5 min read

How to Implement an IT Modernization Strategy - 1st of a 5 Part Series

By Praecipio Consulting on May 28, 2021 10:15:00 AM

Blogpost-Display image-May_How to Implement an IT Modernization Strategy- Part 1 What is IT Modernization

When we initially set out to write a piece about how to implement an IT Modernization Strategy, we quickly realized there is not only a lot to consider when weighing the possibilities, but also a lot of context required to lay a meaningful foundation. We want to discuss what IT Modernization is and what it means for your individual business, as well as other terms and ideas to help define the overall picture. Join us as we unpack and discuss IT Modernization through this series of blog posts.

Part 1: What is IT Modernization

We'll begin by exploring the motive behind IT Modernization, and identifying the traits that make up the profile of an entity that is looking to implement IT Modernization in their enterprise.  Overarching themes include Digital Transformation, Capital Expenses vs Operational Expenses, Legacy Systems, how Cloud fits into the picture (because it's no longer a question of "if" cloud fits into the picture), as well as others.

There are several questions to ask when trying to nail down the motive- we'll be working through these questions in our series:

  • Why would you be interested in IT Modernization in the first place?
  • What are some of the apparent benefits of IT Modernization? 
  • What would IT Modernization look like in your organization and how?
  • What would a rollout plan look like?
  • When do you tackle certain things over others?

By the end of this series our goal is that you will have the foundational understanding of IT Modernization that will help you answer these questions.

The Basics

If you've worked with Praecipio Consulting before, you know we like to start simple - so let's begin with the basic question "What is IT Modernization?"  To oversimplify the concept, IT Modernization is a process of assessing an individual system or group of systems in your organization with the intent of establishing the best possible balance of cost and efficiency. One of the challenges we often call out is that this can look vastly different depending on the context of what it is being applied to.

As part of an IT Modernization strategy there can be some aspects of your business where it makes sense to move in a more digital direction, for example migrating on-prem resources to virtualization or the cloud. While the overarching goal may be to get to the cloud, there are different paths that you organization may take based on your specific context. In the case of moving  an application to the cloud, there are the branches hosting the application on a digital platform like AWS or moving completely to a more SaaS model and allow it to be maintained by a third party.  And of course, for some other aspects of your business it could make more sense to maintain an on-prem solution but update the infrastructure. The key thing to consider here is how you can balance the cost of maintaining whatever aspect of your business you're assessing with the amount of performance proficiency it is providing.

Another term you'll often hear mentioned in the same breath as IT Modernization is Digital Transformation.  It's true that these often go hand-in-hand, but the main difference to consider is that Digital Transformation gets into the explicit changes you have to make in order to keep pace with the digitization of aspects of your business, like products, assets, and processes. IT Modernization is more of a strategy for improving your business through cost savings, efficiency or improving on how agile your business can be. More often than not, Digital Transformation will be a key part of your IT Modernization plan, but they are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

The Breakdown

With that in mind, let's start to identify the motive a business might have for exploring IT Modernization and what attributes make up its profile. The first question you have to ask is "Why would you even be interested in IT Modernization?" The short answer is every business should be thinking about IT Modernization on some level. We exist in a world where the only true constant is change, and as time progresses the main thing that we're betting on is that our technology and business landscapes will continue to shift. The most successful businesses will adjust business practices to match - if you're not willing to embrace the change and make it work for you, your competitor will, and they'll be happy to take your market share off your hands. Additionally, IT Modernization benefits the business, either by lowering your operating costs, or empowering you to be more efficient managing resources and development. Thinking about ways you can Modernize aspects of your business is just good business.

So how do you this? What does it look like?  Well, we've touched on the two key factors associated with Modernization: Cost and Efficiency.  There are a couple schools of thought when it comes to the approach and how you can execute modernization, outlined below.

The first approach would be considered a more traditional approach. This approach involves making incremental changes made over time targeting the most costly or bottlenecked aspects of the business. From this you can attempt to figure out how you can make them more efficient or cost less, or maybe a combination of both. The main benefit of an approach like this pertains to risk: changing pieces incrementally allows you to carefully consider those changes and their impact on the business as a whole. Incremental changes can also be very good for the bottom line since it allows you to budget changes over time.  One of the potential downsides to an incremental approach is it can be limiting. Taking the time to make incremental changes can take.. well... time.

On the other end of the spectrum there's the end-to-end or holistic approach.  This is about what you'd expect: instead of incrementally making changes you're making a plan to implement broad changes across your organization as a whole. This requires careful planning and consideration of what elements need to change in what sequence, to truly understand the potential impact across the organization. One of the benefits of this approach is it keeps the organization from advancing in a siloed manner, which can lead to less efficiency as a whole. In one instance, that might mean two different business groups moving their application to two different cloud solutions that offer the same functionality. Whether your approach is more incremental or end-to-end, it's important to try to take into account the potential impact across the business and ensure groups coordinate the efforts.

Modernization  Mechanisms

When it comes to implementing IT Modernization, it's important to understand that it is much more than a simple update to your technologies. Rather, the approach should be thoughtful and well planned, with an eye to the future and a willingness to embrace the new and sunset the old. At a high level it is important for your teams to identify out of its legacy software or assets what can can be invested in - whether through legacy software modernization or replatforming- and what should be divested from. Reaching a decision on the best path forward for each application will take time - legacy modernization is not an all or nothing endeavor. We'll spend dedicated time in future posts discussing how you can best approach application modernization. 

It's Just the Beginning

As you consider what IT Modernization means for your organization, keep in mind that there is not a one size fits all solution. Our goal in this blog series is to provide helpful context to help you define what an IT Modernization approach could look like and what success would mean to your organization.

At Praecipio Consulting, we enjoy helping our clients reach their IT Modernization goals and bringing teams up to speed with digital demand. If you'd like to learn more about how we can help, please reach out to us!

Topics: blog aws optimization saas it digital-transformation
8 min read

4 Phases of Agile DevOps | Atlassian

By Praecipio Consulting on Aug 15, 2016 11:00:00 AM

As Development and IT Ops teams look to be more efficient, decreasing their time to market and increasing product support, DevOps has become the predominant industry solution. There are many resources that paint a picture of the ideal processes for Development and Operations working harmoniously together- but how do we actual get there? Where should we start? 

We need to begin with the end in mind. Our end goal is to deliver customers the software they need as fast as possible. The software industry is faster and more dynamic than the businesses of physical products. We need to get our customers features so they can give us crucial feedback while beating our competitors to market. The faster release development goes from concept to code, the quicker we can make customer happy. DevOps is a broad term with a variety of meanings, but at the end of the day, it seeks to increase the collaboration and automation between Development and Operations so we can get more frequent and higher quality releases into the hands of our customers.

When it comes to collaboration and automation, a focus on process and the use of the Atlassian suite are the best way to get there.

 The infinite loop of developing and supporting products that customers need and want with DevOps and the Atlassian Suite.

Image source: Atlassian 

Selling DevOps

The pain of hectic firefighting and troubleshooting make the need for DevOps obvious on the frontline, but getting alignment and investment at the organization level can be pretty difficult. Successful implementation is going to require buy-in and support from a variety of stakeholders and many levels. Before we can get our hands dirty, we need to convince everybody to spend the time and money to get these processes and tools in place.

Here are three ways to get the ball rolling:

One for the Book Club: Phoenix Project

Everybody has those business books that revolutionize the way they manage their work and companies. The Phoenix Project by Eugene Kim narratively addresses and exposes the gaps in processes between teams and points to a DevOps prescription to unblock cross-team work. We highly suggest recommending it to your teams, as it's a great way to get everybody on the same page and really see the value of DevOps.

Build a Business Case

At the end of the day, businesses exist to make money. To invest time and effort, we need to calculate the business return. The 2016 DevOps report from Puppet Labs does a brilliant job showing the financial reasons to adopt this shift.

The ROI of reducing excess work with DevOps according to 2016 DevOps report from Puppet Labs

Image Source: Puppet Labs

Phase 1: Go Agile

To get the real benefits of DevOps, it requires a shift in mentality and how we manage work through our teams. As we break down our requirements into smaller individual user stories, we can flow the work through the features through the process faster. By having the structure, ceremonies and processes in place to accommodate smaller pieces of work, we can get our customers the features they need and incorporate their feedback to iterate the next, improved release faster.

Here are some helpful ideas to help your teams go more Agile: 

  • Get Up, Stand Up | Simply doing stand-ups doesn't mean you're all the way agile, but it's a great way to get our teams into the mindset. Keep them short and reduce the headaches of status updates and emails. Fill everybody in on what you did yesterday, what you're doing today, and what pesky blockers are in your way. It's facilitates more agile and responsive team collaboration and support (the heart of DevOps).
  • Iterate Everything! | Speed up that Agile transformation, breaking down your waterfall projects into smaller sprints so you can always reprioritize and adjust as needed. Start with your software teams and spread out to your IT Ops projects and even marketing projects. Start in your own department: find the planning spreadsheets with those idealistic due dates, set up a backlog, and start sprinting!
  • Agile Boards | Once you're planning and executing in sprints, track and visualize it on a Jira Software board. Avoid those dreadful status meetings and send out the link to the board to keep everybody informed. Also, throw some wallboards up around the office so everybody can see your team killin' it. 

You'll know you're a lean, mean, agile machine when your software teams are cranking out stories in a steady cadence of sprints. Over time you'll see that velocity stabilize - then you can accelerate!

Phase 2: Get with Gitflow 

Git and Gitflow is a great way to help our dev teams increase velocity. As we're working with smaller stories, we need to be able to collaborate effectively with on our code base so we're not stepping all over each other. Version control systems of the past aren't going to be able to keep up with our blazing fast development teams. Bitbucket and the underlying technology of git are going to let our teams build user stories and merge them into the code base without wasting time messing with annoying versioning issues and costly code conflicts. 

  • Start with the Basics | Start by learning (allthethings) about how to effectively manage your branches and build in code quality with Atlassian's Git Tutorials and the Git Getting Started guides. Share them with your team so everybody's on the same page and knows the difference between a commit and a pull request.

  • Move to Git | If you haven't made the cutover to Git quite yet, get your team and managers onboard by sharing the benefits and how it will help ship more code. Once folks are convinced, learn why Bitbucket is the Git solution for professional teams and helps with pull requests, branching strategies, permissions and scalability. When it's time to actually move all that code over, see how we helped Splunk get git and 4 times the number code reviews completed. 
  • Start Branching | With the tools in place, it's time to start branching! Learn more about some common workflows to better handle branches here. Utilize those pull requests to build in code quality as you go. Eventually your Dev team will be humming with full Gitflow and your Ops teams will be in love with the clearly designated branches.

  • Automate, Mate | The marvelous integration between Bitbucket and Jira Software lets us automatically update the Jira issues based on what's going on in Bitbucket. Developers don't need to switch context anymore to keep the ticket up to date, and the whole team gets an accurate idea of what's actually going on. Check out our Automation Webinar to learn more about the powerful workflow triggers that make this possible.


The Gitflow branching strategy shown above utilizes different branches for specific roles like hotfixes and releases to help manage larger and more complex projects. 

 Image Source: Atlassian

Phase 3: CI/ CD

The next phase is how we define the crucial handoff between Dev and Ops. When our units of work and code changes are smaller, we're going to need to deploy more often to get those features to our customers. Before we ship it to the ops team and production, we need to ensure quality as our individual features come together. This is where good Continuous Integration/ Continuous Deployment practices along with Atlassian's Bamboo are vital to successfully shipping our product. Catching bugs and issues before they go to production is going to help both the Dev and Ops teams sleep better at night.

  • Learn about Bamboo | For on-prem Atlassian users, Atlassian's Bamboo is the CI/CD solution that allows professional teams to build their CI/CD pipeline. You may be using Jenkins or other open source teams, however the deep integration points and improved build management make it the right choice for professional teams.
  • Integrate with Jira | Once you have Bamboo up and running, leverage the integration between Bamboo and Jira Software.
  • Bitbucket Pipelines | If you're an Atlassian cloud user, Bitbucket Pipelines is a new, powerful solution in Beta that lets developers build, test and deploy directly from Bitbucket. Developers have the power as they can define the environment and tests for their specific branch with YAML file style configuration.
  • Dockerize Everything! | Docker and containerization is the latest craze sweeping the IT world as teams look to deploy applications to any environment faster and easier. Check out our Docker +Atlassian webinar to learn more about how. As partners with Docker, we love to helping teams harness this cutting-edge technology.
  • Automate Testing | Automating testing with tools like Charlotte, QA Symphony, and Zephyr (which integrate with Bamboo and Jira) gives your development team an even more agile edge. Get efficent, high-fidelity testing to expedite the finding and squashing of bugs to ensure your next iteration is the best version.

