Category Archives: IT Professionals

Cloud vSphere Labs for fun and profit

Some material from my keynote at the Silicon Valley VMUG User Conference on April 14, 2015:

newkingmakers-2You, as a technologist, have unprecedented power at the moment. The book at the right is The New Kingmakers by Stephen Grady. It’s not long. You should read it. Even if you’re not a developer per se, you should read it. Most of what Stephen lays out is also true for all technologists. In short, the Internet and open source and all the things that come from those developments — like social media, SaaS, easily-installable products — mean that time-to-value for new products and technologies are low. No longer do you have to enter into a big contract and a lot of customization before you figure out if something is going to work or even if you like it. As a technologist, that means you can now participate in technology selection and evaluation because you should be able to actually try out most technologies easily, and a lot of things can even be tried out for free. I mean, if your boss wants to know if you should use, say, Docker, in your company, it’s open source and easy to use — you can get started in an afternoon, and not after a million dollars of vendor consultants come and set it up.

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One important way technologists try out new technologies is in a lab. Work lab, home lab, whatever. The trouble with home labs is that they are normally built with whatever kit you can scavenge together – old retired servers from work or off eBay. They are slow, draw way too much power, run way too hot, and sound like an airport runway.

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For a while I thought that laptops running nested virtualization would be the way we’d all do our labs. This started in 2007 when some folks figured out how to put VMware VI3 (what we then called ESX Server) inside VMware Workstation. By 2009 all the VMworld labs were nested like this, and ESXi was even supported as a guest. This can still be done on a home machine easily but the trend towards lighter laptops — the latest Macbook Air has a max of 8GB of soldered-in RAM — and increasing memory requirements — the latest ESXi 6 needs 6GB  — has meant that the world where you can do something useful with nested virtualization on your laptop.

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So what’s the solution? One solution is now available in beta from Ravello Systems. I’ve been working with Ravello to launch their new support for what they sometimes call nested2 virtualization — that is, ESXi (or kvm) running inside the cloud (the big boy real cloud at AWS or Google).

RavelloHVXVT

This is great for labs. But because you can ‘hoist’ both your workloads and your networks (and via regular nested virtualization it’s easy to put up some VSA-style storage), you can also do things like test out an upgrade or other infrastructure changes and figure out how you’re about to take down your production infrastructure. Just as abstracting a machine made virtualization powerful, abstracting an entire data center makes nested2 virtualization powerful.

But back to labs. ESXi in the cloud, you pay by what you use, and you have basically an infinite pool of resources, not your puny little laptop or 5-year-old rack mount space heater. What can you do with it?

Spin up 250 ESXi nodes just for the heck of it (courtesy Scott Lowe)

Create a 64-node VSAN cluster (courtesy William Lam)

vMotion from one cloud to another (courtesy Mike Preston)

Functionality aside, the good folks at Ravello Systems have been great in reaching out to the VMware and vExpert community. There are some open source automation tools they’re releasing and they’re also working with Alastair Cooke on a new version of AutoLab that supports vSphere 6 and makes it easier to get your images into Ravello’s system. They’ve been working with me and other vExperts to explore what is possible with their platform — expect more news soon. In the meantime, check out the content over on the Ravello Systems blog — they’ve got all sorts of use cases, examples, and tutorials. You can sign up for a free trial.

Thanks to Navin Thadani and Shruti Bhat from Ravello for their commitment to the community and congrats on the launch!

Disclaimer: Ravello Systems is a client

A TechReckoning update for September

TechReckoningAll my good stuff is now going on over at TechReckoning. Check it out.

(I will be at SpiceWorld in Austin, TX Sept 23-24 and VMworld Europe in Barcelona Oct 14-16. Please say hi if you’re there!)

1. Subscribe to the Weekly Newsletter. This is where most of the action is. At the time of publishing, we’re up to 13 issues – more or less every week. I put a lot of work into the newsletter and folks seem to enjoy it. It’s been called “an odd look into your brain” and “one of two newsletters I read every week”.

