Executive Exchange: Leading in the era of hyper connectivity with Thomas Koulopoulus

header_text_exec_1170“Expunge IT from our vocabulary. It is not separate from the business,” said author and Red Hat Executive Exchange speaker, Thomas Koulopoulus. “It is the business, damn it.”

That’s the way Koulopoulus ended his talk with executives attending the one-day conference in San Francisco on Tuesday. Everything that came before built the case for us to completely rethink our approach to IT.

He doesn’t subscribe to the notion that everything that can be invented has been invented. “We’re not even close,” Koulopoulus said. “But we behave as though the best stuff has already been invented.” And we create generational chasms to help justify why we aren’t keeping up. Generation X. Millennials. Baby boomers. He believes these titles were created as a way for us to excuse ourselves from adapting to a rapidly changing world.


So, if you had to choose a word that best defines our ability to reshape society, technology, and business over the past 200 years, war would it be? Attendees guessed “information,” “democracy,” “capitalism,” and the Internet. And what is the word that defines the greatest CHALLENGE to innovation? Guesses included ubiquity, focus, communication, intelligence. Koulopoulus suggested that 1 word works for both: connections.

“This is what makes us different that Socrates and Plato,” he said. “[Connections] are fundamentally what has changed the human experience more than anything else.” So how are we connecting, and how will our connections change us in the future? No one can predict the future (except sci-fi writers), he said. (See this AT&T ad for proof.) But the velocity at which we’re creating new technology, and the sheer amount of people on the planet (who are living longer) means we are on a path of imminent change.

How are we connecting?

  • In 1800, the global population reached 1 billion people for the first time
  • We are projected to have 10 billion people at 2080
  • It is estimated that by 2020 we will have 2.8 trillion machine (or computer-based) connections

The confluence of machine, data, and human connections is creating a new form of intelligence. Cloud is becoming an intelligent organism. And we’re surrounded by sensors in our cars, home, in stores, and in cities. A virtual tsunami of information is coming at us. “The number of grains of sand in the world is less than 1% of the data we will have in 2100,” Koulopoulus said.


It’s only natural that we have a hard time processing big numbers like this. And in his upcoming book <<http://www.tkspeaks.com/>>, The Gen Z Effect: How the Hyperconnected Generation is Changing Business Forever, he explores how younger folks will look at business entirely differently than we do. For example, to them, IT isn’t a separate department from the business—it IS the business. Kids don’t get “aloneness,” he said. They are always connected to their friends in different ways. As his son told him when Koulopoulos told him to go outside and play instead of playing video games: “Dad, this [game] is my cup-de-sac.”

But blaming behaviors on a title like “millennial” is a mistake. “You have a set of behaviors that define what it means to be a part of a new society,” he said. “If you do adopt these behaviors then you become a functioning member of the new society. If you don’t, you’re disconnected. ‘Gen Z’ is just a set of behaviors we decide to take on.” If you’ve read Sherry Turkle’s book, Alone Together: Why we expect more from technology and less from each other, you know that our interactions with technology are at an early stage, and we have control over our future—if we choose to take it.


So how to we boldly go into the future knowing what we know is waiting for is this chaotic and overwhelming? Koulopoulus suggests that we can’t try and go directly into the future, rather we can take the techie path—a twisty, windy path with many diversions and turns. Or we can skip some steps like our grandparents did with iPads. They didn’t dabble on Commodore computers with us. They used typewriters, then slingshotted to an iPad and they’re texting us.

The connections we talked about earlier are shaping tomorrow’s trends. “We will invent highly personalized communities that are hyper local and hyper global at the same time,” he said. And we’ll trade on behavior. We’ll have deep, predictive knowledge of immensely complex systems.

Another prediction is that transparency will apply to business and government. Transparency creates an understanding of behavior, and so do technology and data. So the threat is to live with transparency while providing security. Your reaction times are shortened, and the amount of data you have access to is radically bigger. “The threat is never where you look for it,” he said.


Those in IT and marketing are swimming in the rip currents, Koulopoulos said. And the frustration we feel as CIOs and leaders of IT is that we’re treading water. Just don’t get stuck

“You can’t use the patterns of the past to navigate the future,” he said. “Our role is as leaders—not just a catalyst. Business people won’t truly understand the power available or the quagmire. You are the leaders. Your job is to get a seat at the table. If you can’t, you’ll get commoditized.”

Find any model and any business where the innovation hasn’t been foundational for that industry and has been built and supported on the bedrock of IT.

