As a Service, Dharma Hacker, Sense Making

Zen and the right view of cloud technologies

On the path to the cloud, just as in life (as the Buddha would have us understand), one must submit our most cherished assumptions to rigorous questioning. We would make better decisions if we were clearer about the foundations of our own thinking. Cloud technology is a vast subject and this post tackles just a few assumptions, in the spirit of the DharmaHacker.

I am not presuming to have all the right views by any means and this post is also not going to tackle all aspects of this vast subject. Just the right few based on some recent conversations 😁

Firstly there are three clouds to speak of and I will focus mainly on the one that is normally atop a pyramid or stack: Software as a Service. The other two are Platform as a Service and Infrastructure as a Service.

Do a search for more on this because there are many good views but I like this one from Giva because of its simplicity and my sympathy with their philosophy, notwithstanding the fact they accredit Rackspace with the original definition. For the sake of easy reference I’ve pasted it below:

SaaS is on the top of the stack because users interact primarily with software hosted on the cloud, and not the platform or infrastructure on which it runs. PaaS allows users to create and deploy applications. IaaS is simply the infrastructure and hardware that powers the cloud.

It also serves to make an important point I often emphasis with colleagues at the moment.

Where I work (Microsoft) there is a huge transformation underway on our journey to the cloud. There is much emphasis on our ever expanding set of cloud services that form part of Azure at Microsoft. Microsoft 365, the productivity cloud that fits into the top SaaS tier where I focus, sometimes gets short shrift because of the drive to expand usage of the underlying tiers.

I often emphasise the point made in the Rackspace definition about users.

It’s the users, stupid

Not only that, it’s the business. I don’t mean to underplay the importance of getting the foundational tiers up and running and operational for customers. This has to be properly in place.

But it is in the top tier where users are active and driving business outcomes that matter most. Whether on a pre-existing SaaS platform or on applications developed on top of the foundational tiers, you have to be focusing on what users are using, why and to what end. Everything else is secondary. Most importantly, this use in the top tier also drives use in the others.

And even when use is by a thing, as in IoT, it is still about who is using the output of all data generated in the IoT activity and to what business end is it being put that matters.

How SaaS works

A separate view I have to address is based on another conversation I had. It was in relation to digital transformation and the role parts of the business need to take in making it successful, like HR. It was also about using SaaS platforms to support the transformation and the role they played. A quote from an article was used to kickstart the conversation with someone from HR – article here, quote below: Digital Transformation is a Workforce Transformation and HR Must Assume a Leadership Role.

For digital transformation to succeed, internal processes need to follow the customer experience, not the other way around. This often results in radical changes such as the dismantling of processes and functional roles, as well as the demand for new skills and capabilities to meet evolving customer demands.

Based on the persons recent experience, their view was that:

HR processes have to squeeze into the new software configuration that due to high configuration costs can’t be modified to fit the desired process. Through implementation it becomes the tail wagging dog”.

My response, verbatim:

Firstly, in terms of the customer experience and internal processes referred to in the article, I see it as a cyclical process – captured in a doodle below.

“Then I think with cloud software (as a service) where you don’t run the software yourself, configuration (strictly speaking, its customisation) is not possible because all customers use the same version. This is opposed to when you ran an own version of the software on premise and could customise it to your hearts content to meet desired processes. That was costly and not just due to customisation effort.

The value in the cloud SaaS model is that you benefit from the feedback of many customers in frequently released versions of the software, with new features that meet the needs of most customers. Innovation can be focused on by applying technology to meet the majority of evolving business needs, instead of focusing on highly specialised solutions that take a long time to build and are costly to maintain and upgrade.

Not all clouds are viewed equally it seems. Let’s hope all generally end up with a silver lining though, whatever your view.

Future of Work, Sense Making

Half life of information and necessary rate of learning

I’ve just recently completed a series of certifications and learning modules for work. This is in addition to the training we have to do every year. It’s a lot of learning and pretty challenging alongside your day job.

That’s the point. It’s part of Microsoft’s (where I work) emphasis on a growth mindset since it focuses on the way you relate your sense of self to a challenge. My sense of self has risen immeasurably since taking on the challenge I can tell you and I am relishing it even more as I move forward.

The growth mindset theory popularised by Carol Dweck encompasses many aspects in addition to how you tackle challenges. One of them is the belief that your abilities can be developed, through learning for example (as long as you have a growth mindset).

Continuous learning is especially critical in an age of tech intensity which Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella also believes we are in, as I wrote about here: Tech Intensity and the Adaptive Organisation.

Learning refresh cycles

So coming full circle to my doodle. If continuous learning is the order of the day, how long before your past learning becomes redundant?

I caught myself in self congratulatory mode after finishing my recent certification thinking I couldn’t get too comfortable in the knowledge my learning was done for that subject.

A great piece on the theory of the half life of information ponders what the current rate of decay of knowledge is.

With my recent certification which was on Azure Fundamentals, I was pretty sure that things were changing so fast, I’d have to relearn things in less than a year.

My doodle posits that a year is the average time it takes for knowledge to be made redundant and then new learning needs to kick in. Of course this will vary by subject and industry.

What do you think?

As a Service, Customer Success, Sense Making

The product customer success cycle

This DanelDoodle pretty much speaks for itself but just a few added notes. The feedback loop is the critical element for success (aside from the obvious one – the customer/user being at the centre of everything).

