Marc Schwartz is one of those rare individuals who is not only a great IT exec, but he also can analyze what works and doesn’t work and write it up in a way that helps others. His “A Seat at the Table” is still one of my favorite DevOps books.
Marc’s new book is called, “War, Peace & IT.” You can download an excerpt of it here: dl.orangedox.com/WarPeaceITExcerpt
In this DevOps Chat, we speak with Marc about the book and some of the lessons behind it. Have a listen and check out the book ASAP.
As usual, the streaming audio is immediately below, followed by the transcript of our conversation.
Alan Shimel: Hey, everyone, it’s Alan Shimel for DevOps.com, and you’re listening to another DevOps Chat. I’m really delighted to have as my guest on DevOps Chat today none other than Marc Schwartz. Marc, if you don’t know, is an AWS executive, multiple author on some of the greatest books on DevOps you’re gonna read—”A Seat at the Table” is still one of my all-time favorites—and I think as he’s described in the latest blurb on IT Revolution, an iconoclastic CIO.
Marc, welcome to DevOps Chat.
Marc Schwartz: [Laughter] Thanks. I’m glad to be here.
Shimel: So, Marc, what is an iconoclastic CIO?
Schwartz: [Laughter] I like to question assumptions. You know, I find that, very often, people are frustrated. There are obstacles to what they’re trying to accomplish, and the problem is that they’re constrained in all sorts of ways, and if you don’t question the assumptions and knock away some of those constraints, they’re gonna continue to be frustrated—so, that’s what I’m all about.
Shimel: Yep. I agree. So, I don’t want to spend a lot of time, but Marc, we mentioned you’re from AWS, but I didn’t really mention a role. Just so our audience, who may not be familiar—what currently is your role with AWS?
Schwartz: They call me an enterprise strategist, and what means is, I’m part of a small team of ex-IT leaders, many of us ex-CIOs or CTOs of large enterprises who did digital transformation, moved to the cloud, and what we do now is, we work with executives from large enterprises to help them overcome some of the challenges that they face as they’re trying to do a transformation.
So, often, it’s things like cultural change, or organizational change, or organizational structure, financing models, people skills, things like that. And we speak at conferences, we write books and blogs and we work with individual customers.
Shimel: Very cool. No, let’s jump in, Marc. You’ve got a new book, just recently came out. It’s available on Amazon, by the way, in case anyone is interested, as well as Barnes and Noble, 800-CEO-READ, Indiebound, BAM and any other place where you can find decent books. It’s called “War and Peace and IT: Business Leadership, Technology, and Success in the Digital Age.”
Marc, share with our audience—what’s the book about?
Schwartz: Well, the book is essentially an answer to a challenge that people gave me after they read “A Seat at the Table.” Because, in “A Seat at the Table,” it was written primarily for IT leaders, and throughout that book, I made the argument that we needed to get rid of this business versus IT distinction, you know? The way we talk about the business and IT as if it’s two separate things, the way that we see IT as taking requirements from a business and executing on those requirements, but that way of thinking is no longer effective. We need to find a way to bring IT into the business itself.
And people responded very well to that message in “A Seat at the Table,” but they said, “This doesn’t work unless somebody tells the business folks the same thing, you know? [Laughter] We can’t just change the relationship ourselves. So, somebody should write a book for the business executives to explain to them what you’re talking about.” And I realized that that same book, if I could write it, would also help a lot of the executives that I was talking to as part of my job who were facing impediments to their transformations.
So, I wrote a book that essentially said, “One of the big impediments to your transformation is that the relationship between the business and IT is not the right relationship, and here’s how you can change it, and here’s why it will make a big difference for you.”
Shimel: Excellent. So, you know, I think you laid it out pretty well there, Marc, for people. You know, I’m just back—we were talking offline and I told you I was at a KubeCon + CloudNativeCon in Barcelona last week and it was another great event, 7,500 people.
And what really kinda hit me square between the eyes was the fact that though this is a fairly technical event, right? We’re talking about cloud native and a lot of open source software programs and ops procedures, the business angle of it, the amount of business people who are there trying to get smart about what’s the latest trends, what’s the wave, if you will, in IT, and how could they leverage things like serverless or Kubernetes and some of these newer things to make their business better, not necessarily because it’s cool or, you know, shiny trinket syndrome or anything like that.
But really, how does—when does rubber meet the road with this technology? And, you know, I can’t help—I mean, I’m heartened by it, Mark, but I still don’t know if business executives are all bought into that.
Shimel: Your thoughts?
Schwartz: Well, I don’t think it’s about the cloud, per se, or DevOps or whatever it is. What really is important is how the cloud and DevOps and new ways of doing IT empower businesses to do new things that they couldn’t do before. And I think that’s what the non-IT business executives need to learn about what’s possible now that was not possible before.