Phase 4: Harmonize with Support

Once the story is shipped, the process does not end. Now it's time to keep the product working and collect that vital feedback we need.

  • Check out our webinar, DevOps with the Atlassian Suite, for a full picture of how development and operations are going to work in harmony.
  • Set up a product feedback service desk in Jira to really hear your customers and integrate directly with development teams.
  • Learn how to set up your Service Desk teams for success with our ITSM webinar.


By implementing the right DevOps tools and processes, you'll see the faster shipping of higher quality and better supported releases. As your Development and Ops teams continue to execute these lock-step processes, you get more agile by good practice. Take the steps to start implementing DevOps today by contacting us to get up and sprinting.

Topics: jira atlassian blog scaled-agile automation bitbucket bugs continuous-delivery bamboo branching devops docker distributed-version-control-system process-consulting qa-symphony sdlc selenium software sprint testing version-control-system workflows tracking continuous-integration cloud development integration it operations release-management marketplace-apps
7 min read

Seen It, Solved It: Jira Service Desk for ITIL

By Praecipio Consulting on May 4, 2016 11:00:00 AM

Growth Through Change 

"Organizations that do not or cannot evolve will not last." In the business world, change is constant and necessary, especially when it comes to meeting the dynamic needs of customers. ITIL, or Information Technology Infrastructure Library, is a methodology that helps organizations effectively manage change while putting the customer at the center of the process. ITIL prescribes processes to ensure the customer's needs and requests are handled with ease – from acknowledgement of an issue through the application and evaluation of the solution. One of the greatest values of the ITIL methodology is that it embeds continual improvement into the process. The ITIL framework can be leveraged by anyone, including non-technical teams, to better manage change and serve customers. Atlassian's fastest growing product, Jira Service Desk, facilitates ITIL adoption in an organization by encouraging traceability, collaboration, and reporting. 

As business process experts certified in ITIL, we leverage the ITIL methodology in unison with Jira Service Desk to institute best practices for our clients. Here are 5 real-world examples of how Praecipio Consulting helped our clients implement lasting organizational change by embracing key ITIL concepts of automation, visibility, knowledge base, change management and evaluation, and continuous improvement. 

Automation

"Using service automation to streamline both simple and more complex workflows of course impacts the overall efficiency of the organization... it also allows for a much better end-user experience for everyone at the company." - ITIL beyond IT: What is Service Automation & Service Relationship Management?

Problem: A major utility company powering the U.S. Eastern seaboard was manually reporting security equipment issues and coordinating with external vendors to fix the issues. This manual process was prone to errors and didn't allow for tracking of service level agreements (SLAs), which would determine which vendors were breaching their contracts. The company was using spreadsheets to track these crucial assets and their maintenance. The spreadsheet system was inefficient and created duplicate versions – leading to confusion, frustration, and waste. Furthermore, the spreadsheets could not track SLAs for Acknowledgement or Resolution for vendors.

Solution: To reduce redundancy and enforce SLAs, our experts implemented Jira Service Desk for the major utility company. By replacing their spreadsheets with Jira Core and Jira Service Desk, we helped them add a level of automation to their workflow. This reduced waste of time and resources, allowed for better communication with third-party vendors, and created a clear path for escalation. The custom configuration we created for the company maintained their security, while also allowing vendors to be a part of of the conversation. Furthermore, reporting features from both Jira Core and Jira Service Desk allowed for a central point of truth. The utility company could check the status of service tickets and see how well vendors were adhering to their SLAs. Through the process of improving their security equipment reporting and vendor coordination, the company found other areas of improvement and have chosen to continue working with us to maximize those workflows. 

Visibility

"It can be very difficult to know the health of your service desk, run reports, and find way to improve your support if you don’t have the right data." - The ABCs of Jira Service Desk: measuring success

Problem: A major U.S. waste management company wanted to adopt a more structured reporting system, replace an old enterprise software application, and incorporate the ITIL framework into their organization. The company's goal was to standardize tools in order to improve communication and rally around a consistent project management methodology. The waste management company desired a suite of tools with the ability to integrate functions across IT service areas, leading to better service for the end customer.

Solution: In addition to implementing several other Atlassian products, our experts helped the company leverage Jira Service Desk to achieve their business goals. We helped them create a central application with the ability to distinguish request types through a structured workflow. This included a more robust user interface to better triage issues and send them to the appropriate teams. The ability to categorize requests and label them with levels of urgency allowed the company to have better reporting, leading to improved enforcements of SLAs. 

Knowledge Base

"[A knowledge base] gets [customers] the help they need at the speed they’ve become accustomed to – i.e., in the time it takes to swipe around on their phones – and it frees service desk agents from stressing out while anxious customers wait on hold or answering the same question over email for the 10th time this week." - 4 tips for getting started with knowledge management

Problem: A large, private U.S. university wanted to revamp an old software application and replace it with a more robust and dynamic knowledge base. The university's goal was to increase usability for both their students and faculty regarding technical and campus-related questions, deflecting tickets by providing requesters with FAQ's and other resources to help them self-serve to find their answers. 

Solution: Our experts helped the university leverage Jira Service Desk and Confluence to achieve their goal. Combining Jira Service Desk with Questions for Confluence (a Confluence add-on that provides a knowledge base inside the already powerful wiki tool) allowed the university to implement a centralized knowledge database. Jira Service Desk allowed for better help engagement using queues and other helpful functionalities. Questions for Confluence empowered external users to help themselves by accessing a database of pre-answered questions, without tying up service desk agents with redundant problems.

Change Management and Evaluation

"Listening to your customers is the single most important thing you can do for the health of your company." 5 tips to transform your IT team from zero to superhero

Problem: The largest provider of support services to general and multi-specialty dental groups in the United States needed the ability to receive and respond to client feedback in addition to handling client issues. They did not have a clearly defined process for patients to interact with the organization and to raise issues. Their marketing team was searching for a new software tool that would manage feedback in a way that led to issue resolution and change management. The team's ideal tool would be able to enforce and report on multiple SLAs through issues submitted via the company's public website.

Solution: Our experts helped the dental corporation adopt Jira Core and Jira Service Desk to manage issue tracking and change management. With Jira Service Desk, the company was able to cleanly sort through client feedback and create a workflow to address issues that arose. Beyond managing client feedback, the dental corporation also used these tools for clinical tasks, billing, and other activities that needed life cycle tracking. In addition to tracking, the Atlassian tools helped the organization evaluate the effectiveness of their changes and quantified the improvements made – empowering all teams, not just marketing, to better serve their customers. 

Continuous Improvement

"With a single-product approach, configuring an SLA or modifying a workflow is easy, because they share core processes." How Jira Service Desk approaches ITSM 

Problem: A major U.S. insurance company was using three different software applications for code management, issue tracking, and service desk management – leading to inefficiencies and miscommunication. Their use of three separate applications resulted in duplicate tickets and the inability to enforce SLAs across the organization.The insurance company wanted to improve these processes and embrace ITIL's practice of continuous improvement. 

Solution: Our assessment encouraged the company to adopt a single application, Jira Service Desk, to provide a single source of truth. With Jira Service Desk, there was a common point of collaboration for issue management. This reduced duplicate tickets and saved valuable time and resources. Leveraging entities, workflows, and issue linking, we helped the insurance company align their processes to make reporting and enforcing SLAs easier, more efficient, and more effective. By strengthening their ability to track what changes are needed and to act upon those needs, we helped them develop a cycle for continuous improvement.  

ITIL for One, and ITIL for All 

"Just because one service desk streamlines the IT and service departments, it doesn’t mean that other teams can’t also benefit from them." - 5 tips to transform your IT team from zero to superhero

These real-world examples from our clients highlight how ITIL and Jira Service Desk can help organizations evolve and change – without the growing pains. ITIL concepts of automation, visibility, knowledge base, change management and evaluation, and continuous improvement aren't just for IT teams. These powerful ideas also provides immense value to other parts of any organization, technical and business teams alike. At Praecipio Consulting, we excel at leveraging the ITIL methodology and Jira Service Desk to help organizations do what they do better. Want more proof? Contact us to learn how we can help your organization evolve and do your best business. 

Topics: jira atlassian blog scaled-agile automation business confluence process standardize workflows traceability collaboration continuous-improvement integration it itil itsm jira-service-desk operations reporting white-paper
2 min read

The Atlassian Appeal

By Christian Lane on Dec 17, 2014 11:00:00 AM

The Atlassian Appeal:

Why It's The Software of Choice for Today's Graduates

Despite the end of the Great Recession in June 2009, five years later the effects are still felt amongst those newest to the job market. Today's college graduates face 8.5% unemployment and 16.8% underemployment as the U.S. experiences a 7 million job deficit. However, in spite of overall downtrends for college graduates, jobs in technology are not only remaining buoyant- but continually growing! In 2013, nearly 70% of students pursuing degrees in technology had at least one job offer by graduation. Though salaries for graduates in other industries have dipped by 7.7%, those who work in the tech industry are enjoying some of the highest, most competitive pay of all college-educated workers.

Today's business world looks radically different than it did ten (even five) years ago; companies operate virtually, contracting employees and doing business across the globe on an  around-the-clock basis, and their bigger-than-ever demands have been the catalyst for continuous advancement in technology. It has never been a better time to be in this field; however, not all technology education is created equal.

Atlassian offers continuously innovative products that push the technological envelope. With products like Bitbucket, developers contribute to the ongoing innovation of the Atlassian offering by integrating more processes, expanding their teams and reaching for the limit of each product. Boasting the appeal of cutting-edge technology that refuses to rest on its laurels, Atlassian is used by leading businesses in their respective industries. What college graduate wouldn't want to flex their Atlassian muscles to land the best possible job? Colleges have also caught onto the Atlassian appeal! Within universities, a growing number of information technology departments have incorporated the software into their curriculum to ensure their graduates will be big names in the technology field. During recent on-site training with an Enterprise client and top travel company, Praecipio Consulting learned that the corporation's recent migration to Bitbucket not only improved their processes, but gave them immediate job appeal with college graduates. "We've seen that as graduates are entering the job market, they're looking for companies that use Atlassian products like Bitbucket that offer continuous innovation," says Praecipio Consulting partner Christopher Pepe, who holds a degree in engineering and is an Atlassian Expert, "Companies are switching to Atlassian to get the best products and the best new talent." 

Atlassian continues to evolve to remain the leader in changing technology. We can expect to see more companies adopting the popular product line in the future. Just imagine what the Class of 2014 will contribute to the innovation of Atlassian that will inform development for decades to come!

Sources: The Economic Policy Institute and The National Association of Colleges & Employers 

Topics: atlassian blog best-practices bitbucket implementation it

Jira 5.2 Sneak Peek

By Praecipio Consulting on Oct 26, 2012 11:00:00 AM

The Atlassian team has been working hard, and to prove it here is a sneak peek of Jira 5.2, soon to debut. With Jira 5.2, it’s easy to add, remove and swap workflows to find the perfect set for your project. Check it out:

 

 

Learn more and let Atlassian know what you think at here.

Topics: jira atlassian blog business process product-services technology information it
2 min read

Jira: Not Just for Software Development

By Praecipio Consulting on Aug 17, 2012 11:00:00 AM

Jira’s an issue tracking application, but its core flexibility and strengths mean it can become much more than a tool limited to a development group. Jira’s incredibly adept at helping teams track and accomplish tasks. Jira also has a masterful ability to manage life cycles - and it’s found great success in numerous use cases.

Use Cases

The following use case guides are meant to explain a bit of the details related to using Jira for a specific use case. The info you’ll find in here highlights much of what we’ve learned from working with clients in a variety of different industries, as well as our internal expertise and use of Jira.

For each of these use cases, we’ll attempt to highlight:

  • Particular Jira functionality specific to the use
  • Related plugins we’re aware of
  • Customization and tweaks
  • …and sometimes a sample file to help get you started

General and Non-Software Uses

Agile Software Development

Project Management

HelpDesk / Support / Trouble Ticketing

Test Case Management

This can be done by using either of the following approaches:

Requirements Management

Change Management

Topics: jira atlassian blog scaled-agile austin automation business efficiency enterprise issues management process services technology value tracking change cloud collaboration computing continuous-improvement incident-management information integration it itil itsm operations
5 min read

Meet the New & Improved Bamboo OnDemand!