2. We just launched the Onlne Events Calendar. Here’s an excerpt from the calendar announcement in the newsletter. Send suggestions to updates@techreckoning.com

Events on the calendar must be:

  • Live. This is not a podcast directory. This is not for your latest YouTube video. (Hmmm, both of those are good ideas.) Interactive is good — Google Hangouts, Twitter chats, or Talkshoe podcasts will be typical platforms. But interactive is not mandatory — live streaming video from conferences or programming like theCUBE and Tech Field Day are all ok. The only mandatory thing is that whatever is happening is happening now and not pre-recorded.
  • Online.This calendar is for online things that people across the globe can access. This is not an IT events directory. (hmmm, now there’s another idea, although check out the event calendars at The Virtualization Practice andStephen Foskett. There are an increasing number of IT conferences. Two I just heard about yesterday: VeeamON and NetApp Insight.) 
  • IT-related. It must be IT-related and priority will be given to educational and technical topics.
  • Open-access. It must be available to everybody and must not require registration. It must be free.
  • Community-oriented.  I’ll unpack this below, but let’s just admit we all know what corporate webinars smell like most of the time.

Commercial content is ok. Let’s acknowledge that much of what we do in the IT space is related to something commercial. Free tutorial how to use product XYZ from a blogger? Unpaid podcast guest from company XYZ? That’s non-commercial to the blogger or podcaster but advances the commercial interests of vendor XYZ. (BTW, I was not paid anything for the Veeam and NetApp conference shout-outs above, or the Red Hat link below.)​

3. And finally we launched a Community-Projects Directory. It’s for community folks but perhaps more importantly it’s a list of projects that can be sponsored by vendors. Are you a marketing manager with some money earmarked for community marketing but you’re not sure how to spend it? This is your list. Again, suggestions and additions to updates@techreckoning.com

More stuff is in the pipeline. I’m building a nice campfire. Everybody’s welcome to drop in.

On Leaving VMware and Creating a New IT Community

I’m leaving VMware in a few weeks. I’m starting a new community, TechReckoning, where the broader IT community can come together and figure out where things are going with technology, the IT industry, and even their own careers.

ilovevmwareMy time at VMware — almost 9 years — has been the best professional experience of my life, so this is a bittersweet time for me. I started at VMware in 2005, intending only to stay for a year or two before setting off on another startup. Along the way, I got drawn in by VMware’s employees, its products, and especially the community of people surrounding the company. I feel lucky and privileged to have had a home here for so long.

I’m proud of what we accomplished during my time at VMware: building VMTN, Planet V12n and the Virtual Appliance Marketplace in the early days, creating the blogging program, growing our social media programs, hosting the VMware Community Roundtable podcast, and creating the vExpert Program and working with its amazing members.

I want to thank my manager, Eric Nielsen, and the rest of the members of the team, Tony Dunn, Karri Chamberlain, Corey Romero, and James Warmkessel, for making it a rewarding and creative environment, and thanks to Robert Dell’Immagine for originally hiring me. VMware as a whole is an amazing place to work with such smart and good people, and I am excited about the innovations still to come. (Disclaimer: I remain a stockholder!)

But I’m most proud of the community we’ve built together. You might think it was a community that is just centered around VMware and its technology, but somehow the relationships seem to transcend it in a way I can’t quite explain.

Which brings us to TechReckoning, my new project.

The IT industry is going somewhere interesting, and I want to create a place where the IT community can collaborate to figure that out together.

The last time I started a company we raised millions of dollars and had really nice chairs. This time we’re starting small; in fact, just with a newsletter. Each week I’ll share an update on what the community is thinking about and working on, ask a question or two, and recommend a few things to read. I figure if we gather a group of interesting people, we’ll come up with some cool stuff to do.

