FIRST Robotics and Giving Back

None of us are getting any younger. And to see the type of people, teams, companies and world in which we want to live today and in the future, we have to give back to communities and people in a way that positively influences generations after us. No matter how big or small, taking the time to help others matters.

Trility Consulting is proud to sponsor Des Moines, Iowa area Team 4646 ASAP as they head to Grand Forks, North Dakota this week to compete in the FIRST Robotics Competition! FIRST Robotics teams this year are building robots to compete with this year’s challenge DESTINATION: DEEP SPACE presented by The Boeing Company.

Teams that choose to compete in the FIRST competitions are given a six-week time limit to design, build, and program industrial size robots to play a field game against other teams. In addition to the building the robot, teams raise funds, design a team brand, develop engineering, business, and marketing skills working with volunteer mentors. In essence, young folks are learning how to create a working product, make time-based decisions and build an operational model which will serve them well as they figure out how to make their mark on this world through the years.

And Trility Consulting is additionally working with other Robotics teams in the area as well. Eric Gerling, Trility’s CTO, actively volunteers with the West Central Valley High School Robotics Team each year. Known as The Breakfast Club, the WCV Robotics Team competes in the FIRST Tech Challenge and completed their most recent season last December 2018.

While we’re all busy pursuing our careers, working to make money and improve the lives of ourselves and our families, don’t forget to take the time to think about the people that come after us. It takes much less effort than you imagine to be an encouraging teammate, coach, teacher or friend. And while the time investment may seem big to you, the return on investment in the life of one young person could very easily be a lifetime of success and opportunity.

Growth Requires A Plan

Achieving growth, change and success without a plan is a blessing. And these blessings lead many to believe they don’t need a plan. Said folks may even believe they are smarter than most and didn’t a plan in the first place.

For the rest of us, achieving growth, change and success over and over again in a predictable, repeatable manner that consumers and shareholders can bank on requires a plan.

In our personal lives we refer to this structure as goals and plans. In companies we tend to state things in the form of strategic objectives and roadmaps.

When we ask kids what they want to be when they grow up, they often (understandably) have no idea, let alone what it will take to get there. Yet, they are exploring and dreaming — limited only by their imagination (Figure 1).

When we ask young adults how far they want to go in the sport of their choice. They often state, “We want to win it all.” And they go on the journey with an idea of a plan (the season schedule), objectives (win all of the time) and a goal (be the best). They may not understand everything necessary to get there, but they are on the road to understanding. Experience helps. These young adults are only limited by their will to win and dedication to the journey.

We ask professionals in organizations about their personal and professional goals and the answers are often crystallized into promotions, higher salary, more responsibility, bonuses, achieving professional certifications and recognition. These folks often understand goals are composed of one or more objectives which require tasks to achieve them and are limited only by time, opportunity and a plan. Experience breeds wisdom.

Now consider companies themselves. Do they have strategic objectives for the coming year or years? Are there roadmaps spanning the organization which help the company achieve those objectives?

If there are strategic objectives, does everyone in the company know what they are? Should they? And if there are roadmaps, do they map to fulfilling the corporate objectives? Do all of the team members know how their projects relate to the roadmap which leads to achieving the strategic objectives?

Not having strategic objectives and a roadmap is one class of problem. Have objectives and roadmaps without general population knowledge and understanding of what they are, what they mean and how we’re all getting there together? Different class of problem to solve.

Can you imagine a company that has no clear objectives, no roadmap, has experienced intermittent growth, change and success without a plan and believes working hard and being busy is actually the plan?

Figure 1. “The relationship between age, wisdom, plans and goals.”

Ask any adult their plans for a holiday. They will most likely tell you exactly when it starts, where they are going, how they will get there, what they plan to do with a timeline, when they start for home, when they will be back at work and generally how much the whole endeavor will cost.

We need to see the same attention to detail in corporate strategic objective setting, roadmaps and projects.

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

“I don’t much care where–” said Alice.

“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

“–so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice added as an explanation.

