Space for Thinking in a Big Room


To survive the Digital Transformation, companies will have to respond quickly to changing markets and customer needs. This is “business agility” and can only happen when cross functional units leave their silos and unite in joined up thinking to achieve shared business goals.

LittleBlogAuthorGraphic  David Hodgson, Feb 12 2016

One of the last things I did at CA before I left, was join in a “Big Room Planning” session to help prioritize goals and initiatives for the Mainframe Business Unit. As the name implies, the basic idea of Big Room Planning is getting a lot of key people together physically in the same room to do strategic planning for the business. It needs a big room to accommodate all the necessary participants! Our guides and facilitators were two expert consultants from the Rally Software group, now a part of CA Technologies through acquisition.

The Quest for an Agile Business

Agility is delivering customer value faster. The adoption of Agile development methodologies has been an intrinsic part of the Digital Transformation that we are experiencing in the IT industry. Big Room Planning is part of the next wave of Agile adoption; extending it from just transforming the development process, to using the same principles to transform the way a business is run. It is a natural next step for companies adopting Agile because it soon becomes apparent that delivering successful products involves the whole company, not just the engineering teams.

SAFe – the Scaled Agile Framework

Big Room Planning at the portfolio level is really an extrapolation of one part of Scaled Agile Framework, or SAFe. Championed by Dean Leffingwell, SAFe itself will have to be a subject for a future blog as it is too big a subject to cover here. Suffice it to say that it is the application of Lean principles to scale Agile for large enterprises that have multiple products and many development teams. An essential element of SAFe is Product Increment planning where cross functional teams agree the direction of a product roadmap.

The power of cross functional teams thinking together

Big Room Planning takes PI Planning up a level and expands the audience to include more business and operational functions. It allows a business to take two days out to set an annual strategy that everyone understands and is bought into, because they helped create it. Quarterly follow-up meetings allow the team to track progress and tweak the strategy responding to new information; the better understanding of obstacles, or changes in market conditions and customer requirements.

CA’s Mainframe BU was doing Big Room Planning for the first time. We were all learning together and there was a general sense that the team would do it better the next time! Some things you can only learn by doing however much preparation you do before hand, watching videos and reading primers. In fact it is central to Agile philosophy that the team learns together by doing and that the learning crucible is what forges the most valuable results.

What I saw in this first stumbling attempt was colleagues learning to work together in new ways. Functions like Sales and Marketing getting to understand and validate the roadmap before Dev start building anything. In fact those functions helped to prioritize the roadmap alongside Product Management with the advice of Architects to help size and weigh the impacts of alternatives. These deep interactions between multiple functions can help large companies behave like small companies i.e. help them truly be agile.

A Competitive Advantage for You Too?

Rally could be one of the best things that has happened to CA. The acquisition brought a great new product that will surely drive growth for CA where there will be synergies and operational multipliers. But the bigger impact could be in a company-wide evolution if the Rally culture can help fuel agile adoption at CA. If their new practices are adopted across CA’s business units we could see a unified company delivering successful organic products from ideation with prospects to successful implementation by customers.

But more importantly, what about you? Do you have a vision for your company as an agile business? Could the concept’s of Big Room Planning be a starting point for you to gain competitive advantage in the markets you serve? Check it out.


Image credit: CA Technologies

Tips to make DevOps the newest best practice in your organization


In the application economy how does Development mesh with Operations?

LittleBlogAuthorGraphic  David Hodgson, September 15, 2014

DevOps describes an IT culture for developing new application features and rolling them out to the user base at a rapid pace without disrupting operations.

It probably represents a profound change in your organization’s IT culture, a change that adopts agile and lean practices and requires breaking down operational silos so that constant changes can be coordinated to avoid catastrophe.

I am in the middle of a four-part series on how to best navigate your journey into the application economy, drawing allusions with my daily walk to work and back. I introduced four principles and so far we have covered:


In this post I’ll discuss the importance of DevOps to your success in this new era of IT.

On my morning walk up 5th avenue I like to keep moving rather than starting and stopping, and yet I have to cross 28 streets. To do this I must look ahead, predict what the next traffic lights are doing and I adjust my pace so I never stop walking.

DevOps is a bit like this. The challenge is to ensure that an application rollout is never prevented by an operational limitation and operations are never impaired by the rollout of a new or changed app.

Mainframe applications are alive and still running the economy

Since one focus of this blog post is the role of the mainframe in today’s IT, it is worth noting that few companies are doing new application development on the traditional mainframe.

A few are starting to write new Cobol and Java apps to run on z/OS, but these are the progressive minority who are taking advantage of the huge improvements in System z. Most are maintaining their Cobol base, amending it as needed to adapt to business needs.

All IT groups are focused on mobile apps and distributed systems that frequently send transactions back to the mainframe or link to the heavy lifting, mainframe applications. Even without major new application development, Mainframe applications are alive and running the economy.

CA AppDev or DevOps strategy for the mainframe focuses on solving the problems of rapid change in distributed applications that send transactions to be processed by backend application code and transactions on the mainframe.

Relationships are based on communication and understanding

The number one DevOps problem we have heard from mainframe customers is that the development groups working on mobile and web apps do not understand the impact of changes on the mainframe.

Worse, once something is rolled out, the potential bad effect may not be seen for a few weeks until a peak load when the mainframe CPU spikes and causes a failure somewhere else. The root cause is much harder to find in that situation.

It is imperative that such changes are tested with tools like CA LISA Service Virtualization so that impacts to the mainframe are known in advance. It is important that code changes across platforms are coordinated (between Harvest and Endevor for instance) and can then be packaged and rolled out in a controlled way with a tool like CA LISA Release Automation.

What customers really need is end-to-end workflow coordination of the develop, test, rollout and maintain lifecycle. This means clearly communicating among the different groups so that everybody knows what has changed and has the same understanding of the impact of those changes.

And of course you need to be free to choose your tools for this to allow you to use multiple tools or have the agility to change if you want to.

I hope you can join us at CA World this year because we will be showing you where we are with delivering on this DevOps dream and I think you will be surprised.

It’s as clear as a bell

As St. Thomas’s bells chime 8 a.m., I cross over 53rd and into the office. The harmony reminds me of all the parts working together and the sound reminds me of that expression, “It’s as clear as a bell”.

To achieve your DevOps vision you need organizational clarity and effective communication.  If you have solutions that help Development integrate tightly with Operations, I would love to hear about them in comments below.

In the new world of the application economy, we are all learning from each other and sharing will help the industry accelerate.