By Praecipio Consulting on Jul 17, 2012 11:00:00 AM

If you’re a Bamboo OnDemand subscriber, you could be forgiven for feeling a stab of jealousy every time a new batch of awesome features comes out for the on-premises Bamboo offering.  ”When, oh when, will it be my turn?”, you pined.  Well, if you logged into your Bamboo OnDemand instance this morning, you already know that the wait is over.   Bamboo OnDemand is now roughly on par with Bamboo 4.1.  ”Roughly”, because there are still a few differences such as not being able to install plugins or use commercial version control systems.

The collection of features now available in Bamboo OnDemand is large enough to fill a book (regular readers know I’m not one for brevity!).  My strategy here today is to call out the biggest n’ bestest of ‘em, and point you to resources that’ll take you deeper in. So bookmark this page.  Reference it.  Love it. Repeat.

Better AMI Support

You’ll need to update custom any custom AMIs used by your build agents to make them compatible with today’s upgrade, but going forward this won’t be necessary.  In addition, BoD now offers a stock image for building on Windows as well as support for EC2 spot instances.

Read more about AMI & Agent Support here: Atlassian OnDemand Release Notes – July 2012

DVCS & External Repo Support

 

The people have clamoured for it, and so the people shall have it!  BoD can pull code from external Git and Mercurial repos hosted on Bitbucket, GitHub or on your own network.  That goes for SVN repos on your own network, too.  Using Git submodules?  No problem. Want to pull code from a hosted SVN repo and a Bitbucket Mercurial repo into the same build? Done.

Read more about DVCS & multiple repo support here: What’s New in Bamboo 3.3

Tasks

All your builders and post actions are belong to us Tasks.  Tasks are the granular steps that make up your Plan: checkout source code, call MSBuild, execute a script… etc.  Your existing builders were converted to Tasks as part of the BoD upgrade, and we think you’ll find it to be a great usability improvement.

Read more about Tasks here: Configuring Tasks

Manual Stages

Many users’ workflows require a set of requests and approvals for deploying code to an environment.  And many many users would like to compile, test and deploy to a QA env with each commit –but deploy to production much less frequently.  Manual stages let you construct a single pipeline, and add “gates” or “valves” to satisfy those use cases.  You’re welcome. 

Read more about Manual Stages (and other cool features) here: Bamboo 3.2 Release Notes

Plan Branches

For a couple of years, the developer community has been complaining that using short-lived branches to build new features simply doesn’t play nicely with continuous integration.  We’ve taken a big step toward proving them wrong.  As soon as Bamboo knows there’s a new branch in your repo, it will clone any associated Plans and point them at the new branch.  Branches are automatically discovered in Git & Mercurial repos, with auto-discovery for SVN coming soon. Très facile!

 

Automatic Merging

Because automatic branch discovery wasn’t enough.  We wanted more!  With each commit to a branch, BoD can now grab code from a second branch, merge the two, run your Plan against the merged code, and if successful, push the merged code to either branch.  Great for ensuring longer-lived branches don’t drift to far from the main line, or for two developers collaborating on a feature using their own feature branches.

Read more about Automatic Merging here: Using Automatic Merges

Test Quarantine

When I was a test engineer, I would’ve killed for this.  But you don’t have to!  No more commenting out tests or dorking around with your suite.xml file.  Just click a button to neutralize a busted test.  It’ll still get run so you can see when it’s fixed, and you’ll see your count of quarantined tests on each build result summary so you don’t loose track of them.

Read more about test quarantine here: Putting Tests in Quarantine with Bamboo 4 (Yes, the zombie apocalypse has indeed arrived.)

Jira Issues

BoD has issues.  And how!  Forget all that inefficient context switching, and create Jira issues from any build results page in Bamboo.

Read more about Jira Issues here: Top 5 Reasons Creating Jira Issues from Bamboo Makes Your Team Awesome-r

Broken Build Tracking

Team leads and scrum masters have better things to do than hound people to fix the build.  With broken build tracking you can assign one person to be the default owner of broken builds for each Plan, or have responsibility assigned to users who made changes since the last passing build.  Bamboo will nag them on your behalf until the build is green again.

Read more about Broken Build Tracking here: Bamboo 4.1 Announcement Blog

Failed Stage Do-Overs

Everyone needs a do-over sometimes.  Maybe a build config needed tweaking.  Maybe your QA environment down just as you were deploying to it.  Re-running only the Stage that failed can save you a whole lot of time.  And time is money, so… yeah.

Read more about Failed Stage Do-Overs here: Bamboo 3.2 Release Notes

Onward!

Bamboo OnDemand is now resting on a more stable platform than before, so expect fewer stability hiccups going forward.  We’ve also made custom AMIs for your build agents easier (even updated the templates, so you might not need to customize at all!), and made Windows images available by default.  Très facile (redux).

But it’s also the end of an era.  This is the last announcement I intend to write about BoD upgrades.  Why?  Because they simply won’t be a big deal anymore.  We’ve retro-fitted our upgrade process such that BoD will be upgraded with new versions of Bamboo at the same time, possibly even before, those versions are available for installation behind your firewall.  This is one “good bye” I think we’re all happy about!

Topics: atlassian blog bamboo business enterprise management practices process technology collaboration information it lifecycle
1 min read

Information Economics and Confluence: Putting the I Back into IT.

By Praecipio Consulting on Jun 27, 2012 11:00:00 AM

When it comes to IT, why do most organizations focus more on the T in technology than the I in information? The purpose of a good IT infrastructure’s to prevent information asymmetry and the implications that come with it. By properly managing your company’s information network you can create value through better decision-making.

Information asymmetry occurs when one party has more or less information than another. This can result in bad decision-making, and at times, unethical decisions. Regardless of the industry you operate in, treating information as an economic resource allows your business to yield higher than expected payoffs, resulting in a competitive edge.

The need for better collaboration both within and across business processes is a problem our clients come across often. Luckily the solution’s one we pride ourselves on offering.

Atlassian’s Confluence serves as an organizational wiki, connecting employees to information and each other. Confluence allows users to create, share, discuss, and discover documents, ideas, Jira issues, specs, mockups, projects – anything. By connecting your entire business in one place, Confluence allows for better integration. We love it and so do our clients!

Topics: atlassian blog bpm business confluence enterprise management practices process technology value collaboration information it
3 min read

The ABC's of Agile

By Praecipio Consulting on Jun 7, 2012 11:00:00 AM

The Agile school of software development’s currently one of the most accepted methodologies for improving productivity. Targeted mainly towards IT managers and CIOs, Agile methods promote an interactive approach which have the ability to help flatten your organization’s cost of change curve.

The Manifesto for Agile Software Development was first introduced in 2001, and outlines the foundation of Agile in twelve principles:

  1. Customer satisfaction by rapid delivery of useful software
  2. Welcome changing requirements, even late in development
  3. Working software is delivered frequently (weeks rather than months)
  4. Working software is the principal measure of progress
  5. Sustainable development, able to maintain a constant pace
  6. Close, daily co-operation between business people and developers
  7. Face-to-face conversation is the best form of communication (co-location)
  8. Projects are built around motivated individuals, who should be trusted
  9. Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design
  10. Simplicity- the art of maximizing the amount of work not done- is essential
  11. Self-organizing teams
  12. Regular adaptation to changing circumstances

Cost of Change Curve

First introduced by Barry Bohem in 1981, the cost of change curve represents the exponential increase in cost as it relates to making a change during the normal development phase of a product. This means that as your product moves farther down the developmental pipeline it becomes more costly to make changes and remedy errors.

That’s a good argument for Agile since it ensures you leave the current production phase with a product that’s as close to perfect as you can make it – particularly because Agile methodology calls for testing and up-front integration which translates to rapid production and minimal initial design. Since the test code’s written before functional code and automated test suites are built around the evolving code, developers are allowed to make rapid and aggressive changes.

The ability to make these changes is one of Agile’s key features and the result is a reduction in the amount of product errors late in the development phase, reducing the cost of change. Even if your organization enjoys a rather flat cost of change curve, Agile ideals can be applied to reduce the cost of change throughout the software life cycle.

Scrum

Scrum’s another widely accepted approach to implementing the Agile philosophy, which includes both managerial and development processes. This approach relies on a self-organizing, cross-functional team supported by a scrummaster and a product owner. Scrum makes your organization Agile by ensuring quick progress, continuously creating value, and by keeping projects on track. The most important concepts of Scrum are:

  • Product backlog - A complete list of requirements that are not currently in the product release. Typical backlog items include bugs and usability/performance improvements.
  • CI - Also known as continuous integration; allows for scrum teams to continuously integrate their work. This will often happen on a daily basis.
  • User story – Describes problems that should be solved by the system being built.
  • Scrummaster - The manager of the Scrum project.
  • Burndown chart - The amount of work remaining within a sprint, i’s updated daily, and also tracks progress.
  • Sprint backlog - A list of backlog items assigned to a sprint, but not yet completed

Kanban

Kanban means visual board – and that’s just what it is, a development process that revolves around a board to manage works in progress (WIP). A Kanban board includes “lanes,” each denoting different phases a project might take. It moves WIPs across the board and deploys them into production when they reach the done column. Since Kanban development practice revolves around WIP management each state of progress is limited to a set number of projects. Organizations able to leverage this high frequency of delivery typically enjoy a large financial benefit.  The most important concepts of Kanban are:

  • Swim lanes - The horizontal lanes of a Kanban board represent the different states in which a WIP or task can exist.
  • Backlog - A list of backlog items awaiting deployment, but not yet completed.
  • Stories – A particular user need assigned to a development team.

Atlassian and You 
Atlassian specializes in robust, easy-to-use, affordable internet applications that seamlessly integrate Agile and Lean methodology  with your business processes to support your organizational goals.  Simply put, success breeds extraordinary performance – and  extraordinary performance breeds success. Atlassian’s suite of products are designed to boost your organization’s performance by providing tools that are easy to use, allowing your business to build its own solutions.
Topics: jira atlassian blog scaled-agile central business confluence efficiency issues management process process-consulting scrum technology texas value tracking change continuous-improvement greenhopper incident-management information it lifecycle operations
2 min read

Jira + ITIL Working Together

By Praecipio Consulting on Jun 24, 2011 11:00:00 AM

Atlassian Jira's a remarkably flexible tool. For most who hear “Jira,” things like issue tracking, project management, and software development come to mind. Very rarely do people think of ITIL in relation to Jira. But then again, many don’t know what ITIL is.

If you’re a developer or in IT and don’t know what ITIL is, you should. It’s a set of processes for managing lifecycles with relationships to one another. It’s the most widely-accepted approach to IT service management in the world – a set of best practices drawn from public and private sectors around the world. ITIL doesn’t just apply to IT service management (ITSM), though – it’s a reliable methodology for managing any type of complex technological process.

Jira’s an Atlassian tool that’s phenomenal at lifecycle management (workflows, custom fields, etc). It’s designed to be issue-centric, built around managing issues or bugs that pop up within a product or service’s lifecycle. This functionality extends far and wide when you expand how you define an “issue.” On the surface, an issue is more like a problem – but considering an issue’s attributes, it can easily qualify as a task or milestone. With that in mind, Jira can facilitate far more than simple issue tracking. It can support complex process lifecycles.

Every process is a web of highly dependent relationships between regular and conditional tasks – including ITIL processes like Incident Management and Problem Management. The huge breakthrough here is making Jira projects and workflows represent (and support) ITIL processes. Let’s take an incident for example. An incident goes through several states:

(1) detection and recording
(2) classification and initial support
(3) investigation and diagnosis
(4) incident closure

A good Incident Management process within a good technology helps reduce meantime to recovery – i.e. recover from an incident. We all know how well Jira facilitates transitions and workflow. Let’s take it a step further…in ITIL-based Incident Management, we are supposed to designate incident ownership, actively monitor, track and communicate. BINGO! This what Jira does.

Let’s take this another step further. Problem Management is a process used to identify root cause to reduce the number of incidents – thereby increasing the meantime between failures. Using Jira, we can manage root cause analysis and associate the individual incidents (manifestations) back to the Problem Management record we’re analyzing. This ability to link records and collaborate makes Jira a great Problem Management solution. Add Confluence to the mix and the effectiveness is improved further.

Going another step further – having ITIL-based ITSM processes running in Jira alongside your organizations SDLC further helps IT align its capabilities to deliver the highest, best quality software and service delivery.

