Oyster mushrooms are known to feed on nematodes[4] and are effective water filters. They’re used by humans and other animals as food and medicine. Turkey tail mushrooms contain anti-cancer medicines, are aggressive decomposers, and protect against parasitic fungi. Many of our best medicines have come from mushrooms and many more are expected to be discovered, especially in the few remaining sections of old-growth forests. There are dozens of powerful mushrooms that humans have partnered with and countless more that we don't even know the value of yet. Perhaps they will share their stories someday.

Why use spore infused canola oil?

Mushroom spores are everywhere. In fact, you have inhaled dozens since you started reading this article. Kathleen Stutzman, VFF’s Conservation Forester, gave me the sage advice that “the forest does not need you to be healthy.” Similarly, the mushrooms do not need me to find their way into deadwood. However, the choices that I make can help steer our forest in the direction I want it to go. By preferring some species, I can speed up decomposition and quickly build the thin soil on my rocky hillside. New research suggests that species like Turkey tail will also ward off potentially destructive species like the honey mushroom[3], one of which is the largest organism to ever live on earth. While honey mushrooms likely serve a function in the forest, they also cause a lot of financial hardship for timber companies. The jury is still out on honey mushrooms in my opinion, but Turkey tail and Oysters mushrooms help decompose everything 3” and smaller that I leave behind, provide us food and medicine, and support the entire forest ecosystem.

References

  1. https://www.fs.fed.us/eng/pubs/html/98511316/98511316.html
  2. https://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/natural-resources-environment/climate-change/
  3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FPeBYnGwo4Y
  4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vBWzrlCBhCM
Topics: carbon-footprint green-team
7 min read

CICD: The Software Value Stream to your Customer

By Christopher Pepe on Aug 26, 2020 12:45:00 PM

DevOps Best Practices that connect you to your customer

Level Set of Terms

Before we dive into today's blog post, let's get familiar with these terms:

  • DevOps: A mix of cultural and technology practices to improve the use of software and technology-servicing customers.
  • Continuous Integration (CI): Traditionally, a developer spends their day coding, and at some point, they save (commit) their efforts within a development environment or an application branch. Think about a tree. Do you want one full of intertangled branches (loads of developers, all doing something, but getting in each other’s way), or do you want a well-balanced tree with a solid trunk? The same is true with coding, and CI allows for the integration of code to the trunk as fast as possible via agreed testing success. If the system fails (a diseased branch), then the feedback is fast enough that the code can be fixed and resubmitted. Note that the approval and commit steps are manual but the expectation is that they are performed daily at a minimum.
  • Continuous Delivery (CD): Removes the manual step and introduces automated approval based on testing success to push software to the trunk. CD eliminated the authorization wait time found in CI, thereby decreasing the feedback time. Faster feedback equals faster fixes, which underpins the culture of “if no defect found, then proceed to the next step in the software value stream.”
  • Continuous Deployment: I call this the ‘Trust My Developer’ process. Testing, packaging of code, release, and deployment (to the correct trunk or environment) are as automated as possible. We trust the process, the tools, and the quality of the code, and therefore we know that if there is an issue, we can also remove any code causing problems as quickly as possible. Feedback from the customer on the new applications or features is immediate.

How we created these practices: A bit of history

Software is what makes technology exciting, as it is often the software elements that make things happen, solve problems, or fulfill needs. It stands to reason then that the flow of software to a customer needs to be as fast as possible. Unfortunately, in many businesses today, that flow is a mixture of work, wait time, approval time, and probably rework. 

Does your software stream look like this?

  • Receive the request for something to be changed (new, feature or fix)
  • Wait
  • Get it approved
  • Wait
  • Pass it to a team as something to do
  • Wait
  • The team at some point begins to work on it
  • They finish their work and pass it to another team to add their code, or they give it to a test team
  • Wait
  • The test team schedules the environments for testing: code, security, performance, business continuity
  • Wait
  • After authorization, the code is deployed at the pre-set monthly or quarterly release
  • Wait
  • The code is released
  • Pray that it works and that things have not changed so much since the original request

Do you recognize your lengthy cycle of innovation? It doesn’t have to be this way, thanks to the practices of DevOps: Continuous Integration, Continuous Delivery, and Continuous Deployment.

