Earlier this month our CEO, Mik Kersten, studied the tea leaves to provide five predictions for the software industry over the coming decade – but what about the more immediate future?
A lot happened in 2018, for both Tasktop and the wider industry, not to mention the geopolitical landscape (but we won’t go into that right now). So what can the last year tell us about the forthcoming 12-18 months?
We peered into the swirling shadowy abyss of Tasktop’s fabled crystal ball to see what’s in store for the industry in 2019…
1. The Project to Product revolution ramps up
If you were at DevOps Enterprise Summit 2018 (Las Vegas, October 2018), it was clear that the ‘Project to Product’ movement – nay, revolution – was in full swing. Established enterprises are realizing that the traditional project management approach to software delivery is fundamentally broken. Worn out concepts, such as fixed start and end dates, annual budget cycles and shelf-life teams, are widening the divide between IT and the business.
To deliver more business value faster through software, organizations must stop treating IT as a cost centre and move to a product-centric mindset to improve business outcomes (such as new revenues, customer satisfaction, reduced risk and employee happiness). This transition is built around the idea of funding (on a rolling-basis) dedicated product teams who are committed to fixing a business problem and/or addressing a customer’s needs and desires throughout the lifecycle of a software product.
By tying software products to tangible business outcomes, the business and enterprise IT can develop a more dynamic collaboration to master software delivery, the main means of production in this technological era, to survive and thrive in the Age of Digital Disruption. You can read more on the topic in our CEO Mik Kersten’s book, Project to Product, which was launched in November 2018. Mik has also written a series of articles around the genesis and main themes of the best-selling book.
2. The Flow Framework™
In writing Project to Product, Mik devised a whole new approach to managing large-scale software delivery by connecting business-level frameworks and transformation initiatives with technical practices such as Agile, DevOps, and SAFe.
Many established organizations are struggling to accelerate the time to value of their software products to compete with nimble digital-natives and startups. Despite clear benefits at a localized “team” level, these technical practices – as well as new tooling and investment in staffing – are failing to make a clear “business” impact at an enterprise level. As a result, the industry is crying out for something that deeply understands both “worlds”…enter the Flow Framework™.
Traditional enterprises, institutions and agencies now have a means to connect and correlate IT investments with the bottom line and span the language of the “two sides”. The Flow Framework™ is a core component of the Project to Product concept, focusing on the three ways of DevOps – flow, feedback and continuous learning – to help organizations to obtain the required visibility to deftly execute a successful digital transformation with agility and guile.
3. Next steps for Value Stream Management
“Wherever there is a product for a customer, there is a value stream.” – Mike Rother and John Shook, Learning to See: Value Stream Mapping to Add Value and Eliminate Muda
“If you can describe what you are doing a process, you don’t know what you’re doing.” – W. Edwards Deming
Traditional enterprises should consider adopting the above statements as mantras. In 2018, Value Stream Management (VSM) broke out from playing indie clubs and took over the airwaves – with Forrester publishing two reports on the emerging VSM market (click images below to download).
VSM arrives at a time when CIOs and other IT leaders are no longer concentrating on how fast they can deliver software, but how much business value they can continuously deliver at speed. This significant shift in mindset means that technology execs are looking more closely at how value flows across the software delivery process.
They’re looking for a holistic way to connect and measure all end-to-end activities undertaken for a specific product or service to provide greater customer experiences. One of the biggest realizations over the last 12 months was that the speed and productivity benefits of Agile and DevOps tend to remain localized and contained within the teams in the “build and deploy” stage – but what about everything that happens before and after that impacts a product’s delivery?
In 2019, we’re expecting to see many organizations begin to connect their value streams, piece by piece, from ideation to operation and back through the customer feedback loop. By identifying and connecting the integration pattern(s) in their value streams, they can begin to see and trace work (business value) as it moves from one stage to the next. Through this approach they can quickly remove bottlenecks and take advantage of opportunities for optimization, dramatically improving their business responsiveness to unpredictable market demand.
4. Finance, security and legal recognized as value creators
When connecting your value stream, it would be foolhardy to only focus on the “traditional” teams within a product’s lifecycle (such as sales, product, business analysts, project managers/PMO, developers, testers, operations and so on). What about the folk who fund a project and ensure it’s kosher?
