COVID-19 Sent You Home – Now What (Europe 2021)

COVID-19 sent individuals home from their workplaces, some organizations did not seem to miss a beat, while others struggled more to get access to their systems and allow everyone to work. One key challenge was how to do workshops across multiple teams to start DevOps transformations while everyone was locked down and separated. This session will describe the various techniques and capabilities used to make virtual workshops a reality, not quite as good as true face to face but good enough to help move people along as well as ideas to grow teaming and collaboration in this remote time.


Rosalind Radcliffe

Distinguished Engineer, Chief Architect for DevOps for Enterprise Systems, IBM


Jennifer Velasquez

WW DevOps Leader for Enterprise Systems, IBM



Welcome to does virtual London. I'm happy to be here with you again, virtually talking about COVID. So you home now, what? My name is Roselin Radcliffe. I'm I IBM distinguished engineer responsible for DevOps for enterprise systems. And this time I'm happy to be presenting with Jen, Jen


I'm, Jennifer Velasquez, or glad DevOps leaner for enterprise systems. And I'm get the luxury of working with customers around the world on DevOps. So when we look at what we do working with customers around DevOps, we do value streams, value streams meant that we worked with clients to understand what their current state was and moved to a future state. With that we traveled to their location. We met with them face-to-face we built collaboration in a conference room. It was full day. It was lots of work, but it was focused. We had an opportunity to build trust, and we had an opportunity to see who was engaged, who was committed to moving forward, who were going to be the obstacles. You got to read the audience and you had them for the whole day.


It was a great experience. I had the opportunity to introduce people to other people within the companies that they've never met before, which is a little bit strange, but a good thing. People really got to work together. Companies within the people within the same companies got to meet each other that had never had that opportunity before. It was a different kind of experience. We got some clients telling us at the end of the day, it was a very cathartic experience. They really learned from each other and could understand each other's experiences. This gave us the opportunity to build that relationship, that additional work with the client, between the client and with us to help them on this journey, but with this kind of experience, and we can't get to see them, we can't get on a plane and fly anywhere. How are we going to do the same thing? How can we get anywhere near that kind of experience? And we had a number of workshops scheduled to go, how do we walk through this process? And how long is this going to last? The first question was, could we just delay that wasn't going to happen? So we had to figure out how to do a virtual workshop and how to do this in this new world that we were in.


So we started breaking things down. First thing was in our workshops. We sat at a whiteboard. We captured information. We had live cues in order to tell us what to do and how to dress the day, lots of information to get through. But we had everyone in that room was able to do it, that wasn't going to work. We moved to virtual. So the first thing was input. When you think of WebEx or zoom or anything else, PowerPoint seems to be the first thought. But if you move to PowerPoint, you miss that engagement factor. You also preset what the stage is, so that wasn't going to be an option. We moved into looking at various tools that gave us the whiteboard capability, but that gave us an opportunity to keep things collaborative. The other option that we looked at was questionnaires. Well, we could get some of that preliminary information to help with, from a timeframe standpoint, if we were to get all of this information up front. But if you go back to what Roseland talked about in terms of building the trust, if we are simply soliciting the information, we don't get an opportunity to have that two way communication to build the trust element and to be able to assert, you know, that leadership into the room. So ultimately we decided that questionnaires were no


Tools. This is where we had a interesting challenge. How on earth do I get my whiteboard? I always stood at the whiteboard and I would write, I would write what the clients were telling me. I would draw pictures based on the flow that they were describing. And by doing that, we got that really fast feedback that I had captured it wrong, or I hadn't heard correctly. We'd get that. Well, that's not really how we do it. Oh, wait a minute. We have the other tool. I needed a whiteboard. So the first thing we looked at was could I get up an iPad app? Could I show my iPad? And could I write on it? So I had to get a pencil. Okay. That was the first step. Now that I had a pencil and I could write on my iPad, how could I do this?