Timewarp to today

What do your staff or customers want? Quality, fair cost, sustainability, resilience, and practicality. They want technology that helps them and, preferably, they want it now. Given the interconnectedness of the world, if a customer does not find satisfaction with you, then they go elsewhere within a mouse click. Your business peers can also do the same, hence this is how Shadow-IT (when peers circumvent formal IT processes) begins.

But what if:

  • Requests are assessed within a short time of receipt?
  • When the team began working on the request (either some aspect, if not the full request), was ready it for use within a sprint (two weeks to a month)?
  • As much as possible, the culture is that if no defect is found, the request moves to another team or goes live?
  • If the request can be improved, then how?

Jez Humble and Dave Farley best explained these practices in their book Continuous Delivery. Major software vendors such as Atlassian built their products based on these concepts (and have an excellent series of blog posts showing the why and how). It is becoming more and more difficult to find a business that does not depend on software, so why have processes that limit the use and improvement of your products or services? Sounds like nirvana (or a significant culture change).

Some of you by now are thinking that this can never happen where you work. I won’t quote how many times a day banks, Amazon, or even the latest start-ups that were born during the pandemic, deliver software to customers.

Tip: Look at sites from mature DevOps companies like Netflix and Amazon, and make that your goal so that you can work towards creating meaningful change within your organization. 

The CICDCD+ culture:

  • No defect goes live
  • No defect goes to the next environment
  • Ideally have no more than three environments; two is even better
  • Automate as and when we can
  • Test multiple times, as often as we can
  • Trust in the tools we use
  • Trust in the people that use those tools
  • Ability to roll back (uninstall code) as quickly as we can promote code
  • Limit the amount of work performed at any given time
  • Limit the size of our changes (make smaller changes?)
  • Changes are independent of the application or data (yes this is hard)
  • Every day is a new day during which we strive to improve the process

The Gap of Change: Are you ready?

CI implies that your organization wants to create and improve a pipeline of software to your customer. You also agree that management is going to allow the technology and governance processes to be available to develop, maintain, and improve the pipeline. CD also implies that you are satisfied with the flow of software, the timely feedback of information related to software value, and issues are resolved before working on other code. Automation is used to automate the approval of changes and the delivery to the appropriate environments or customers.

CD+ implies that you are content with both the culture and technology of software and how development and deployment have matured. You are ready to automate as much of the process as possible. Changes are small and independent enough that if there is an issue, they are quickly revoked. Minor changes also mean that customers get spoon-fed new software, one feature at a time. Documentation and recovery are both simplified, and the cost of software reduced.

Remember that there is no value in anything you do in technology until it is used to help someone fulfill a need or solve a problem. Until that time, everything you do or spend money on is a waste. Limit your waste by trying these practices. In the next blog, we will explore the metrics of CICDCD+, and the final blog of this series will provide tips from the leadership aspect.

If you have any questions in the meantime about any of the concepts discussed in this post, let us know

Topics: devops continuous-improvement customer-experience cicd
4 min read

Why Mushrooms Can Save The World

By Christopher Pepe on Jun 24, 2020 12:30:17 PM

2020 Blogposts_Beyond sustainable

When walking behind my house, I found this rhizomorph, which I believe is from a honey mushroom called Armillaria mellea, and it reminded me of the amazing world that we know so little about.

honey-ropes

First, take a guess: What was the largest thing to ever live on earth?

If you thought a blue whale or any other gigantic animal, you will be surprised to know that the current record holder is a mushroom that covers 2200 acres and is thought to be 2000 years old. It eats entire groves of trees. Colloquially named the Humongous Fungus, this Armillaria ostoyae specimen lives in the Malheur National Forest in Oregon. There are several other gigantic honey mushrooms in Oregon and Washington, and this one just happens to be the biggest one we know of today. The mushrooms that we think of are the fruiting body of the organism - like an apple. The main body, the mycelium, lives underground, in decaying wood, even in dead animals. The Humongous Fungus is bigger than a blue whale yet is only one cell wall thick.