“You are the innovators,” he said. “If you’re still thinking, ‘But I’m not,’ that has to be your mission. If you don’t do it, data scientists will. They are not IT they’re business folks. That’s a huge threat.”

  • Move from product ownership to strategy and service organization
  • We are missing the predictive view. Operations looks at dashboards, and business analysts look through the rear-view mirror, he said. So who’s looking through the windshield? It should do that. Change the way things are done and choose the behaviors you want to adopt.
  • What is IT? That’s the question.

As for Koulopoulos, “I look forward to that day when I say, ‘I want to get off the train.’ The world will look different to me then. Completely unrecognizable.”


Event: Red Hat Executive Exchange
Date: Tue, April 15, 2014

Executive Exchange: Why every business and executive needs DevOps now: My 15-year journey studying high-performance IT organizations

header_text_exec_1170In a game of charades, if you were asked to describe IT innovation with two syllables, you’d be right if you guessed either DevOps or Gene Kim. Kim is an author and speaker, and he describes his work bringing developers and IT operations together as a “moral crusade.” He is singularly focused on preventing the signs of the downward spiral of IT: breaking promises, and lengthening deployment times.

And that starts with unifying developers and IT operations team. And that’s not easy.

Kim describes the differences between developers and operations like a true Trekkie:

Developers are Spock: A little bit weird, sits closer to the boss, thinks too hard
Operations are Scotty: Pulls levers and turns knobs, easily excited, yells a lot in emergencies.

The opportunity cost of wasted IT efforts is, Kim says, approximately $2.5 trillion/year. That’s why he co-wrote the book The Phoenix Project: A novel about IT, DevOps, and helping your business win. Kim believes the next surge of productivity will come from applying manufacturing’s lean principles to the IT value stream.

The characteristics of the “downward spiral” Kim described might sound familiar. The first is the backlog of promises make when, say, product managers take what one Red Hat Summit Executive Exchange attendee called the “PowerPoint over the wall” approach, and request new projects. Our fragile infrastructure breaks, causing an outage. (Kim’s joke: “Show me a developer who’s not causing an outage, and I’ll show you one who’s on vacation.”) When we break promises, we tend to then over-promise, and end up with what Kim calls “technical debt.” This is an accumulation of “crap” in a datacenter that accrues—and “we’ll fix it when we have time,” Kim said.

Kim’s second downward spiral characteristic: deployments take longer. When operations and developers are at war, we can’t be agile and nimble. There are too many steps to completion. And operations can get mired in unplanned work with whittling away at all that technical debt its accrued.

Everyone loses. And IT becomes order takers.

There is a better way. Companies like Google, Amazon, Netflix, Spottily, Spottily, Twitter, and Facebook have all succeeded at DevOps–and created competitive advantage. They’re prolific. And they’ve found a way to escape what slower IT departments risk: irrelevance.

In 2009, 10 deploys a day was fast. Today, Amazon deploys once every 11.6 seconds. “Winning in the marketplace involves out experimenting the competition,” Kim said.

Kim quoted Intuit founder Scott Cook. “By installing a rampant innovation culture, they now do 165 experiments in the three months of tax season,” Cook said. “Business result? Conversion rate of the website is up 50%. Employee result? The folks just love it, because now their ideas can make it to market.”

He also shared some stats on why companies from many different verticals are adopting a DevOps workflow:

  • They’re more agile
  • 30x more frequent deployments
  • 8,000x faster lead time than peers
  • They’re more reliable
  • 2x the change success rate
  • 12x faster MTTR (mean time to recover)

As a student of efficiency and better workflow management, Kim has identified three characteristics of DevOps:

Flow – This measures deployments per day versus lead time. Rudolph finds that long lead time leads to catastrophic deployment mistakes. That’s why he suggests operations provide environments on demand so anyone who wants one can get one—which is why PaaS [Platform-as-a-Service] is so important. Developing code in production-like environment lessens the risk of deployment errors and business risks. The highest performing IT departments have two characteristics: 89% are using both infrastructure version control and automated code deployments. Flow bottlenecks include environment creation, code deployment, test setup and run, overly tight architecture, development, product management.

Feedback – On the assembly line at Toyota, there’s an “andon” cord anyone can pull to stop production to solve a problem. It’s pulled 3,500 times a day. It’s the only way they can build 2,000 vehicles a day. So many stops and starts might seem disruptive, but it prevents the technical debt from building up. If it goes downstream, we can’t overcome it, Rudolph said. And he suggests that operations pull that cord as well. “To have shared goals, you have to have shared pain,” Rudolph said.