We’ve helped clients implement Jira to manage Incident Management, Change Management, Problem Management, Asset Management, Software Development, Testing… we love the Altassian products and so do our clients.

Topics: jira atlassian blog asset-management confluence issues management problem process reliability sdlc services software workflows tracking change development incident-management it itil itsm lifecycle methodology bespoke
1 min read

The "Business Stuff" Behind the Innovation

By Praecipio Consulting on May 3, 2011 11:00:00 AM

Great ideas sell, even without the fortification of brand or tangibility. If an idea’s well-built, well-defined, and in-demand, sales are almost guaranteed with a little marketing.

At SXSW in March we saw lots of great ideas – ideas that practically sold themselves. We spoke with some start-up app companies that had over 100,000 downloads in their first month. Another was growing so fast they were figuring out how to hire 50 people in their third month of operations. In these dream scenarios, it’s hard to imagine what more you need to succeed. With a 1500% growth rate, what’s to worry about?

But even lottery winners must face reality at some point. In this case, every business is still a business. No matter what you’re selling, you’ve got books. Records. Processes. If you’re going to succeed, you’ve got to have that stuff organized. The more dynamic and exciting your product is, the more sales you’ll make short-term. The more efficient and consistent you are, the more money you’ll make long-term. While developing efficiency and consistency is generally not as fun as product development and demos, it’s what fortifies the innovation you’re selling.

That’s the bigger picture of what we do. On the surface it looks like IT development strategy integration reliability blah blah blah, but really, it's enabling great ideas to stick around long-term. And that's not to strip those words of their meanings. Strategy, for example, determines the direction and scope of every business process that goes in and out the door. Integration determines if two of the systems you work with daily will actually talk to one another. And if things aren't reliable then you might as well go home and make toast, because your operations are metaphorical toast. We make great ideas into outstanding businesses. That’s what counts!

Topics: blog bpm business efficiency process reliability sxsw development integration it
1 min read

SmartGrid: The Future of Electric Power

By Praecipio Consulting on Apr 14, 2011 11:00:00 AM

SmartGrid technology is the effective future of the electric power industry. Just consider the numbers: the US SmartGrid market is expected to double in size between 2009 and 2014, from $21.4 billion to $42.8 billion, with global SmartGrid spending exceeding $200 billion in 2015. With significant aid from federal stimulus funding, SmartGrid development and implementation has already begun across the US. Experts expect SmartGrid technology to become the electric industry standard within 20 years.

You’re probably familiar with what SmartGrids can do. If you’re not, think improved energy consumption information + customer empowerment. SmartGrids leverage automated power systems that monitor and control grid activities, ensuring a constant two-way flow of electricity and information between plants, consumers, and points in between. That information will originate from millions of data points scattered among system devices, enabling utilities to adapt electricity delivery to usage patterns. Demand-response software will enable utilities and consumers to turn high-demand appliances on and off during peak demand periods, improving efficiency. Technology can allow consumers to monitor their home’s energy consumption at the appliance-level (dishwasher, refrigerator, etc), and adjust their thermostats and other power-consuming devices via computers and mobile phones. Basically, SmartGrids will allow consumers and grid operators to understand what’s going on demand-side and make grid management more intelligent.

Information technology (IT) is the driver of SmartGrid technology. Custom software, data management, systems integration, and data security are critical to SmartGrid operations. We bring these solutions to utilities en route to SmartGrid deployment. If you’re making the move, talk to us. We prepare companies for the switch.

Topics: blog management software technology security smartgrid utilities data deployment information integration it operations bespoke

Merry Christmas!

By Praecipio Consulting on Dec 24, 2010 11:00:00 AM

 

From the Praecipio Consulting team, Merry Christmas! We hope you have an enjoyable Christmas holiday.

We’ll be taking a break from our blog over the next week while we celebrate the holiday, so this is our last post of 2010. Thanks again to all of you who gave us feedback on our posts; we’re glad to hear our blog has offered valuable perspective on IT, BPM, project management, and a host of other enterprise matters. We enjoy helping others, and look forward to blogging more in 2011.

Until next year,
Christian, Joseph, Chris, and Brian…who escaped this photo.

Topics: news blog bpm enterprise management project consulting-services it
3 min read

Jira for the Gaming Industry

By Praecipio Consulting on Nov 24, 2010 11:00:00 AM

Altassian’s Jira is perhaps the best issue tracking and software development management platform around. While Jira can be used in many, many ways, it’s found a sweet spot in the gaming industry.

This post assumes the reader has a reasonable understanding of Jira. The post highlights how Jira and Greenhopper – which collectively make up Atlassian’s Agile approach – can streamline game development. Check it out:

Quick-start projects. In Jira, you can start a new project in less than five minutes. That’s great for developers, since new projects can spawn at anytime during the production process.

Attach files for visual reference. Most developers use Adobe software to design game interfaces. During the development stage, there are usually multiple people designing and updating prototypes – so it’s easy to get off track. With Jira, designers can attach the a screenshot of the latest prototype to a project page, so every one involved with the project can see where the interface is at and stay on the same page. And since Jira allows users to attach files to projects, tasks, time log items, and more, it’s easy for designers to offer team members a visual reference of where they’re at – even if they’re not in the office.

Support and ticketing. Jira helps IT support organizations handle hardware and software support more methodically. Support tickets can be submitted by anyone within the company. From there, they’re assigned to a qualified expert, and either resolved or escalated. This obviously benefits all businesses and not just those in the gaming industry. But for game developers on a tight schedule, hardware performance is critical – and a fast ticketing process ensures minimal downtime.

Bug tracking. Bug tracking is critical in the gaming industry. Jira’s organized, intuitive bug tracking system allows game developers to track the details, status, etc of every kink in the development process – ensuring better performance.

Document repository. Jira can also act as a document repository for files of all types. With a powerful search feature and page indexing capabilities, game companies can ensure quick access to important files – so long as they’re organized responsibly.

Crucible. A web based code review tool, Atlassian’s Crucible (a “friend” of Jira and Greenhopper) allows multiple people to review code online instead of having to crowd around a desktop or overhead projector – the “Google Docs” of code-writing. For game developers, that kind of collaboration is worth its weight in gold.

Greenhopper task tracking. Drag-and-drop task management that associates tasks with Jira projects, items, files, etc, etc. Completely intuitive, remarkably fast. We needn’t say more.

Customize to your heart’s content. Jira is easily and extensively customizable. Most of its customizations don’t require technical knowledge – so designers and developers with different skillsets can configure Jira with ease.

Insanely easy workflows. You don’t have to be a programmer to set workflows up in Jira. Develop workflows quickly to automate repetitive tasks.

Integration with non-Atlassian tools. Jira users can develop their own plug-ins to import and export data to and from Jira. This is crucial, since no software can tackle every need within an organization, and since game developers usually need to leverage multiple tools throughout their production.

That’s how game developers are leveraging Atlassian tools to streamline operations and production timelines. Again, it’s worth noting that much of what’s covered above applies to business of all types – not just those in the gaming industry. Check out our Jira blogs to learn more about how Jira (and “friends“)  can boost your operations.

Special note: If you’ll be attending South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin in March 2011, stop by our booth at the SXSWi Trade Show. We’ll have a Jira demo live, and have our developers behind the table!

Topics: jira atlassian blog crucible show sxsw trade workflows tracking development gaming greenhopper industry integration it bespoke
1 min read

We're Social Capitalists

By Praecipio Consulting on Oct 19, 2010 11:00:00 AM

At Praecipio Consulting, we’re proud to call ourselves social capitalists. We’re a group of socially-minded people who want to help our local and global community while making a profit – proving that businesses can accomplish their business plans and philanthropic goals from under one roof.

As social entrepreneurs, we leverage a unique type of capital in business. Market capitalism is built on such tangibles as land, labor, and financial capital, while social capitalism is built on creative, intellectual, and social capital – and a strong sense of community and involvement in the surrounding community. We strive to be engaged in what’s going on around us, using our resources to respond to the needs of our customers, community, and industry. Throughout our time in the IT and business process consulting business, we’ve been able to spend time helping others.

We believe that as both businesses and individuals, we’re responsible for the collective well-being of our communities. The choices we make impact those around us. Creating a better environment to enjoy as a community takes effort from everyone – and together, we can change the way we live for the better.

Praecipio Consulting is improving the community by enabling businesses to reduce their process-generated waste – making our environment more sustainable while reducing our clients’ costs.

Again, an important part of social capitalism is staying engaged with the community. A part of that is staying in touch with you. Follow us on FacebookTwitter, or here on our blog – or drop by our website for more. What we do today affects our tomorrow, so let’s work together to ensure a better future.

Topics: blog business process consulting-services it
4 min read

Cloud Computing Risks and Rewards

By Praecipio Consulting on Jul 29, 2010 11:00:00 AM

The relationship between ITSM and cloud computing is still a hot topic. Companies are still asking questions regarding what the cloud is, IT versus business roles in adopting cloud infrastructure, and whether the shift toward cloud computing is optional or inevitable. Ambiguity abounds.

We all know the business wants results, and requires IT to offer swift responses to business demands. The business ultimately wants to remain agile and flexible – able to adjust quickly to changing needs. IT can’t always deliver solutions as quickly as the business wants. The cloud can.

It’s easy and logical, then, for the business to leap toward cloud providers to meet their needs. In the cloud, the business can be in control of their relationship with providers – though if one doesn’t suit their fancy, switching isn’t always easy or possible.

There are hundreds of questions that pop up here – most about the risks and rewards of leveraging cloud platforming. Before we delve any further, consider this list:

Risks

  1. Security. Where’s your data – with your provider, or with a third, fourth, or fifth party? Is it safe? Does your cloud provider explicitly state rights to outsource your data? You should clearly understand your provider’s security-related responsibilities and guarantees described in its service level agreement.
  2. Re: Security – SAS70 and PCI compliance. SAS70 (a set of auditing standards designed to measure handling of sensitive data) and PCI (a worldwide information security standard) assure companies that their storage vendors are handling their data properly – so they don’t have to audit vendors themselves. SAS70 and PCI compliance policies may uncover details that aren’t specified in service agreements. Since server outsourcing can put your data anywhere in the world without the end user noticing a change, SAS70 and PCI are standards for cloud peace of mind. Google realized this early when they announced their SAS70 Type II certification in 2008.
  3. Re: Security Data Protection. If your data isn’t stored within your in-house network, it’s stored in someone else’s. It’s therefore subject to someone else’s protection framework. Be sure to ask for specifics from your cloud provider regarding the intrusion detection system (IDS), intrusion prevention system (IPS), firewall, and other security technologies they’ve deployed to clarify their integrity. These security appliances are required by PCI.
  4. Integration with existing systems. Will cloud-based applications integrate well with your internal network configuration, security infrastructure, and software?
  5. Governance. Who’s in charge of your data – you or your provider? Who’s in charge of application adoption and making decisions based on performance – the business or IT?
  6. Internet connectivity. Since the cloud operates through the internet, it’s completely bound to connectivity. No internet, no work.

Rewards

  1. Lower IT infrastructure costs. IT can supplement or replace internal computing resources; no need to purchase equipment to handle peak needs.
  2. Lower software costs. IT won’t be burdened with the costs of installing and maintaining programs on every desktop in the business.
  3. Unlimited, pay-as-you-need-to storage capacity. As much as you need, whenever you need it. Most providers allow you to pay for more space as you need it so you don’t have to commit to a large sum of space.
  4. Operating system compatibility. The cloud is built on browser-based applications, meaning OS’s just don’t matter.
  5. Easy group collaboration. Sharing documents? Anyone anywhere can collaborate in real-time.
  6. You’re no longer bound to specific devices. Change computers and your applications and documents follow you wherever you go.
  7. Low systems cost. You don’t need a high-powered system to run cloud applications, so the computer doesn’t need the processing power or hard disk space demanded by traditional software.

It’s clear why the momentum toward the cloud is so strong – the rewards appear to outweigh the risks. Notice, though, that the risks are coming from IT while the rewards make up most of what the business side is drooling over. It’s no wonder we’re concerned with IT and business alignment in this context. That alignment may determine the success or nightmare of cloud migration.

recent CIO survey reported that among companies not leveraging the cloud, many aren’t confident the cloud will reduce their IT costs. Half of IT decision makers, the report said, expect little reduction in IT spending after cloud adoption. Another 42 percent weren’t sure they’d save any money.

Among companies who had adopted cloud applications, however, cost savings topped scalability and flexibility as the top reason for adopting cloud computing. 83 percent of those respondents were using SaaS models.