I grew up foraging a few mushrooms and have always liked eating them, but it wasn't until I moved to North Carolina that it developed into a full-blown obsession. Running across Paul Stamet's TED talk solidified a lifelong passion for these little understood and underappreciated organisms. Did you know that there are 8 miles of mycelium in a cubic inch of healthy soil? That's amazing!

Going Beyond Sustainable

My focus, shaped by Cradle to Cradle, is on being better than sustainable. I believe that we need to replace all single-use plastics with biodegradable products and be better at reusing. Remember it's: reduce, reuse, and finally recycle. If we fail at all of those, then we have no choice but to landfill it. Recycling has been branded as a better solution than it is, especially if you consider the abysmal rate of only 9% of plastics being adequately recycled. According to a sign on a bus in London, 50% of the trash in the Thames is single-use plastic. We know this is a problem, and we now need to act upon it. But let's rewind, I'm getting off-topic...

To be better than sustainable, we need to have our effluent (outputs) be cleaner than our influent (inputs), but this is not commonplace. Our waterways are so polluted due to factories being built along rivers and lakes where they can conveniently pump water from and return effluent into those bodies of water. Clean river water was brought in, contaminated in some industrial process (like making paper), and then discharged back into the waterways. Even though this is a largely outdated practice, there are still long-lasting effects of contamination )like the superfund site in downtown Portland) we still pump our waterways full of E. coli (human and pet waste), phosphorous (agriculture and lawn fertilizer run-off), and host of other pollutants.

Mushroom Superpowers 

Mushrooms have proven to be very good partners for remediating contamination. In the typical workflow, mushroom mycelia are grown throughout the contaminated material. 

The fruiting bodies and the mushrooms are harvested and safely disposed of since they have accumulated heavy metals. Other nasty compounds are destroyed as the mycelia eat them (one promising example is nerve gas being destroyed by a mushroom that wants the phosphorus contained within the toxic molecule). The contaminated material is now a bit cleaner (although, wouldn't it be nice if we didn't use so many materials that are toxic to us?). Mushrooms are even being researched for neutralizing radiation. While it's worth noting that bacteria and plants are great allies in remediation projects, there is much more work needed to undo the damage that we've done in the last two centuries.

As we grow our partnership with TreeFolks, one of our non-profit partners, we also look to our fungal friends to help us expand the good that Praecipio Consulting can do in the world. Fungi are ubiquitous. They make our food better. They make our brains smarter. They make our medicine more potent. They make plants healthier. They absorb a lot of CO2. So basically, mushrooms really can save our world.

Topics: environment do-good green-team
9 min read

The True Cost of Data Storage

By Christopher Pepe on Mar 11, 2020 9:00:00 AM

TheCostofData

Technology continues to increase the efficiency of our everyday lives. Take light bulbs, for instance. In my short life, a 60W incandescent bulb has been reduced to a 9W LED bulb. Eventually, technology reaches the point of affordability, which in turn increases the demand for the more efficient product.

Efficiency & Consumption

Efficiency gains lead to more consumption of a resource, as illustrated in the graph below depicting Jevons paradox.

image2020-2-11_10-3-34

Figure 1: Jevons Paradox 

I see Jevons paradox at play in the size of Atlassian's customers' home directories. The often-mistaken idea that "storage is cheap" is a common excuse to forego storage diligence. "Hey, just get more storage," they say. Data hoarding (currently 2.5 quintillion bytes of data per day!) extends far beyond the realm of Jira and Confluence, which are just one of many places where we collect and store our data treasures. However, I’ve thought a lot about the business impact of storing all of that data, and most recently, I have been contemplating the environmental impact of it as well (which I will get into later).

What Is Your Data Growth Rate?

The thing about year-over-year data growth is that it can't continue to infinitely expand when it consumes finite resources, with the largest limiting factor being disk access speed. For example, we want our Jira data to be quickly accessible, but as data compiles and takes up space, disk access speed slows down. Everyone expects technology to save the day when the status quo runs out, and there are some really interesting new ideas, like storing data in DNA, for ways to store information. Regardless, the growth rate of our data-sets is out-pacing our ability to store them.

