Kevin Parker Archive

One of the most hilarious presenters in the technology community is George Spalding of Pink Elephant. As Executive VP, he also has a serious side and is one of the primary authors of ITIL version 3. Day two of the conference started with George looking back at the state of release management since Y2K and then he abruptly brought us up to date with the challenges that we face in a mobile-to-mainframe world. Watch the video to the right.

Peter Sianchuk, Serena’s head of customer experience, talked about the award-winning support organization and innovations they are introducing to make the service they deliver better.

Traditionally, day 2 is also the day for recognizing customer success and exceptional use of Serena’s products. This year’s winners are:

  • Tracy Wiseman, Accident Fund Holdings, Inc. for Leadership in Enterprise Application Delivery
  • Stefan Schurman, ABS Associates for Innovation in Process Design
  • Ricardo Oliveira, Caixa Geral de Depósitos for Excellence in Release Management

Congratulations to the winners once again.  See my blog post about this announcement, which includes photos of the winners.

The day completed with a traditional Miami Beach party, complete with salsa dancing and cigar rolling.

Day one started with a bang! In a new format, xChange13 got right down to business at 8:00 AM on Monday. Serena President and CEO Greg Hughes immediately set the tone and vision of the conference.  Watch the video to the right.  He talked about the challenges facing the industry as we navigate through releasing applications with greater velocity and greater throughput 24×7 under never-before pressure to meet time-to-market, compliance and control needs.

Serena’s head of development laid out the future of the product set and highlighted many of the cool new features that are in the upcoming releases. The common threads of greater accessibility, closer collaboration and more automation were reflected time and again as Serena’s solutions continue to evolve as the premier solution for enterprises who are serious about release management.

The Monday keynote presentation was delivered by Damon Edwards from DTO Solutions. Damon is a famous podcaster and author on the world of DevOps and one of the founders of the DevOps movement. He set the record straight: DevOps is not something one can buy, but it is something one can be. He made it clear that People and Process trumped Technology and that all successful DevOps initiatives come from a change in culture that pervades the organization from the leaders in the business to the practitioners in the data center.  Watch the video of his presentation!

The day closed with the traditional Partner Reception and the room was abuzz with talk about the exciting challenges ahead.

xChange13I am very excited to announce the winners of the 2013 Serena Innovation Awards, aka “Douggies,” named after Serena founder Doug Troxel.

Serena President and CEO Greg Hughes presented the following honorees this morning on the main stage at xChange13, our global user conference in Miami.  Every year these awards go to customers who have taken their Serena solutions to new levels of use that far exceed the Serena engineering team’s expectations.

Tracy Wiseman Tracy Wiseman
Accident Fund Holdings, Inc.
Leadership in Enterprise Application Delivery
Stefan Schurman Stefan Schurman
ABS Associates
Innovation in Process Design
Ricardo Oliveria Ricardo Oliveira
Caixa Geral de Depósitos
Excellence in Release Management

We look for three things:

  • Value: a measurable benefit to your organization
  • Creativity: using the solution in an innovative way to solve a business and IT issue
  • Quality: showing a deliverable quantitative and qualitative difference

Congratulations, Tracy, Stefan and Ricardo!  Watch the video of the ceremony.

When your old technology prevents you from running your IT department the way you want, it’s time for a change. But so much of what we have is so deeply ingrained into all our systems, processes and reporting. That’s why we have created an automated migration utility that can move you from your old mainframe software change and release solution to the most modern and advanced solution from Serena.

It has never been more critical to have control and visibility in your release management infrastructure than it is today. Managing and balancing the risk and velocity of change is one of the top tasks an IT function has to provide. The business expectations of IT and the demand for controls require that we put in place advanced solutions that monitor what we are doing and ensure the audit trails are there for verification. Most of all, we want the technology to accelerate what we do while, at the same time, improve the quality and reduce the risk.

Change, configuration and release management systems designed in the 1970’s cannot meet the 21st century expectations. Serena’s ChangeMan ZMF (see picture above) continues to be at the forefront of mainframe software change and release management. Uniquely, it supports mainframe development, irrespective of where the developer is, and allows for deployment to all the mainframe execution environments.

