Toltec wisdom for the modern age – Q&A with PagerDuty DevOps guru Matty Stratton

Telecom Times caught up with PagerDuty DevOps advocate Matty Stratton who recently toured the region, to promote a new incident response code of conduct and collaboration approach.

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Stratton’s presentation The Four Agreements of Incident Response highlights the teams behind incident response, focusing on the importance of collaboration and personal conduct. Drawing on ancient Toltec tenets, Stratton uses author Don Miguel Ruiz’s personal code of conduct to adapt its four key components* to devise a new guideline for incident response teams.

*Be Impeccable With Your Word – Don’t Take Anything Personally – Don’t Make Assumptions – Always Do Your Best

TELECOM TIMES: I note that in your blogpost you focus on some key human behaviours to improve a team’s response performance, notably around ownership and communication.

From your perspective in DevOps, how much emphasis should companies in a digital economy place on this staff training and collaboration between bierachic remits in addition to concentrating purely on software or technological advances?

STRATTON: I believe that social and business skills are often underrated and de-emphasised compared to the specifics of technology. Technology education and adoption are easy, people are tougher.

Whatever amount your organisation is devoting towards developing real, actionable (i.e., not in ‘name only’) collaboration practices and skills is not enough. Understanding how to model proper incentives towards the behaviours of collaboration will drive the adoption of these behaviours, which is what will influence your organisation’s culture.

TELECOM TIMES: In other words, do you think there’s a risk for some decision makers to regard such excellent guideline principles as outlined in your Four Agreements as a mere overlay to IT systems , software upgrades and tech innovation? Whereas it seems the right mix or balance of the two concepts could provide a real sweet spot for just about any company in any vertical.

STRATTON: I agree! The two ‘sides’ are quite complementary. And, to be frank, you can’t realise the full advantage of modern IT practices without changing your ways of working.

Simply adopting kubernetes, for example, is not going to magically make you ship software at a higher velocity with greater agility – it is necessary to evaluate the human factors in your process and teams.

TELECOM TIMES: Has this kind of policy, process based on your Four Agreements already been rolled out somewhere and if so, what did you take away from the initial results?

STRATTON: The Four Agreements are a summarisation of the Incident Response practices we have been using at PagerDuty for years. These practices are open-source and available at https://response.pagerduty.com.

They have been adopted by many other organisations in verticals other than ours, ranging from startups, SaaS organisations, as well as larger enterprises. They are based upon practices used by first responders and other disciplines outside of IT, so there is a high level of maturity in these practices.

TELECOM TIMES: Is the Pagerduty proposition suited to specific verticals more than others or would you suggest the company’s services and products could be moulded seamlessly to benefit any kind of industry?

STRATTON: You don’t have to “be DevOps” to leverage the value of PagerDuty. Whether you follow DevOps practices or more traditional ITSM approaches, PagerDuty can still be massively valuable to get the right information to the right folks when dealing with service interruption or other business challenges.

TELECOM TIMES: Is there any kind of business or industry Pagerduty as yet hasn’t engaged with and one you’re keen to get your DevOps teeth into?

STRATTON: Personally, I am intrigued to dig deeper into the area of Security Incident Response – which is something that PagerDuty already engages with – but for me, I’m fascinated to see how to understand the needs of security response and how our product and practices can help practitioners in that space.

TELECOM TIMES: Can you nominate some key trends yo see emerging within the Pagerduty DevOps space you feel one should look out for in the near term?

STRATTON: In the larger space, what I’m definitely seeing is a desire and impact for DevOps practices to have an impact in business areas outside of IT. I believe we will see even more adoption of these practices in the business operations space.

DevOps may sound like it is only for software engineers and technology operations (due to its somewhat limiting-sounding name), but the reality is these approaches to collaboration, measurement, sharing, and more are directly applicable to almost all areas of a business.

I believe in the near term we will see even more adoption of these practices.

TELECOM TIMES: How big a role do you see for AI within your particular brief and more specifically, how do you see it could benefit smaller businesses?