“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”

Dodgson, Charles Lutwidge (pseudonym, Lewis Carroll). Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. London. Macmillan and Co.1865. Chapter 6.

A parting thought: whether we discuss children, young adults, professionals or corporations, the journey will require much of us — including money. Most people are happy to spend money on children, young adults and ourselves in pursuit of goals. And most folks are happy to spend their company’s money as well.

Question: If this were your company and your money, how would you feel about the company and people spending your money without clear strategic objectives and a roadmap to get there?

Pack Line Cloud Security

Basketball season is in full swing. I have been lucky for the last seven years to coach different levels of basketball ranging from Youth teams through the local High School team. Coaching continues to be a rewarding experience and many of the lessons I have learned working with athletes and other coaches apply directly to my work with product teams. It doesn’t matter how much you work to perfect your craft, be it system architecture or coaching a team of 5th grade athletes, there are always new challenges to tackle. A core tenant of sports is continuous improvement which should be applied to everything we do with technology. No one starts playing basketball ready to play in the pros, but everyone has it in them to be successful. It takes a tremendous amount of practice, a dedication to learning new things from others, and celebrating the little victories along the journey.

It is not surprising there are so many different Cloud Security analogies available on the Internet. Cloud Security is a difficult concept to describe given the wide range or tools, services, and seemingly infinite combinations organizations can utilize to solve business problems. If you are a fan of basketball, using different defensive schemes is a great way to describe different views on Cloud Security processes. In all cases, the goal is to prevent the offense, or in this case bad actors, from scoring while providing dynamic responses to a constantly changing product architecture and threat landscape. Typical Cloud Security frameworks today can be compared to two classic defenses: man-to-man and zone.

Man-to-Man

Man-to-Man Cloud Security involves security controls developed around individual services of products. Each control is focused on denying the service from sending or receiving information to other services in the system and aggressively focusing on protecting a single service. Firewalls, both web application and network, focus on denying traffic to block bad actors from easily accessing services. Logging and application specific analytics can be used to build a profile of a service and alert when the service profile is not followed. The disadvantage with man-to-man Cloud Security is in its aggressive focus on the individual service and a lack of real understanding of the big picture. There is a general lack of information on what other services are doing and because of this, any weakness in the focus on a single service can lead to breakdown of the security in general and, in basketball terms, an easy lay-up.

2-3 Zone

Zone Cloud Security primarily revolves around the frameworks in place for infrastructure deployed to support a wide variety of services. We still see organizations bringing the rigid security frameworks utilized for years in brick and mortar data centers and trying to apply them to Cloud Security. Deployed like a 2-3 zone in basketball, the defensive posture is to watch a specific area of the infrastructure and report back to a central service for monitoring and support. As information travels through the zone, communication is critical to ensure nothing gets lost in the shuffle. Each position in the zone is devoted to a specific task supporting a number of different services including both perimeter and core defense. The disadvantage with any zone defense is the gaps and in the public cloud space, gaps are appearing every day.

Server-less architectures are an exciting approach to utilizing the true power of elastic capacity while providing developers easier and easier ways to deploy features to production environments. However, in reducing the amount of infrastructure under direct monitoring the threat surface area is increasing at an equal rate. As any basketball coach will tell you, the easiest way to defeat a zone defense is by moving the ball and attacking the gaps in the zone. Another easy lay-up.

Trility takes a different approach to Cloud Security: the pack line.

Pack-Line

Pack Line Defense, created by Dick Bennett of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, is commonly used in some form by many coaches including Tom Izzo at Michigan State and Tony Bennett at Virginia. It is a variation of man-to-man defense with the biggest difference being off-ball defenders play in the gap instead of pressuring their player and denying the pass. Everyone except the player guarding the ball plays inside an imaginary line 16 feet from the rim also known as the pack line. As the ball moves around the perimeter, it is the responsibility of each defender to close out on the ball and aggressively pressure while the remaining defenders adjust their position accordingly to see both man and ball and prepare to help their teammates – 5 against the ball.

