It’s 1999 about seven o’clock on a rainy evening and Gene Kim and I are sitting in the corner at Pazzos in Portland Oregon. By now the windows are fogging we are on our second or maybe fifth round of Widmer Hefewizens. Our voices are very animated and we are getting more excited by the minute. I remember feeling like I had met my mental twin.What were we talking about? Mostly about how screwed up IT was as a corporate function. Management made little sense at times. We traded IT disaster stories and even what we thought were some solutions. I parted feeling like I had made an important friend but not knowing where the friendship would lead.
Little did I know the significance of that evening in terms of the research projects, books and breakthroughs we would spearhead as a result of our friendship and collaboration over the next decade. We were put together by a mutual friend, Jon Speer. Jon felt like Gene and I spoke the same language and felt we needed to meet. Thanks Jon, you were dead on!
Over the course of several meetings we performed many brain and book dumps on each other. We both described the work we were doing for our respective CEOs and found a important vein to begin working on together.
In both of our day jobs we had customers that were stand outs because they behaved differently and spoke a different language. In my business these clients were more profitable and required less man hours to support. In Gene’s business these customers were using his software (Tripwire) for operations as opposed to security. We began to study what we suspected were high performing organizations and see what made them so radically different than the others.
Two years passed and we progressed from suspicions to deeply held beliefs and developed what is now known as the Visible Ops methodology. We found four areas of focus that separated these special teams from the rest. We normalized all of their self derived playbooks and terminology back to the common parlance and taxonomy of ITIL. We then laid out an easy-to-follow approach to stemming IT chaos and firefighting with four simple projects. After completion of the methodology we co-founded the IT Process Institute to continue our research work and teamed up with George Spafford to write the Visible Ops Guide.
Since the publishing of Visible Ops it has sold nearly one hundred thousand copies. The second book in the series “Visible Ops Security” is selling very well. Our empirical research and benchmarking has helped hundreds of IT organizations answer the questions of “where should we start?” when it comes to process improvement and ITIL adoption. We have isolated the 80/20 of IT controls and processes and know just what high performers do to get their amazing results.
Over the last decade Gene and I have spoken at dozens of conferences, hosted countless roundtables with CIOs, CSOs and Chief Audit Execs, consulted CIOs, VPs, taken interim executive roles, consulted large IT turn-around efforts, written dozens of articles and benchmarked hundreds of IT organizations. It has been an amazing ten years but I am most excited at what lies ahead. We have not only proven our deepest beliefs and confirmed our restless suspicions but we have done it with empirical research and science.
In the next blog entry I am going to examine a topic all too familiar to IT executives and staff. It is the “hidden sucking sound” present in all IT shops whether large or small. High Performing shops have much less of it and manage it very carefully. What am I talking about? Unplanned Work. You may not know it by this name but if you have worked in IT you will recognize this all too well.