STRATTON: There is a LOT of data that is captured as part of incident response. Being able to apply AI to this operational data can help provide clues for responders to be able to restore service with even greater effect.

I don’t believe we are ever going to completely replace human decision making and experience, as every incident is unique and our systems are complex, but we can leverage AI and machine learning to provide more robust data to these human decision makers.

AI can help make these systems more robust, but humans are what make it resilient. Resiliency is how our systems respond when they expand outside of our predicted robustness and resiliency always requires human factors.

But the better equipped we can make these humans, the more resiliency they can help achieve!

Q&A with Communications Alliance CEO John Stanton – Part II

Welcome to Part 2 of our QA interview, in which Communications Alliance chief exec John Stanton looks ahead  to an evolving remit for the peak industry body, the role of government and regulators, and of course the ACOMMS Awards as well.

Telecom Times   Looking ahead, do you see the role of CA evolving into other areas, remits or approaches? If so, what would these be and what specifically would drive such a move?

Stanton    Ultimately, those decisions will be driven by our Members, but standing still in a sea of change is not an option. Three years ago we started an IoT think-tank that became the IoT Alliance Australia and grew so rapidly that it threatened to crush its mother.

We made the decision that the best course was to set it up as an independent company and it has flourished. We took on the responsibilities of the Internet Industry Association a few years ago and have a stronger presence in internet content matters. We created a satellite services group and that is now a vibrant voice for that sector and working well with the new Australian Space Agency.

At the same time, we can’t lose focus on a key part of our core mission – managing the system of co-regulation upon which the industry operates.

This is the platform of more than 120 Codes, Standards and Guidelines – largely invisible to customer – that the industry has created to enable interoperability, customer service and complaint handling, network and customer coordination, safety and operational standards, customer transfers, consumer protections and security for customers.

While there is often a temptation for Governments and regulators to jump immediately to external regulatory options when a problem is evident or perceived, co-regulation is typically more agile and benefits from industry knowledge in its creation – it’s a system that has worked well in Australia since 1997 and must be allowed to continue to deliver value and benefit to all Australian telecommunications users.

Telecom Times      The ACOMMS – now in its 12th year – never fail to provide a great occasion for those telco-minded entities to come together, network and/or raise their companies’ profile. (Shortlisted finalists)

Do you think the format – solid as it is – will at any point need to be tweaked to include a greater focus on  ‘new tech’ like AI, machine learning etc.?

Stanton   There’s no doubt the award categories will continue to evolve, because transformation is a constant in the telco sector – we introduced an award for IoT two years ago, for example.

Communications Alliance CEO John Stanton

What we want to retain in the format is the sense of celebration around shared endeavour and achievement.

The telco sector is an enabler for all other industries and makes an enormous contribution to the Australian economy – one that is not always fully recognised.

Telecom Times   Does it help that we have such an avuncular presence in the current Comms minister? *

Stanton    We’re waiting to see who the Minister is right now! Mitch Fifield is well-regarded by the sector. He made the effort to get across the detail of our industry. He is pretty available, by Ministerial standards and does listen.

We recognize that there has been political and constituent pressure around some of the challenges during the NBN rollout, and Mitch has had to manage that. He might have leaned too far in the direction of direct regulation just lately, but opinions will vary on that issue.

Telecom Times    Thank you for your time, John. Am looking forward to your speech this week at the ACOMMS.**

 

*At the time of going to press, the Coalition Government had just selected Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg to be the next Prime Minister and Treasurer. UPDATE: On Sunday, the new cabinet was announced, with Mitch Fifield continuing in his role as Communications Minister.

** The 2018 ACOMM Awards winners will be announced on Wednesday, 29th of August at the Hyatt Regency Sydney, 161 Sussex Street, Sydney.

‘Cyber attackers to hit APAC, ANZ after Brexit and US, France election meddling’ : Centrify CEO Tom Kemp

And so we arrive at the very last installment of my convo with Centrify CEO Tom Kemp, a few weeks ago in Silicon Valley.  We hope you enjoyed this three-part serial.