John Mark Troyer
Photo: Sean Thulin

To fund this little adventure, TechReckoning also has a consulting arm. If you are wondering how to build your community and influencer marketing programs, I can help. I don’t promise to have all the answers, but I can tell you what I’ve seen work. Contact me at jtroyer@techreckoning.com and I’d be happy to talk.

And finally, I’d like to thank my wife, Kathleen, for supporting me throughout this journey as a true partner and for listening to me tell endless stories about the Amazing Adventures of the vExperts.

With much love,
John

Help co-create the TechReckoning community with me. Get weekly updates on what we’re up to, what the community is talking about, and what they’re working on. Sign up below.

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Influencers and Innovation

smc_logo_tag[Update! The event was cancelled and will be rescheduled!]

I’m appearing in a Fireside Chat with Brian Solis at the next Social Media Club of San Francisco meeting on Wednesday, February 26 at 6pm. The event is split into three separate parts, but the overarching theme will be innovation. For my segment, we’ll be talking about Using Influencers to Drive Innovation, and I’ll be talking about the VMware vExpert Program and how they help drive innovation at VMware. Tickets are still available as I’m writing this, so please stop by and say hi. The other guests should be good – the managing editor of the SF Chronicle and the CEO of BrightIdea, a purveyor of software that helps you manage innovation. Brian Solis is one of the smartest folks in social media who always has insight in how social is impacting business.

vexpert-logoFive years ago we started a new program to work with the biggest influencers in the VMware ecosystem. We named it the VMware vExpert Program and included 300 of the most passionate bloggers, book authors, user group leaders, and tool makers in the program. It didn’t matter who they worked for — they could be customers, partners, independent consultants or even employees of VMware itself. Over the years we’ve expanded the prototypical role we’re looking beyond public evangelists, but our defining criteria for vExperts has remained the same: people who had given back to the community and gone above and beyond their jobs. In 2013 we had 580 designees, and the 2014 applications are now underway.

The vExperts have grown into an formidable force. They have produced dozens of books on VMware technologies, spoken to thousands in user groups and sales meetings, and searching on most VMware-related technical terms yields a long tail of blog articles alongside our own documentation and web pages.

In the context of innovation, the vExperts have contributed greatly to VMware:

1. vExperts use VMware’s products daily, either as customers or as consultants working with customers. As hands-on users and active IT pros, they are in many ways more qualified to comment on VMware’s products than the engineers who built them. Their blogs are well-read inside the company as feedback. The scripts and tools and workarounds they build to make our products work better are also feedback into the system. In fact, many vExperts have come on board as employees of VMware, and not just as sales engineers or consultants — some have innovated so hard they’ve ended up in engineering! There’s more than one story of a vExpert joining the company and being surprised that their blog posts were being circulated around engineering or were even taped to the walls.

2. The vExperts are important participants in VMware’s private beta testing programs. Not only are many of them hands-on experts, but they have been selected because they are good communicators, and many of them are very comfortable working in online forums. They are exactly the kinds of people that we want participating in our beta testing. They fire up their home labs and put the hours in to install and test software and report bugs so that they can give us feedback but also so that they can get an early grasp of what’s coming in the next release. Years ago, we tried to distinguish early vs late testing programs by only admitting our customers to the early beta tests and then gradually allowing our wide variety of channel partners in. Now, it’s alpha geeks first — which means the vExperts. We also have a more formal Blogger Early Access Program which gives a few selected vExperts a higher-intensity series of briefings and interaction with the product team.

3. The vExperts have turned out to be innovative when it comes to our education as well. Not only are they creating literally thousands of posts around how to use our products, they’ve also helped many study for our certifications. Writing about certifications can be tough — although all companies publish certification topic roadmaps and reams of documentation, they also strive to stamp out “dump sites” of dubious legality that  post remembered test questions from recent test takers and basically let people cheat. This diminishes the value of certifications for everyone. The vExperts not only keep up the culture of not cheating, they’ve created their own study materials that supplement the company’s own materials without just giving away test answers. Along with the blog posts, study guides, books, and videos that help with certification, one programs stands out: the vBrownbag podcasts. This podcast series started x years ago as a simple study group, and has now expanded to four regional podcast series and a program of live-streamed technical talks at our main conference. These have all be organized by a geographically disbursed crew of community members who met each other via social media and the vExpert program.

