cloud migration

Overcoming Customer Stockholm Syndrome

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Kablamo has been breaking some new ground in Australia, engineering and delivering quality digital products as a service. That shouldn’t be notable in any way, but our customers aren’t used to getting exactly what they want, when they want it. 

Sometimes being a high performer in an industry with a bad reputation can be a burden due to what I call Customer Stockholm Syndrome.

Consultancies have been promising digital transformation for years and have largely failed to deliver – this makes our effectiveness a new experience for many. Kablamo is a digital product engineering company, building beautiful software on top of complex data sets. We consistently deliver exactly what our clients need, on time and on budget.

While this should be a perfect storm for kicking goals and landing clients, we have to be careful to avoid a corporate version of organ rejection.

Organ rejection occurs when transplanted tissue is rejected by the recipient's immune system, destroying the transplanted tissue. Despite incredible work from donors and doctors, the body pushes back against something that’s ultimately good for it, and the results can be tragic.

The stakes might be lower in the corporate world, but the risks are no less real. When your company dramatically outperforms what your customer is used to, they can feel like it’s all too good to be true.

As a reflex, clients may feel compelled to take some ill-advised course of action. In our industry, that might include reverting to old enterprise vendor management practices and policies, to their own detriment and ours.

This could mean inserting additional vendors for ‘competitive tension’, introducing reams of over-prescriptive legal doctrine, or building bespoke insurance and risk-prevention techniques – all of which are either unnecessary or only useful to manage the poor vendor relationships they’re used to.

This isn’t the client’s fault, of course. They’ve been held captive by underperforming service providers for years, a feeling we can all relate to. Just like victims of Stockholm Syndrome, they build coping mechanisms to get them through.

The solution lies in getting the customer to realise that by virtue of your product or service, they’re now free of the underperforming vendors. All this without coming off as pushy, which can itself be a trigger to Customer Stockholm Syndrome.

That said, there’s no simple resolution to this issue. It’s a people problem, and people are the best tool you have to solve it. For Kablamo, our leadership team have built careers in negotiating these scenarios, and we will continue to fight the good fight. Not only for ourselves, but for the future of our clients. 


My Business Talks To Allan --Entrepreneur reveals: ‘Why I hired a co-CEO’

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Kablamo co-CEO and Founder, Allan Waddell, recently appeared in MyBusiness to talk about the experience of going from solo to co-CEO. Full story below or you can read it on MyBusiness

It’s said to be lonely at the top when running a business, but as this business owner explains, appointing a co-CEO can be a beneficial way of positioning the company, and oneself, for growth.

Allan Waddell (pictured, left) founded Kablamo, a cloud software development firm, in May 2017, having previously built and sold another business. And, as he admits, he naturally gravitated towards the actual work of the business more than the running of the business itself, especially managing its finances.

For a mixture of business and personal reasons, he decided not to continue running Kablamo alone. So, mid last year, he took the plunge and appointed a co-CEO, Angus Dorney.

My Business spoke with Mr Waddell to find out why he took this approach, whether it has been worthwhile and what insights he can share from his journey so far.

Why did you decide to take on a co-CEO?

Someone wise once said to me, “You’ll be happiest at work when you are kicking goals doing what you do well”. Having already built and sold another consulting business, I knew what my strengths were, but most importantly I knew where I needed support.

When it comes to the technical, product development and sales sides of the business, I’m completely in my element. But I always knew I’d feel more comfortable if I had someone handling the financial and operations aspects of Kablamo.

That’s what makes Angus such a perfect fit; I come up with the ideas and he executes them.

How long did it take you to make that decision?

In the past, I’ve been bitten by having too much undeserved confidence in my leadership team, so since starting Kablamo, I have been aligning myself with mentors and leaders whom I’d one day think could make the leap from mentor to business partner.

Angus is someone I’ve known and respected for a long time, and we were both considering the opportunity for more than a year.

What fears did you have about the move, and how have/are you allaying those fears?

