'What's Next in the Cloud' Friday Feature: Jared Matfess

Community Manager

We are excited to introduce this week’s Friday Feature— @Jared Matfess! Jared is a Lead for Slalom Consulting’s Technology Enablement Practice in Hartford, CT. Jared was awarded his first MVP award in 2016. Check out his interview below to learn about his take on DevOps and the challenges he sees his clients facing.

 

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Jared Matfess

Job Title: Solution Principal, Technology Enablement

Company Name: Slalom Consulting

MVP Profile: https://mvp.microsoft.com/en-us/PublicProfile/5002008?fullName=Jared%20%20Matfess

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jaredmatfess/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jaredmatfess

Blog: http://jaredmatfess.com/

 

  1. Tell us a little bit about where you work and your role in the organization

 

I work for Slalom Consulting in Hartford, CT as the Lead for our local Technology Enablement Practice. For those who might not be familiar with our company, Slalom is a Management Consulting firm based out of Seattle with offices in over 25 different markets. What makes us different is that most of our consultants work in the markets where they live, therefore I spend more time at clients and less on airplanes. I joined Slalom over 3 years ago after working for over 11 years at United Technologies in roles spanning from Communications, Enterprise Architecture, to Collaboration Applications. My role at the time was the only Consultant in our local Portals & Collaboration practice. I quickly developed a demand for Collaboration work in our market which generated the need to hire additional employees to satisfy that need. After about a year I was promoted again to Solution Architect where I balanced my time between designing business process automation solutions to helping generate pipeline for my team to continue developing amazing outcomes for our clients. This past January I was given responsibility for our Technology Enablement Practice, which includes Application Development, Cloud Enablement, Content & Collaboration, DevOps, Mobile Applications, and helping businesses realize value from their technology investments. 

 

Lately, we have been very focused on helping large companies in the Greater Hartford area prepare for their eventual migration to the cloud. We focus on the traditional People, Process & Technology aspects of Cloud Migrations. Everything from what a newly appointed Cloud Administrator’s job responsibilities include, to setting up DevOps pipelines, to helping clients update their business processes to accommodate this new paradigm of delivering IT solutions. My team partners with our Organization Effectiveness Practice which helps our clients prepare for their Digital Transformation with targeted communications campaigns & workshops. We also collaborate with our User Experience Practice which is responsible for building high engagement and user-focused solutions with a strong focus on how people will interact with the technology that we deliver.

 

  1. Slalom is one of the many companies who have embraced the DevOps philosophies. Can you share your perspective on DevOps and how it’s changing IT?

 

Slalom was one of the early adopters of DevOps and it really speaks to the nature of our people. We have just over 4,500 consultants across the United States, Canada and London which has afforded us the benefit of being able to adapt quickly to new industry trends. Our growth has been completely organic with all employees coming through the same recruitment process and none joining through acquisition. When we hire we look for people that have a passion for learning, growing, and embracing new ideas. When it comes to DevOps we look at not only the efficiency and quality gains from a development perspective, but also the possibilities available when you modernize the way of delivering IT to the business.

 

Many of our clients are operating in heavily outsourced with both onshore & offshore resources maintaining a large portion of their IT Services. Outsourcing was often performed because of pressure from the business to help them realize savings. While companies may have realized an “on paper” lower operating costs, sometimes it has been at the expense of agility, quality and growing the technical skills of the retained employees. From an organization perspective, I have observed IT staff transitioning their roles from being technical implementer to managing teams of outsourcing partners who performed the jobs that they once did. The one area that has really thrived over the last ten years has been the “Shadow IT” organizations that have spun up as areas of the business struggled under the constraints of their new managed service contracts.

 

From my perspective, DevOps is really an equalizer in the fight to reduce IT operating costs. My favorite example is at one of my local clients that has nearly an entire office building floor of employees from their managed service provider that are maintaining various applications within the overall portfolio. I am in no way disparaging the capabilities of these people but in many cases the tasks they are assigned to are rather rudimentary, from either copying files as part of a code migration process, provisioning database instances as new applications are developed, to performing manual QA step-by-step testing as part of the delivery process. Now imagine that my client is able to replace that entire floor of resources with DevOps automation. Rather than paying a contractor to copy code between Development, Testing, Staging, and Production – what if you built a pipeline to automatically perform those activities? What about replacing those teams of QA testers with testing frameworks, performing continuous integration, and leveraging containers and component based development?

