kablamo

The "Odd Couple" - my first year as co-CEO 

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One year ago, I made the biggest move of my career and joined Kablamo as co-CEO.

Not only was shared leadership new to me, but from the outset it was clear Allan and I were very different people.

Allan brings the creativity and technical vision to our team. His insights into areas like artificial intelligence and running Agile at scale are mind blowing, and the right kind of crazy. He can take the esoteric and make it accessible, pushing all of us to think deeper, farther.

My strengths? Let’s just say I leave that kind of creativity to Al. I know how to build and scale businesses, plan and execute strategies, and keep organisations and people happy as they strive for greatness.

Human instinct being what it is, the initial reaction is to push away from this kind of personal difference in a co-CEO model. It can be a scary leap into darkness for both people. The “visionary” can worry that the “manager” mind might over-manage and constrain —becoming an idea killer, a clipper of wings. On the other hand, the manager may worry that the visionary will be impossible to channel in a way that can deliver consistent customer outcomes and meet payroll each week!

Long story short, between my unfamiliarity with this shared approach, and the fact we’re both such polar opposites, I was nervous about what lay ahead.             

While I’ve started with the differences, for the co-CEO model to work there must be some critical similarities – similarities which are values-based, not financial. 

For Allan and I, nurturing a strong values-led culture at Kablamo is a principle neither of us will compromise on. We have rock solid alignment around the type of business we want to build, how we want to treat people and how we want to be treated in return. We’d rather walk away than build a shitty, transactional company and culture filled with uninspired people who are just there for a paycheck.

And this brings me to another critical point: Ego. A healthy confidence and belief is one thing, but for the co-CEO model to work, you need to have right-sized egos that are willing to accept imperfection, share success and to learn from failure. In that sense, it’s not for everyone. Needless to say, trust —and a lot of it— needs to be a big shared value between both leaders.

So, what’s been the result for Allan, myself and the Kablamo team in our first year as co-CEOs? By embracing our differences, Kablamo has grown far beyond what I thought possible when I first agreed to share the CEO role. Our varied skill sets allow us to focus on the areas we excel, which has helped lead to strong organisational growth. 

In fact, 12 months on, it’s clear our differences are one of the biggest benefits of this co-CEO model (in a future post, I plan on digging down into this a bit more).

Not only has our customer base significantly expanded to include some of Australia’s largest media, financial and industrial organisations, we’ve more than tripled our staff numbers to accommodate the demand.

While growth is important, what matters most to Allan and me is Kablamo’s culture. We’ve developed a strong set of values and a vision for our future. We’ve also grown and evolved our leadership group on our mission to become a high performing team. We’ve started our employee benefits program, and launched our giving arm, Kablamo Impact. We want to build a good company, not just a financially successful company.

Underpinning this all is our focus on building a world-beating culture. Our secret sauce is our people. Day-in and day-out, this team is delivering truly transformational digital products and outcomes in some of Australia’s largest and most well-known organisations.

And their hard work is being recognised. Earlier this year, we were named as finalists at AWS’s Partner of the Year awards for Data, Analytics and Machine Learning.

Now with a solid foundation built, and much more confidence in our shared leadership model, this next financial year will be the most exciting in our history… stay tuned.

Even if you’re not ready or convinced by the co-CEO path, consider giving shared leadership a try, if only in a limited way —sometimes going against your human instinct can pay off. 

Read on LinkedIn and connect with Angus f.

Amazon AWS Summit Intel

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Great to be able to share this from the AWS Summit and Paul Migliorini, Amazon Web Services’s ANZ lead (as reported by CRN, read the whole story here).

When asked whether AWS's largest partners like Accenture, Deloitte and DXC were getting in on the machine learning action as well, Migliorini said global systems integrators are investing heavily in those areas, but are working with consultancies of all sizes.

"You're looking at these organisations with really deep specific capabilities… Kablamo, DiUS, and Intellify, these sorts of companies… they're working with these larger integrators as well in that really cohesive way for customers. And I think that's one really nice thing about the evolution of the way the partner ecosystems are working today."

Miglironi wrapped up with his three key messages for the channel, which included his call for partners to challenge AWS harder.

