Accelerated Strategies Group has just delivered its “State of Software Delivery Management Report,” commissioned by CloudBees. In this DevOps Chat, we speak with Mitchell Ashley, CEO, founder of ASG, about the report and why it is important for everyone managing software delivery today.
As usual, the streaming audio is immediately below, followed by the transcript of our conversation.
Alan Shimel: Hey, everyone. This is Alan Shimel, and you’re listening to another DevOps Chat. I have a really great chat lined up for us today because I’m joined by my partner, Mitchell Ashley, founder, CEO of Accelerated Strategies Group. Mitchell, welcome to another DevOps Chat.
Mitchell Ashley: Well, very nice to be here. It’s great to be on this side of the microphone for a change. [Laughs]
Shimel: It is kind of. I mean, Mitchell, before we jump into the report out of Accelerated Strategies Group we want to talk about, just as little history for our audience. Mitchell and I have been doing podcasts together now –
Ashley: Oh my.
Shimel: Fifteen years?
Ashley: At least. 2004 or ’05, something like that. Yeah.
Shimel: So it’s still secure after all these years.
Ashley: I was waiting for the,”This is Alan Shimel and this is Mitchell Ashley.” [Laughs]
Shimel: Exactly. Do you remember those days? Oh my goodness. You know what’s old’s new. It’s good to have you on with me, Mitchell. You know, as you said you’re often on this side. You and I kind of split up our hosting duties for DevOps Chat. But we’re here today because Accelerated Strategies Group just dropped a report on the state of software delivery management, SDM.
Ashley: We did.
Shimel: And the report was commissioned by our friends at CloudBees but it really is the independent analysis and research of you, Sanjeev Sharma, principal analyst at Accelerated Strategies Group, and the rest of the Accelerated Strategies team. So, you know, we’ve done a little video on this, Mitchell, but I’m going to assume our audience listening here on DevOps Chat maybe didn’t see the video.
Shimel: Why don’t we start off – when we talk about SDM, what are we talking about here?
Ashley: You know, we used to – we’ve had all kinds of names for methodologies, you know, software development lifecycle management, blah, blah, blah. You know, what I think it’s really about, software delivery management is about the whole delivery, the end-to-end process of how do you manage the software process from here’s money, we’re going to invest in something that we think is going to be created through software; how do you know through the whole machinations it goes through to actually create the software that you know where you are and what you think you’re going to be getting? And then when it’s all done how do you know that you got what you thought you paid for? To think about is sort of as a business view into managing the software process.
So not just IT and product teams but also the executives, senior leaders, can find out what the heck is going on and how well – it’s really about how well do we develop software and how well – our ability to manage it.
Shimel: Yeah. I agree. You know, we had this discussion earlier with Sanjeev as well, correct, and, you know, in my mind it’s about how do we manage the factory rather than how do we work on the assembly line? A lot of software today, especially in the DevOps world, is about how do we work on the assembly line? And that’s a noble, worthy thing to do.
Ashley: It’s important, yeah.
Shimel: Right. That software delivery pipeline, that factory, you know, assembly line as we move software left to right. But, you know, someone needs to be managing the controls, right? And are we doing it just in time? Are we using lean? And if so, how? You know, even lean you always need to be turning a dial and checking things out.
Shimel: I’d like to talk a little bit, Mitchell – well, let me – let’s first start with this.
Shimel: Of course the mantra at Accelerated Strategies is information wants to be free, and in that vein this report is free and open to anyone – anyone – who’d like to download it, right?
Ashley: It is. That’s our belief. I mean that’s really what we founded and you were part of founding Accelerated Strategies group two, is let’s do something disruptive in the analyst industry. You and I have paid an awful lot of money to analysts for sometimes questionable [laughs] – what are we getting for it? – but we have to do it, right?
Shimel: Well we paid for access.
Ashley: We paid for access even though that’s – you know, everyone says it’s not true –
Shimel: [Inaudible comment]
Ashley: – but it is. I mean let’s be honest about it. I think it is anyway. With Accelerated we said, “Look, we’re not going to pay –” you know, every time you touch an analyst you had to pay him. Every time you said something to him you’re like dropping in another coin. And let’s do this the right way. Let’s do this – when you’re working with us, engaging us to do something for you, you know, do some research, assess the market, advise you, do a strategic project, do some competitive analysis, all of those things for a research report, that’s when we’ll make our money. You are welcome to distribute that as freely as you like.
We’re not going to hold you behind a paywall and subscription fees and licensing. The customer’s give us all that information. Why don’t we give it back to them in some meaningful way [laughs] instead of making them pay for it? That’s –
Shimel: You know what, Mitchell? I think back to the days where we would pay, you know, a certain large analyst company to send an analyst out to spend the day with us, and we’d pick them up at the airport and get them breakfast and lunch and, you know, keep – wine and dine them all day while trying to get him to understand our point of view, and when I drop him back off at the airport, I’ll be honest with you, I felt a little dirty.