Telecom Times  How do you see the ANZ market developing for Centrify in the longer term? And how do you target that market as compared to your broader APAC strategy?

Tom Kemp I think what’s happening is, there are going to be new drivers for security in the form of compliance. We’re seeing that with GDPR in Europe and we saw that with the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

No doubt you’re probably more familiar than I am with some of the new privacy rules and regulations that will be coming out, not only in ANZ but in Singapore and Korea as well.

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I think increasingly, there is going to be awareness of the need to protect users’ privacy and security. I think that will be a big driver for us.

Historically we haven’t seen that in Asia-Pacific, but now I think GDPR is going to loom over APAC, and I think people will look to adopt something comparable that should further drive the deployment of technologies that can secure users and their privacy.

I also think that the same nation states that first focused their attacks in Europe – and as we saw with Brexit and some of the recent – the French elections – and of course in the US – I think they’re probably going to take their act and start looking at, see if they can disrupt democracies in APAC as well.

I think the combination of new regulatory compliance, as well as the nation states going – you know, first they did Brexit, then they did the US, now they’re going to go to Australia and New Zealand, to try and take advantage of the same vulnerabilities that exist.

A lot of the vulnerabilities exist with the fact that we’re dealing with humans here, who can be phished and have their usernames and passwords stolen.

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I mean someone would probably just love to steal – much like they stole John Podesta’s [data], the campaign manager of Hillary Clinton – they would love to steal the password for your Prime Minister.

Telecom Times  Sure. As one of the founders can you tell me a bit more about the start-up days. Just looking back, what were some of the aspects of founding a significant company that turned out to be easier than you had imagined?

And also what were some things you found surprisingly difficult?

Tom Kemp  The key thing when you’re a founder is to have very good founders. And I’m very blessed to have two great co-founders. The second thing is that once you have the initial set of your founding team, you need to bring in really good people. In technology, it’s so critical because it is all about building, coding – building product.

So the most important thing is: Hire good engineers that can build the product and implement the vision that you have as a founder. If you don’t have the right people, it’s not like I can sit there and code everything myself, right?

I think the most important thing in a software company is: it’s about the most valuable asset [that] walks out the door every night, right?

The lesson that I’ve learned is – it really revolves around hiring the right people, and that’s never easy, right?

You have to spend a lot of time investing in interviewing people – trying to see not only if people are competent, but if there is the right cultural fit.

If you’re fortunate to put together the right team, you can go very far because the reality is, a lot of companies have the same ideas. But it’s: what team can better execute?

Telecom Times  Just out of interest –  I’ve heard different theories about why the location of Silicon Valley has been such a hotbed of innovation, technology and progress. I wonder if you have a theory of your own that you’d like to leave me with?

Tom Kemp  There are many reasons why Silicon Valley has had such amazing success. I mean, first of all, you have the Universities that have put out great technical engineers, not only in computer science but mechanical engineering in all forms; chemical engineering.  All forms of technology.

When you have a hub of great universities like Stanford and UC Berkeley, you just have a lot of smart people coming here.

The second thing that was very valuable is access to capital – you have a set of people who were willing to invest.

I think another thing that is very important is the fact that in California the non-competes are not enforceable, [which] gives the flexibility for people to move to different jobs.

You find in other regions that an employer says, ‘Oh, you can’t do something comparable at another company.’ But here… [it] allows people to freely move and cross-pollinate like a bee going from company to company, as opposed to just having the ideas being locked in one company under lock and key.

And I think the other thing is, is that Silicon Valley is the ultimate meritocracy where, from a cultural perspective we don’t care about your race, nationality or sexual orientation. We value merit.

We value great ideas. And this is one of the few places in the world where, if you’re smart, have a great idea and want to work hard, you can monetise that and no-one’s going to discriminate against you for any reason because people value hard work and great ideas.

And you don’t see that in a lot of different places in the world.