4. Innovative marketing approaches. While I don’t want to compare vExperts to a million typing monkeys, any time you have hundreds of people trying to explain a topic in their own words,  you’re bound to get a few works of Shakespeare in there. We’ve got blog posts about every topic relating to our company, stickers, games, videos, podcasts , online events, offline events, scholarship programs, and more — all organized by the vExpert community with zero guidance from us. One of the more interesting programs has been the Virtual Design Master competition. This online reality competition, dreamed up by two of our vExperts in Toronto, had contestants building actual  data center technical designs and other challenges. Last year’s contest was won by a technical architect from Bangalore. Again, innovation driven by the vExperts without any oversight from VMware itself.

We do have formal innovation programs inside VMware, but the vExperts, as a voice of the customer and as a group of alpha geeks, are certainly an engine of VMware innovation. They are passionate about the technology, they give back to the community, and they drive forward how businesses — who are our customers — can take advantage of technology innovations.

Don’t predict; create the 2014 you want to see

I don’t like year-end predictions, but we get so many of them in tech and IT. They’re slightly entertaining, but, like Christmas cookies, they’re empty calories. If you eat too many,  you probably regret it. What if instead of predicting the way that others are going to change the world next year, we instead envision the changes we ourselves would like to see and create? What if we created New Year Creations instead of New Year Predictions? (There’s a too long: didn’t read section at the end for the attention-impaired.)

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Why New Year Predictions Suck

New Year Predictions exist because they’re easy to write and easy to consume. December is dead for news in general, and publications have to have content to show ads on. New year predictions are standard in the editorial calendar and don’t require a lot of thought.

New Year Predictions are a game to see who can justify the most outrageous prediction. A 2014 prediction article is pretty boring if it says that Things Will Go On Pretty Much Like They Did Last Year. The trick is to figure out a justification for the most outrageous prediction. Apple Will Come Out With A TV For Your Car! Microsoft Will Split Up, Then Buy VMware!

New Year Predictions are about things outside our control. Predictions are often observations of inexorable forces that we can’t stop. These are either mysterious entities that apparently do things, because “strategy” (Amazon will buy UPS!) or the collective action of groups that no one can control (Teenagers Will Amputate Their Hands for 3-D Printed Replacements!). Predictions rarely involve individual people who have hopes, dreams, and fears.

New Year Predictions are obvious.  Even when they’re being outrageous, they’re usually predictable. This year’s will be around Cloud, Mobile, Social, NSA, Ad Targeting, and Drones; and for IT we’ll get Converged Infrastructure, the Role of the CIO, and of course the Year of VDI.

New Year Predictions are self-serving. Look at the byline, then go look at the bio of the author. Would it surprise you if a company executive predicts that the trends in the new year will validate the company’s vision?

Why New Year Creations Rock

Instead, why don’t you envision things that you would like to exist in the new year? This can be something you’d create yourself, or it could be an inspiration for others. For lack of a better term, let’s call these New Year Creations.

New Year Creations are the things you’d like someone to create in the new year.

New Year Creations are realizable. Because our framework is about creating a thing, we can envision concrete ways to get to the end states we want. “Better IT” isn’t something you can create per se, but you can foster better IT by, for example, forming a brownbag lunch and learn at work, contributing to an open source project, or teaching at a local school.

New Year Creations scratch your own itch. They’re an expression of your needs and represent the way you want the world to be. Instead of predicting this will be the Year of the Itch, just invent your own damn scratcher.