With growth, we focus on doubling periods, and you may know that a doubling period = 70/(growth rate). So, if your 401k grows at 7%, it will double in 10 years, and if it grows at 35%, it'll double in two years. This works when you're making money, but it doesn't if you're spending it. Another important thing to note is that every doubling period is greater than the sum of all previous values:

2n

Total

Sum of all that have ever been

0

1

1

1

2

3

2

4

7

3

8

15

 

Figure 2: Doubling value is greater than the sum of all previous values

The doubling quantity is greater than the total of all of the values that came before it (23 > 22 + 21 + 20 or 8 > 4+2+1), which means that in order to continue growing, one will need to consume more than ever before with each doubling period.

How is Your Data Serving You?

In my opinion, our customers overvalue their data and you probably do too. This is a result of habit-forming applications and people valuing their work more than that of others. Stop reading for a moment and ask yourself, "What data am I storing, and what has it done for me lately?"

For example, your Jira instances have been around for longer than a few sprints and most of your issues are closed, but you still keep them anyway. Once several years pass, Jira ends up being filled with closed or abandoned issues, which requires performance tuning and even more hardware to keep scaling. Some of that performance at scale is because you have big problems to solve, but not all of your issues necessarily bring you value. (We'd be happy to help you with scaling  - difficult problems are a good use of expert consultants.)

The overwhelming majority of your issues are closed. They will never be looked at, and they will never serve you. However, they do cost you real money. Here's where you say, "But when I need to look back at that one thing, then it'll be the most important issue we have." Will it? Are stories from sprints four years ago serving you in the present? If you are not mindful of the data that you are holding onto, then things get cluttered and the quality of your data significantly diminishes. Eventually, your data becomes the proverbial needle in the haystack: the more hay you store, the less likely you are to find the needle lost within it.

You can’t foresee how future technologies will utilize old data, but that does not justify the cost of keeping data you’ll probably never use. The real costs of data-hoarding adds up quickly in the form of:

  • More complex software features

  • Bigger, faster, and more servers

  • Need to purchase additional storage

  • Expensive engineers to squeeze out ever-diminishing returns

Ultimately, our systems suffer because they’re expected to perform optimally while storing an enormous amount of old data. All of the computer power in the world will never be able to outrun the pace of exponential growth.

The Cost of Your Data

Data hoarding results in real costs both financially and environmentally. Making our data centers more efficient only drives higher consumption. Increased disk density and speed only encourages us to store more data. Only we, the human beings, who fear the ramifications of the “delete” button, can control what we store to justify the cost.

Take a look at the environmental impact that data storage can cause:

  • "In its 2013 sustainability report, Facebook stated its data centers used 986 million kilowatt-hours of electricity—around the same amount consumed by Burkina Faso in 2012." All of those data stories are probably 60% pictures of people's pets and 40% comment threads of people arguing with your aunt across the country. Again, low-value stuff. 
  • "A 2015 report found that data centers and their massive energy consumption are responsible for about 2 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, putting them on par with the aviation industry." Given my claim that most of this data no longer serves a purpose in active systems (not backups or other low-power media), holding on to it is comparable to flying empty airplanes around just so people can look for the neat, fluffy line across the sky.

Marie-Kondo Your Data

A general rule of thumb says that if you search for something that you recently got rid of, then you are doing the right amount of purging. I would advocate for doing something similar with your data. If you want a softer approach, then archive old data into AWS Glacier or some other accessible and affordable storage, and set a reminder to delete it later. If you haven't looked at that data in six months, it’s likely that you’ll never need it again. Trust your gut on this one, it won't steer you in the wrong direction.

Attachments and logs usually take up the most space, and you can use the handy tool logrotate to keep your log directories lean. Explore your home and shared home directories for the worst offenders that are clogging up your storage. 

Custom integrations are another source of inefficiency in large instances. It can get so bad that the standard recommendation is to relegate REST traffic to a single Data Center node so that humans don't have to suffer the performance impact. Scripts using the REST API are notoriously inefficient and poll far too often to get a pseudo-real time user experience. Monitor your access logs and work with your team of developers to encourage them to be better consumers. Event-based architectures are more efficient and provide high-quality data.

Here are some ways that you can do a data purge in Jira and Confluence:

Confluence

Apps like ViewTracker provide insight into which content is used. With this tool, you can at least archive, better yet delete, unused and no longer relevant spaces.