CIO’s results indicate a lingering apprehension about cloud services, but also a prevailing wind toward the cost savings the cloud offers. Pew Research’s study on the future of cloud computing blew in the same direction: 71 percent of respondents said most people won’t be working with conventional PC software by 2020, leveraging internet-based applications instead; 27 percent said most people would still use superior PC-based applications.

We’re going to see more companies begin implementing cloud services in the next few years. This is clear. The IT-business strategy alliance is critical to the success of cloud implementations. Since more pressure lies on IT to adjust their infrastructure and methodology to accommodate cloud services, IT faces a greater challenge: grow toward an intimate partnership with the business, or grow in irrelevance to the business.

The question has one right answer – and with that answer come a host of more questions for another post.

For a more thorough look at cloud security, check out our upcoming security post.

Want to get in touch? Contact us here.

Image courtesy of Patrick Lane Photography.

Topics: blog business enterprise library management process-consulting services technology tips tricks value cloud collaboration computing information infrastructure it itil itsm
2 min read

Four Ways YOU Can Ensure Cloud Security

By Praecipio Consulting on Jul 16, 2010 11:00:00 AM

In our last Cloud post (Cloud Computing Risks and Rewards) we discussed a number of Cloud risks related to security:

These risks don’t “demonize” the cloud – but rather raise some critical questions regarding the protection of company data that’s migrated to cloud servers. The security of the cloud is still a bit (forgive the pun) cloudy to most – and may integrate well with existing security policies, protocols, and infrastructure.

Christofer Hoff – who offers excellent cloud perspective in his blog Rational Survivability-
claims it’s not the nature of cloud computing businesses should be worried about, but rather how companies implement and manage cloud computing.

“We’re struggling less with security technology solutions (as there really are few) but rather with the operational, organizational, and compliance issues that come with this new unchartered (or pooly chartered) territory,” Hoff wrote in his post Security and the Cloud – What Does That Even Mean?

Hoff’s quote pinpoints the simple source of our worries: we’ve developed a standard for IT security and compliance that’s being disrupted by something new. The question now is not whether companies should migrate to the cloud. The question is how our existing security methodologies will translate and apply to cloud computing. Since no industry standard for cloud security compliance has been adopted, organizations must steer their own ships as they sail toward cloud solutions.

Four ways organizations can retain appropriate data security as they implement elements of the cloud:

  1. Policy reviewing. A few thorough reads of your cloud provider’s policy will likely explain the rights they reserve to store and protect your data.
  2. SAS70 and PCI Compliance. As we said in our last post, SAS70 and PCI compliance policies may uncover details that aren’t specified in service agreements. They’re standards for cloud peace of mind.
  3. Choosing a public, private, or virtual private cloud. Public clouds allow secure employee access to company data from any system anywhere. Private clouds are more costly, granting access from company systems or systems within the company’s LAN network, providing greater control over data resources and security. Virtual private clouds use a public cloud infrastructure in a private /semi-private manner, providing more balance between cost efficiency and security.
  4. Leveraging ITIL methodology. ITIL offers a one-size-fits-all starting point for IT methodology. As more business adopt cloud applications, businesses will have opportunities to apply ITIL methodology to a new generation of computing.
Topics: atlassian blog implementation library management services technology tips tricks security cloud compliance computing information infrastructure it itil
4 min read

Cloud Computing Risks and Rewards

By Praecipio Consulting on Jun 29, 2010 11:00:00 AM

The relationship between ITSM and cloud computing is still a hot topic. Companies are still asking questions regarding what the cloud is, IT versus business roles in adopting cloud infrastructure, and whether the shift toward cloud computing is optional or inevitable. Ambiguity abounds.

We all know the business wants results, and requires IT to offer swift responses to business demands. The business ultimately wants to remain agile and flexible – able to adjust quickly to changing needs. IT can’t always deliver solutions as quickly as the business wants. The cloud can.

It’s easy and logical, then, for the business to leap toward cloud providers to meet their needs. In the cloud, the business can be in control of their relationship with providers – though if one doesn’t suit their fancy, switching isn’t always easy or possible.

There are hundreds of questions that pop up here – most about the risks and rewards of leveraging cloud platforming. Before we delve any further, consider this list:

Risks

  1. Security. Where’s your data – with your provider, or with a third, fourth, or fifth party? Is it safe? Does your cloud provider explicitly state rights to outsource your data? You should clearly understand your provider’s security-related responsibilities and guarantees described in its service level agreement.
  2. Re: Security – SAS70 and PCI compliance. SAS70 (a set of auditing standards designed to measure handling of sensitive data) and PCI (a worldwide information security standard) assure companies that their storage vendors are handling their data properly – so they don’t have to audit vendors themselves. SAS70 and PCI compliance policies may uncover details that aren’t specified in service agreements. Since server outsourcing can put your data anywhere in the world without the end user noticing a change, SAS70 and PCI are standards for cloud peace of mind. Google realized this early when they announced their SAS70 Type II certification in 2008.
  3. Re: Security Data Protection. If your data isn’t stored within your in-house network, it’s stored in someone else’s. It’s therefore subject to someone else’s protection framework. Be sure to ask for specifics from your cloud provider regarding the intrusion detection system (IDS), intrusion prevention system (IPS), firewall, and other security technologies they’ve deployed to clarify their integrity. These security appliances are required by PCI.
  4. Integration with existing systems. Will cloud-based applications integrate well with your internal network configuration, security infrastructure, and software?
  5. Governance. Who’s in charge of your data – you or your provider? Who’s in charge of application adoption and making decisions based on performance – the business or IT?
  6. Internet connectivity. Since the cloud operates through the internet, it’s completely bound to connectivity. No internet, no work.

Rewards

  1. Lower IT infrastructure costs. IT can supplement or replace internal computing resources; no need to purchase equipment to handle peak needs.
  2. Lower software costs. IT won’t be burdened with the costs of installing and maintaining programs on every desktop in the business.
  3. Unlimited, pay-as-you-need-to storage capacity. As much as you need, whenever you need it. Most providers allow you to pay for more space as you need it so you don’t have to commit to a large sum of space.
  4. Operating system compatibility. The cloud is built on browser-based applications, meaning OS’s just don’t matter.
  5. Easy group collaboration. Sharing documents? Anyone anywhere can collaborate in real-time.
  6. You’re no longer bound to specific devices. Change computers and your applications and documents follow you wherever you go.
  7. Low systems cost. You don’t need a high-powered system to run cloud applications, so the computer doesn’t need the processing power or hard disk space demanded by traditional software.

It’s clear why the momentum toward the cloud is so strong – the rewards appear to outweigh the risks. Notice, though, that the risks are coming from IT while the rewards make up most of what the business side is drooling over. It’s no wonder we’re concerned with IT and business alignment in this context. That alignment may determine the success or nightmare of cloud migration.

recent CIO survey reported that among companies not leveraging the cloud, many aren’t confident the cloud will reduce their IT costs. Half of IT decision makers, the report said, expect little reduction in IT spending after cloud adoption. Another 42 percent weren’t sure they’d save any money.

Among companies who had adopted cloud applications, however, cost savings topped scalability and flexibility as the top reason for adopting cloud computing. 83 percent of those respondents were using SaaS models.

CIO’s results indicate a lingering apprehension about cloud services, but also a prevailing wind toward the cost savings the cloud offers. Pew Research’s study on the future of cloud computing blew in the same direction: 71 percent of respondents said most people won’t be working with conventional PC software by 2020, leveraging internet-based applications instead; 27 percent said most people would still use superior PC-based applications.

We’re going to see more companies begin implementing cloud services in the next few years. This is clear. The IT-business strategy alliance is critical to the success of cloud implementations. Since more pressure lies on IT to adjust their infrastructure and methodology to accommodate cloud services, IT faces a greater challenge: grow toward an intimate partnership with the business, or grow in irrelevance to the business.

The question has one right answer – and with that answer come a host of more questions for another post.

For a more thorough look at cloud security, check out our upcoming security post.

Want to get in touch? Contact us here.

Image courtesy of Patrick Lane Photography.

Topics: atlassian blog technology cloud computing information it
2 min read

The ROI of BPM: A Realistic Approach

By Praecipio Consulting on Jun 22, 2010 11:00:00 AM

If you search for “ROI of BPM” in Google, you’ll find a host of ROI calculators and links that will “MAXIMIZE” your BPM ROI. The query results are no surprise. ROI matters most in BPM – it’s the bottom line.

There’s little doubt that most BPM initiatives generate a positive ROI. A recent Gartner study found that 80 percent of enterprises conducting BPM projects will experience an internal rate of return (IRR) better than 15 percent. The study took responses from 20 companies that had completed 154 BPM projects, and 95 percent of the companies experienced more than a 90 percent success rate among their BPM projects.

Successful BPM projects use process automation to make the business more efficient – allowing it to quickly respond to changing market conditions. That efficiency yields savings. The more savings there are, the higher the ROI – and the higher the ROI, the happier the stakeholders.

The problem with ROI, however, is that it doesn’t benefit the entire enterprise at once. Most successful BPM projects involve multiple tangents of the enterprise: IT, Sales, Legal Matters, Marketing. Each department has their own processes, and therefore their own BPM solutions. While the BPM automation software being leveraged by Legal Matters may improve efficiency by 30 percent in its first week, Sales may not see improvement until the beginning of the next sales cycle. BPM success occurs on a case-by-case basis.

The truth is, large-scale investments are sensitive projects. If you’re putting a large sum of cash into a solution, you expect success – and may feel anxious or sensitive until you have tangible results to ease your nerves. If another department experiences immediate results after deployment, it will be difficult to maintain your confidence in your own solution. The discomfort is only natural.

That discomfort, however, shouldn’t distract anyone from the facts of the matter. The facts remain that BPM impacts individual processes differently. The variables are these:

  • Complexity of the process. Some processes have two steps, some have 20.
  • Complexity of the solution. Tailoring a solution to fit perfectly takes time.
  • Employee buy-in. A solution only works if people use it…
  • Training/understanding and adoption rates. Most people are creatures of habit, and naturally opposed to change. Teaching people how to use new software eases nerves and builds confidence, increasing adoption rates.
  • Technological integration. Ensuring that multiple systems agree with one another can be a tedious process.
  • Sales climate. The less business, the less active processes. Success rates and savings figures may correlate with overall revenue in a fast-changing market.
  • The process itself. Some processes are done hourly, some monthly. You can guess which one will produce results and savings more quickly.

Additionally, it’s sometimes difficult to see ROI in the shadows of the BPM project’s cost. The business will be searching for financial fruit as soon as solutions have been planted, but the savings may not offset the cost for a year or more in some cases. A $200,000 project that yields $100,000 in savings annually won’t hit the black for two years – but will yield $300,000 in five years’ time.

The ROI of BPM, therefore, is very subjective. In the end, a successful BPM implementation will yield savings to the entire organization, department by department, year by year – offering more agile solutions than simply maximizing productivity.

Patience, perseverance, and perspective ensure success…

Topics: blog automation bpm business efficiency enterprise management process roi value collaboration it
2 min read

ITSM: The Backbone of Cloud Computing

By Praecipio Consulting on Jun 15, 2010 11:00:00 AM

IT Service Management (ITSM) and cloud computing don’t always appear in the same discussion – even though one can’t be done well without the other. Integrating the two is especially important as we move further into (what could be) the fundamental shift toward cloud computing.

First – since the phrase “cloud computing” has taken on ambiguity as a buzzword – a quick clarification is necessary. Cloud computing doesn’t change what’s being delivered to end users. It changes how services are delivered. End users should receive the same services from you whether your data’s stored on a server you manage yourself in-house or on a server that’s managed by a provider in Timbuktu.

That being said, IT needs to understand the services they deliver to end users – whether the end user is the employee or the customer. This is the core of ITSM.

Some primary benefits of the cloud include:

  • Pay-as-you-go server costs; planned capacity
  • Annual savings in hardware and man power
  • Instant “green” IT options without long-term transformation costs
  • Higher rate of connectivity that extends anywhere

Those perks are the driving forces behind the cloud’s popularity – and have already borne fruit in organizations who’ve incorporated the cloud as a platform for daily operations. Some, however, raise concern over the difficulty to align the cloud with ITSM, which regularly involves:

  • A slow rate of delivery of tangible business benefits
  • An inability to relate the consumption of IT resources to customer activities
  • A lack of stakeholder support
  • Trouble integrating facilities management, security, and business continuity
  • Scarce resources

These difficulties won’t surprise anyone in ITSM. They’re simply the nature of the beast. Every ITSM team has to deal with a lack of stakeholder support, pressure to produce tangible benefits in short amounts of time, etc. When news of a new business decision reaches IT’s desk after it’s already been decided on, however, these difficulties become even more difficult – and the alignment of IT investments and business continuity is disrupted. The business has moved along without IT, and IT is left to run after it.

