June 9, 2020

Boom of Technology ?

People from the Baby Boomer and Gen X age would remember their monthly visits to the bank to pay their bills, withdraw cash, deposit cheques, etc. Technology advancements and mushrooming of Artificial Intelligence companies play a significant role in the redesign of the high streets. It has also made many things possible for Gen Y and Gen Z, those that were thought of as impossible for Baby Boomer and Gen X age.  

Is it wrong to assume that human beings have been given access to an extra set of brains? The Artificial Intelligence companies are given an implicit license to think on behalf of a common man. Convenience/comfort is bait. People from Baby Boomers and Gen X may say that human beings have lost their basic abilities such as remembering spelling, sentence formation, telephone numbers, birthdays, address, map reading abilities, etc. While there is truth in that, those are inborn human skills that can be triggered when needed.

Mobile phones can organize your life better; Siri can understand your mood and choose music, Google knows what you are thinking to search and present with a choice of products and services; Tesla can drive your car while you busy relaxing behind the wheels; Google remembers where you have parked your car and how long will it take to get back home using the fastest route; Hive can manage your home temperature; Samsung does your laundry and drying when you are away at work; Netflix and Amazon can understand your interest and suggest movies or series and finally Alexa knows that you have slept and switches-off the lights and maintains the temperature, for you to have a good night sleep. How good is it? Am I wrong in saying we now have access to a leased set of brains?

While we all thought those are advancements in technology, SpaceX has taken artificial intelligence and automation to new heights (literally as well) that has transported two astronauts to the space station successfully with little work for them to do. If this is not boom time, what else is? Can we not call it Boom of Technology (BOT)?

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June 2, 2020

IT Services on auto-pilot mode?

I come in with a two decades of experience running IT services.  Things have evolved and has moved a long way, since I started as a junior IT Services analyst in a large bank in Japan.  Over the years in  supporting mission critical applications hands-on and managing a large IT Services Organisation, there has been number of challenges, however the key one is “attracting the right talents to the job”, which I am going to focus on in this blog.

The Dynamics

IT Services Management team are the most important set of people in the technology organization who are critical to keep the lights on. It is not uncommon to hear these annoying comments from the senior management “Development can wait, but IT Services can’t… It is important for us to be in business”.

Not sure if it is because of this treatment from the key clients, there is always a sibling rivalry between the development and the IT Services teams. From the senior management perspective, when everything is going find, the existence of IT Services team is forgotten, but when there is an incident, all eyes on them, sometimes they are given undue attention on them that puts a lots of pressure on the IT Services team.

It is not uncommon for the Development team to think “We create / develop software and hence our job is critical and exciting”. It can be easily sensed from their behaviour and tone while dealing with their IT Services colleagues. It is always the “not so interesting job” such as manual monitoring, human intervention, running the scripts manually at unsocial hours, writing queries to mitigate the bug created by the development team etc. moves across to the IT Services team. With no intention to offend any of my Project Manager friends, training to the IT Services team is often the last in the priorities of a project plan. Training is not covered until the last week / sometimes last day before go-live.

In an ideal world of rivalry between two teams, if one team feels that they are superior, the other team puts all efforts to prove their superiority. On the contrary, the IT Services team succumbs and always feels that their role is inferior. Strange human behavior. Isn’t it?

In my 20 years of experience, I am yet to attract one person, who has prioritized IT Services role over development role (no offence to people who are working within the IT Services role (I was one of them).

In my mind, most of the people who work in the IT Services role, fall in one of the following categories:

1. They are junior member of teams, beginning their career
2. Attracted by the lesser competitive selection process and initial higher pay
3. Want to use IT Services role as a springboard to move across
4. Think getting promoted is easier in IT Services role
5. They get their adrenaline rush and hence decided to remain in the role for longer.

These are not the exhaustive list and I am sure there are other cases that I have not covered. The key thing is, at any given point in time, they always would cross the line when they find an opportunity, either for development or for project management opportunities.
“How would you attract the right talent to the IT Services team” was always the key question in most of the job interviews that I have attended. This is a pivotal question because this is the key problem in any IT Services organization.

While analysing the issue, getting to the underlying reason, how to stop this behaviour etc… are key, but that is not the objective of this blog.At a high level, these are the key reasons:

1. Manual monitoring which obviously are boring to death
2. Working in unsocial hours and working in shifts which impacts personal life
3. Always must be on the toes to deal with incidents
4. Reporting, communicating to senior management etc… are never liked by IT Services guys

Number of tools were developed to mitigate or assist in organizing the uninteresting job, but thanks to the DevOps which is attempting to bring the Development, IT Services and business team all to the same level.

Permanent Solution?

In my number of years of experience, we have always attempted to use number of tools from the market to automate many jobs, create bespoke scripts to automate monitoring, alerting and fixing in many cases, but always had a feeling that these have never been a solution to the problem, but only addressing the symptoms.

The quest has always been if there is a way to automate this end-to-end. With the aggressive technology advancement in the field of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence in the last few years, gives a confidence that machines can be trained well not only for carrying out rudimentary activities, but also can carry-out activities that needs more intelligence.

I always dreamt of an IT services world where there is no shift planning, can service business customers and visitors 24 x 7 x 365, no human error, not having to respond to service calls at unsocial hours with no drop in efficiency, not having to sign-off incentives for working unsocial hours, not having to deal with siblings rivalry between development team and IT Service team and most importantly, an IT Incident free world.
Is it all possible? Yes it is. Too good to be true?

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