Leadership, and leader change, makes a team nervous. The Kablamo team is made up of incredibly smart people, but smart people naturally have a great deal of self-awareness, which can go hand in hand with self-doubt.

Bringing highly skilled and experienced oversight can sometimes trigger defensive behaviour and fear. Because of this, I didn’t expect the team to trust a new leader immediately, but with Angus, I already knew he would be a great fit culturally, so I could see trust on the horizon.

Did you hunt more widely for the ideal candidate before making the appointment?

I knew Kablamo would benefit from having someone drive the operational side of the business.

Having known Angus for sometime, he was always at the top of my list to share the helm with me at Kablamo — not only is he a great human being, but you’d be hard pressed to find someone with the wealth of experience he has.

He was a perfect fit, both in terms of his skills and how he fit into Kablamo culturally.

What has having a co-CEO enabled you to do so far that you would have been restricted from by flying solo?

Personally, the biggest benefits of having Angus as co-CEO is that I now have more time and our team has more executive skills.

While leading Kablamo by myself, I was in charge of everything — from business management, HR and sales to account management and operations.

Having Angus oversee the operations and financial side of Kablamo gives me more time to focus on building our vision — both from a business and product standpoint — as well as ensuring our culture is second to none.

What challenges have you faced in terms of decision-making and lines of authority, both from employees, clients and even between yourselves?

I anticipated some teething issues with bringing on a new leader, but the key to making this transition run as smoothly as possible was transparency. I was completely honest and up front with the team about why I was bringing Angus on board, and what responsibilities he would have in the business.

Equally, Angus and I clearly defined between ourselves how we would divide the CEO role.

Of course, at the start there were times when it was difficult to hand over control, but by communicating clearly and frequently, we’ve been able to solidify the relationship. When it comes to clients, Angus is well known and highly respected throughout the industry, so he was embraced almost instantly.

What challenges have arisen specifically because of the co-CEO model?

I won’t lie, the co-CEO model did take some getting used to. While I was leading Kablamo myself, I had the final say in everything and my decisions were largely made without scrutiny. With Angus, I now have eyeballs on me and my decisions, which I never had in the past.

While this was the whole idea of moving to the co-CEO model, the change from autonomy to observation was abrupt.

The key to addressing this, we’ve found, is clear and constant communication — if one of us doesn’t agree with the decision the other has made, we discuss it. We don’t let disagreements or clashes of opinion fester.

What advice would you give to other business leaders about the co-CEO model?

This model isn’t for everyone. If by nature you have counter-dependency issues, this power-sharing model will end your happiness.

There are a few key things to keep in mind if you want to explore the co-CEO model.

The first is to have a prior relationship with whoever you’re considering. If you already know much about how they work and how you each get along, you’ll have a greater insight into how the model will work in practice — without this, you’re basically crossing your fingers and hoping for the best.

Second, communication is absolutely critical. I can’t stress this enough. You both need to know exactly where you stand, and the only way to achieve this is to speak with each other frankly and frequently.

Finally, sharing for sharing’s sake will inevitably lead to complications. You must have clearly defined realms of responsibility. There will naturally be some overlap, but if you’re absolutely clear on what parts of the business fall under whose control, then each CEO is empowered to own their part.

What every CIO should know about Cloud

Watch Angus and Allan talk about CIOs, Cloud and oranges or read the full transcript below.

What should every CIO know about Cloud, well, every CIO should know something about Cloud. I think we can agree on that part.

(laughing).

But, look, I don't have time for... I shouldn't put it that way. I think the era of the CIO that declared that we're a Cloud first business just because everybody else is doing that. I think that's finished and what we're seeing in Australia and you know from my experience internationally, as well, in some of the more advanced Cloud markets is, we're seeing people with technical understanding of what Cloud and other advances in technology can do for their business and that's what CIOs really need.

They need to understand how Cloud gives them and their businesses the freedom to be remarkable, not just we're gonna go there because everybody else is and that might deliver us some cost savings.