What was I going to do? How was this going to work? And remember, this is customer information. We have to pay attention to customer security. So I can't just share information to some apps somewhere and put it in their cloud. We found a couple of apps and experimented with them and tried them. I could write on them. Okay. That's sort of worked. But then how do I capture the information? This used to be multiple, multiple pages of whiteboards. Well, pictures of whiteboards that we would take through the meeting, I needed that kind of space and that wasn't gonna work. So we had to find something that would provide the security necessary and give the option of that. Just whiteboard. So we got to mural. We have mural within IBM, so I could use it. We had the secure data location and that met one requirement.


I could draw on it. The other advantage of mural was I could use it on my iPad. I could still be on WebEx on my computer and the clients could see it. They could see what I was showing. They could see what I was writing. They could get that feedback. And then I also had the option of pre putting pictures there. So based on what they said, I could put a picture to represent something that we had to start out with. We could start out with some information in the picture. One of the problems with doing a session was Rosa. Lund's handwriting. My handwriting, isn't the most neat in the world. And so then everyone would have that challenge with an iPad. Actually, my handwriting is a little leader, a little easier to read. Maybe Jen can let you know later, but that, but I could put pictures there.


I could put some information there to start out with. So it was easier to read and easier to deal with. And the next thing was, I do really well with visual cues. Now we're all in virtual conferences. And so we have the same problem here. Where's my audience in this kind of session in a workshop, where are the people? How do I see the people? How do I see their facial expressions? How do I know what they're thinking? How do I see that person that's thinking in their head? Yeah. That's not what we're really doing. Well, someone else is describing it. I could do that in the room. How do I do that virtually? And so when we can getting people to show their video is very important. If we can get people to show their faces, then at least we get some of that feedback.


Some of that experience of yes, they are listening. Yes, they are paying attention. Yes. They're listening to what the other person is saying and going, that's not exactly me getting that feedback is also really important. Getting them to talk, trying to call on people, to ask what their opinion is. We always start each session out with an introduction and I ask that each person introduced themselves and what they represent, but also what they want to get out of the experience. So I can start to understand the areas they represent to understand who to call on who is it that might be able to provide some additional information in a particular area. Somehow you have to work on this relationship, building through the virtual world and getting them to be comfortable in providing that feedback. And I know with some clients, this has worked amazingly well. We've gotten that rapport building as part of the session and they start talking to each other and that's really what we're trying to accomplish to get that relationship building going so that they really can start to work together. And they can start working with us, with them to come out with what are the best options moving forward.


Once we had tools and we had this idea of video, what's the right format, six hours on WebEx. I'm not doing that much less. Anyone else can we condense? Uh, as some people might have guessed getting all this information into six hours, isn't always even possible. We've done some workshops that have ended up being multi-day workshops in order to accomplish this goal. And what will we need to do this virtual white board? Can I get the same kind of information in the same amount of time? Can I get that information from them sitting in thinking about this? The first thought was, well, we're going to have to go to a three hour format. Nobody can stand more than three hours on a WebEx, or it's not really nice to be on a WebEx for more than three hours without breaks without well as it is.


We have to have some kind of break, but we have to figure out a way to do this and actually have the session work. We have to do a series instead of trying to cram it all into one session. So how do we break up the discussion? We have to bridge between the discussions instead of having that one full day, where everybody knows what's going on, your sessions might be split by time period. And so we need to make sure that there's a context passing. How do we make sure everybody's on the same page? And by not having one day, we're less likely to have the same people always there. And so we definitely have to deal with this, this context, and we have to figure how much information we can get out of each session gen.


So figuring out how to manage participation across the multiple sessions was a challenge. You never know if you're going to get the same group. So when you had to have a way in order to bring the information, you may be starting from scratch at each one of these series sessions. In addition to that, we had to figure out how we were going to Roselands point to merge that for the, for the participants that didn't participant pay in the first session to make them feel apart. Because if they didn't feel a part of it, then we lost the whole reason why we're doing the workshop in the beginning, right? The other is to progress in an acceptable speed for the client. The client has a goal. They are trying to get to a target state. They are trying to get a plan. And if we have so many sessions in the series to collect all of the information, well, they may not be progressing at the rate they want, especially if they say, well, I can have session one this month in session two next month.