A good feedback loop is not an easy thing to build so the simplicity of the diagram belies the effort. Feedback loops should incorporate many things, the most impart being, in summary:

  1. A good reporting interface into how customers and users are using the product that both product development and customer success teams have access to and share insights from in terms of how outcomes can be improved. This should include both quantitative data as well as qualitative, e.g. survey responses.
  2. A feedback loop between customer success teams and product development teams where the former bring field insights to the latter and these influence new feature development. Conversely, new feature ideas can be shared by product development teams and discussed with customer success teams before they are developed further. A good collaboration system will help with this.
  3. A similar reporting interface as above for the customer (those responsible for end users) so they gain insights into how the product/s are being used. This should include an element that allows the customer to build their own reports and feedback loops which I have hacked solutions around (covered here and here).
Future of Work

Tech Intensity and the Adaptive Organisation

Tech Intensity is not my phrase or concept, it comes from the CEO of the company I work for, Microsoft – Satya Nadella first wrote about it here earlier this year: The necessity of tech intensity in today’s digital world.

I have written about it before in the context of agility and speed as it is implicit in all the technology adoption work I do, indeed in Tech Intensity: Agile in nature not just by name.

In that last post I wrote in the video there was a graphic which is similar to the one above but in this one I wanted to simplify and call out the role of IT specifically.

Essentially the graphics main statement is as follows:

The pace of technology change which is exponential will never be matched by slower moving logarithmic organisations. But everyone in the organisation, especially IT departments who’s traditional role is to manage technology adoption, need to get behind technology adoption that strives to narrow the gap to at worst, remain competitive. At best, adaptive organisations close the gap and compete better.

I’m calling the role of IT out because of the two different kinds of IT organisations and mindsets I often encounter in my work. Those that inhibit and those that enable. Here are some differences between the two:

Inhibitors

  1. See themselves as the only arbiters of technology decision making and adoption.
  2. Under the pretext of IT governance, everything is locked down.
  3. See business / user technology decision making as an existential threat to their roles.
  4. Think the technology adoption cycle still works in months and years.
  5. Act with vendors as gatekeepers to the business and users.
  6. Believe that value outcomes should be measured in IT terms.

Enablers

  1. Understand that the business and users are who ultimately should inform decision making.
  2. Have a strong governance program in place that is flexible.
  3. Understand that enabling the business and users in decision making is a valuable role.
  4. Understand tech intensity and that speed of adoption now works in weeks.
  5. Work closely with vendors to empower and educate business and users.
  6. Believe that value outcomes can only be measured in business terms.
Customer Success

Customer Success Influencers

Not much elaboration needed but a few words just to be clear about what I am saying in this doodle:

  • These three elements of product, service and strategy are the biggest (but not only) influencers on the success enterprise customers have with the use of their technology. For instance I believe the sales process and what is promised has a huge impact too but not for this list.
  • I’m indicating with the size of the circles which ones I believe have the most influence.
  • The pull and push points relate to the nature of the influence on the use and ultimate success of the technology.
  • I think most of the items listed in each area are clear enough but if you are not on the job to be done point I added a link to a good explanation. And on professional services, by these I generally mean paid for services delivered by the vendor or partners and could include things like change management, training, etc.
Dharma Hacker, Sense Making

Homo Deus and the cosmic dance between humans, mind and machine

I’ve just come back from holiday where I read Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari.

It focuses on many things and chiefly the direction is forward looking, as opposed to his first book, Homo Sapiens, which looked backward from whence we have come.

One aspect I was fascinated by was his account of the recognised decoupling of consciousness and intelligence and how this might play out in the future given the rise of “machines” and their impact on humans.

With machines and technology getting bad press of late, I thought it would be useful to highlight the positives that I see.

It’s very much in line with my take on Dharma Hacking – more below.

I created a #daneldoodle of course, to summarise my thinking. Here it is:

And some added notes to elaborate:

Why the Dharma Hacking in the title? There is more here on what it is but essentially it is based on the the interplay between humans finding our way, developing our mental capacity (especially consciousness) and using technology to help.

We have only just scratched the surface in terms of expanding our known mental states and utilising our super consciousness.

Technology, far from being the bogey man that it currently is, can greatly help us get there.

It plays its role (intelligence), we play ours (consciousness), in a unique cosmic dance of creativity.

In this past post (The post robotic AI age and the role of creativity and innovation) I think I was somewhat deluded in my belief of what will distinguish humans based on their unique skills in the future. Intelligent technology will be able to master these skills and are already (see next point) but it will be advanced levels of consciousness (super consciousness) that will be our unique differentiators.

AI and Super AI is already doing credibly well with being creative and innovative. Check out the comments in this video I uploaded a while ago of famed theoretical physicist and futurist, Michio Kaku (you’ll need to view the video on YouTube for that). He also it appears, was deluded.

How technology will help us develop our consciousness and to what ends is outlined in some of the elements I position in the doodle. Essentially it is between the island on which we currently find ourselves with our known mental states and the antipodes of the mind as I call them. I’m not sure what these supporting roles and end states all are yet but I will be exploring further – watch this space 😊

Future of Work, Sense Making

Thought Rocket: State of Enterprise Collaboration

As the title of this post suggests, this is a very quick thought on the state of enterprise collaboration, mostly captured in the form of a DanelDoodle – the one above. Some added thoughts/considerations:

  • In my view, each new phase supplements the last, not replaces and all products and forms of activity still exist and have a place today. But there is a natural, progressive emphasis.
  • There are many other products, I have just highlighted the major ones, no offence to the ones I left out 😁
  • The penetration & value axis is wildly subjective and not intended to be accurate. Also because it conflates two characteristics it will be difficult to judge accurately. It’s just a stab at plotting what’s important.
Sense Making

Internet Trends and the impact on As a Service

Mary Meeker is famous for the insight of her Internet Trend Reports so of course I read them. Two slides stood out in relation to the trend I am tracking and the report I am working on. I captured my views with some annotations.