Cloud Security is everyone’s responsibility and while we are aggressively providing man-to-man defense on the active products, the rest of the team is continuously adjusting to find and fill gaps in the defensive strategy. We react to changing conditions and close out on threats while keeping business goals front of mind. 

The ephemeral and elastic nature of the public cloud along with software defined infrastructure and platforms provide an opportunity for service specific architectures. Trility utilizes two patent pending tools to help provide high quality customized security for cloud services: IronBench Compliance Navigator  and IronBench Cloud Config.

IronBench Compliance Navigator empowers organizations to develop highly customized compliance guidelines for products and services. Throughout the product lifecycle, IronBench Compliance Navigator uses standards and regulatory information updated as regulatory compliance laws and standards change to provide a solid foundation for product development teams.

IronBench Cloud Config is an enterprise framework and provides the source code for the entire implementation. Product teams can utilize a customizable secure framework based on industry standards and practices on which to build secure supporting infrastructure. Compliance Navigator helps you aggressively challenge the ball handler while Cloud Config supports the team by helping them adjust to changing product needs efficiently and securely working from a library of standards based templates.

No easy lay-ups.

Peder Malchow joins Trility Consulting!

Trility Consulting is happy to announce that Peder Malchow has joined our organization as Chief Revenue Officer responsible for structuring value-defined relationships with our clients! 

Peder Malchow, Chief Revenue Officer, Trility Consulting

With a successful career in business development, Peder brings with him experience in strategy, growth, portfolio development, team development and client success. Past leadership roles include Konica MinoltaAureon, as well as, work as a Founder and Partner in the Data Center Managed IT Services space taking an idea from a napkin to implementation, operation and sale.

Peder is responsible for the development of long-term client relationships, building product and services strategies that serve our clients valuably now and well into the future, as well as, leading a team of folks who genuinely seek to bring value to our clients by bringing the right solutions at the right moments.

Welcome Peder Malchow to Trility Consulting!

Did You Mean DevOps or DevOps?

DevOps is another word starting to lose its meaning in today’s marketplace. Ask an Engineer and DevOps is a set of tools or programming languages to take code from the Developer, package it up, and promote it through environments to production. Ask a Product Owner and DevOps is a separate team of individuals maintaining the Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment pipeline. Ask a Senior Manager and DevOps is a culture inside the organization to promote interdepartmental communication and breaking down barriers. Three opinions: a suite of tools, a team of individuals, or a new corporate culture.

More often than not when an organization is looking to solve problems with throughput from the product teams, a DevOps group is assembled to bridge the silos between various parts of the organization. Unfortunately, instead of bridging the gaps between the silos in the organization, a new silo is created around a set of new tools aimed at Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment. Instead of connecting groups, the organization now has another team competing for precious budget, is bringing new tools and processes into an already complicated technical stack, and in the end the core problem still remains.

In the F5 State of Application Delivery report for 2017, DevOps was only selected by 20 percent of the 2,197 respondents as having a strategic impact on application delivery. Software as a Service (SaaS), Big Data, and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) in the public cloud were far ahead of DevOps in strategic impact for the organization.

Interestingly, overall, DevOps was selected as having strategic impact by just 20 percent of respondents. Among those in executive roles, DevOps was identified by only 17 percent, well below front-running SaaS (42 percent), big data (41 percent), and public cloud (IaaS) (39 percent). Among those identifying as having DevOps and cloud-related roles, DevOps took third place with 39 percent behind SaaS (44 percent) and big data (42 percent). This is in spite of evidence that organizations are engaging in at least the automation and orchestration aspects of DevOps.

However, according to the 2018 Open Source Jobs Report published by The Linux Foundation and Dice, DevOps skills (59%) are second only to Developers (72%) as the most sought after position. Organizations have a real need to solve operational throughput problems to get products from the napkin to in front of the customer efficiently. Simply having a DevOps group inside the organization is not getting the job done. Clearly there seems to be a disconnect between the strategic value of DevOps and the drive to continue to build a DevOps team.