New Year Creations inspire and connect with others. If you broadcast your New Year Creations out into the world, you’ll likely find others who share your vision and your itch that needs to be scratched.  I wanted to listen to these podcasts, and in response vSoup started to produce podcasts more regularly. Voila! The world is a better place!

New Year Creations have infinite possible outcomes. With Predictions, you just wait to see if you’re right or wrong next year. With Creations you never know what you’ve started.  We had a fun little Twitter game last week listing our #FiveWordTechHorrors, but when folks tried to start #FiveWordTechFantasies, it didn’t catch on. But don’t think that creation can’t start with a Tweet. Look at Twitter itself. Who knew?

New Year Creations are not resolutions. Resolutions are inwardly-facing and often about acting like a better person, and we feel bad when we “break” them. The most meaningful New Year Creations are externally-facing; they are about the world and the people in it. You become a better person by working towards a world where they exist.

I see this quote a lot: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” It turns out that Mahatma Gandhi didn’t actually say that. But in 1912 he wrote the following, which was later paraphrased. I think by taking the catchy slogan out of it, the original thought becomes a lot deeper. Here’s his original writing:

“We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do.” -Gandhi

“We need not wait to see what others do.” That’s powerful.

In the IT field, we pretty much keep our heads down. We try to keep the servers running, to clear the the ticket queues, and to study for the next round of certs from our technology vendors. But IT is in for big changes and frankly a lot of things in the real world outside IT seem headed in a different direction than I’d like as well. What would happen if more of us worked on creating both the IT we want and the world we want in our futures?

But look, this is turning into more inspirational rah-rah than I had anticipated. Do whatever you want next year. Do whatever you can next year. The community of folks I know in IT are amazing. We have created, both as individuals and as groups, many concrete things that have made IT and the world better.

tl;dr Predictions about what other people are going to do are a shitty passive way to view the future. Instead, I encourage you to envision how the world could change to be better, and see how that rewires your brain and where it takes you in 2014. Gandhi said We need not wait to see what others do. You don’t want to disagree with Gandhi, do you?

Happy New Year!

Three IT podcasts and blogs that need to exist

Here are three IT-oriented podcasts and/or blogs that I think need to exist. I don’t really have the time or obsession to start these, but I think there’s an audience for all of them. Your version may not quite look like mine, but if you’ve been thinking in any of these directions, I encourage you to go start something. I’d be happy to help however I can.

1. A weekly podcast that’s just some IT folks talking to each other. See Accidental Tech Podcast and The Talk Show, both more-or-less for the Mac crowd, or anything on the 5by5 Podcast Network. Among the many IT-oriented podcasts, we’ve got Speaking in Tech, which is kinda-sorta the tech news of the week; and we’ve got the Cloudcast, which is the cloud interview of the week. I really enjoy these podcasts but there’s a cultural vibe or lineage coming out of that Mac-NYC-Austin-web designer axis that I can’t quite put my finger on but I’d love to hear reflected in my infrastructure-oriented world. The podcasts are really quite long, rarely have interviews per se, and they don’t really cover “tech news” in a professional way — they’re mostly just opinionated people talking about what’s going on in the industry and their work. It’s actually a little like eavesdropping on a conversation going on at the next table in a techie cafe. It’s possible that for IT we could benefit from some journalists or analysts being involved who are paid to pay attention and have opinions, but I don’t think the people involved necessarily need to be IT blog celebrities and I’m sure as hell they shouldn’t be tech executives, but they do need to be people who have an opinion on a lot of things and can’t shut up.

2. A blog or podcast that covers home labs. Home labs are hugely interesting to a lot of people. Technologists use them while studying for certs, gaining experience, writing blog posts and books, and just generally screwing around. There’s enough material there to fill a weekly podcast, easily: Current strategies for obtaining gear. What old gear is coming on the market. Minimizing noise and power draw. New form factors and low-power servers. Software like Fusion, Workstation, VirtualBox, Docker, Vagrant, Puppet. White box servers and networking gear. Commercial and home-grade SSDs. Commercial and home-grade NASes, open source and proprietary. Compatibility matrices. You can dip into specifics about nested vSphere. All sorts of Microsoft topics – from certs to Windows Server to apps. See, you’ve got your first six months of topics already.