And the reason why they have to, why it’s an urgent matter is because their competitors are, you know? Whatever tools you have available to you, your competitors also have, and if you’re not using them, and your competitor is, then you’re at a business disadvantage. And I think mostly, it comes down to a question of speed, one way or another. So, using the cloud well, using DevOps well, lets you move at a much faster pace to get IT capabilities to change your business.
And that pace is important not just for the obvious reasons that you need time to market, you need to get first mover advantages, you need to respond quickly when you competitors disrupt you, but also for more subtle reasons, because we now use speed as a way to test out ideas quickly and see if they’re gonna work, and manage our risk by testing out ideas before we fully commit to them, and we use speed to get feedback from customers and users and alter our product offerings based on what we’re able to learn, and we use speed to mitigate risk to improve our security posture, to improve our availability of systems.
So, speed becomes a really important factor, and the cloud, DevOps, you know, their technical implementations, but they happen to help companies achieve speed, and that’s the important message, I think, that executives need to take away.
Schwartz: [Laughter] Well, if you’re using the right model for speed, it doesn’t kill, and the reason for that is that the models that use speed usually also use automated controls or guardrails. So, what you want, and the idea is, you want to be able to move really quickly, but within the boundaries of guardrails that enforce compliance, enforce security, enforce quality and it’s possible to do both. We always thought, in the past, that there was this trade-off between speed and stability or speed and quality, and it turns out that, in this DevOps world, in this cloud world, speed—increased speed actually increases quality, resilience, availability, security and all of those things. It’s a question of learning how to use speed for those purposes.
Shimel: Yeah. And that’s really—I mean, tongue in cheek, speed kills. What I was really trying to get at is, speed for speed’s sake alone is, you know, speed has to be wielded—with great power comes great responsibility, right?
Schwartz: [Laughter] Yes. You have to achieve the speed for competitive reasons and for business model reasons, as I was saying before. So, it’s not really an option, but you do, at the same time, have to learn how to use that speed as a way to reduce risks and improve the quality of what you’re offering.
Shimel: Exactly, exactly. So, what’s the reception been, Marc? What kind of feedback have you been getting from people?
Schwartz: Well, the book was just published a couple of weeks ago, really. Where are we? Yeah, May 14th was the publication date, so a couple of weeks. And people seem to be enjoying it. I was a little bit playful in writing the book, and I think there are some aspects of it that are entertaining people, and that makes me feel very good.
But from the feedback that I’ve been getting, people are seeing it as the successor to that previous book, just as I had hoped. You know, this is the way of looking at a similar message, but very much from the point of view of non-IT business executives. You know, how should the CFO be thinking about the new world, the new digital world, how should a CEO be thinking about it, how should the board of directors be thinking about it? And I’m very happy that people see it as valuable on that front, and a lot of people are saying, “Well, I’m gonna have my entire executive team read this, and it’s gonna stimulate some great discussions,” so I’m very happy about that.
Shimel: That’s fantastic, great stuff. Let me bring in another aspect of it and get your thoughts on it, Marc. You know, we’ve heard a lot over the last, I’ve heard it maybe over the last year or 18 months—DevXOps, right? We have DevSecOps, DevBusOps, DevHROps—DevWhateverOps, right? DevXOps. And I think there’s a little bit of a reverse equation, here. Business leaders have to be more involved in IT and have to learn how to harness IT to further their businesses’ goals and delight customers, as you say, right?
At the same time, we can take lessons from IT and things we’ve learned in IT with things like DevOps but not only DevOps. But IT has had, in a relatively short period of time, had a rather torturous road of self-improvement and of learning new things and evolving to things like DevOps that we see. What can businesses do—not harnessing IT, per se, but maybe saving some idiot taxes?
Shimel: You know, from mistakes and lessons learned from IT and apply them to general business?
Schwartz: Yeah. I think—I also joke about DevOps, DevSecOps, DevSecBizOps, DevSecFinBizOps—you know? You can keep adding to that.
The real point is cross functional teams, right? DevOps meant we’re gonna have a cross functional team that has dev skills and ops skills, and at some point we realize that that set of skills is not quite enough, they also need to have security skills and you can keep adding to that infinitely, because the bottom line is that functional silos don’t work very well in a fast moving environment like we have in the digital world today. Functional silos slow down your response, they slow down your ability to innovate and grasp new opportunities and respond to change and things like that.
So, that’s really what was behind the DevOps, DevXOps concept. And I think businesses find this, in general, that when you have functional silos and they operate as silos, you introduce waiting time when you pass things from one silo to another. You reduce innovation because each silo thinks of itself as having its own responsibility instead of joint responsibility for results.