Given all of the confusion regarding how DevOps is defined and the strategic impact to an organization, it is important to have a single definition communicated throughout the organization. 

At Trility Consulting, we believe the delivery of testable, secure, software to production on a regular, repeatable cadence is the responsibility of everyone on the team. There are no walls, there are no silos. It all starts with amazing Product Owners, Developers, and Delivery Engineers who are focused on delivering an exciting application development experience. Everyone on our project teams are dedicated to diving in and understanding how we solve business problems together. 

When you hear a member of the Trility Consulting team talk about DevOps we are talking about our commitment to the business problem at hand and delivering value to the clients we have the privilege to serve. As a team we are focused on delivery.

Don’t Forget the “V” in MVP

Minimum Viable Product, or MVP, is a common term used by businesses leaders and product owners to help drive quick, iterative, product development to get products released to market faster. The goal is to release just those core features necessary to put the product in front of customers to learn about customer needs and validate assumptions prior to larger investments in a new product. Release quickly, release often, and adjust the product based on feedback from customers.

Product teams today do a great job of focusing on the M, Minimal. Constantly asking the team and business stakeholders when new feature requests are made, “Is this a requirement for MVP?”, helps prioritize development efforts and keep the team focused on making a timely and relevant release. Business stakeholders on a regular basis can see the features being developed during frequent demos and can provide direct feedback which goes back through the same intake process grounded by the same question focused on releasing the MVP. When the cycle is managed by a proactive Product Owner, it can be an extremely efficient way to get ideas from a napkin at lunch to a product in front of customers.

Where Product teams struggle is with making sure the V, Viable, is taken into consideration as a team. Security, operational readiness, reproduceability, and scalability are all important parts of any product which helps validate the viability of a product. Unfortunately, in the race to production these items fall by the wayside and show up on the backlog. When the team does release the product and receive customer feedback, they’re often stuck in a challenging position of either picking up the items in the backlog tagged as After MVP or continuing to refine the product to keep customer engaged. As it should, the focus remains on the customer and meeting the business objectives for the product. The weight of the backlog eventually causes cracks in the team, cracks in the product, and a new round of questions for business stakeholders to consider regarding whether to refactor, rewrite, or sometimes, a new MVP to fix the problems from the previous MVP.

Continuous Integration, Continuous Deployment, Security by Design, Test Driven Development, Performance Testing, Infrastructure as Code — these are all terms many development teams are familiar with and actively promote inside organizations today. However, many of these items are the first things added to the backlog during MVP development when teams are racing against the clock. We need to do a better job as Engineers communicating to business stakeholders that each of these items are individually, and collectively, an important part of making a product viable.

We can still meet the needs of a minimal product by constraining the conversation in each case to the product being developed. The product may not have a need to support a thousand requests a second for the MVP, but we should ensure performance testing frameworks are in place and exercise the product on a regular basis so issues can be discovered early and often during the development process. The product may only require a small amount of simple infrastructure to be deployed to support the MVP, but the infrastructure should be built and deployed in code along side the rest of the product so as needs change the foundation is already in place to support rapid growth. The product may not have a requirement to support a security standard for the MVP, but the application should be built following a set of standard security practices and validated regularly with automated testing to support a growing customer base. 

Viable – the ability to work successfully

Product teams need to ensure when MVP is defined, the product’s ability to work successfully after release is front and center during the development process. Minimal helps you get to the first release; Viable ensures you make it to the second.

Do You Understand Time to Value?

The definition of value is subjective. Measuring expenditures is objective. If you ask someone in your company or team to define value, what do you think they will say? Will they discuss financials? Will they discuss projects, software releases or widgets created? Do you or your team define value to a customer by counting things?

As a quick exercise, define the value of your pants; not in terms of money, but in terms of value to you. Simply put, can you measure the value of your pants? Simpler yet, define the word itself — value. Like choosing wine, art and music, defining value is subjective to whomever is shopping.

In business, we use cost accounting to count things. Ironically, cost accounting does not define value for a customer, nor does it delight a customer. It simply counts things.