Ashley: And it kind of felt like, why do I feel like we know more about this space than the analyst?
Shimel: Yeah, there was no doubt that I felt like I knew more about that space, but, you know – and I’m not – look, everybody needs to make a living and there’s the oldest professions in the world, but I really felt like I – I didn’t like paying for it. You know what I mean? And there was definitely some of that involved. But enough about the analysts. _____.
Ashley: We could do, like, three podcast episodes on that or more.
Shimel: Yeah. We can go off on that. What I want you to talk about though, Mitchell, is would you share with our audience a little bit of insight? How was the research done here, the analysis? I know Sanjeev Sharma, principle analyst, was lead author on this report, but give us an idea of, you know, the ASG methodology, if you will.
Ashley: Well really any research has to start out with some hypothesis; what do we believe about the market or what do you think we believe about the market? And really the hypothesis here was around what’s the maturity level of our ability to manage the entire software delivery process? Connecting it to the business, not just inside of IT. So we started with that and we have a target audience who we’re trying to talk with, both individual contributors, leaders in the software development part of this but also executives, product people, CIOs. So we really tried to cast a big enough net but not so broad that it all got watered down and you couldn’t tell who said what.
We really spent some time focusing on who we wanted to talk to. And it wasn’t a short survey but it wasn’t a long one. There were really some insightful questions around do you know what your backlog looks like and what it costs you to delay a release or to trade something off one feature for another? Do you really know when you’re going to get the release or the functionality that you’re paying for so you can move the business forward based on those plans, or are you kind of shooting in the dark and you’re just hoping that it comes out sometime in the next quarter and we’re good and then we’ll kind of get everything running from there? So we did a survey, but we did a lot of kind of research going into it, talking to different people in those roles before we ever built the questionnaire.
So it’s not just a research firm that says, “Okay, what do you want us to ask? Let’s build you a survey.” You know, Sanjeev and the other analysts with Accelerated Strategies Group are all practitioners. They’ve done this, they’ve worked in this field, they’ve led software teams, projects, companies, they’ve consulted with big enterprises, small startups, medium-size companies. So all that to say it was really, you know, our best attempt at let’s get the best information we can when we go out and ask people for where they think they are with their maturity curve and where they really see the challenges, and we got some fantastic results. It was super, super insightful and kind of exciting to see, you know, what things we thought were true and what maybe some things were, hm, that’s a little bit of a surprise.
Shimel: Yeah. Okay. I guess you kind of opened that box now.
Ashley: Did I set it up well enough?
Shimel: Yeah. I think you got it. So let’s start with the surprises.
Ashley: You know, so one of the biggest things that everyone – I don’t want to say everyone – one of the biggest outcomes of this research was around everyone’s ability to understand the value they’re going to get from their investment, right? Spending how much money on this software IT organization, product team whatever, and what am I really going to get at the end? So it’s very clear it’s very unclear to the people funding the work, that they essentially understand what they’re going to get. You just can’t get to that information or get a straight answer.
We aren’t connected well enough into it to really understand it, which kind of goes to the second key finding was the communications around the whole software creation process is broken. It may work within a development team that’s really functioning tightly together or an Agile team with a product leader that they’re working with day to day, but outside of that, both kind of horizontally but also vertically in the organization, the perception at senior leader levels versus the individual and the team levels that are building software can be much, much different. So can you imagine making – well, we’ve done this right, Alan? – making multimillion, maybe much, much, much larger decisions based on what you think is going on and that’s not really true.
So that’s a huge issue. If we really believe in software is leading the world, that all businesses are software companies, you have to be – you’ve got to fix that. That’s got to be taken care of. And then the third area is basically all the way through the delivery pipeline and understanding the value flow. Where are you creating value and where are you actually spending energy and not getting value? Maybe getting the wrong output out of the software process. Because an example I like to use is software teams like to measure how many releases we get out per day, sometimes per hour. I mean that’s a great thing. It sounds like a really awesome thing to accomplish. But if it’s the wrong thing, wrong software, it doesn’t matter if we’re releasing it a million times an hour. I’ll take one release a month if it’s the right thing instead of a million releases every day and all of them aren’t hitting the mark.
Shimel: Yeah, I agree.
Ashley: That’s an extreme, but that’s really what it is, is understanding through that whole – and again, we’re talking about not one pipeline of work, one value stream of work; it’s across multiple, because almost every app touches all kinds of systems, data, you know, especially in a large enterprise – mainframe, stuff in the cloud, stuff that’s maybe kind of the older client server but still around, whatever it might be. So those are the three key areas that we identified that if you can assess where you are and how well you do that part of the software development, that will make the biggest difference in sort of upping your game and your ability to deliver software.
Shimel: Agreed. Agreed. You know, I guess I’m not surprised but I am surprised in that, you know, the first thing I learned about DevOps was it’s about breaking down silos, bringing dev and ops together. We’re going to break those silos. Kind of like the Macintosh 1984 commercial, remember?
Ashley: [Laughs] The girl and the hammer, yeah.