 

The conversations that we have been having with our clients about DevOps is using it as the catalyst for their digital transformation. When clients talk about moving faster, pushing out a minimally viable product, embracing Agile delivery, and investing once again in Information Technology we talk about that new way of delivering IT value to the business is DevOps. The traditional barriers of overcomplicated, multi-step, non-value added processes which hinder our clients to execute efficiently are prime candidate for DevOps automation. IT Organizations have also been able to reap the benefits of embracing DevOps from a retention and talent acquisition perspective. Passionate IT Professionals want to work on the latest technology and spend their time focused on value added tasks. DevOps allows IT employees to work on modern technology that helps them build marketable skills while realizing the kudos from reducing waste in legacy over-engineered processes.

 

  1. In a consulting role, you’re exposed to many different clients and challenges. What are some of the common trends or themes you see across your clients? Are they facing similar challenges?

 

As a consultant, I’m exposed to many different industry verticals including manufacturing, retail, financial services, insurance, and healthcare. There are a few challenges that appear to be common across these verticals:

 

a. Many organizations are still facing challenges where their senior leaders do not believe that the cloud is safe enough for their most critical data. They still view cloud as a trade-off for security rather than the truth that in most cases it is more secure than their current on-premises deployments. The investment that cloud partners such as Microsoft are making in advanced threat protection and multi-layered security, greatly eclipse what is possible with a traditional client on-premises datacenter. Educating those senior leaders can be challenging as it requires careful communications to ensure that the message does not get misconstrued in its delivery.

 

b. Enduring many years of IT outsourcing has shifted the skillset of their retained staff from being developers to being project managers. Some organizations have viewed software development as a commodity that can be assigned to the lowest cost outsourcer while forcing their retained staff to either evolve or leave. Therefore, the remaining workforce is often not as up to speed with the latest IT trends, nor are they able to pivot back to modern development patterns as their former knowledge is not always applicable to current practices. As part of their digital transformation programs there is usually an underestimated amount of work required to help build the appropriate talent within the organization to sustain these new delivery patterns.

 

c. Many of my clients view DevOps as being solely as Information Technology project. While there certainly are many DevOps components that touch IT processes, adoption of DevOps is in many ways an Organizational Change Management program at its core. From a training & development perspective, there is a huge people component including restructuring of business processes, redefinition of roles, communications to business customers, and ensuring the overall continued success of the program. Notice I used the word 'program' instead of 'project' as there are multiple work streams required to truly realize the benefits of transition to DevOps.

 

  1. What do you think is your most valuable skill?

I think my most valuable skill is my ability to effectively communicate messages to both business customer and technical professionals. Starting my career off in a Communications role helped me to understand the lens in which the business views the IT department and the importance of being able to effectively describe the intended outcomes. Transitioning to the IT department, I learned the value in ensuring the technical accuracy of my communications, as ambiguity can lead to unintended consequences. Having spent time in both roles has enabled me to easily design solutions which both meet business requirements as well as fit within my clients’ governance processes. Having worked in a large enterprise IT department, I am hyper-aware of some of the organizational challenges that might slow progress. Being able to speak to both sides has also assisted with finding that path of least resistance to accomplish a given requirement.

 

  1. What cloud or IT trends are you paying the most attention to these days? How do you stay up to date with latest updates and technologies?

 

The current trend that I am most interested in these days is automation through bots, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. I agree with some of the experts that we are on the verge of yet another industrial revolution that is going to see tremendous gains in automation through software. The elasticity of cloud computing has unlocked capabilities that we could not have even dreamed of ten years ago. Take your basic automated phone response system programmed to take callers through a “pick a number” scenario based call tree. What if the system became aware of the most common call patterns and could try and anticipate the reason for your call? Or even more exciting, what if the system was smart enough to call you in anticipation of service that you might need, such as adding a spouse to an insurance policy after learning of your recent nuptials? These questions might seem futuristic but, we are probably within months if maybe a year of a major insurance carrier implementing this very exact use case, if in at least a pilot stage of a deployment.

 

Keeping up with these latest trends is more of a challenge in finding the appropriate time versus finding the actual content. Overall, I get most of my IT news through Twitter by choosing to follow both thought leaders and selective news channels. In the beginning, Twitter was definitely used for its microblogging capability, but I have noticed that recently many people choose to use it as a means of aggregating and communicating articles of others. I am also a frequent contributor on the Microsoft Tech Community and can be found attending & speaking at user groups, code camps, and SharePoint Saturday events up and down the east coast of the United States. Networking with attendees at these events help me to gauge what is the reality vs the hype of someone of these trends, along with what are some of the opportunities when having conversations with my own clients.

 

Thanks Jared!  If you have any questions for Jared, please reply in the thread below.  Read more on our focus this month 'Defining what's next in your cloud' here.

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