If you are a pilot or an aviation buff, you are familiar with the three rules of being a pilot. In the event of a situation you must (1) aviate, (2) navigate, and (3) communicate with the crew, passengers and ground control technicians. This is fantastic advice for the aviation profession; however, what is the similarity to IT services, Data Science and the evolving internet of everything? In this article I will explain what I have been promoting as my ‘Three Principles of Innovation’.
Unfortunately, our world is filled with tragic events and we often hear the root cause was ‘human error’. How is this possible when airplanes are some of the most automated and sophisticated machines on earth? Of course, some of the root-cause analysis recommendations are to automate to an even higher degree. What is at fault? It is unfortunately, quite simple. Automation can be so good at what it does, that human complacency becomes the norm. We update the processes that failed, create more test cases to run in the simulators, and so forth. We are introducing human intervention to a process in order to remove human effort (and unfortunately start the entire cycle over again). It sure seems a little reversed to me.
Automation can be so good at what it does, that human complacency becomes the norm.
Recently, I was presenting to several of our customers and explaining we now have “orchestrators of the orchestrators” and “consolidators of the monitors”. Think about this for a few seconds and realize what we have done… we have automated each individual component to such a degree that it has become overwhelming for humans to keep it coordinated. We simplify what has become complicated, we create dashboards of the automation and single pane of glass displays of the coordinators, and we start the cycle over again. It sure seems a little reversed to me.
Am I issuing a wake-up call to our industry? Absolutely! I have begun to initiate some brain-storming sessions with colleagues that challenge the status quo. Our technology is now using Fully Automated Storage Tiering, multiple alerting consolidation engines, automatic load balancing, pooled resource rebalancing, and the list goes on and on. This is fantastic and exciting beyond belief to talk about, explore, and work with these technologies. However, I am involved in services. We are the pilots of the automation, and we must aviate, navigate and communicate our way through the technology hierarchy.
This leads me to challenge our skilled staff “pilots” as we evolve our services. Of course our teams are not landing an A380, but what we are doing is managing the world’s financial entities, supporting life-saving hospital systems and creating Data Lakes for scientists to explore the human Genome and the inner workings of Earth. Our services teams are designed to handle the level 1, 2 and 3 situations with expertise. Our customers have come to expect it. So how do we innovate beyond versus simply allowing automation essentially to fly itself? To innovate within technical services I am promoting the following guiding principles:
- (1), Anticipate. It is impossible to anticipate every issue that may arise. However, you must anticipate any number of events from a technology perspective, a process shortcoming, or even a skills gap in our training expertise. The key here is recognizing it early – not after a catastrophic situation arises when everyone seems to have visibility – but when the check engine light illuminates. It is exciting to watch our internal transformation to understanding wear signs and friction points earlier and earlier in their lifecycle. This is innovation.
- (2), Concentrate. I define this principle as an area where disrupting the status quo is encouraged. Understand what preventative maintenance of your services should entail. If the check engine light came on in one area, maybe it is just a short timeframe before it comes on in an adjacent one. Be holistic in your evolution and scrutinize all areas. Do not be afraid to have a services recall or reset if a service definition is not exactly following proper evolution or its original design principles. Form small tactical SWAT teams for targeted analysis and hold them accountable for results. This is innovation.
- (3), Initiate. We are evolving at a rapid pace in technology and our services must accelerate at the same pace. We must employ continuous delivery techniques and evolve to manage data inputs from multiple sources simultaneously versus simply looking at individual alerts. We must navigate escalations with a process that allows agility to react to changing market conditions, new technology introductions, and customer demands. All so often we are in fear of failure. I encourage a fail first/fail fast/fail with knowledge attitude as every failure should be evaluated and used to innovate our service offerings. The old adage of ‘three steps forward and two steps back’ should be updated with my interpretation. I interpret it and embrace it as taking one step forward! The key is to take the step ahead of the check engine light illumination. This is innovation.
As I meet with customers, their most common questions to me are ‘what’s next?’, ‘what innovation are you bringing to my experience?’ or ‘what is on your roadmap?’ The answer is simple. Although we are evolving to an even higher degree of exploitation of automation and orchestration with technology, rest assured we are working to an equal or higher degree of human evolution. I encourage all of us in the services divisions within the industry to aviate, navigate and communicate!