So how do you make the change from your current solution to ChangeMan ZMF? A simple answer is our automated migration utility. The utility will migrate your existing inventory of source code, including all the versions and relationships, and will load them into the ChangeMan baseline libraries. It takes just a few minutes for each application. The utility will also report on errors it finds, including missing components, duplicate components and junk components.

Meet us next week at our global user conference, xChange13, in Miami and we’ll show you exactly how this works.  Register now!

xChange13For me, one of the most wonderful parts of xChange, Serena’s annual global user conference, is catching up with the attendees I see year after year.

Before each xChange, I check in with a few customers to find out what they are thinking and hoping to hear, and what news they have to share. It helps me to get the tone of the conference right and to guide the mainstage and breakout speakers in preparing their content.

Michael Bailey of MetLife is one of the customers I like to check in with. I first met Michael in 1997. He is a long-time Serena customer (25+ years!) and is passionate about the critical role that Change, Configuration and Release Management plays in modern IT organizations.

Before xChange was xChange

I thought I’d share our conversation from last week. We were reminiscing when Michael reminded me that the conference wasn’t always called “xChange,” which is something I’d forgotten. He told me he remembered how it was “the exceptional opportunities the Serena User Conference provided for attendees to speak directly with those persons who were and are still directly responsible for Serena’s products and solutions.”

For me, too, that is a real benefit of xChange. So many of our solutions are still being authored by the creative talents that created them 10, 15, even 20 years ago. That continuity extends, like in Michael’s case, to the customers. And for those Serena folk like me, xChange allows us to validate our latest ideas with the people who know our solutions the best.

Michael also told me that the “opportunity to network and discuss and share solutions amongst customer conference attendees” was, for him, “invaluable.” We’ve heard this from other customers too, which made for an easy decision to change the  user conference name to “xChange” in 1999.

The Value within the Technology

When asked why he had chosen to present this year, Michael said that he wanted to give back what he had learned and offer some “easy, user- (and administrator-) friendly, practical customizations to the base ChangeMan ZMF product, while also sharing and recommending some customizations standards, well, really guidelines, … [for] … customers either initially installing or upgrading.” He said, in the true spirit of xChange, he wanted to pass on “the value within the technology.”

We talked about Michael’s role and how he is using Serena solutions at MetLife. Michael was eloquent about how technology helps him do his job:

“ChangeMan ZMF is absolutely essential to MetLife’s change management processes. It is the vital foundation, supporting almost, if not, all mainframe business application software activities. Constant 7×24 availability of its functions is imperative, and MetLife management, from all data-center interested areas, including internal and external audit, depend upon its effectiveness.”

Not Just One Thing

With so much experience and so many conferences attended, I wondered if Michael still had just one thing he wanted to get from this year’s user conference, xChange13. His answer didn’t surprise me. As always, Michael’s zest and humor shone through: “Gosh, just one thing?” he said and continued, “There are really so very many which come almost instantly to mind! Learning more about Serena’s products, current strategy and future direction; continued networking and solution sharing with Serena employees and customers; and, of course, also the certain-to-be-fun events, which are part of every Serena User Conference.”

I couldn’t have put it any better.

See you in Miami, Michael. And I’ll see you all there, too.

xChange13While preparing for xChange13, Serena’s global user conference from September 16-18, I happened to check in with one of Serena’s key release management partners. When I spoke with Eric Kunkel of MMA, he told me his best release management tip and what he hopes to gain from xChange13 this year. Here is our conversation:

KP: So tell me, Eric, when did you attend your first xChange conference?
EK: It was two years ago in Las Vegas.

KP: But you’ve been working with Serena’s products long before that?
EK: Yes, that’s right. I’ve been working with Serena products as a Customer and Partner for over 7 years.

KP: Your company, MMA, specializes in release management; how did this get to be so important to IT these days?
EK: Having a predictable, repeatable, and standard process that the development and business units can rely on is essential. Without that, we can’t deliver the fixes, enhancements and new functionality to their consumers of our goods and services.

KP: You are a release management expert; what is the one best practice you’d like to see everyone adopt?
EK: Standardization! And it has to be from the lowest level of OS configuration and set-up all the way to how configuration files are handled for deployments. It has to pervade build management (the code/compile/test cycle), processes (like having an enterprise release schedule), even how we define and manage deployment windows (for both non-production and production environments alike).