Jira

Closed issues, completed projects, and anything that is not active or still "warm" (e.g. items dating back to previous reorganizations) are unlikely to have any real value and should at least be archived, better yet deleted.

Thank you for making it this far. Now, take a deep breath, and let go of your attachments.

 

Resources:

(Fig 1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jevons_paradox

(1) https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2015/12/there-are-no-clean-clouds/420744/

(2) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O133ppiVnWY

(3) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F8ZJCtL6bPs

(4) http://www.mnforsustain.org/bartlett_arithmetic_presentation_long.htm

(5) https://www.mic.com/p/the-environmental-impact-of-data-storage-is-more-than-you-think-its-only-getting-worse-18017662

 

Topics: jira confluence green-team carbon-neutral data-storage
5 min read

The Green Dream Update

By Christopher Pepe on Feb 19, 2020 9:15:00 AM

I wanted to give you an update on our climate response progress and evolving position. My belief is that burning oil and planting trees to offset it cannot be considered a net zero action because essentially, we increase the amount of biologically available carbon that will impact the climate. This is because it moves long-sequestered carbon into available storage that is easily accessible. I believe that in the future, humans will be remembered as the liberators of carbon that made that world possible. Perhaps, we'll even still be around to take credit.

We cannot realistically eliminate our dependence on fossil fuels today, but we can start to reduce it. Praecipio Consulting is an atom within a droplet inside the entire ocean of human influence, so what carbon we directly reduce has very little effect on the planet. Because of this, we have implemented initiatives that invite our employees and peers to change the way they think and act towards the environment and our communities. We believe that a change in behavior ensures that some carbon will never be unnecessarily liberated and that effect will multiply through the years. Our thinking is that this will have a larger impact over time, even more so than the promise of direct offsets based on $1 trees. We may fall short of our goal of becoming carbon neutral by the end of 2020, but with each passing year, we will drastically reduce the amount of carbon that we release as a company.

How Praecipio Consulting Will Multiply Carbon Reductions Over Time 

Let me use two examples to demonstrate, and please poke holes in my logic. First, the frequency of flooding has increased as a result of climate change, which has affected both communities and their resources. In order to help prevent flooding, Praecipio Consulting has contributed to land conservancy, which will "forever," at least for the long-term, protect the river-adjacent, tilled farm land that once regularly flooded. Because of our efforts, the field's riparian buffer is being restored with native shrubs and trees. These plants help to slow down flood water and provide a number of benefits. Downstream communities now suffer less flood damage, the land absorbs the water that causes the river level to go down, and the buffer receives river silt, which fertilizes the land (to the tune of 0.5 tons of carbon per acre per year "forever"). Additionally, these shrubs and trees help clean the flood water, making life easier on its resident wildlife, like our beloved trout. For this project, we spent the absurd amount of $500 per ton of carbon. However, with each passing year, we will spend $0 per ton, not to mention that we simultaneously support riparian restoration, protect native species, and reduce the effects of climate change on downstream communities.

Second, we have promoted and encouraged at-home composting, which several team members have taken up. Composting at home makes people more aware of the food that they consume and helps them produce less waste. It also keeps food out of landfills, where it does considerable harm by converting to the potent greenhouse gas, methane. In fact,  40% of of the food in America ends up in landfills. To me, this is one of the most shameful realities of our modern world. If we simply stopped wasting so much food, we would be able to address food shortage, reduce oil usage, increase national security, prevent climate change, and more. Composting is something everyone can do, and collectively, we would make a huge impact. I have also written other articles on food composting, which you can check out here:

The Green Team Influence

"I'm a system administrator and love computers. Until recently, I was content to sit inside, watch TV, play video games, and worry too much about system maintenance going horribly wrong. Then I bought a horse farm with my wife and was introduced to gardening and composting, thanks to Praecipio Consulting's Green Team. Over the past year, we have put in a six-bed garden and grown various different vegetables and flowers, including tomatoes, squash, various peppers of different heat, spices (basil, thyme, etc.), kale, sunflowers, lavender, mint, etc. We’ve started composting and will be using that in the garden this spring when we start planting again. We have an improved Meyer lemon tree on the way that we are excited to see fruit harvest from in a couple of years, in addition to a new adventure in beekeeping this spring. A two hive apiary is in the works, and we look forward to seeing what it grows into. Other future projects will include an orchard with various fruits and continuing our off-grid cabin, which already has a composting toilet and will get a solar power upgrade soon. Now, I find myself outside more often and feel more relaxed and creative, so when that upgrade fails miserably it is easier to find a way to move forward."