Well, all of a sudden you're, you're dealing with the impossible right. Deliver on their desire to get to a target state. But at the same time, progressive the smell specs. And for the longer it is between session one and session two, that puts an issue or not issue, but a responsibility on Roslyn. And I, in order to bring that continuity, to get people, to engage just this fast, as we had them engaged at the end of the previous session, that's a difficult chore building the content for the end goal. We have to assimilate. If you will, all of this information, that's coming across the multiple sessions, build upon it from session one to session two, and be able to deliver that to the audience. Keep in mind that audience may be a different audience each time. So again, another thing that we're trying to juggle to make sure that there's value seen in the investment, the clients are making in this session and what we deliver back, staying focused and driving the schedule, good old slack.


We leveraged slack quite heavily during the session so that whoever is doing the note taking can keep us on track to make sure that we get all the information we need out of this session to meet our ultimate goal. Again, we have a certain amount of sessions that need, we know, day one is going to be getting the business context, make sure that everybody understands why we're doing what we're doing. And it's an opportunity for Rosalynn and I to figure out exactly where they are on their journey. Maybe they've already got a whole bunch going on. Maybe they have nothing, but we need to establish where that starting point is and understand what they are wanting to accomplish with their journey before we can really position ourselves for those future sessions, sessions, two through, in all gets around. How fast does that customer want to get there? What are their goals and objectives? And then we have to see if we can put that in that three hour format, balance that along with the progression during the session itself, in order to then deliver something back that has value to the client, we typically do that in the form of some kind of PowerPoint report. But at that point we're delivering what we heard. We're validating and we're making recommendations as to how they can start that journey.


The other thing that's important about this as if you're getting someone on a three hour WebEx and having them provide information, it's not the same as this real live workshop where they're getting that, that feedback in the same way. So we had to figure out a way to deliver value in each one of the sessions. And so not just gather the information and then build a report, but actually provide value in each one. Now in a, in a real live session all day workshop, I'll be providing some input all along the way about things that I've done or best practices from other clients about things that have been done. The other thing I like to do is duo on art of the possible, or what if kind of session two, imagine if the future could look like at the end of the day, well, we don't have that, those kinds of options.


And so as part of this new format for every single one of the sessions, we try to come up with something that will give back to the client, something of value, real value that they can start with. And so this three hour session is not three hours of real workshop. It's some amount of time of workshop and some amount of time of give back to try and get that going. This, this transition to trying to mix also makes it take longer to get the information from the client. It it's harder to gather that information, but it also has provided the value and give back. The other advantage, I guess, to being virtual is instead of drawing on a whiteboard, the art of the possible I can actually show the art of the possible. I can actually demonstrate what is possible for a client so they can see what they might be heading to.


So we try to bring in value in ways that we couldn't before we try to give that feedback that they didn't have, because it wasn't possible in the all day workshop and this report and the way we focus on things, we have to think a little differently or some of the early workshops earlier workshops we were, we were early on and people's transitions. They really hadn't started in any place, or they'd only done some work in certain areas. And so we really were bringing distributed and Z together in a journey more often these days it's been, the distributed are long way down their path. And so we're focusing in on a particular area, a particular focus, the main frame side of their organization to help bring it along and help improve its process. So we do have to focus the sessions more, to really help the clients in this transition. But the, the idea of trying to build this relationship through virtual, we still have to work on it's the people it's working with the people to make this happen.


One other comment I would make there is that it's, it's sort of like my, um, physical training, if you will coming up with the exact right dial on the treadmill so that I don't pass out and I don't fall off. Um, at the same time I get a workout. So it's, it's dialing in. And so for each client, you have to figure out the right dial in, in order to get that experience at Roseland has described. So in summary, it's wait for it. People process and tools. Imagine that we're right back to the same things that we do. We're just doing it a little bit differently. We're applying it to something else, the virtual format, it required us to have the right tools. If we didn't find mural that gave us an unlimited whiteboard that we could, you know, just continue to develop ideas. We were going to be in trouble.