At this year’s DevOps Enterprise Summit, Gene Kim spoke about “taking risks – but safer and with more predictable outcomes”. Key to playing it safe – in a time where security breaches are rife – is bringing legal, security and finance to the table to support product design and your go-to-market strategy.
Doing business in 2019 isn’t easy. Your legal, finance and security advisors, however, can greatly help you navigate the increasing complexity of today’s commerce. Far from being obstructionist, these teams can actually save you time, sharpen your competitive edge and add value to your product. It’s no surprise that global brands like Nike are participating in conference presentations with both digital personnel and legal on the stage.
In the multifunctional world of software delivery, these multidimensional teams can be trusted advisors during key stages of the value stream. For example, if a product design requires the processing of personal information, you get bet your bottom dollar that legal knows how best to help you accelerate you customer’s regulatory checks.
So often unforeseen legal or financial bottlenecks (internal and external) rear their ugly heads because of a lack of one source of truth into the required documentation. We know of wait states being prolonged by as long as 10 weeks(!) because of missing information. In the rapid world of software delivery, this is unacceptable.
By working with legal and finance, you can ensure you have all your ducks in line from the beginning. You can efficiently create a safe legal and financial framework that will bolster the development of product and business roadmap, both now and in the future. To quote our Corporate Counsel, Veer Siddiqui: “All roads lead to Rome – and legal and finance are Rome!” He explains that “a tremendous amounts of information from across the business flows through these teams, and they can be fountains of knowledge, with insight into all areas of the business. Leverage that knowledge to improve the speed, quality and validity of your software products.”
5. Refocusing on Ops
“There’s a lot of life after deployment!” Damon Edwards, Rundeck
Agile, Lean, flow, fast feedback – a lot of focus has been applied to the “Dev” side of “DevOps”, but what about “Ops”? While the relationship between Ops and Dev/Product is more important than ever, reflecting the popularity of the DevOps culture, Ops need some TLC and attention.
As Damon Edwards pointed out at DOES 2018, ITIL was the last “intellectual movement” for Ops teams. He went on to underline a dire need for balance, arguing that Ops are being squeezed from both the digital side and the business side. While the former is all action and rapidly churning out sparkly new features, the business side is – unsurprisingly – preoccupied with security breaches and “staying out of the news”. Moreover, when a sexy new product or feature is a hit with a customer, who tends to get all the praise…?
Ops’ omniscient view of an organization, their broad skillset and extensive knowledge of the customer, combined with their deep understanding of what a successful deployment looks like, increases the ongoing business value of product over its lifespan.
Ops are perpetually understaffed, undervalued and “always to blame”. We’re expecting a change in mentality, as Ops is pulled in tighter into the ideation and creation stages of the value stream to improve their end-to-end view and control of a product’s delivery (and the value is delivers to the end user). It also ensures any issues are being found much earlier in the lifecycle (perhaps minutes after a code commit) and can be addressed by the development team much more quickly.
Expect growth as cloud adoption increases and tools require automation and maintenance, requiring the trained staff to oversee operations (new technology doesn’t necessarily mean less people!), which creates its own unique set of challenges.
The Ops skillset is becoming increasingly specialized and it is increasingly difficult to have cross functional teams that also perform operations work. The Ops team is always constantly learning; unlike Development teams who can live in Java for 20 years, Ops must master new technologies ASAP and be willing to adapt constantly to the fast-changing landscape.
6. Machine Learning Breaks Into Mainstream
No longer the plaything of internet unicorns, machine learning is serious business as organizations seek to drive efficiency by minimizing human interaction. A 2018 study by O’Reilly into the practice surveyed 11,000 organizations found:
- 35 percent were early adopters (2+ years)
- 15 percent were sophisticated (5+ years)
- 49 percent exploring adoption
Beyond the obvious and tempting efficiency gains, there is huge creative potential for machine learning, AI and big data to create innovative products to solve complex and technical problems. From Barbie dolls that can listen and respond to children to encourage and improve their speaking ability, to GE Power’s “internet of energy” that enables the company to predict maintenance and power as its moves to a “digital power plant”, the immense potential of machine learning is constantly awe-inspiring.