The same is true for the alignment between ITSM and cloud computing. Companies may rightfully lust after cloud services and decide to begin moving toward a cloud platform. While the results for end users (employees and in turn customers) may be clear, how to deliver them may not be. If the ITSM team isn’t intimately involved, the business risks ambiguity on both sides.

Ideally, the business should work to ensure inter-operability between IT assets and cloud applications. That (like everything else) requires the business to understand IT’s responsibilities, and IT to understand cloud concepts. The software market’s shifting toward ease-of-access software/SaaS; ITSM software vendors are having to market their simplicity and cloud-usability to stay competitive. Because of this, inter-operability is becoming more of an issue since businesses may be tempted to consider ease of use and cloud integration more important than ITSM.

The alignment is essential. With business strategy and IT well-aligned, leveraging the cloud can expand your ability to be flexible in doing business and save you overhead costs while preserving what’s delivered to end users.

Thirsty for more? Contact us here.

Topics: blog business library management services technology value saas cloud computing information infrastructure it itil itsm
2 min read

The Difference Between Cloud Computing and SaaS

By Praecipio Consulting on Apr 21, 2010 11:00:00 AM

In a business world clouded with buzzwords, it’s easy to lose track of the actual meanings of terms relevant to the IT industry.

Take cloud computing, for example – one of the tech industry’s biggest buzzwords at present. A number of software vendors have been using the phrase “cloud computing” to market their Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) products. Are the two terms different from one another, or the same? Or is cloud computing truly a meaningless buzzword?

In truth, the two terms are different. SaaS refers to software that’s owned, delivered, and managed remotely by a one or more providers. The provider handles all the “heavy-lifting” associated with the service: server maintenance, support, etc. SaaS products are usually out-of-the-box tools that don’t require extensive setup. They’re accessible by web, and usually paid for on a subscription or pay-per-use basis.

Cloud computing refers to the broader concept of allowing people to access scalable, technology-enabled services via the internet. The term has become virally fashionable in the tech industry – much like the word “organic” in the food industry. Cloud computing – more commonly referred to as “the cloud” – is an on-demand way of providing services. It’s usually touted as an intelligent approach to computing in today’s fragile economy.

SaaS is essentially a subservice of cloud computing. Not all cloud applications are SaaS applications, but nearly all SaaS applications are in the cloud, which provides the computing power to run those applications. SaaS applications, therefore, are offered on the cloud platform. The folks at Common Craft do a good job explaining these differences in their video “Cloud Computing Plain and Simple.”

Cloud computing and SaaS refer to different things. While SaaS refers to out-of-the-box applications offered on the cloud platform, cloud computing refers to the bigger picture of how software can be provided more efficiently through the internet.

That bigger picture includes the transition of the software industry toward a Software-as-a-Service model, where customers make decisions based on the value of the service. Daryl Plummer – Chief Fellow at Gartner, a US-based IT research and advisory firm – said in a 2008 podcast that this economical change in the software market is the power of cloud computing: “The way we actually charge for cloud-based SaaS services won’t be based on how many servers we’re running, how much maintenance costs we’re taking on, or which software products we bought,” Plummer said. “It’s going to be based on the value of the service to the customer, and when you start getting into that consumer-provider relationship, the customer ends up setting the value.”

Two years later, Plummer was right.

Thirsty for more? Contact us here.

Image courtesy of Patrick Lane Photography.

Topics: atlassian blog enterprise library management services technology tips tricks saas cloud collaboration computing information infrastructure it itil
2 min read

5 ITIL Change Management Tips

By Praecipio Consulting on Mar 19, 2010 11:00:00 AM

In order to remain competitive, a firm’s IT environment must be aligned with the firm’s business strategy – meaning IT should share responsibility in delivering value to the customer.

This is why Change Management is so important: changes to the IT environment must not disrupt the value delivered to the customer. IT must maintain stability even during change. ITIL’s Change Management methodology provides a clear framework (with defined roles, responsibilities, and processes) that can facilitate success.

Change Management should be considered a major undertaking. Determining where your firm stands in terms of ITIL maturity and developing a realistic project plan will improve your ITIL effectiveness.

Here are 5 Change Management tips to consider:

1. What’s a change, exactly?
Reality check: changes happen all the time. Nearly everything in IT involves some sort of frequent change. That being said, it’s important to figure out just what you consider to be a change. You can then determine when to apply ITIL Change Management principles.

Every change (even small installations and deletions) should be handled in terms of Change Management. The smallest of changes could cause major disruptions if no one knows about them.

2. What, specifically, will Change Management accomplish for my organization?
It’s no surprise that some firms have trouble defining ITIL in general. Since ITIL methodology isn’t something you can learn on a coffee break, most IT and non-IT folks alike don’t have the time to study ITIL for days.

Even if someone understands ITIL, they may not understand how it applies to efficiency. Someone might think implementing Change Management will fix issues related to Release or Incident Management. Pinpointing what Change Management will accomplish for your organization is therefore vital to understanding what it’s actually doing – managing the oversight and approval aspects of the change process in a unique organization-specific environment.

3. Articulate the benefits of Change Management to each level of the organization.
This goes right along with our last tip. Once you pinpoint the applicative benefits Change Management will have for your organization, advertise them. Getting buy-in at every level of the organization is critical to the success of your ITIL implementation.

There are multiple stakeholder groups within every organization – that is, folks personally and organizationally affected by the change. They’ll want to know “what’s in it for me?” in order to judge whether they’re on board with the change. Presenting accurate change information tailored for each stakeholder fosters better accountability from stakeholder groups – and improves buy-in.

4. Don’t Buy a Tool Until You’ve Determined What You Need.
While it may make sense to buy software to guide your Change Management implementation, doing so before laying out your process framework is counter-productive.

A more productive approach includes determining your needs before adopting a tool, so you can better evaluate which tools fit your needs instead of adjusting your needs to your tool.

5. Use Change Management Success to Promote Other ITIL Initiatives.
Folks are usually familiar with the Change Management component of ITIL – and oblivious of its other processes. If you track your Change Management successes and gather supportive data from Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), you can use success stories to promote the benefits of other ITIL processes like Release Management, Incident Management, etc.

One final tip: It’s worth noting the incredible value and need for leadership/executive support in the Change Management process. It’s important for company leadership to sell and support the change despite resistance in the company to organizational and cultural change. Often times, Change Management implementations are resisted since they uncover underlying issues that some within the company don’t want to uncover. Ultimately, though, Change Management helps make everyone proactive and out of the reactive, fire-fighting mode.

Thirsty for more? Contact us here.

Image courtesy of Patrick Lane Photography.

Topics: blog implementation library management process release technology tips tricks change continuous-improvement incident-management information infrastructure it itil operations
2 min read

5 Quick ITIL Implementation Tips

By Praecipio Consulting on Feb 17, 2010 11:00:00 AM

According to Forrester’s latest research, IT spending is expected to grow 6.6 percent in 2010 to $568 billion. In order to realize the value of these investments, organizations may adopt industry-consistent frameworks like ITIL to improve IT process and establish reliable data points to measure success.

Here are 5 useful ITIL implementation tips:

1. ITIL is an IT-Wide Strategy
Any ITIL process implementation has IT-wide impacts. Because of this, the implementation must be aligned with other IT initiatives within the organization, focusing on accomplishing ITIL success while preserving the overall benefit to the organization. ITIL should guide all strategic initiatives.

2. Consider Post-ITIL Organization Before Jumping Into Implementation
Introducing ITIL processes creates new tasks and roles that could impact an organization’s current IT service management structure. Foreseeing this possibility helps guide management toward supporting a new IT organization.

3. Prioritize Process Selection
Implementing every ITIL process at the same time isn’t necessary. ITIL processes should be selected based on areas where the organization needs improvement, and areas that will drive the most business value/greatest ROI.

4. Set Your Baseline Early; Have Realistic Expectations
The acceptance of change, of course, takes time. ITIL’s implementation is a significant change to an organization’s IT environment, and its processes will have to mature before subsequent ROIs are recognized. The delay of ROI-producing data points will delay the qualified legitimacy of the ITIL venture—making the change harder for employees to swallow.

Establishing an early baseline of key performance indicators (KPIs) from which to monitor ITIL success helps employees be more open to and engaged with the change. Chosen KPIs should be business-focused and clearly understood, so employees don’t waste time measuring unnecessary data points.

5. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate Success
Let’s face it: implementing ITIL isn’t a quick job. The longer a project takes, the harder it is for employees to see its worth.

This is why communicating success to everyone involved in the implementation is essential—so employees are reminded they’re working toward something that will make them more efficient and profitable, and prepared for change. Success not only boosts morale. It qualifies and legitimizes the project. Failure to communicate success may double employee resistance to change over time.

Thirsty for more? Contact us here.

Image courtesy of Patrick Lane Photography.

Topics: blog implementation library management process-consulting services technology tips tricks change information infrastructure it itil itsm
3 min read

SharePoint vs. Google Wave vs. Basecamp

By Praecipio Consulting on Feb 1, 2010 11:00:00 AM

[important note, as of 4 Sept 2010: Google Wave will not be available as an end-user application after 31 December 2010.]

People have the tendency to judge a software by its user interface (UI).

Think about it. Most users probably don’t care about your network protocols or what your server topology is. Those users will, however, think it’s awesome to drag and drop documents and pictures from location to location. Most folks are used to this since most of them interact with Facebook, Twitter, and all the like. They’ll probably think it’s cool.

Since we use SharePoint to execute most of our services, it has been brought to our attention many times that the current version of SharePoint lags heavily in UI from this perspective, unless you do a load of custom development work for the sole purpose of aesthetic improvement. SharePoint 2010 is promising a well-crafted UI improvement, in addition to a handful of Outlook revisions– but for now, SharePoint users may still gripe about the lack of 2.0 usability. They may venture to ask “how will SharePoint fare once Google Wave is released?”

Google Wave is not a competitor of SharePoint. It is not comparable to enterprise collaboration software. Wave will, as an open source development platform, bring great innovations that may be integrated into the SharePoint– but doesn’t have the scope of capabilities (process automation, workflow execution, data repository) SharePoint has to improve enterprise collaboration. Perhaps the employees griping about SharePoint’s “Windows 98-like interface” need to learn a bit more about what their software actually does.

If Wave should be compared to anything, it should be compared to Microsoft Outlook. It’s a collaborative space to exchange messages and files, and functions chiefly as an evolution of what we know as email.

Some of Wave’s key promises:

  • Open source: Wave code will be open source, to, in Google’s words, “foster innovation and adoption amongst developers.”
  • Wiki functionality: Anything written in a wave can be edited by an authorized person. You can correct information or add your own commentary within a developing conversation.
  • “Embeddability:” Waves can be embedded into any blog or website.
  • Applications and Extensions: Just like a Facebook application, developers can build their own apps within “waves.”
  • “On-the-fly” translation: Google Wave can translate sentences into other languages as you type them. It can also correct your spelling as you write.
  • Drag-and-drop file sharing: No attachments; just drag your file and drop it inside Google Wave and everyone will have access.

Wave’s integration of feeds and UI capabilities are without a doubt impressive. Their innovative HTML 5 capabilities may very well be integrated into software like SharePoint down the road. But the purpose of Wave is not to compete in the enterprise collaboration market. Their purpose is to revolutionize the way people collaborate online through real-time, open-source technology.

But what about Basecamp? It’s an undeniably effective project management tool that we endorse for pure project management purposes. But how does it fare against Wave and SharePoint?

It doesn’t. At least not in the way most think it does. All three of these tools can facilitate project management. All three, however, are ultimately very different.

  • Basecamp is a superb project management tool if you’re looking for an easy-to-use tool that integrates well with social networking and mobile phones, offers online storage of documents for collaboration, and connects those working on a project in an organized way. These capabilities are remarkably value for project efficiency; Basecamp’s built a great tool. If you’re looking for anything outside of these capabilities, though, you’re looking in the wrong place.
  • Wave, as we’ve said, is an evolution of email. It’s open-source nature and real-time abilities offer superb capabilities that can be used inside Wave or dropped into other sites. Wave isn’t as project management-focused as Basecamp, however, and doesn’t compare to SharePoint either.
  • SharePoint, borrowing Microsoft’s words, “helps improve organizational effectiveness by providing comprehensive content management and enterprise search, accelerating shared business processes, and facilitating information-sharing across boundaries for better business insight.” SharePoint is a content management server that allows for the custom development of workflows for process automation. It’s an enterprise collaboration and IT platform. It’s not Basecamp or Google Wave.