It's a variable topic, but I think that, you know. I think first of all, the move to, the move to Cloud is actually a, a move to make your business more nimble. Now I'm, that's the opportunity that lays in front of you. It's not always about cost savings. It's great that cost savings are a by product but that's exactly what it is, it's a by product of making a business more nimble.

I think, I think the agile model that, enables you to, you know to, to be more nimble. You, you need to be okay with value in some states and it's more about getting in there and trying uh, and doing some proof of concepts and you know, and just start building trust and start practicing the ways to make your business more nimble. It's not just about moving applications into, into any eco system.

It's always a great first step, but there has to be back in your mind. It has to be, actually you know, how do we transform this, how do we transform this business into being something that is going to adapt to oncoming competition.

Yeah, and the, the, the, the new generation of CIOs coming in. I think also need to realize that the partners that have got them to this point, can't get them to where they need to go next.

Yeah.

And, and it gets back to that conversation around the inter priority service delivery model. You can't get what you need from one or two big technology sourcing partners, I think. The best CIOs now understand that they need to engage specialists to deliver that transformation in their organisation. That's a very different perspective to what a CIO would have had in the past.

Yeah. Yeah, and I said if I bought apples today, 10 apples isn't gonna equal one orange. Like, it's like you could have a billion apples, you're not gonna get the orange they need, you know to be able to, at the level what they, they need to do.

I'm gonna have to get you to explain to me what that actually means later.

I don't know. I don't know. I just like apples. (laughing).

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Is Cloud All or Nothing?

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When it comes to cloud adoption, there’s largely two schools of thought on the best approach. The first involves migrating most - if not all - business functions in a large scale transformation project. The second involves shifting functions piece-by-piece as and when the need or desire to do so becomes apparent.

You want to enable organisations to pursue both strategies. Perhaps most importantly, however, you want to take the time to listen to the organisation and understand which approach would be the best fit for their unique business circumstances - even if your advice runs counter to their initial thinking.

Regardless of which strategy is pursued, making the choice to move business functions to the cloud provides multiple benefits to an organisation. Whether it’s an improved security posture, better disaster recovery and backup processes, increased flexibility or lower IT overheads, embracing the cloud can bring huge competitive advantages.

When it comes to SMEs, perhaps the greatest benefit of cloud computing is that a smaller company can leverage all the tools larger enterprises use without the upfront investment needed for on-premise enterprise computing equipment.

The flip-side of this coin is that larger enterprises can use new-generation tools to either replace or compliment their current investments. This helps large organisations compete with newer, more nimble entrants to the market - assuming of course they’re willing to make the leap.

No matter the size of an organisation, a full-scale transformation project can be daunting. Many organisations can fall into the trap of rushing into a complete IT overhaul without being completely aware of the internal skill sets or retraining required to make the project a success.   

It is in these cases we’d advise a client to test the cloud waters first. Rather than migrate all functions at once, it could be more beneficial to embrace the cloud application-by-application. Below we’ve listed the most common business processes our clients migrate to the cloud, and outline some of the benefits of doing so. For the cloud-curious, these applications make the most sense to migrate first in order to introduce an organisation to cloud before exploring a more wide-scale transformation;   

Web Facing Applications: Websites, content management systems, mobile apps and online commerce sites should be the first applications to consider migrating to cloud. Not only are these typically more modern, meaning migration is much simpler, but they’re also less essential to business than applications like ERP -  if there’s any teething issues during the project, there is less disruption to business. Not only are these applications some of the simplest to migrate, but their performance can be greatly improved by shifting them to cloud as they typically require scalability to balance unpredictable online volumes - scalability that is both difficult and expensive to achieve on-premise.

Customer Relationship Management: CRM software keeps track of every aspect of the customer relationship from first contact throughout the entire lifecycle. A robust cloud-based CRM improves a business’ knowledge of its customers as all interactions are recorded and easily accessible; whenever a customer gets in contact, that customer’s history is available to the agent at the click of a button. Critically, cloud-based CRMs can extend this functionality to agents in the field as a smartphone with an internet connection can access all the same data as a computer terminal at HQ.  