3. A blog that covers flash in the data center. Every time I talk about flash and SSDs on my podcast, people are really interested in the minutia of what’s on the market now, where the gear is going, and who is doing what with it; but there’s no single good place to follow the latest news. The world of flash is moving fast. You can follow SSD news at sites like StorageSearch.com and The SSD Review and AnandTech. (BTW StorageSearch should not be confused with SearchStorage. The former is old-school obsessive geekery rockin’ a 90’s website while the latter is another site from the fine folks at TechTarget.) We need an obsessive geek to follow that news and translate that into how IT is using this technology and and how to think about and navigate the wide array of flash in the data center –in  all-flash arrays, hybrid arrays, and as local storage in servers in all flavors — primary storage, cache, distributed storage, etc. A good example article is Vijay Swami’s Buyer’s Guide for the All Flash Array Market.  We need one place to follow all the product releases, technology updates, analyst reports, and make fun of all the press releases. Alessandro Perilli used to do this for the virtualization industry at a whole, and now he’s writing smart things at Gartner, so it could be a good career thing.

I’ve got a longer list of things that should exist, but these three have been bugging me for a while. Since this is really a plea to the lazyweb, I’ll just stop here after planting this seed and see if anything sprouts. If you grow any interesting plants let me know.

The Consumerization of IT Evals

There is a huge amount of emotion currently surging around software evaluation subscription programs for IT like TechNet and VMTN. IT pros are self-organizing to send a message to Microsoft to not cancel the $349 TechNet Subscription and to VMware to bring back VMTN Subscription, cancelled in 2007 but still reported to have a “very high” chance of returning. The enterprise market is dominated by multi-million dollar Enterprise Licensing Agreements and Software Assurance programs; so why do people care so much about these individual non-production offerings?


An IT professional and home lab, 2013

We’re now experiencing The Consumerization of IT Evals. Consumerization is often discussed these days, but we’re usually talking about BYOD, SaaS, shadow IT, and software that looks nice and is actually easy to use. Even if IT is resisting consumerization for their internal customers, it’s a hard attitude to shake when it comes to meeting your own needs.

Traditionally, IT projects have been expensive, long, and complicated, and that included the evaluation stage. Evaluations included things like RFPs, hardware procurement, purpose-built labs at work, PoCs with consulting contracts from the vendor, and formal projects with a definitive decision at the end. On-boarding and training came with classrooms, instructors, and big price tags.

Now, IT pros want anytime, anywhere access to their enterprise software evals, just like they get with their consumer services. This is both a pre-sales and a post-sales need. They need access when studying for certifications to go along with their $49 a month video training subscription. They need access when updating an ops runbook for work, when they are considering upgrading to the next version, when they are preparing notes for a brownbag with their peers or even when they just are getting ready with an answer for when their boss asks, “What’s next?” Consumerization in this case means not only an expectation of quality and ease-of-use, but an agile approach as they jump in on a spare Friday afternoon or a casual evening on the couch.

Industry vendors ignore this at their own risk. The same trends in consumerization, open source and cloud make product evaluations ever easier to provide. SaaS vendors can offer easy-to-consume trials. Even hardware vendors can offer software simulators. But for installable software, sixty- or even 180-day evaluation licenses no longer fit with these expectations of informal evaluations. While online labs like the VMware Hands on Labs Online and similar offerings from Microsoft can pick up some of the slack, they can’t take the place of all evaluations in the archeological context of a local environment.