"The first is that success will come from thinking long term about customer success, which means that putting a focus on outcomes, no matter how small project or revenue is, everyone will be rewarded by customers for the long term. So we want our partners together with us to think long term and to put customer outcomes ahead of any other short term game.

Kablamo Appoints Kirsty Trask To Leadership Team

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Great to see ARN and others cover Kirsty’s arrival at Kablamo as regional manager for Melbourne and a welcome addition to our leadership team. All the better because it’s International Women’s Day. Here’s an excerpt from the story:

Cloud software and product developer Kablamo has appointed Kirsty Trask as its regional manager Melbourne.

Trask joins from call recording services provider Dubber where she was a senior product manager.

In her new role at Kablamo, she will oversee the growth across Victoria, software and product development and also coaching teams within client organisations to "adopt and embrace an Agile culture".

Kablamo co-CEO Angus Dorney said Trask’s experience in managing high-performance teams and track record delivering innovative software-centric solutions made her the perfect fit.

“I didn’t want to hire someone with just ‘go-to-market’ experience, that’s a dime-a-dozen,” Dorney said. “I wanted someone who was more strategic, had experience with software and product strategy, someone who can lead the customer journey from a blank sheet of paper all the way through to taking a new product to market."

Trask is a member of the Australian Computer Society’s Women in Victoria Group, and has also worked to encourage more women to pursue careers in technology as part of Females in Information Technology and Telecommunications (FITT).

Read the full story on ARN here.

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Introducing Kombustion: Our Open Source AWS Developer Tool

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The team is proud to announce the launch of Kombustion.  Here's the media release, want to give Kombustion a try?  Visit: www.kombustion.io

Australia, August 15, 2018 – Kablamo has released its most significant open source software project to date, Kombustion. The AWS plugin provides an additional layer of intelligence for AWS CloudFormation, reducing the time and complexity of managing thousands of lines of code across AWS environments of any size. 

The tool provides benefits for developers and engineers who use AWS, as tasks that previously took days or weeks can now be completed in minutes or a few hours.  For example, setting up a new Virtual Private Cloud in an AWS cloud account has typically required significant work to define and manage up to 30 different AWS resources. With Kombustion, a best practice AWS Virtual Private Cloud can be set up with a small amount of configuration to an existing plugin.

“We developed Kombustion to help solve a common challenge for all AWS CloudFormation users. It was built in-house, and we’d been using it ourselves, but after seeing the benefits Kombustion delivered to our team, we decided to open source the project and share it with everyone,” said Allan Waddell, Founder and Co-CEO of Kablamo. “Our Kablamo values align strongly with the open source software community and we are proud to play our part in making AWS an even better experience for its users.”

CloudFormation is a native AWS service, which provides the ability to manage infrastructure as code. Kombustion is a CloudFormation pre-processor, which enables AWS users to codify and re-use best practices, while maintaining backwards compatibility with CloudFormation itself.

Kombustion is especially useful where multiple CloudFormation templates are required. It enables developers, DevOps engineers and IT operations teams to reduce rework and improve reusability in the management of CloudFormation templates, whilst also enabling access to best practices via freely available Kombustion plugins.

Liam Dixon, Kablamo Cloud Lead and Kombustion contributor, said while the core functionality has been built, it was essentially a foundation and he hoped the wider AWS community would help make the tool even better.

“Different AWS users have different ways of pre-processing CloudFormation templates, but we saw the opportunity to develop a freely available tool with the potential to become widely used in Australia and overseas,” Dixon said. “Kombustion’s publicly available, plugin-based approach, means that the AWS developer community can reduce rework and share best practices in areas such as security, network design and deploying serverless architectures.”

As well as reducing the time and complexity of managing multiple AWS instances, other Kombustion benefits include:

  • Adoption can be incremental so there is no need to completely rewrite current CloudFormation templates;
  • Kombustion plugins can be installed from a Github repository;
  • Cross-platform functionality means Kombustion works on Linux, FreeBSD and MacOS; and,
  • Kombustion is completely free to use, for both personal and commercial use   

The first release of Kombustion is available for download today at: www.kombustion.io  Kablamo is calling for the AWS community to test and provide feedback on Kombustion, and to contribute towards future iterations of the project.

Buzzword: AI

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In this week's buzzword chat the team tackles how machine learning & AI aren't going to solve your IT woes -- robust discussion ensues.