Human Resource Management System: HRM systems focus on the human component of your business. It encompasses everything from payroll and benefits planning, to talent acquisition and reporting. A cloud-based HRM system enables an organisation to confidently manage the changing nature of work, for example more staff wish to work remotely and gig economy workers are becoming more prevalent. A responsive system enables employees to more efficiently track and log their time, while the inbuilt analytics of these systems gives the HR team a better of insight of employee productivity.     

The most important takeaway, though, is that cloud computing has something to offer almost every business. For some, it is leveraging powerful hardware, software, and services for a pay-as-you-go price. For others, it is a level of data security they could not achieve on their own. For developers, it is remote collaboration and multi-platform tools for creating, testing, and deploying highly available applications.

When considering cloud, it can seem intimidating. Not every organisation is ready to shift every application all at once, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Each business is unique and at a different stage of their cloud journey. Regardless of whether you’re ready to go all-in on cloud or would prefer to dip your toe in the water first, it’s important to find a partner who understands the specific outcomes your business wants to achieve and has the technical ability to help you achieve them.  



AI - The Outer Reaches

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We'll be the first to admit that AI is scary.  

Recently Ibrahim Diallo, a software developer, was fired by AI.  He wrote a blog post about the experience.  It's an eyeopener, and a reminder of something that we talk about alot --AI without the right implementation doesn't instantly solve problems and can easily create more.

But there's a larger story worth exploring here and it's about the kind of world AI may eventually bring us.  From visions of super-intelligent machines seizing control of the internet, to robot overlords with little regard to human life, to complete human obsolescence, there are an unthinkable number of ways this whole AI thing could go horribly, horribly wrong.  And yet, many scientists, futurists, cyberneticists, and transhumanists are downright excited for the coming dawn of the post-information age lying just beyond the invention of the first superhuman, general AI.  To get in on the hype (and maybe quell some worries), let’s take a look at what exactly has all these smart folks giddy.  What are the possibilities of a world with supergenius silicon titans?  Here’s some possibilities, roughly in order of future development, although general AI technology is so powerful, there certainly are many more mind-bending possibilities than these. 

Filtering noise, making connections, and expanding knowledge (5-10 years away)

What do vitamins, horse racing, and the price of bread have in common?  Possibly, nothing.  But a general AI can figure it out for sure, and also find the other hidden connections between, essentially, everything.  After all, as was put by naturalist John Muir: “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.”  This sentiment is often repeated, but harnessing the power of a general AI offers a real, viable path to discovering the depth of connections present in the world.  

Today, machine-learning algorithms often work by looking at data, making some tweaks, and charting responses to determine how one variable affects another.  Interpreting these changes allows the AI to predict outcomes, determine how to act, or simply classify information.  And when a general AI gets to work on the huge amounts of data that already exist (and will continue to be generated), we as people will be able to learn so much.  A growing percentage of scientific research centers on secondary data analysis, or searching for new trends in data that have already been collected.  Secondary data-driven research is extremely low-cost, efficient, and accessible, in fields ranging from sociology to medicine.  A sophisticated general AI could conduct millions of these studies, 24 hours a day, every day, in every field, at astounding speeds.  And, with advancements in natural language processing, the AI could publish the research for people to look at and understand.  Of course, this sort of connection-searching is problematic; after all, correlation does not equal causation (here’s a website that does a great job of pointing out examples of false-causation trends).  However, the benefit of a true general AI is that it will be able to discern whether or not the correlations it spots are true connections or merely coincidences, at least as well as a human researcher, and much, much faster.  Because testing connections and processing data are the current uses for artificial intelligences, you can be sure there will be rapid development in this field in the coming years.