-Kris Hall, Platform Reliability Engineer

"We all know that I'm not an outdoors person. I tried twice before this past year to grow tomatoes and it never went well.  But I have always wanted to learn new ways to reduce my carbon footprint, especially regarding food waste.  Jess did a presentation about composting and it sparked my interest in the topic.  She started talking about worms, and I was certain that this was the end of my composting dreams.  During that time, I started collecting certain scraps and throwing them into freezer bags. We turned those scraps into cooking stock, and as an avid cook, homemade stock makes an impressive difference in a risotto.  I continued researching composting and found the bokashi container, which didn't require worms and could be stored in my house.  This was a perfect way to continue my goal of reducing food waste.  For my birthday, my husband bought me a keyhole garden, which not only requires less water, but it also has a space dedicated to composting.  I could take the funky mess from the bokashi container and layer it into the keyhole.  Our garden was amazing. It was so successful that it eventually became overcrowded, and we had to draw up a plan to expand this year's garden. And I can now grow tomatoes."

-Shannon Fabert, Principal of Managed Services and Hosting

"During the fall of 2019, I really started to pay attention to the green initiatives that the company champions. Prior to this time, my family was making sure to put cans and bottles in our recycling bin, but that was about it. Now, not only are we much more aggressive with recycling, we are starting to make purchasing decisions based on packaging and its impact on the environment. I know these are baby steps, but I’m happy about where we’re headed as a family. Who knows, maybe composting, gardening or rainwater collection is our next step. For now, what I do know is that we will continue to take steps improve our carbon footprint and influence our neighbors as much as we can."

-Larry Brock, Sr Technical Architect

 

Topics: do-good carbon-footprint green-team carbon-neutral
3 min read

Going Green at Atlassian Summit 2020

By Christopher Pepe on Jan 21, 2020 1:00:00 PM

Being a Green Business

In many of my previous posts, I've noted that Praecipio Consulting has always taken corporate responsibility seriously and has always been a green company focused on preserving the human experience for generations to come. For years, we've had a similar reputation to Atlassian in that we are a t-shirt company that provides process solutions. Our t-shirts were not only clever in design, but also soft as a cloud – and because of that, they have been highly sought out. However, it comes with a downside -- Worldwide, the textile industry comes at a pretty heavy cost, our human's desire to consume new clothing means that it heavily impacts the environment.

An estimated 20 new garments are created per person per year worldwide1, and that volume is growing. Overall, the textile industry comes in at a whooping 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2e per year. Additionally, as we wear clothes, filaments abrade and litter our environment which contributes to micro-plastics being found literally everywhere (even in that water you're drinking right now).

In 2019, Praecipio Consulting changed our approach to conferences to benefit everyone. We did this through our Pledge 1% efforts. Instead of handing out conference t-shirts to be mindlessly collected, we decided to let booth visitors donate our money to non-profit organizations. Conference attendees channeled some $5000 to TreeFolks, Colorado River Alliance, Flatwater Foundation, and SAFE Austin. It was a great "warm and fuzzy" for us as well as the partnered organizations.

Reducing Carbon Emissions

By not purchasing and handing out underutilized t-shirts (do you really use conference swag to its fullest?), Praecipio Consulting also kept 1 metric tonne of fossil fuel based CO2 out of the atmosphere. While we could purchase a modest number of trees to accomplish the same balance on paper, in practice, we do not believe that does the most good. Humans have already added too much carbon into the carbon cycle to keep the world's climate in a similar state that we are used to. Offsetting fossil fuels with trees does not seem like a net zero proposition to us.

This doesn't mean we don't support offsetting fossil fuels with trees. Just a couple of months ago, we funded and planted trees with TreeFolks. Our goal is to minimize our fossil fuel usage, however, it is impossible today to be modern humans with no fossil fuel usage. Where we cannot cut out usage, we intend to offset that impact in the way we feel does the most good - more on that later.