When we use cost accounting to measure, we’re being fiscally responsible. However, the focus on the cost of things leads companies, teams and individuals to perceive that cost of acquisition, cost of ownership and return on investment math defines value. While the company that sold you pants can measure their investment throughout the entire supply chain down to the point of sale, that math doesn’t define how you value pants, their brand or company. Were you able to measure the value of your pants? What would make you purchase a second pair of those pants?

Taking software projects and breaking them down into people, time and cost helps us count things. In order to deliver product and service solutions to customers, we count things. Does that seem weird? Does it seem weird we can count all of the things in a project, feel good about ourselves, and still have no idea what the customer actually values?

Does knowing the cost of all the things in a software delivery chain mean we know when we’ve provided value to the customer? Unfortunately, it does not. It only suggests we know how to count.

If we can objectively count money, but we cannot easily measure a customer’s perceived value of things, as business and technology leaders and team members, how do we increase the probability of making first-time and recurring sales? Most of us are in business to make a living. Making a living requires money, which requires sales. If we don’t know what a customer values, how do we make sales?

“What!?” you say to me. “I’m not a sales, advertising or marketing person. That’s their job to do that rubbish. I just deliver stuff.” I’m not a marketing, advertising or sales expert either. However, for those who are, as a technology leader I can help them do their jobs better by providing shorter time to revenue windows which helps them discover shorter time to value windows for both the company and the customer.

In other words, marketing, advertising and sales people need options every moment of every day to adapt to varying customer scenarios, gain market-share, crush competitors and make money to pay our salaries and business expenses. And they need them now, not when the business and/or technical teams can get to it.

What is the time between having an idea and delivering the idea in order to delight a customer and generate revenue?

In your company, is the flow of a product solution from beginning to end smooth like fresh ice on a hockey rink and as fast as a hockey puck? Or is it more comparable to the starts and stops of a muddy, variably pothole laden road? Figuring out time to revenue and time to value factors depends on understanding how product solutions flow through your company.

If you build software solutions and/or run software operations for a living, what do you think about the following questions?

  • Why are there so many steps to get from idea on a napkin to implementation?
  • Why are there so many tools in the delivery chain?
  • Why does it take so long to find out if we broke something that worked yesterday?
  • Why can’t we know whether the product meets company standards all of the time?
  • Why do we test so late in the process potentially delaying our project?
  • Why can’t we know if we’re compliant with industry regulations every time we build software, every day of every week instead of during third-party audits performed quarterly and annually in arrears?
  • Why can’t we deliver small portions of the larger solution that can be marketed, advertised and sold along the way instead of waiting for everything to be finished before we can even begin advertising, selling and making money?
  • Why can’t we find a way to deliver at the highest quality and highest velocities at the same time? Why are they treated as mutually exclusive?
  • Is information security and performance really something I have to kick down the road until later?
  • Why does it seem like our projects are black boxes of magic until the very end?

Consider this: Sales people are expected to provide verifiable value that is daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annually measured in qualified leads, follow-ups, sales and revenue with non-negotiable baseline margins, but people who build software products take as long as they take and spend as much as they spend?

If you're responsible for delivering solutions that enable customer delight resulting from sales, marketing and advertising successes, the distance between having an idea and realizing the ability to make money with said idea is called -- time to revenue. 

The distance between having a product and knowing what product the customer actually wants to buy is called -- time to value.

Question: Organizationally and operationally, what do you need to change in order to realize shorter and more frequent time to value discoveries?

If you’d like help figuring out how to compress the time it takes to get from an idea to making money while also including security, performance, quality and reliability from the beginning (instead of later), we’d like to help. Or if you’d like help determining how to more quickly and frequently discover, re-discover and provide recurring value for your customers, the teams at Trility Consulting know how to help you get from where you are to where you’d like to go.