The end of work (10-20 years away)

Yes, this has been promised before, and is often promised again after new scientific breakthroughs, but it could really be it this time.  Automation in factories didn’t free us from work, exactly, but it did take over jobs within its domain, such as mass-production and precision-assembly positions.  Self-driving cars are on the verge of swooping up 5 million transportation jobs in the United States alone.  And for a general AI, its domain bridges both computation and creative thought.  So, just as automation has taken over factory positions, general AI could replace skilled cognitive workers like programmers, engineers, mathematicians, and even artists like poets, painters and musicians, leaving a whole lot of nothing for people to do all day (for some cool examples of AI-created art, look here, or here, or here).

Even if work doesn’t end entirely, though, count on your workload and life changing for the better.  Have you ever wished for a great personal assistant, someone who can scan through your email and shoot back answers to basic questions automatically, someone who will schedule and manage your appointment schedule, someone who can pick up a little slack when you’re feeling slow?  Google is on it.  Already, Google is rolling out a “basic” reservation-making AI which can call restaurants, make reservations, ask for hours, and the restaurants don’t even know they’re talking to a machine.  Seriously, natural language processing has become sophisticated enough to trick humans in some standard cases, like asking for a table for 5 at your favorite Chinese restaurant (you can see a video of the announcement here).  Soon enough, the AI will function as a full-on secretary, available for everyone, and some of your daily work headache will be alleviated by a tireless computer assistant.  

Intelligence upgrades (and AI camouflage, too?) (20-30 years away)

People have been trying to directly interface with computers since the 1970s, when the first human-computer brain-machine (BMI) interface was invented.  So far, the development has been therapeutic, alleviating symptoms from neurological disorders like epilepsy and ALS, restoring hearing with cochlear implants, and helping quadriplegics move mouse cursors and robotic arms directly with their thoughts.  It’s only a matter of time before enhancements are developed for neurologically-healthy people.  Elon Musk has already thrown his hat in the ring with Neuralink, a company aiming to develop the first surgically-implanted, whole-brain computer interface, for the express purposes of enhancing human computational limits and, secondarily, connecting human intelligence with artificial intelligence (a great, really long write-up for the interested here).  Not only does Musk hope that such a system could allow for offloading mental tasks to computers (would you like to be able compute 196003x3313 in your head?), he also hopes it’ll give us a lifeline when the AIs rise up.  From Musk’s perspective, if you can’t beat them, why not become so intricately intertwined that destroying one would destroy the other?  It’s a pretty neat survival strategy, blurring the line between us and the machine so any self-preservation instincts in the new machine-consciousnesses would automatically extend to us people, too.  A hard pill to swallow, sure, but if we really become second best in the face of general AI, mutually-assured destruction can be a good deal for the little guy (us).

Human immortality (30-??? years away)

Here’s a biggie: general AI could offer a viable path to massive extensions in human life, depending on how far one is willing to stretch the concept of “life.”  Is a mind (and presumably, a consciousness) without a body “alive”?  If you say yes, you could be the first in line to get your brain uploaded.  By encoding your specific neural pathways into a general AI, it’s possible you could continue life, free from physical ailments, disease, and accidents, snugly inside a computer.  And if your new computer architecture allows connections to form within itself, and disconnects old connections no longer considered useful, well, have you lost much besides your squishy, meaty body and brain?  Many techies say no, and amazingly, the first companies promising brain uploads are already starting to crop up.  A particularly grisly startup called Nectome has developed an embalming procedure so advanced that every synapse in your brain is identifiable after under an electron microscope, and will remain perfectly preserved for hundreds of years.  The kicker?  The process is 100 percent fatal.  In order to embalm the brain so efficiently, their preservation fluids need to be pumped in while you’re still alive, euthanizing you but preserving the brain.  Then your perfect brain can sit around for any amount of time until brain-uploading technology is developed, and Nectome will resurrect you in a computer.  Not surprisingly, their target market is terminally-ill patients.  And who knows?  It just might work.