If we didn't find a way to secure client information, we were going to be in trouble. If we didn't have slack in the background that says, we still have all of this to get through, we need to move on from this topic. Regardless, if you know we're down in the depths on some particular topic, we may need to table that sidebar, put it in the parking lot. We'll come back to it. Maybe that's going to be something that we drill into potentially just depends on the importance, but that set of tools that we identified, we're critical to being able to have success in the new virtual world. The second piece of it was having the right process, having the right application of the tools, as well as engagement with the client in order to establish the trust and build on it so that we had that foundation where it made it viable. If you will, to drive to a target state, to begin that journey with the client, if you have the wrong process, you can have all the tools in the world, and you're not going to get anywhere in this world. Um, in the virtual world, that is the success depends on the ability to engage the people. It is still all about the people. What we have changed is the delivery mode, the tools used and the processes around that, ultimately back to you, Roseland,


It doesn't matter whether or not it's virtual or face-to-face. The result is a reflection of engaging the right people in the right conversations. This conversation, this discussion with people, it's all about the way people are working. One of the things that I have discovered, or we have discovered, and I think everyone has discovered as part of this new world, is that the world has changed. We're not going to go back to doing things exactly the way that we used to. Yes. You know, in another, I don't know how many months I'm going to get on planes again, and I'm going to get to fly to clients. And I'm going to go to conferences, bullies, and I'll be able to network, but clients are spread all over. They aren't necessarily going to want to fly everyone into a location to do a workshop because of what's happened.


We are going to have to adopt. We're going to have to change the way we work. It. Isn't going to go back to the old ways of working. We're going to new ways of working. Does that sound familiar? New ways of working is how we have to figure out how to do what we were doing before. And that's what we're doing. That's what we're doing as part of the dev ops transformation. That's what we're doing when we talk about sooner, safer, happier, thanks to Jonathan smart. All of this is figuring out better ways to do things. Now, do I think a virtual workshop is better? No. Well, I always like an in-person face-to-face workshop. Yes. But is that always going to happen? No. So we have to have the right ways of working to make this happen. We have to provide that alternative when it's the right thing for the client.


Now I do want to say that it is about this kind of conversation. It's about getting people to talk. One of the things I found in some of the sessions is, well, here's our documented process. And then, well, how close to that documented process are, you really let's walk through it and understand what you do, because I'll bet that there are a lot of things that you're doing that are not in that documented process. There are problems you're having. There's wait states, you're having, there are people you're collaborating with understanding that communication and learning how to do this virtually is going to be critical going forward. We all have to learn how to work with people that happened to be somewhere else through a camera. This kind of collaboration is going to be key and tools and visibility are going to have to be key as part of this process, making sure we have the right support in order to do the work. When Jen made the comment about slack and I made the comment about breaks, I have a feeling she was somewhat laughing when we're doing the real, the in-person workshops. We wouldn't have the advantage of slack in the background. Jen would just have to say, you do realize it's break time or get me to stop. So I do know how to do a workshop and not do a break, but it's not good for anyone. And it's not good for any of us. So having that ability to get that feedback to understand has been very important.


Now we've done a lot with these virtual workshops, but recognizing that these workshops aren't going to magically go away and become face-to-face when the world opens back up and the fact that people are going to have to keep doing it, what do we want to learn? Well, out of each one of these events, I've had the opportunity to spend time with people and learn different ways of doing things. I've learned a lot from this community over the years. And now this is my new area. I'm not asking about mainframe DevOps. This time, I'm asking about how to do this facilitation. What processes, what tools, what is worked for you? What, what have you found that has helped bring people out to collaborate as part of a virtual event? What experiences have you had that really help you get the feedback that you, any, any tools, suggestions, ideas are, what we're looking for. Jen


Kane, thank you so much for your time for attending our session today. We hope you have a wonderful experiences, thus, which I am confident that you will is always an exciting conference and we're glad to be a part. Thank you.


Yeah. And I want to thank Jean again for the opportunity to speak. I always enjoy does I enjoy this event? I'm happy to answer your questions and we'll both be on. Um, so we're not European time zones, so we'll be slightly shifted in time zone though. I suspect Jen will be up earlier, even though she's central and I'm Eastern to participate in the event and learn from you and answer whatever questions you have about what we've done. Thank you and have a great rest of your event.