KP: You’ve often told me that automation of releases is essential; what is the best way to do that?
EK: Automation will drive standardization. There’s a saying I heard, which I now use repeatedly: “people are nice and computers are honest.” What that means is … a person might just fix an issue to keep the project moving forward for the greater good. That one issue can turn into 20 issues known only by that engineer. Computers are binary: it either passes or fails. Computers highlight the failures so they can be resolved and everyone adheres to the standard.

KP: I like that. I think I am going to use that too! What do you want to learn more about on your trip to xChange13?
EK: There are two main areas I will be focusing on. I will be looking to see how the Serena Release Management products are evolving to support the needs of our clients. The other area of focus, the “xChange-ing” if you will, will be to talk to the other attendees to try and understand the current pain points of our customers. I really want to learn if there are new pain points emerging, besides the big three of visibility, traceability, and automation.

KP: This has been great, Eric. Thanks a lot. See you in Miami!
EK: Take care, Kevin. Try and improve those jokes this year.

Serena booth at SHARE ConferenceEach year Serena attends the SHARE mainframe conference. This year it was in Boston and was very well attended. Our booth (pictured) was the center for some pretty hard core conversations about the role of the mainframe in enterprise release management. Over the course of three days we got to talk with many release practitioners, release customers, release vendors and release gurus. Some pretty consistent messages came out of these conversations, which I want to “share” (pun intended) with you.

  • Enterprise release management is a major IT focus area.
  • There are too few resources devoted to enterprise release management.
  • Doing mainframe release management off the mainframe is becoming an increasingly important capability.
  • Most of the current tooling isn’t keeping pace with modern release management needs and best practices.
  • The business wants enterprise release management and they want visibility into what is happening.
  • There is a dramatic rise in “urgent” requests.
  • Releases are getting too big, too inter-dependent and too difficult to test thoroughly.

About three-quarters of the people I spoke to had some initiative to address synchronizing mainframe and non-mainframe releases. More than half said they were unhappy with the old tools they were using.

One visitor to the booth went as far as to say, “I go out of my way to avoid using ’name of solution.’ It slows everything down; everyone hates it but we can’t replace it because it’s wrapped around everything else.” We showed him the new migration utility we have developed that automatically moves all the repository artifacts from one repository into ChangeMan ZMF and he was impressed. Enterprise release management teams do not have to stick with their current solution any longer.

Another hot topic at the booth, one my colleagues from our mainframe solutions architect team spent much time demoing, was about the importance of being able to synchronize releases across projects. Frequently, these days, our releases comprise of components for the web, and mobile, and mainframe, and communications and big-data and we have to make sure they are all ready to be installed together. This usually results in long weekends in the office by 10’s, even 100’s, of people at once. With the introduction of the new Serena Mainframe Connector, it is now possible to synch your projects across the heterogeneity of platforms, methodologies and time zones.

You can see all these great technologies at xChange13, Serena’s global user conference, which is right around the corner. Come and join the exchange about what you think enterprise release management should look like and learn from your peers about their best practices and cool solutions to the most pressing issue in IT today.

SHARE 2013 was a great conference and gave me lots to think about. Of course, next year is going to be quite the show as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the mainframe!

See you in Miami for xChange next month.

Eden Roc Renaissance MiamixChange13, Serena Software’s global user conference from September 16-18, is at the legendary Eden Roc Miami Beach.  It sits between Biscayne Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, so attendees will be able to enjoy both a beach-front and bay-front location.

Historically, the Eden Roc has been home to artists and celebrities from all over the world and was completely renovated in 2011.  With 600 hotel rooms and a modern, accessible conference center, xChange13 will be the only event happening at the Eden Roc over the week of September 15.

Even sweeter, we have secured a room rate of $159 per night at this iconic resort for the duration of your xChange13 stay, and the resort fee has been waived. The xChange13 special rate of $159 per night ends Friday, August 30.  So, if you haven’t registered for the conference, now is the time! After Friday, rooms may not be available and prices will likely be much higher.