Most vendors don’t have the breadth of a Microsoft or a VMware, and a full product evaluation subscription like TechNet or VMTN won’t make sense for everybody. But IT pros now have expectations of easy and cheap access to virtually everything, and even not having a formal lab at work is no barrier; home labs can be sourced for pennies on the dollar from eBay or just run in a virtual machine on a laptop.  Are IT vendors looking at the realities of today and how their customers want to learn about their offerings? 

Rabbi Hillel’s Three Questions And Your IT Department

If not now, when?What does a set of two-thousand-year-old moral questions have to do with how your IT department should operate? Hillel the Elder, one of the most important leaders in Jewish history, posed what has become known as his Three Questions about how to live your life.

If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And when I am only for myself, what am ‘I’? And if not now, when?

The conventional interpretation of these questions is more or lessLook out for yourself, stick up for yourself, or no one else will; but if you are only concerned for your own selfish interests, you are unworthy; and now is the time to act.

As with all inquiries into the meaning of life, the questions are short but the discussion they spark is long, and the specific applications where they apply are broad. Today, as I was thinking about Hillel’s Three Questions, I was struck by how they can apply to your IT department.

If I am not for myself, who will be for me?

Hillel’s first question is about respecting yourself and having a responsibility to take care of yourself. In the context of IT, Hillel’s first question asks, Does your IT department know what its mission is and does it believe in that mission? The IT department’s job is hard and diverse; it’s often a service role where nobody thinks of you until something goes wrong, and then everybody thinks they’re your boss. The IT department spends its time keeping legacy systems alive with baling wire and shell scripts; protecting your company from mistakes and intruders; managing vendors; and, when they have a spare moment, maybe bringing a bit of innovation to the table to help the business. Is that really the mission of your IT department? If your IT department doesn’t know what it’s mission is, is there any wonder why  your users just want you to fix the printer and then go away?

Hillel’s first question challenges us to know ourselves and be responsible for ourselves. If your IT department, from the CIO down to the first line help desk technician, doesn’t know how how they add value to the business and can’t demonstrate it, how would the rest of the business know?

And when I am for only for myself, what am ‘I’?

Hillel’s second question brings up our relationship with others.  All parts of a company serve the greater interests of the business. From IT’s origins as the priesthood of the mainframe to the Bastard Operator from Hell,  IT has had a long history of difficult relationships with their internal users — their internal customers. If your IT department isn’t serving its internal customers, what purpose is it serving?

IT’s relationship with its customers is being redefined: consumerization, BYOD, SaaS and cloud-enabled “shadow IT” are the biggest game-changers since people started sneaking PCs in the back door. Users now have choice. IT policy can stop an employee from putting confidential information in a personal Dropbox account; it can’t stop a VP from building their next project out in the cloud using external resources and bypassing IT altogether. It’s been suggested that the IT department needs to invest in its own marketing function to help communicate what its offerings are. What would it be like if the rest of your company knew about and in fact was eagerly awaiting the next release of your strategic project? If your IT department doesn’t communicate and doesn’t have the trust of the other employees of your company, can it be trusted to innovate? 

And if not now, when?

Good intentions are not enough. Hillel’s third question compels us to act. Each interaction of IT staff with people in other parts of the organization will affect how they view the IT department and how they will work with it. How can your individual actions today affect the future of your IT department and of your business?

We can also take this bias toward action to our departmental processes. Traditional IT projects, with their focus on process governance and risk mitigation, move slowly. If your IT department can’t seem to get anything done, how can it transform itself so that things do get done?  New agile approaches to IT work like DevOps and the service-orientation of the Cloud are radically altering how IT views itself, its relationship to other departments, and how its projects are carried out. These new approaches are very experiential in nature — the only real way to internalize them and discover how they might work within your organization is to start trying them out on small projects.

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And that’s how these two-thousand-year-old questions are worth asking about the operation of your IT department. If your IT department doesn’t know what its purpose is, why will anyone else respect it? If it doesn’t have the support the rest of the organization, what kind of corporate department is it anyway? And if it’s going to get strategic things done, then why not start today?