Culture of experimentation and learning – Break things early and often.

If your team exhibits these behaviors, they aren’t high performers:

  • Info is hidden
  • Messengers are shot
  • Responsibilities are shirked
  • Failed is covered up
  • New ideas are crushed
  • Bridging is discouraged

Kim says the downward spiral happens everywhere. But if you employ DevOps and let people control their own outcomes, you can avoid it.



Event: Red Hat Executive Exchange
Date: Tue, April 15, 2014

Executive Exchange: IT business leaders roundtable

header_text_exec_1170The best part of the inaugural Red Hat Summit Executive Exchange was seeing strangers come together for 1 day to openly discuss their IT challenges. The executive leadership roundtable was a more organized discussion, and included 5 attendees and mediator, Peter High, president, Metis Strategy.

Roundtable participants:

Adam Burden, Global managing director, emerging technology innovation, Accenture
Aziz Safa, VP & GM, Enterprise applications and applications strategy, Intel IT
Lee Congdon, CIO, Red Hat
Tim Dickson, CIO, Emerging technologies and user experience, Dell
Tony McGivern, CIO, FICO

The panel shared stories about their small and large successes connecting IT to business goals, and supporting fresh new ideas to completion. Some of the many tips they shared:


  • Build a strong IT core and increase business value of IT.
  • Find a partner in another part of the organization and cross-pollinate.
  • Develop and R&D mentality to bring ideas to the rest of the organization.
  • Build skills on your team so IT speaks the language of business: finance.
  • There is only one customer; the external one. – Don’t refer to colleagues as customers.
  • Hire people who know both the business and IT. They’ll come up with more ideas.
  • Be customer #1: Use your own products. It gives you a fast feedback loop. Strengthens your support org.
  • Get executive support. If this isn’t organization-wide, it’s not going to work. Be prepared for tough feedback. Convert the ones who are the most noisy.
  • Organization needs to make a decision that a part of the organization needs to be focused on innovation. But it has to involve everyone. Those on the service desk are fixing problems, and if they don’t “bubble up” the pervasive ones, we won’t succeed. Everybody is an innovator.
  • Everyone is under cost pressure. Are you ready to justify the cost of growth? Or find efficiencies in your own organization? Or do you sign up with a big, bold project and find ways to fund it?
  • Be ready for serendipity. While teams have their sleeves rolled up, go for it.
  • Innovation comes from people who are doing their day-to-day jobs in the field.
  • A lot of innovation comes out of recessions when money is tight.
  • Allocate 3 days a month. Operations, engineering, product team. Work on nothing other than a wild, crazy, idea.
  • Create different domains to innovate inside of. Don’t just look at a single product’s progress—look at the portfolio return.


Event: Red Hat Executive Exchange
Date: Tue, April 15, 2014

Executive Exchange: Manufacturing and DevOps with Intel

header_text_exec_1170The ties between DevOps and manufacturing are clear today, but to Glenn Rudolph, IT director of Data Centers and Hosting at Intel, that tie simply describes his career path. Rudolph was a manufacturing supervisor, and before he read Gene Kim’s book on DevOps, he made the connection between efficient manufacturing practices and IT efficiencies.

Manufacturing is linear. There’s process control. Lean manufacturing methodologies. Modular progression.

When Rudolph joined Intel’s IT team, he was faced with a sea of acronyms (PaaS, SaaS, IaaS, DaaS, BMaaS), and many mentions of cloud, “I’m so sick of cloud, now. It’s a word I love to hate.” He also faced a litany of IT challenges like, “public/private/hybrid, multiple BU teams demanding different capabilities, security, support, confusing marketplace, open versus proprietary” etc.

Rudolph’s fresh perspective helped him navigate the behind-the-scenes world of IT. “Think about this from a customer’s point of view. Customers don’t know all of this.” They just interact with the end product.

Rudolph also advocates for creating a “model of record” (MOR). He’s defined it as a high-level model for all IT processes that might seem difficult to achieve.

IT is an an in flexion point, according to Rudolph. He recommend three areas of focus for CIOs.

Compete (lower your TCO):
Infrastructure process – Define a MOR
Build enterprise cloud – Enhance user experience

Business process
ID and focus on share of available market globally – You can’t be everyone to everyone
Increase standardization – Reduce variability and complexity

Human process
Transform the workforce – change the toolbox. Technology requires different competencies. Make sure you have the right people and skills in place to compete.
Integrate teams and drive collaboration – Remove waste from the system

While the term “cloud” seemed overused in Rudolph’s early days in the datacenter, he has embraced OpenStack as a platform for IT hosting. It’s flexible enough to work alongside his existing infrastructure, because it’s open source technology. He also values open APIs. “People will create their own solutions if you don’t keep yourself relevant,” Rudolph said. He wants to know who the next player is, and said open source helps you use the best in class, and plan ahead.