Not only could life be extended by physical protections and material upgrades, it could also be extended, at least perceptually, by upgrading processing speeds (Warning: far-fetched sci-fi logic incoming).  The human brain has a few fundamental frequencies, called brain waves, that seem to dictate perceived consciousness.  These waves range in frequency from 0.5 Hz when sleeping deeply to 30 Hz when absolutely alert, and other estimates put the maximum possible neuron firing rate at about 1000 Hz.  Now, consider that the 8th generation Intel i7 processor released last year is capable of pulling 4.7 gigaHz (that’s 4,700,000,000 Hz!), and try to imagine what it would be like to live in one of those.  Would you think 4 billion times faster?  Would you perceive time as passing 4 billion times slower?  And if you, a mere mortal human, could pack 4 billion seconds (that’s nearly 127 years) into every second, would you?  Even if you lived a normal 70 years, by using a little back-of-the-envelope math, we’re talking about a perceived lifespan of 8.8 exa-years (8,800,000,000,000,000,000 years!).  It’s been 13.8 billion years since the Big Bang, which is .0000138% of one single exa-year.  And all this has been calculated using processor speeds that already exist.  Who knows what our processors will be capable of in 2045 (Ray Kurzweil’s estimation for the first human-computer merger)?

The takeaway

Obviously, the possibilities of generally-intelligent AI are enormous.  As AI technology rapidly progresses, the future is looking more and more like a wild ride.  No matter who you are, AI will both have something tempting to offer and something appalling that will make your skin crawl.  Whether general AI will provide lightning-speed research or human-computer cyborgs is still unclear, but we can be sure the artificial intelligence future holds some drastic changes to human work, health, and the world as we know it.  And look out; it’s all coming sooner than you think.  One things certain, though, especially if you are an enterprise in 2018 --you still need to get your own IT house in order,, AI won't be up to that job for a while.

Architecting Culture at Scale

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Last week, we proudly welcomed Angus Dorney to the Kablamo family.  In his blog post, Angus did an awesome job expressing the significance of his joining, and the much-needed step-change that Kablamo brings to enterprise. We're on the precipice of something new, something great, it's a very exciting time for us.

But thanks to his inherent humility, Angus did a pretty darn average job of expressing one of the more outstanding gifts he brings to us.  Please allow me to explain. 

Angus is known industry-wide for his effectiveness as a tech leader, but what truly distinguishes him in my opinion is his ability to maintain culture at scale.  Angus knows how to grow a business, just Google his name to see a shopping list of distinguished achievements. But he also knows a much more profound thing, how to grow a great culture that matches business growth.  

"Company Culture” these days is 101 level HR marketing fodder, an afterthought. The ideal of company culture is too often tossed around as a concept that sounds great but doesn’t necessarily mean much. 

Kablamo is built around our humans.  We didn’t buy them.  We gravitated together because we share a single vision, we have a single purpose: Deliver cloud software in a way that absolutely knocks the socks off our loyal enterprise customers.  We don’t have dispensable people any more than we have dispensable ethics or values.  Our humans are exceptionally bright and deliver outcomes with unwavering humility. We don’t need or want undeserved monikers like “we’re the best”, “the biggest”, “the fastest”, “the most cloudiest/devopsiest/secopsiest” — we just get on with it. Our team builds really valuable software, we solve problems.  We work really hard, but we maintain balance —and we don’t just say it, we do it. And we enjoy it. 

Our new Co-CEO embodies the ideal of servant leadership. Angus is the safe pair of hands to grow something culturally unique like Kablamo into something much bigger. What’s so critical here is that scaling the Kablamo culture will mean huge benefits for organisations looking for a trusted accountable partner to drive truly valuable enterprise solutions at scale. (Just for fun , try saying that 5 x with a mouth full of marbles)

So, welcome, Angus.  Kablamo’s culture is on the launch pad for the next stage of our journey and the mission is clear.

— Allan Waddell, Co-CEO (Proudly) and Founder Kablamo