ACT-IAC’s Legacy System Modernization Approach Too Legacy

Anchor from Kyle James
“Anchor” by Kyle James is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Federal Government has a lot of legacy systems and spends a lot of money on them. In fact, according to a white paper on legacy system modernization from The American Council for Technology (ACT) and Industry Advisory Council (IAC), the Federal Government plans to spend $37 billion on “legacy” IT in 2017.

Lots of organizations struggle with legacy systems. Or more to the point, they struggle to maintain and make changes to them in a way that provides the pace and value the organization wants. So given the scale of this issue in the Federal Government, ACT-IAC took a crack at providing a “best practice” approach for modernizing legacy systems in the white paper I just referenced.

I read the paper a couple of times. I definitely had some strong thoughts and feels as I read it. I couldn’t keep them bottled up so I suggested some changes to how the Government should think about legacy systems modernization on Excella’s blog. I could’ve written a lot more (like on the role of DevOps, which shouldn’t be in the “DevOps/Sustainment” phase — see page 20 in the white paper), but the post was already getting lengthy. Let’s consider this a good start for discussion and iterate from there.

My 6 Best Leadership Resources

charles bowling conducts westland orchestra from woodleywonderworks
“charles bowling conducts westland orchestra” by woodleywonderworks is licensed under CC BY 2.0

I started my career as a developer. My success was determined largely by how much I could produce and how fast I could produce it. I was an “individual contributor.” As I grew in my career and gained experience and perspective, I realized a couple of things. First, what I could produce was insignificant compared to what a high-performing team could produce. Second, what I most enjoyed was not producing stuff myself — it was creating opportunities for others to be happy and successful. (That’s now my personal mission statement.)

I decided I had to become a better leader because, regardless of what title I had, that was my real job. Becoming a better leader was the only way I was going to be successful — as defined by the success of the people, teams, and organizations I led.

I’m not that interested in the charismatic leaders or leaders who succeed by “force of personality.” I’m more interested in leaders who put systems in place and create environments for the people and organizations they lead to be successful. I can’t “be” anybody else — but I can learn the principles, values, and systems they used for their success and adopt what I think will work for me.

I’ve discovered some “go to” resources in my quest to become a better leader. These resources achieved that “go to” status based on how useful they are to me — measured primarily by how often I reference them and how much they’ve shaped how I think, speak, and act.
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Westrum’s Three Cultures Model

Hear speak see no evil Toshogu.jpg
“Hear speak see no evil Toshogu cropped enhanced.jpg” by Bobanny is licensed under CC BY-SA 1.0

“Performance more often comes down to a cultural challenge, rather than simply a technical one.”
Lara Hogan, Engineering Director, Etsy

Culture has a huge impact on the performance of an organization — for better or worse. In fact, some say culture is the only sustainable competitive advantage an organization can have. Despite culture’s importance, it has also been “fuzzy” and notoriously hard to quantify. The problem has been that we’ve had no good way of describing, assessing, or measuring culture. That changed when Dr. Ron Westrum, a sociologist, came up with his “Three Cultures Model”.

I wrote about Westrum’s three different types of culture on Excella’s blog.

3 Keys to Effective Partnerships

Chains from Mark Skipper
“Chains” by Mark Skipper is licensed under CC BY 2.0

At Excella, I lead our Services organization — really the “what” and “how” of our business. One responsibility in my organization is establishing partnerships to complement what we do. A partnership can deliver value to us, our clients, and our partner if established for the right reasons and managed correctly. For example, we are currently a partner with both Microsoft and AWS and they’ve both been win (clients) – win (partner) – win (us) relationships.

Occasionally I’m asked to look at new partnerships — either by an Excella employee or by a potential partner. These opportunities led me to think about the criteria for exploring a new partnership. Continue reading

Professional Courage

Diving board 2 from Claire Gillman
“Diving board 2” by Claire Gillman is licensed under CC BY 2.0 / Cropped from original

I’ve been thinking about the roles we play as professionals and leaders. A big part of our job is to make decisions on courses of action to address problems or opportunities facing our teams or our organization. Those decisions are often met with resistance, doubt, disagreement, or even outright hostility. In those situations, we’re faced with a choice: cave to the pressure and fall back to the relative safety of our status quo, or press on in the face of opposition. Continue reading

DC Continuous Delivery Presentation Resources

I delivered a presentation entitled “Tactics To Kickstart Your Journey Toward Continuous Delivery” to an awesome group of attendees at the DC Continuous Delivery meetup on August 25, 2015. The back-and-forth was fantastic! That’s probably why I kept going for 90 minutes (sorry if you attended and had plans I impinged on). As a follow-up, I wanted to provide some resources I mentioned during my talk.

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