But cloud management is hard, according to Rudolph. He is no longer looking for narrow specialists with a focus on hardware. He’d prefer to have generalists who know a lot about different areas of the datacenter, and have a software focus. He sees the silos of hardware and software becoming obsolete.

Rudolph is building an “open cloud,” and he is using the DevOps (or manufacturing) model to do it. He said it’s helped his team “spread its wings, and build expertise in a production environment. We’re learning a lot.”

So what’s the business value of all this? Rudolph is, of course, tracking his acronyms—specifically KPIs and TCO. He also compares these to 3rd party figures to validate his team’s value to the business. “Compute numbers, storage numbers up. Head count costs are down. Physical and virtual server costs (TCO) have been very competitive compared to 3rd party vendors. Cost is going down, but you need people to support it on your side. TCO tells you.”

Enterprise hosting is alive and well, according to Rudolph. Visit intel.com/IT for more information.



Event: Red Hat Executive Exchange
Date: Tue, April 15, 2014

Executive Exchange: All-day meeting of IT business leaders at Red Hat Summit

header_text_exec_1170“Expunge IT from our vocabulary. It is not separate from the business. It is the business, dammit.” – Thomas Koulopoulos, Chairman and founder, Delphi Group.

For the first time, Red Hat hosted an Executive Exchange during the Red Hat Summit, bringing IT leaders and their peers from almost every business type together for one day. The day was packed with discussions with Red Hat executives; research from IDC and Harvard Business Review; a panel discussion with Accenture, Intel, Red Hat, Dell and FICO; and a passionate plea for DevOps from Gene Kim, author of The Phoenix Project; and think tank founder and author, Thomas Koulopoulos.


The day began with a Q&A session with Red Hat CEO, Jim Whitehurst, and Paul Cormier, president, Red Hat products and technologies.

Some questions from the crowd included:

  • The maturation process from project to product. Cormier explained the open source development model, describing how more mature products like Red Hat Enteprise Linux can have more time between releases. Cormier hopes more contributors will surface. OpenShift is like Linux, according to Cormier. It has a rich blend of communities and features supporting it.
  • Thoughts on the services and how they can help customers upgrade to new technologies. The Red Hat services team works directly with our partner ecosystem to help on the edges of technology innovation, and on key issues like product upgrades or migrations.
  • How Red Hat Enteprise Linux can help power different types of clouds. “The value of Red Hat Enterprise Linux is that it runs on any hardware platform,” Cormier said. “That value isn’t changed. It’s become more and more important.”
  • Creating common messaging frameworks. It’s critical, but Cormier pointed out that the process of developing these frameworks has to be managed, and worked through communities like JBoss, and through OpenStack projects.


“We’re not building a stack of products,” Brian Stevens, Red Hat CTO of emerging technologies. “We’re making IT more efficient.”

Why should people care about emerging tech? Half the time, ideas die early and often, Stevens said. But, “If we went around the room, 90% of the innovations you mention are happening in the open.”

The value of the open source model allows us to make lighter investments before we eventually commit. For example, with Open Daylight, a dozen people are working on it actively. But when it begins to transform from community to product, upwards of 100 people will invest in the product and training people to use it. Stevens also discussed OpenStack adoption drivers, big data and scale-out storage as a way to manage data horizontally, across the enterprise, and containers. With emerging technology, Stevens said Red Hat’s role is to enable the dialogue and experimentation.


Gillen gave the group an overview of how the market is dealing with the “3rd platform,” which is his way of describing mobility integration, social business, and networks and how they are changing the way customers interact with us and one another.

A few quick insights from the IDC research:

  • OpenStack is the next “big thing” for Linux growth
  • Virtualization is reaching a saturation point
  • More than half of companies IDC surveyed said when building a private cloud, they’re looking to use a different hypervisor
  • The KVM hypervisor will be pulled forward by OpenStack
  • The amount of attention OpenStack gets from enterprise customers “is really impressive.”

Gillen said that organization are facing a challenge: function like a service provider and be threatened by outside, public clouds. Or open up to projects like private cloud as an opportunity to rethink your virtualization strategy and trajectory.


Event: Red Hat Executive Exchange
Date: Tue, April 15, 2014