Register for xChange13 now!  See you in Miami!

xChange13See what’s planned for xChange13, Serena’s global user conference from September 16-18 at the Eden Roc Renaissance in Miami Beach!

Hot off the press is the new xChange13 brochure with full agenda and details of all 70 breakout sessions.  You’ll find abstracts for the technical sessions, industry trends presentations and customer case studies.

Here are the hot topics that will be discussed during xChange13:

  • Bridging the DevOps divide
  • Boosting value from your mainframe investment
  • Automating the complete application release lifecycle
  • Extending agile development to requirements and release
  • Improving IT service delivery
  • Getting control over software requirements
  • Instrumenting your IT processes with new dashboards
  • Taking advantage of new platform capabilities in SBM
  • Getting more value by upgrading your Serena solutions

Don’t miss out and register today!

Relay baton hand-offLast week we looked at the crazy things people insist are the lore of Release Management. This week we continue to highlight so called “truths” and debunk them. My goal here is to put you in charge of determining what Release Management is. After all, you’re the one on the hook for making it happen!

5: Not every change needs to go through the release management process – wrong!

Every change needs to go through some process of verification (testing) and approval. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean that every change goes through the same process. Emergency fixes need a fast-track process with minimal stage gates and approvals. Major releases need more rigorous processes and complete stage gates.

4: A release management infrastructure will slow down my project – wrong!

Imagine if there were no air traffic controllers (ATC’s): would the free-for-all that ensues be good for on-time departures and arrivals, would it be safe, would stakeholders be happier, would it be quicker? Of course not. In fact, the point of ATC is to improve the throughput of flights to maximize the use of the runways. The same is true of release management. Without the infrastructure in place, you will never be able to deal with the volume of changes, the complexity of the dependencies between releases and the competing needs of the many stakeholders. With the right release management solution, you can increase the number of releases you deploy, improve control and governance, eliminate errors and downtime and do it with fewer resources.

3: We cannot make our releases any smaller – wrong!

A major reason why release management has become more complex is because the size of the releases has increased to a point now where they are often bigger than the original system they are based upon. This size means that the releases are very difficult to test and the inter-dependencies of other changes in other projects in the release make it nearly impossible to have any confidence in the testing outcome. Many organizations are taking a leaf from the Agile-playbook and moving to smaller, incremental releases more often. By breaking the release into dependent and non-dependent changes, it improves the testability of the code and the deployment is no longer held up waiting for other changes. Also, moving to thematic releases, keeping the changes to a small area of the code base, improves the ability to test and deploy with confidence.

But many more releases cannot be achieved without automated infrastructure in place. One release manager told me that they were moving from 4 releases per year to 3 releases per year because “it is taking too long to test and deploy.” When I asked the business what they wanted, they told me “more stuff sooner.” The answer is not bigger releases less frequently; it is smaller releases more often. And that is only possible through automating release management processes.

2: The business wants us to change things less frequently – wrong!

No they don’t. What they want is that the changes are deployed more successfully. Think about your smart phone: you get updates every day; you have become the release manager on your own device. You now update without caring because you know the changes are small, unlikely to disrupt the functioning of your device and are, in short, safe. We need to get the business to have that same confidence in our releases. Small changes more frequently are easy for users to absorb, have a smaller impact, require little (if any) training, are easier to test and, generally, low risk. The business gets to prioritize the changes they want and constantly adjust those priorities almost up to the point we put things into production.

1: Developers won’t accept not having access to production– wrong!

With the requirement for the “separation of duties” now being the law, the very idea of anyone having access to the production area seems very 20th century. Still, in many organizations, for whatever historic reasons, many people have access to the production areas and they use this privilege wisely and carefully. But the time for this has to stop! Now! As we have seen, the addition of a layer of process automation improves the speed of the release process and improves the audit trail. In an emergency outage situation, the first question anyone asks is “what changed?” Unapproved changes, even those with the best of intentions, are often undocumented changes. Even if they are not the cause of the outage, the inconsistencies they represent hinder and delay the analysis and remediation of the problem. If someone needs access, then ensure there is a process to let them have it, with appropriate approvals and a mechanism to withdraw it when the need has gone away.

I hope you have enjoyed some of these thoughts. Please share your own debunking examples of the “rules” of release management.