We were surprised that such a small act, donating to nonprofits that aligned with our goals, made such a big impact. 

Green at Atlassian Summit 2020 

Because of the successful impact, Praecipio Consulting is doing it again – As proud Gold Sponsors of Atlassian Summit 2020, we're giving conference attendees (that stop by our booth) the chance to choose which nonprofit organization will receive our $10 donation (the cost of a t-shirt). Here are the amazing nonprofit organizations we're contributing to: 

Tree Folks is a local organization out of our hometown in Austin, TX that is committed to creating a healthier environment through community building, reforestation, education and growing the urban forest. Their mission is to empower Central Texans to build stronger communities through planting and caring for trees.  

Colorado River Alliance is an independent nonprofit that champions a healthy, flowing Colorado River, which is a vital resource to the community and the state of Texas. With programs that reach 14,000 community members annually, the Colorado River Alliance promotes conservation of the river and advocates for the people, ecosystems, communities, and businesses that depend on this natural resource.

Bamberger Ranch Preserve Located in Blanco County, Texas, is a 5,500 acre ranch that has been restored to its original habitat. For more than three decades the ranch has served as a meeting space for environmental groups, hosted school field trips and workshops for thousands of community members. The mission at Bamberger Ranch is to raise awareness about ethical land stewardship through education and outreach.

We look forward to our future efforts and encourage you to make a small change today as well. If you would like to swap notes please reach out to us.

References

Topics: atlassian-summit corporate-responsibility do-good green-team
1 min read

Believe in People

By Christopher Pepe on Nov 29, 2019 4:58:00 PM

Here at Praecipio Consulting, we are passionate about our interactions with others - colleagues, clients, and of course family and friends. We are grateful and thankful for what we have and the opportunities we are given to make an impact – from a personal or business perspective. 

Our CTO Christopher Pepe, opens up and shares his insight in "believing in people" and professes his gratitude to those who helped him get to where he is today. "If you see a little spark in someone that you think can grow, then nurture that... give them that freely and let them decide what they're going to do with it."

Enjoy this short video and get a sneak peek of the leaders here at Praecipio Consulting. 

 

Topics: do-good leadership mentorship
5 min read

Corporate Social Responsibility: Meet our Green Team

By Christopher Pepe on Aug 23, 2019 7:59:00 PM

In 2008, I began my tenure with Praecipio Consulting recognizing that I had a great deal in common with Christian and Joe. Joe and I have a Lincoln-Kennedy level of coincidental similarities but beyond that we all shared a passion for leaving the world better than we found it.

While establishing Praecipio Consulting as a top-tier Atlassian Solution Partner, we launched an ambitious side-project that became in.gredients Grocers. Now closed, in.gredients was an experimental grocery store to minimize waste, build community, be a safe space, and encourage patrons to live a more sustainable life. It is a model whose time has come with several examples having popped up around the world. I'm very proud that the 1,000 sq ft grocery store only landfilled an average of 5 pounds of trash per month! By contrast, the average American generates 4.5 pounds of trash per day. In those days, the Praecipio Consulting office was next door and those ethos heavily influenced both organizations. Although we have moved to a new office on a new hill, we have retained those values. Standard issue employee gear includes high quality, reusable items like HydroFlask water bottles. We encourage people to reduce, then reuse, and finally recycle. We do all that we can to avoid landfilling waste. To this day, its difficult to find a trash can in the office and the overall layout intentionally encourages less impactful behaviors.

Our Corporate Social Responsibility

Partnering with Atlassian has allowed us to double in size many times over. That growth has outpaced our green practices. To address that, we have created a Green Team to continue the mission. We are taking immediate steps to have an impact today, while also working towards goals that will forge a cleaner tomorrow.

CSR Goals

In all things we seek Balance. We believe that by promoting balance, a more stable world will manifest - one that improves life for all living things. Our goal is to encourage behavior that improves the balance of our community and discourages behavior that destabilizes our community. If we do this well then everyone reap the benefits that they seek.