So: Wave, Basecamp, or SharePoint? Our answer is… yes.

Thirsty for more? Contact us here.

Photo by Brian Nunnery, Praecipio Consulting.

Topics: blog automation bpm business enterprise google management process project sharepoint value wave collaboration continuous-improvement it lifecycle operations
1 min read

Jira 4's 2.0 UI Makes Issue Tracking Simpler, More Nimble

By Praecipio Consulting on Sep 26, 2009 11:00:00 AM

Australian-based Atlassian debuts Jira 4 today, October 6.

Atlassian first debuted Jira in 2003 as an innovative issue tracking and project management software. As we mentioned in our previous blog Jira - Complexity Made Simple, Jira is a huge asset in enterprise collaboration. It’s completely permission/Java/web-based, highly customizable, and amazingly simple to use.

The key news about Jira 4? Atlassian has worked hard on integrating Web 2.0 capabilities into its latest version– and appears to be most proud of its new, “dynamic” user interface (UI).

  • Jira 4′s home page will feature “click-and-drag” windows showing content the user chooses. It also includes widgets from other websites like Google. For example, a Jira home page may feature five boxes in three adjustable columns: current issues, priority issues, resolved issues, project folders, and local weather (via Google). These five boxes may now be dragged around to any location on the home screen, and color-coded for organization.
  • Jira 4′s search function has been  ”2.0-ified,” so to speak. Now search results pop up below the search bar after each character you type, much like in the “to” box in most email interfaces. This will likely make the search for a particular issue simpler and more efficient.
  • Jira 4′s Greenhopper plugin adds a broad collection of project management capabilities to Jira– great for development teams. GreenHopper represents issues as color-coded “cards,” sorted with what Atlassian calls “drag-and-drop simplicity”– which we consider a powerful organizational capability.

    We highly recommend Jira for your business’ issue tracking and project management processes. Our team is experienced in implementing and using Jira to its maximum potential. Jira 4′s 2.0 capabilities should make using the software more simpler and efficient than it’s ever been before.

    Would you like more from us? Contact us here.

Topics: jira blog bugs enterprise issues library management services technology tracking collaboration help-desk incident-management information infrastructure it itil
2 min read

All About Release Management...Version 1.0

By Praecipio Consulting on Sep 7, 2009 11:00:00 AM

ITIL’s Release Management process bears a striking resemblance to ITIL Change Management—in fact, one could fairly consider Release Management to be a directly supportive process to Change Management. Release Management focuses on the practical need for organized coordination in the change process. It’s meant to ensure that changes are implemented in accordance to business needs and concurrent IT Service Management processes.

Release Management more specifically applies to changes to a “live” environment—that is, a working software or hardware environment (a word processor, email interface, software application, etc) that’s active, being used internally or externally. Release management protects these live environments by regulating the release of new configuration items; it uses the ITIL framework to control and monitor the flow of upgrades into live environments, where each upgrade is considered a “release.”

To more clearly illustrate this concept, consider these three levels of releases to a live environment—using the fictional email service “Mockingbird Version 1.0″ as an example:

  • Major Releases introduce completely new functions to a service, drastically improving the service’s capabilities. Major Releases advance the version number by a full numerical increment—for example, Mockingbird Version 1.0 advances to Mockingbird Version 2.0.
  • Minor Releases introduce fixes for known problems into the baseline technology of a service. Such changes would reflect themselves numerically by advancing the version number of a service by the first decimal place—for example, Mockingbird Version 2.0 advances to Mockingbird Version 2.1.
  • Emergency Releases introduce quick (and at least temporary) fixes to repair unexpected problems that interrupt critical services. These changes advance a version number by the second decimal place—for example, Mockingbird Version 2.1 advances to Mockingbird Version 2.1.1.

It’s best to consider each release as a separately-deployed part of the service, the progression of which should look like this:

  • Planning
  • Building
  • Testing
  • Deploying

ITIL clearly describes two “levels” of Release Management in its book:

  • Service Design (higher level)
  • Release and Deployment Management (lower level)

The Service Design level should handle the framing and building of the release solution, while ITIL suggests the release project stages listed above should be handled by the lower level and should involve a project team, scope, design, and plan of its own. The Release and Deployment Management level literally drives the solution’s release, but only because of the sound development and planning by the higher level—meaning it is almost impossible to achieve lower level success without a solid understanding of the higher level.

We hope this blog provides you with a basic overview of Release Management. It’s sometimes difficult to explain ITIL concepts without using laymen’s terms– from our experience consulting companies on their use of ITIL, a basic overview is an essential foundation for understanding the application of ITIL principles into your business.

Would you like more from us? Contact us here.

Topics: blog bpm library management process release services technology change information infrastructure it itil
3 min read

The Cost of Quality

By Praecipio Consulting on Aug 24, 2009 11:00:00 AM

The Cost of Quality (COQ) business model describes a method of increasing profits without increasing revenues.

Here’s how it works: COQ increases profit by shrinking business costs. If your business has a 5% profit margin, for example – and you decrease costs by 5% – you’ve doubled your profits. That’s simple enough, but how do you decrease costs?

COQ identifies the importance of shrinking costs without taking the usual cost-cutting measures like not buying everyone’s favorite pens or not stocking refreshments in the break room — the “let’s avoid morale buzz-kills to save a few bucks” approach to increasing profit. Instead, COQ promotes lessening mistakes and increasing business process efficiency.

Companies adopt and tweak COQ to reflect their business goals and in turn their profitability. The model applies to not-for-profit businesses too: budgets are tight; grants, revenues, or contributions may not increase, but the same valuable services need to be delivered with less and less money, right?

COQ is made up of three elements: conformance costs, non-conformance costs, and opportunity costs. We’ll explain these before we explain the rest of what the graphic illustrates:

Conformance Costs

  • Communicate
  • Review
  • Report
  • Status-Check
  • Inspect
  • Train
  • Validate
  • Benchmark
  • Test
  • Prevent
  • Plan
  • Preinstall
  • Check
  • Audit
  • Appraise
  • Survey
  • Evaluate
  • Proofread

Non-Conformance Costs

  • Fix
  • Repair
  • Rework
  • Retrofit
  • Revisit
  • Overstock
  • Re-do
  • Refer
  • Reorganize
  • Scrap
  • Error
  • Constraint
  • Incorrect
  • Excessive
  • Late

Opportunity Costs

  • Under-utilize
  • Cancel
  • Downgrade

Notice these three cost categories are not associated with the cost of producing the output. Materials needed to assemble a product (labor, supplies, etc) are not included. The three elements merely reflect the costs associated with the business process. As we always say, “the profit’s in the process.” The efficiency of your business processes determines your efficiency as a business. If you’re going to maximize your efficiency and profitability, you need a sound understanding of the cost of quality.

Think about it: process is where value is added and where profit is made. Consumers don’t squeeze oranges to make juice anymore. Okay, maybe on rare occasion, but who cuts down trees and processes timber as a raw material to make paper?

The cost of quality is associated with the cost incurred to ensure process outputs (products and services) meet customer requirements. For example, let’s say Company A manufactures pens, a process that takes ten steps to complete. About half of the time, the process works effectively, and high-quality pens are made. The other half of the time, however, is plagued by faulty manufacturing— lackluster execution in the assembly process. As a result, Company A has to keep half of its pens in its shop for a bit longer for fixing/repairing, incurring non-conformance costs. This leads to a lack of consistency. Ultimately, this waste is passed onto the customer with an increased price per unit and/or inferior product— making it more and more difficult to compete.

That’s why COQ’s biggest cost adjustment occurs in reducing non-conformance costs— tightening the process and ensuring customer requirements are met. This may require spending extra money to do some work over again.

Now, to run through the graphic:

  • Conformance costs are important and help ensure a business’ success and stability. when optimizing your business, conformance costs should stay the same or in many cases increase.
  • Non-conformance costs, as we’ve mentioned, need to drop significantly— though you can never expect to be without them, strive to get rid of them.
  • Opportunity cost is the value of the next best choice. It’s the “what could have been.” If a business is suffering from non-conformance costs, the “what could have been,” is higher in the left portion of the graphic, where non-conformance costs are much higher. If a business is succeeding financially, there is little “what could have been,” therefore reducing the opportunity cost.
  • Operating costs are constant. They’re the costs of a business’ building, utilities, licenses, etc— which fluctuate, but not enough to factor into this model.
  • Profit looks like this: $$$. Reducing non-conformance generates more $$$.

So, how do you reduce non-conformance? Remember: the $$$’s are in the process.

Would you like more from us? Contact us here.

Topics: blog bpm business efficiency library management practices predicatability process services technology value continuous-improvement information infrastructure it itil itsm operations
2 min read

SharePoint is as Expensive as You Let It Be

By Praecipio Consulting on Aug 19, 2009 11:00:00 AM

Critics of SharePoint often cite the collaborative software’s cost as its biggest deterrent. But is SharePoint really that expensive?

Only if you let it be. WSS SharePoint can be leveraged affordably from a variety of hosting providers. These providers acquire rights to become a SharePoint reseller and provide accessible SharePoint management at a low cost.

Typically, for example, hosted WSS SharePoint services cost $50/month for about 2GB of storage, a relatively low cost that reflects the hosting provider’s markup. Even with the markup, it’s considerably cheaper than purchasing SharePoint directly from Microsoft. Hosting providers offer various bandwidth and server options to fit their clients’ business needs.

We know this because (spoiler alert) we are a SharePoint hosting provider. From our experience implementing SharePoint, we know that how much you choose to benefit from SharePoint is entirely up to you. You control your own destiny, to put it plainly.

When you compare the cost of SharePoint to that of other collaborative software, you’ll probably find SharePoint’s most affordable options to still be expensive in relation to its competitors. Popular startup companies like Basecamp, which charges between $25 and $50/month for portions of SharePoint services, look a lot better on paper than SharePoint itself.

But it’s important to remember what SharePoint provides. It’s practically a kitchen sink for enterprise collaboration! The truth is, non-Microsoft portals can’t provide the same out-of-the-box integration with Microsoft Office. The majority of established businesses run off Microsoft Office anyway, and were built upon it. You just don’t see many businesses other than start-ups using Google Docs and Open Office.

Additionally, employees and executives from these companies communicate through Windows-based software. Chances are many of their business customers/clients still do do. Most employees have spent years in a Windows mindset. Outlook, Excel, Word, Windows Messenger, and Norton Antivirus have been rooted into their thinking. Additionally, business processes have been developed around Microsoft software. Converting to new software would not only require a complete structural adaption, but a thorough adaption of the minds of employees.

SharePoint is not the perfect collaborative software for anyone. There are a number of “under-the-hood” issues to consider. For companies with a large hardware budget, a high-performance Wide Area Network (WAN), and a budget for consulting, SharePoint would be an excellent way to go. For companies with only a modest hardware budget, decent WAN, but other priorities for bandwidth and no consulting budget, other software may be better. It’s necessary to implement a software that’s most efficient for your financial and practical needs.

To conclude, SharePoint is not as expensive as most think. It’s pricey if you let it be. Typically, the companies who complain most about SharePoint’s costs have not used SharePoint to its full capacity. If you explore the idea of purchasing SharePoint from a hosting provider and have the budget to invest in a SharePoint consultant, you can develop a successful long-term foundation for enterprise collaboration.

Would you like more from us? Contact us here.

Topics: blog business efficiency enterprise sharepoint technology value collaboration information it
1 min read

Why SharePoint? - Considering Your Options

By Praecipio Consulting on Aug 6, 2009 11:00:00 AM

Collaborative software has hugely expanded business’ abilities to communicate, share knowledge, and organize intellectual property. But which collaborative software is the best for your business?

It depends. Has your business been built on Microsoft Windows, and has it run on Office-based applications for years? In this case, SharePoint is likely best. Do the majority of your clients communicate with you using Basecamp? Adopting Basecamp may be best. Is your business Linux-based? MindQuarry would make the most sense here.

After you’ve studied the different kinds of software available, you can apply these questions:

  • Which software is more efficient for my business’ practical/process needs?
  • Which software is more efficient for my business’ financial needs?
  • Which software is most intuitive to the needs and understanding of my employees (or those who will be using the software)?