So, the lesson that I think everybody can take away from what’s happened in IT is that, to respond quickly in an environment where you need to respond quickly, you have to do away with silos and instead focus on cross-functional teams that [Background noise] objective. At least, that’s my biggest takeaway.
Shimel: Sure, sure. [Background noise] I’m sorry, my machine’s—uh oh, here we go. You know, I’m on my, I’m not gonna give you the brand of the surface I’m on. There’s only one company that makes surfaces.
Shimel: It’s on a roll of reminders.
Schwartz: Excellent sound effects.
Shimel: It doesn’t shut up, here. Look at this, this is—
Schwartz: That’s okay, we could use some background music.
Shimel: Yeah, I guess so. It’s happening—I don’t know if I like the rhythm, but anyway. [Laughter] So, Marc, a good question is—look, you’re globetrotting around the world evangelizing your AWS role and everything. And yet, you know, over the last, let’s say, three years, four years, you know, this is the third book, actually, isn’t it?
Schwartz: Yeah. It’s the third one, and I’ve started to work on a fourth.
Shimel: Can you give us a sneak preview of the fourth, or it’s too premature yet?
Schwartz: Well, it is too premature. It can go in lots of different directions, but I can tell you what I’m thinking a lot about right now, which is bureaucracy and how to overcome it on the one hand, but even more than that, I think you can harness it in many ways, if you are trying to become a digital organization.
And, you know, I think that fulfills my role as an iconoclast. I think bureaucracy is one of those words that people have a very strong negative reaction to. But, of course, in my role before AWS as a government CIO, I, of course, witnessed, experienced a lot of bureaucracy and developed strategies for coping with it that I think would be useful to a wide audience. So, I think I’ll probably write something that has to do with that.
Shimel: Okay, pretty cool. And you know what? We mentioned “A Seat at the Table” and, you know, there’s nothing like your first book, but I feel amiss if we shouldn’t also mention the title of the second book, right, and that is “The Art of Business Value,” right?
Schwartz: Yeah. “The Art of Business Value” was sort of my initial train of thought. You know, I said to myself, we’re talking a lot about business value and how important it is to guide what you do in the IT world by delivering business value and how you should make prioritization decisions by business value, and it occurred to me that nobody was really talking about what that meant, you know? What is business value, exactly?
And when I looked into it, I realized that people were not really interpreting it, in many cases, in the best way, and that if you thought a little bit more deeply about that, it would change the way that you practiced IT.
So, that was what drove that first book, and in that book, I introduced the question of what does a CIO have to do with figuring out what business value is? How does a CIO make sure that he or she is delivering business value? And I realized that that was a good topic for a second book, actually. [Laughter] Something that I really needed to dive more deeply into. So, that’s what generated “A Seat at the Table.”
And then, as I said before, once I had written “A Seat at the Table,” it was sort of clear to me what the next thing had to be. It had to be the book that I hope will speak to non-IT business leaders. So, that explains the sequence of the three books in my head.
Shimel: Very cool. So, Marc, is there a tour going on with the book? Are you out speaking—I mean, are you gonna be, for instance, at DOES: London, coming up?
Schwartz: I will be there. I speak at a lot of conferences in my role with AWS, and so, I’m on a permanent tour, essentially. [Laughter] I speak all over the world, and of course, I write blog posts and I’ll be writing some more books. And it all ties together with my role at AWS, where I’m part of a team that’s trying to lead enterprise executives into the future. You know, here’s the way that we see things developing, here’s how you can take advantage of what’s going on with the cloud and with DevOps.
And so, I don’t have a speaking tour specifically about my book, but a lot of the topics that the book touches are also the topics I talk about for AWS.
Shimel: Great. Great, great, great. Marc, we’re about out of time. We mentioned you can get the book on Amazon. Up on DevOps.com, I think we have a link to a, I don’t know if it’s the first chapter or an excerpt of the book. We’ll put that in the show notes.
Look, man—first of all, congratulations on what sounds like another great book. I’m actually, I’m gonna be on the road a whole bunch in June, so, I’m gonna have a chance to catch up on my reading on planes and stuff, so I’ll get a chance to read this one. And then maybe we can circle back, maybe at the end of June in London, and we can talk a little bit more in depth about it.
Schwartz: Uh huh. Sounds great.
Shimel: Great. Hey, Marc Schwartz—iconoclast, CIO, or iconoclastic CIO as well as multiple award winning author, a real DevOps expert. His newest book, “War, Peace & IT,” you can find out more, get an excerpt from it on DevOps.com, you can get it on Amazon or any number of good quality book sites.
Hey, Marc, congratulations, and thanks for being our guest on DevOps Chat.
Schwartz: Thank you very much.
Shimel: Alright. Enjoy your day and we’ll be in touch.
Shimel: Alrighty. Bye bye. This is Alan Shimel for DevOps Chat and DevOps.com. Have a great day.