We evaluate your business goals and current state of operations. Then we work with you to implement solutions which help you get there. We use 100% software-defined, continuous delivery behaviors including continuous test-driven development, continuous inspection, continuous compliance, continuous vulnerability assessments, continuous penetration testing, software defined infrastructure, serverless architectures, secure enterprise-class cloud ecosystems and more. This is simply what we do and how we live even for our own projects — and we’ve been doing it for quite awhile.

We’ll help you discover what time to value looks like in your team and operation. And your customers will thank you for it.

Dynamo and Trility Consulting Announce Strategic Partnership!

On Wednesday, May 24th, 2018  Dynamo, LLC and Trility Consulting, LLC announced the launch of their strategic alliance, bringing together two emerging leaders in the technology services industry. The partnership between these two companies represents an intersection between the strategic consulting, product delivery services, behavioral and engineering guidance that Trility offers combined with the high-quality, high-capacity recruiting and flexible resourcing solutions that Dynamo brings to the venture.  Together, Dynamo and Trility create a powerful partner for companies facing significant business and technology challenges or embarking on or amidst a digital transformation journey.

About Dynamo, LLC

Founded in 2014 with a focus on redefining an industry, Dynamo is a technology consulting and recruiting services company headquartered in Omaha, NE.  Dynamo is a new model for what technology consulting and recruiting should be: focusing quality over quantity, valuing people over transactions, and getting it right the first time.  Their talent networks extend into agile software development, information security, data and analytics, mobile, and cloud focus areas. Dynamo serves customers in Iowa, Colorado, Nebraska, Texas, and Tennessee.   To learn more, visit their website at www.godynamo.co

About Trility Consulting, LLC

Headquartered in Urbandale, Trility is a people-first, full-spectrum solutions company focused on helping customers and partners enjoy success with today’s digital transformation needs. From cloud adoption, migration, implementation and evolution to continuous cyber-security solutions and full-stack application and systems development, their focus is understanding customer needs, providing customers multiple options and implementing solutions that constantly enable the ability to change as their needs change. Trility is a certified AWS Consulting Partner, and a partner/re-seller of Ironbench products which include secure enterprise cloud adoption, Linux security and regulatory compliance adoption solutions.  To learn more, visit their website at www.trility.io

Through the partnership of Dynamo, Trility Consulting and IronBench, we provide our customers the right combination of people, skills, products and services in a way that no other individual company can bring to the table.

For inquiries about how Dynamo and Trility can help your organization, contact either Dynamo or Trility representatives today to start a conversation.

ShowPal Launches Another Product

ShowPal, a Des Moines, Iowa based start-up founded by Chad Torstenson, recently launched its next product which enables showing a home without an agent or homeowner present!

Adding to the existing Property IQ product, ShowPal now provides the additional  abilities to list, show, buy and sell your home without an agent should you choose to do so. And if you decide a bit of help along the way would be handy, ShowPal will provide the additional service of a broker!

The ability to perform autonomous home showings is the next in a series of products and services planned by ShowPal designed to make the process of selling, showing and buying properties safer, easier and cheaper for everyone involved.  To custom build these products and services, ShowPal engaged Trility Consulting, of Urbandale, Iowa, to help design, build and deliver their cloud and on-premises based software solutions. 

Trility Consulting focuses on helping companies adopt, build and operate in secure enterprise cloud ecosystems so companies can focus on serving customers.

Visit ShowPal’s site! Or stay in touch with them on Twitter  and Facebook!

Nick Cardamon joins Trility Consulting!

Trility Consulting is happy to announce that Nick Cardamon has agreed to join the organization as a Senior Account Manager responsible for client relationship management!

Nick comes to us a with a long history of managing relationships and projects with other companies including his own. And in our interactions with him through time and different situations, we knew we wanted to work him!

Nick is involved with acquiring new clients, projects and teams, as well as, staying involved with existing clients to ensure Trility Consulting is consistently performing at and above commitment in each and every relationship.

Our entire leadership team is always available to serve our present and future customers. And with the addition of Nick Cardamon our team is a bit larger and more capable to bring value to you and your organization.

Welcome Nick Cardamon to Trility Consulting!