Do you suspect that your company’s commitment to agile consists of jargon and sloganeering, as opposed to actual organizational and cultural change? Then you would do well to refer to this pamphlet on Detecting Agile BS (pdf) produced by the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Defense Innovation Advisory Board (DIB) in October of 2018. The DIB established itself to bring the best practices and innovations of Silicon Valley to DoD software development. The pamphlet was the result of luminaries such as Eric Schmidt, Reid Hoffman, and Neil deGrasse Tyson coming together turning their gimlet eye towards true agile practices in DoD software development.
I’ve excerpted some interesting parts of the pamphlet below and tied in some of my perspectives based on my current TeraThink project at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Full disclosure: TeraThink is a for-profit company, and as such is not 100%-free of BS. However, I like to think we have less BS than most. I’ll detail why through highlighting key flags that a projects is not truly agile.
We merged over a year ago and it has been quite an experience. One of the things we had to do is combine our core values. After our merger, we had two very complimentary, but different, sets of core values. While we were all working well as a team, we needed a unified set of core values that reflects all our amazing employees here at TeraThink.
During the process, it was important to us to keep the strengths of both sets of values while still moving forward as a new company. We both shared a similar vision of sustaining an innovative and driven workforce. Additionally, we understood that our culture is the currency that we bring to our clients.
Through combining the best of both companies, we introduced: Own It, Create It, Share It, and Crush It. It’s our vision these values will inspire our employees to further enhance our capabilities and resources for the clients we serve.
This time of the season always presents a good point to reflect on the past year; to take stock of key accomplishments and milestones while also looking to next year and the opportunities it presents.
For TeraThink’s ServiceNow practice, this has been an exciting year that has ushered in a number of client successes. It has also seen the addition of some great talent to our team and the establishment of our ServiceNow community of practice.
Almost a year ago, TeraThink and Dominion Consulting merged. It seems like a good time to look back on what we have achieved.
Just because this is going to be hard is not a reason to not do it.
While I know it’s a double negative, it turns out it was exactly the right statement to make early and often. We got here relatively innocently – a casual, almost easy, conversation between entrepreneurs about the future of our respective companies. However, accurately predicting how the next year or so would go would have been impossible. We knew the merger was going to be difficult and complicated, sure, but it played out to be much more than that.
The pursuit of a successful merger and integration is an exercise of incredible loads of work, constant distraction, some elation, occasional frustration (insert sarcastic emoji here), and every other emotion in between. I can genuinely state that the process of closing the deal and then integrating these two great companies was both – one of the most difficult, and one of the most rewarding achievements of my career. Recognizing that the merger trend in our industry is not slowing down, we wanted to share a few of our key lessons learned and critical success factors from our experience with this merger.
I’ve been speaking a lot about content services of late. At TeraThink, we are a big believer that good content services are a solid foundation for excellent user experience. This is why I’ve been focused on dispelling some of the hype around content services. One of the reasons I, and TeraThink, have been trying to push past the hype is because we are actively using content services to deliver solutions at scale.
Along the way, we’ve been trying to share some of our lessons. James Fintel shared what we’ve learned about building content services agilely using Kanban. What I wanted to share was some of our lessons on the delivery of content services to a government agency.
Here at Terathink, we are working with a large government agency constructing a content services platform. This platform allows content generated by benefit applications to be shared and reused across the organization’s disparate IT applications. We are doing this through the use of application programming interfaces, or APIs.
Our agile development team manages our work using a Kanban approach, from requirements gathering to the deployment of the API to a production environment. We have honed our use of Kanban to most effectively manage the work required to take a user request to functional reality.
In an earlier blog, I wrote about a couple of takeaways regarding improvements to the ServiceNow platform from our trip to Knowledge18, Those weren’t the only key takeaways from ServiceNow’s annual conference. There was a lot of focus on improving the user experience for both the producers and consumers of ServiceNow’s features and value. Having seen many projects succeed or fail based not upon features but upon user experience, this was exciting to see.
In May, my colleagues and I attended ServiceNow’s annual conference, Knowledge18. We joined over 18,000 attendees in Las Vegas to meet, learn, share, and collaborate on all things ServiceNow. They presented a wide range of valuable content spanning all aspects of the platform. This ranged from in-depth solution-focused sessions, to industry-based workshops, to a roadmap of functionality coming to the platform.
Two of my takeaways from the conference centered on the platform improvement and their increased focus on the customer.
Microservices is the latest architectural approach to scaling applications. Their smaller, more atomic size, allows for greater agility as the impact of each iteration is more contained. This makes continuous integration and development easier as the burden of testing is less and deployment iterations are more limited in scope.
As we look to utilize Mule, and other systems, in this environment, we need to make sure that their configurations can automatically reflect their environment. As we build applications at scale and move out of the development lab, this becomes a real need. Luckily, the Spring Cloud Configuration server lets us do exactly that.
A few weeks back, I spoke on an Information Coalition webinar with Nick Inglis about getting Beyond the Hype of Content Services. We discussed content services and tried to separate the reality from the hype. If you been following, there is a lot of hype out there and has been since Gartner stopped tracking ECM (enterprise content management) and switched to content services. This has fed people’s instinct to equate content services with ECM. Many vendors and consultants are now taking their marketing messaging and simply substituting one term for the other. Even more distracting are people that reflexively reject content services because they assume the person using the term is just doing a term swap.
The truth is that content services is not ECM. It is an approach to implementing solutions that support an ECM strategy and providing sound information governance. Content services doesn’t eliminate the need for an ECM strategy or information governance. In fact, if you don’t have a strategy or proper governance, you might end up addressing the wrong things.
You still need a plan. To determine how to implement it, you need to know what content services is and how it can make a difference.