Carbon Environmental Footprint

This is difficult to mention without sparking a debate about carbon dioxide. But, we aren't interested in politics here. There is great value in removing atmospheric carbon independent of a political view of climate change. Building carbon content in the soil is one of our focus areas. There are more benefits than we can list here, but of interest to Texas ranchers is to improve forage, improve soil water holding capacity, and improve livestock performance. As carbon builds up in the soil, biodiversity increases, and the overall system becomes more tolerant to changes in weather patterns (including drought tolerance). This allows the land to be more productive, reduces runoff, and improves the overall health of the ecosystem. All of these benefits occur while producing healthier livestock and reducing operating expenses for ranchers.

We see value in supporting soil building projects to offset the carbon footprint from our consultants' travel. We see value in improving the land while keeping it in its historic and current use.

Remediation through Sustainable Practices

Being a modern human is an expensive existence and much of the cost has been paid by the environment that we live in. Satiating our ever growing use of energy, fossil fuel pollution, electronics, oceanic garbage patches, roadside litter, food waste, and on, and on, and on...has many hidden costs that are not bundled in the purchase price of our stuff.

Waste streams fascinate me and I am passionate about more intelligently cycling resources through the human machine. As an aside, Cradle to Cradle is one of the five most influential books in my life. The focus on improving systems that have been degraded by human activity goes towards the goal of having a cleaner effluent. That which flows out of Praecipio Consulting must be cleaner than that which flowed in. Several of us are known to keep a trash bag handy so that we can make our communities a little nicer when out and about. Today, Praecipio Consulting uses Earth Day to organize trash pickups at local parks and we plan to expand our green-up efforts.

My dream in this pillar is to buy a parking lot and put paradise back up. The Green Team is mostly practiced permaculture gardeners and that knowledge will influence the projects we are personally involved in.

Health and Well-Being

Praecipio Consulting has put a strong focus on personal health and well-being. We have a generous wellness program where employees can earn PTO for making healthy life choices. We encourage spending time outside, eating better, and exercising more. Another unique holiday is "A Day in the Sun" where an employee can take a day off to spend it outside. Folks have participated in events like paddle-a-thons, rock climbing, attended forestry training, or simply lounged on the river.

The Green Team is looking at more ways to empower employees to grow better each day.

How to Get Involved

We'd love to hear what you are doing within your communities, and we'd love to help with our efforts. If nothing else, join Pledge 1% and commit to making a difference in your world.

 

Topics: corporate-responsibility do-good pledge-1%
2 min read

Stillness in Chaos

By Christopher Pepe on Sep 4, 2018 11:00:00 AM

Walking the halls of Praecipio Consulting you will often hear people talking about the cost of quality. One of the areas that we focus on with our clients is the cost of rework which is due to poor quality and can often be improved with a better process. While there are many reasons for poor quality, a common reason (which permeates all aspects of our lives) is rushing. One of my favorite YouTubers put it as "Never rush that which must be done quickly." You might ask what sitting in snow, or a survival skills/mindfulness youtube channel has to with the quality software, incident management, or any of the other high tech stuff we do. Especially when it comes to high stress, time-sensitive situations there is a lot to learn from other domains.

I was a waiter for about a month. More correctly, I was a terrible waiter for about a month. I never got orders right, I failed to bring second drinks, or really fulfill most customer requests satisfactorily on a busy night. I was ok at serving lunch and slow nights but I was easily overwhelmed by the volume of tasks that waitstaff has to manage. I often look back at that time for insight because I have generally been pretty good at most jobs but failed so completely at waiting tables. My core issue was that I was also rushing because I was in a hurry and that lead to decreased quality of service and longer cycle times. Because I rushed: I delivered the wrong dishes (or accidentally took dishes meant for other tables causing the rest of my team to fall behind too), I forgot that coke, I didn't split your check, I made the wrong change... And with each mistake, I had to stop, correct that problem, and leave my other tables with a worse experience too.

You can go a lot faster if you start with slowing down.

  

Topics: blog

Summit Expedia Co-Presentation

By Christopher Pepe on Nov 11, 2014 11:00:00 AM

Discover how making the move from Perforce to Git at Expedia lead to standing room-only training sessions abundant with high fives. The move to Git improved Expedia's software development with faster development cycles, deeper integrations, increased transparency, and a more unified development platform. 

 

Topics: atlassian atlassian-summit best-practices bitbucket migrations perforce git

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