Meanwhile, our VP of Product Engineering, Nicole Bryan, participated in a woman hackathon that focused on using machine learning to do good in the world, help improve and save lives, and even make home-cooking easier.
Other ideas included applying machine learning to help fire departments predict what kind of calls they would get based on what type of large scale disaster/event has occurred; to parse conversations on things like Slack to be able to identify “angry” conversations; and help understand why reviews for a company product were positive or negative.
7. Treating risk and debt as business metrics
Google+, Facebook, Ticketfly, British Airways, T-Mobile – who didn’t get hacked in 2018? Security and risk management continue to be major business priority. No business executive wants to end up like Mark Zuckerberg or Richard Smith (Equifax CEO) and be interrogated by Congress (even if their ignorant questions were, at the best of times, awkwardly reminiscent of my sweet grandmother’s ongoing battle with Whatsapp).
Managing this risk, however, is a key part of any high quality product value stream – as is paying down technical debt (as Nokia will attest after losing the mobile phone market they helped create). You can read more on Nokia’s downfall in Project to Product.
In serving as a translator between the business and the technologists, the Flow Framework™ defines four key flow items – features (business value), defects (quality), risk (security, governance, compliance) and debt (removal of impediments to future delivery) – that represent value that the customer pulls.
Over the next year, we hope to see IT and business leader working together to understand and visualize these flow items in order to make informed, and critical, business decisions to prioritize and improve the flow of business value across their respective product value streams.
8. Making Work Visible
How do you fix a problem you can’t see? When it’s all said and done, the enterprise software delivery process is implicit – essentially “invisible work” – existing through knowledge-sharing and a trail of communication that is ongoing in real-time (until the end of the product’s life).
To that end, it’s paramount to make work visible. Being able to see how work flows helps organizations discover where their bottlenecks are. Visualizing where work is stuck provokes conversations on how specialists can better manage conflicting priorities and dependencies to improve team and cross-organization productivity, as well as improve the well-being and motivation of individuals too.
Visibility is achieved through setting up a workflow system that explicitly shows how work flows. Through this you can measure and manage flow, limit WIP, prioritize better and identify activities that steal time and impede acceleration.
9. Proactively focusing on burnout and job stress
Burnout is finally getting the attention it deserves. Dr. Christina Maslach presented her research on burnout and job stress in her DOES Vegas talk “Understanding Job Burnout”. The number of employees inflicted with work-related burnout and chronic depression is increasing – especially for people with a passion for solving problems, such as in healthcare, social justice and IT. No matter how hard we work, we never get enough done. The price people pay is high in health problems and loss of self-worth.
This year, we expect enterprises to implement workplace burnout interventions which include a supportive work community, choice & control, and something critical for employee happiness – a sustainable workload. High utilization levels don’t enhance productivity or the bottom line. When people are loaded to maximum capacity, it opens the doors to more dependencies, more interruptions, and more conflicting priorities. With a sustainable workload, people can get a sense of focus, flow and joy from creating and finishing something important – a job well done does wonders for self-worth and the bottom line.
W.Edwards Deming noted that “every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets”. This implies that in order to get results such as accelerating the flow of business value (which needs to become an IT mantra), it is necessary to treat your delivery pipeline as a product and architect it for speed.
To achieve this, it is necessary to identify and mitigate wait states for services which might be done by centralized teams that have SLAs associated with them. This is typically areas such as performance and security testing, database changes, change approvals and infrastructure provisioning. Utilizing automation and self-service concepts (for at least the routine “80/20” cases) can allow the team to be in control of these activities.
Another wait state occurs when a team requires development work (e.g. the development of a service) from another team. This is where inner-sourcing can be very powerful by utilizing the power of GIT via tools like GitHub/GitLabs to allow teams to make needed changes and issue pull requests to have them approved by the owner of the code base.
Application of self-service, automation and open source practices are powerful ways to allow teams to become more self-sufficient which not only accelerates the delivery of business value but also improves team happiness and productivity.
Agree? Disagree? Think we’ve missed anything? Let us know below!