These questions make up the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what to consider when choosing which collaborative software to adopt. The complexity of the decision, however, illustrates a great point: you need a collaborative software that’s highly customizable to your unique business needs.

Implementing a collaborative software that requires you to adjust your business operations too much is just not a good idea. Example? Implementing software with an interface/organization that’s considerably different than your current interface will require lots of time to get used to. Employee training sessions will take away from productivity, and frustration over the software’s usability will be inevitable. The adjustment in this scenario takes a long time. It also results in a prolonged loss of productivity.

We’re confident that Microsoft SharePoint, accompanied by our expert implementation tactics, is an excellent solution for your business’ unique needs. From our collective experience interacting with clients who use SharePoint, Basecamp, and a number of other collaboration choices, we’ve discovered SharePoint’s seemingly endless ability to be customized.

Managing enterprise information and processes certainly isn’t a trivial exercise. SharePoint configuration work needs to be well-planned and intricately-designed—it certainly can’t be implemented successfully in an ad-hoc fashion. This is why SharePoint consulting, one of our key services, is such a useful tool for implementation.

At Praecipio Consulting, we recognize the magnitude of implementing collaboration software. It’s a huge decision! We want to use our expertise to help your business do it successfully.

Would you like more from us? Contact us here.

Topics: blog business efficiency enterprise sharepoint technology value collaboration information it
2 min read

Turn and Face the Change—with ITIL

By Praecipio Consulting on Jul 21, 2009 11:00:00 AM

As with any aspect of business, great processes and infrastructure do not always stay great—new technologies and customer needs arise all the time, and usually require changes to business procedures. The same is true in the context of IT Service Management, as new IT needs and technologies inevitably arise as time goes by—creating the need for the ITIL discipline of “Change Management.”

ITIL defines the goal of Change Management in the context of IT Service Management as “to ensure that standardized methods and procedures are used for efficient and prompt handling of all changes, in order to minimize the impact of change-related incidents upon service quality, and consequently improve the day-to-day operations of the organization.” If the ITIL language sounds a bit daunting to you, the definition more basically means Change Management is meant to ensure standardized methods and processes are used to implement all changes in a timely manner, and to achieve and maintain a healthy balance between the need for change and the potential impacts changes might have on the business processes they affect—ie predictability. Every change to IT infrastructure must of course be managed and controlled systematically, minimizing the impact of IT services delivered to the customer.

The need to change IT infrastructure may result from problems observed in a business process or from external legislation—or merely from the desire to make a business process more efficient and productive. Once a need is identified and proven, a change may be developed. ITIL’s discipline becomes valuable at this point as a change becomes drafted, documented, and implemented.

ITIL V3 prescribes these seven questions to ask when proposing the implementation of a change—titled the Seven “R’s:”

  • Who raised the change?
  • What is the reason for the change?
  • What is the return required from the change?
  • What are the risks involved in the change?
  • What resources are required to deliver the change?
  • Who is responsible for the build, test and implementation of the change?
  • What is the relationship between this change and other changes?

Other relevant questions to ask when proposing a change may be:

  • What is the cost of the change?
  • What is the timeline for implementing the change?

The leadership team at Praecipio Consulting consists of experts whose job is to implement change for companies based on ITIL. We have helped our clients implement valuable changes to their IT infrastructure, and have a great deal of familiarity with defining good and bad processes by leveraging ITIL best practices. Change Management provides a way of managing and controlling the way changes are initiated, assessed, planned for, scheduled and implemented—Praecipio Consulting offers you the intelligence and support you need to not only guide you through implementing IT Service Management Changes, but also to provide you with a proven model and valuable business direction for a future of changes.

Would you like more from us? Contact us here.

Topics: blog library management predicatability services technology change information infrastructure it itil itsm
2 min read

Incident Management: The Responsible Way to Gold-Star Customer Service

By Praecipio Consulting on Jul 14, 2009 11:00:00 AM

Incident Management is debatably the most important area of IT Service Management because of its direct impact to the Services customers rely on. One of the ITIL disciplines, the focus of Incident Management is to restore services following an incident as quickly as possible—be it a business operations issue or merely an internal or external lack of technical understanding. Incident Management activities, often executed by a Service Desk, include:

  • Discovering details of an incident
  • Matching incidents against known problems
  • Resolving incidents quickly
  • Prioritizing incidents according to their impact and urgency
  • Escalating incidents to other teams when needed to ensure timely resolution

Incident Management is one of the most difficult ITIL disciplines to maintain—operating a Service Desk for anyone struggling with technology can be a daunting task given the consistent learning curves existing as businesses adopt new technologies and optimize old ones. This is why Incident Management should be a big deal to businesses.

ITIL Incident Management aims to minimize disruption to the business by restoring service operation to agreed levels as quickly as possible. The total Incident Life Cycle is described as follows:

  • Occurrence
  • Detection
  • Diagnosis
  • Repair
  • Recovery / Restoration

The above steps of the Incident Life Cycle serve as key data points that, when measured, provide a great deal of value. The intelligence that is derived from these data points helps IT organizations focus and invest their time in those projects and activities that will shrink the Meantime to Recovery (aka Mean Time to Repair). In the event the time it takes to detect an outage is long (Detection Time Stamp minus Occurrence Time Stamp), an IT organization can focus on automating outage detection or increase the ease of reporting issues by clients to the Service Desk. In the event the Diagnosis time (Diagnosis Time Stamp minus Detection Time Stamp) is long, the IT Organization should focus on training, escalation path definition/automation and/or tool sets to ensure IT staff has the adequate means to make an accurate assessment. Without going into more detail, it is clear that a well-defined process like Incident Management can help streamline and shorten the Incident Life Cycle thereby minimizing the Meantime to Recovery.

Incident Management is often the first process instigated when introducing the ITIL-quality framework to a Service Desk, and offers the most immediate and highly visible cost reduction and quality gains. Some brief reasons why you should consider implementing ITIL-based Incident Management:

  • Achieve and maintain impressive levels of customer service
  • Provide outstanding service availability
  • Achieve overall staff efficiency and productivity
  • Significantly improve customer satisfaction

Praecipio Consulting has a proven track record of excellent Incident Management/Service Desk support for its clients, and intentionally aims to minimize disruption to their clients’ business by restoring and applying ITIL framework to incident recording, tracking, and resolution.

Would you like more from us? Contact us here.

Topics: blog library management services technology incident-management information infrastructure it itil itsm
1 min read

CMDBs: The Secret to High IT ROI

By Praecipio Consulting on Jul 9, 2009 11:00:00 AM

Just what is a Configuration Management Database (CMDB)?

For starters, it’s not a database—or, rather, not merely a database. A CMDB is a virtual warehouse holding information from every nook and cranny of an information system. CMDBs show which system components are needed to create efficient business processes. It can be seen as both an encyclopedia of IT services and a DNA map of a business’ IT environment. It’s a decision support tool.

ITIL v2 defined a CMDB as “a database that contains all relevant details of each CI (configuration item) and details of the important relationships between CIs.” ITIL v3 now defines a CMDB as “a database used to store Configuration Records throughout their lifecycle. The Configuration Management System maintains one or more CMDBs, and each CMDB stores attributes of CIs, and relationships with other CIs.”

A product of the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL), CMDBs are important because they align technology with business process. An example of this? It’s common sense that without timely information, bad decisions can be made by the business unintentionally. ITIL-based CMDBs control workflows, and use a workflow to manage and collect process metrics and present them logically and accurately.

While there are many variations of CMDB workflows, five common high-level steps include:

  • Identification: To put it simply, “identifying” IT components and their inclusion in the CMDB.
  • Status: Recording of the status of all CIs in the CMDB, and keeping them updated.
  • Control: The management of CIs, indicating who is authorized to ‘change’ each one.
  • Status: Recording of the status of all CIs in the CMDB, and keeping them updated.
  • Verification: Reviewing data to make sure the CMDB is accurate and timely.

A properly implemented CMDB system can save an enterprise quite a bit of cash. There are, however, some direct overhead costs associated with the data capture process itself. The CMDB’s ROI will depend on the quality and reusability of the data it monitors, company size, and business strategy.

The CMDB bottom line: the more automated and consistent asset management methodologies become, the higher the ROI will climb. CMDBs allow businesses to become more efficient internally and more effective in their market.

Would you like more from us? Contact us here.

Topics: blog automation bpm business efficiency library management practices process technology value continuous-improvement information infrastructure it itil lifecycle operations
1 min read

Implementing Cost-Effective IT Operations: Our Methods, Your Results

By Praecipio Consulting on Jun 23, 2009 11:00:00 AM

The Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) is a comprehensive documentation of best practices in IT Service Management; the library consists of a compilation of texts providing guidance for the successful delivery of IT services. ITIL was developed due to business organization’s growing dependency on IT.

This dependency comes as organizations are implementing the use of innovative information technologies to simplify and speed-up business processes ultimately lowering costs—dramatically increasing the need for high-quality IT services. We provide a well-designed implementation framework for the delivery of operations improvements and initiatives based on ITIL best practices. We’ll help you go from ITIL theory to the practice of implementing an IT Service Management Solution.

Our steps:

  • Assessment – Define and prioritize
  • IT Management Strategy – Determine current and future needs
  • Service portfolio definition – Catalog and understand services
  • Solution design – Ensure integrated approach solves problems
  • Solution deployment – Deliver, transfer and transition

Your results:

  • IT-Business Alignment
  • Cost savings
  • Operational Excellence and Maturity
  • Maximized ROI on Business’ Investments in IT
  • Predictability

We love helping others—especially with IT.

Would you like more from us? Contact us here.

Topics: blog library management practices services technology continuous-improvement information infrastructure it itil operations
2 min read

ITIL: An Overview

By Praecipio Consulting on Apr 2, 2009 11:00:00 AM

The Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) is currently the best (and only) comprehensive documentation of IT Service Management best practices.

The library is made up of a series of books which thoroughly explain (in really, really big laymen’s terms) what quality IT services should look like. The books describe how IT services should operate—as well as what base structure and functionality an organization needs to be able to effectively support IT.

Thousands of companies around the world have adopted an ITIL philosophy from the library, which clearly defines the organizational structure and skills requirements for an IT organization. ITIL theory works. The library’s standard operational management procedures and practices allow the organization to effectively manage an IT operation. The operational procedures and practices apply to all aspects within the IT Infrastructure.

The major disciplines (main focuses applicable to IT service providers) of ITIL are as follows:

  • Service Desk (Help Desk)
  • Incident Management
  • Problem Management
  • Change Management
  • Release Management (Software Control and Distribution)
  • Configuration Management
  • Service Level Management
  • Capacity Management
  • Continuity Management (Contingency Planning)
  • Availability Management
  • Financial Management (Cost Management for IT Services)

While these terms are probably familiar to most ITIL personnel, the formal explanation ITIL gives these disciplines is typically far beyond the level of sophistication in the majority of IT organizations. Additionally, the specificities and separation of IT tasks within each of these ITIL support disciplines are considerably more defined than those which most companies have implemented in the past. The distinction between “incidents” and “problems,” for example, is something companies still do not usually recognize—whereas ITIL clearly defines the two terms as separate disciplines with their own unique set of processes.

An incident is active only until service is restored; a problem continues to be active until appropriate outputs/remedies are created and implemented. Incidents and problems are therefore not synonymous—instead incidents, problems, and changes have thorough relations with each other.

The “library” itself continues to evolve. ITILv3, the library’s third edition, was released in May 2007 and includes five distinct volumes: ITIL Service Strategy, ITIL Service Design, ITIL Service Transition, ITIL Service Operation, and ITIL Continual Service Improvement. The volumes can be purchased from their publisher, TSO Books.

ITIL is a framework. Praecipio Consulting has qualified ITIL-certified consultants with the experience, intelligence, and innovative ability to help your company implement ITIL confidently and effectively. Understanding ITIL can be difficult; if this is the first content you’re reading about it, you’ll probably agree. We wish to implement ITIL in a manner that makes the most sense for our clients’ business models. As the de facto standard and model for IT Service Management, ITIL not only enables businesses to run more efficiently and reliably—it also helps IT managers reduce incurred costs associated with IT Service Delivery.

If you’re curious, ITIL was originally created by the Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency (CCTA) with the sponsorship of the British government, and is a registered trademark of the UK Government’s Office of Government Commerce (usually known as the OGC).

Would you like more from us? Contact us here.

Topics: blog library management services technology change information infrastructure it itil itsm

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