Ben: Artificial intelligence, yeah?

Liam: Yeah, that and machine learning probably. The coupling of those two as a discrete entity. I need to do the AI.

Marley: A lot of businesses seem to wrap up that they need AI and machine learning when it’s really just about a bad process issue.

Liam: The amount of times we have companies that have a ridiculous amount of data, we've got so much data we don't know roughly how to use it.  And again, they look at some of the technologies that people are doing around machine learning models and sort of the idea of artificial intelligence... again because there are a lot of groups publishing it. When realistically what they really need to do is just start performing data transformation over the top of it and standard data science pieces on it.

Not every solution needs to be in the machine-learning model. A lot of the data points in terms of what they're actually looking to address and find in terms of the data and about their audience, or looking at some of their outcomes in terms of what they're not doing in terms of their product or in their marketing or in their pitch...you don't need to necessarily put that through copious amounts of machine learning or even the idea of creating an AI engine or compute layer to do that. They are probably the two words that get misused the most if we're honest.

Ben: It's not the future everyone thinks it is. Everyone thinks that you're going to ask AI "How do I..." I don't know, "talk to me in a natural way." And every chatbot that I've ever seen is, is utterly terrible. They're not very intuitive. And everyone's going, "Oh, we want that fantastic chatbot experience," but what they really should be aiming for in AI is something that's, you know, solving the customer problem. And yeah, I think it's just been oversold. It's really, really oversold.

Allan: Yeah, but it's rapidly changing. I mean, I think, I think we're rapidly moving towards a place where the Turing test is going to hold. And I think that is, we're talking about 44% of job replacement by, by AI in the next 20 years across Australia.

Liam: That’s more around robotics and machine learning…

Allan: Actually, no. It’s actually not.

Liam: Okay.

Allan: That's not the physical, it's not the white collar, sorry, it's not the blue collar workers that are going to get hit by AI role-replacement first, it's going to be all the white collar. It’s going to be banking, finance in general, and legal.

Liam: What, accountants, really?

Allan: Yes, effectively.  And software developers. Software development as the processes today is going to change rapidly. We deal a lot with the chat services that would apply at a call center or contact center. And I think you're right. It does need to solve the customer problem first, and I think that's where most companies are really behind is the detailed workflows, you know, consistent form that AI would need in order to be effective. And that's going to take some time just to map it out. To be fair, it's like training your replacement. People are going to resist that change. But yeah, in the background it's really that evolution as well of the humanization of those technologies. I can imagine a time, and it's inside our lifetimes, that you're going to pick up the phone and speak to someone and think you're speaking to somebody, and if it doesn't solve the problem it's moot. So yeah, I completely agree.

Ben: The classic example is I know a guy whose name is Paris, and the chatbot says, "What's your name?" He types in "Paris" and then it goes, "Oh, you want to go to France?" And he's like, "No, my name is Paris. You just asked me that." They can’t even do that right so I’m very skeptical.

Allan: It’s got a way to go.

Liam: I think that’s more an implementation issue there. In terms of the context of what it’s capturing or otherwise.

Ben: Ah, maybe. Maybe...

Liam: If you take Alexa and Google Home, I think there’s an element of their chatbot integration, and again some of their machine learning aspects in terms of NLP space. It has done reasonably well, not to say they’re like the be-all end-all.

Ben: Just saying, I’m yet to see any chatbot that impresses me. And I’ve tried them all.

Buzzword: Blockchain

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Listen to the team tackle Blockchain as a buzzword,  current industry uses, what blockchain might look like in the future and the effectiveness of distributed systems (or read the transcript)

Liam: I feel like we’ve missed the absolute elephant in the corner here, which is blockchain.

Allan: Ha. Yeah.

Liam: Let’s try and find something else we can use blockchain to solve...

Marley: I just get sick of seeing LinkedIn profiles that say "I'm a blockchain advocate".

Ben: Or a "blockchain expert." Like really? Did you invent blockchain?

Liam: I sort of feel like it's the thing that everyone attempts to try and find a problem to try and solve with it.

Ben: Solution looking for a problem.

Liam: Yeah. It's one of those things, like it works quite well in the cryptocurrency space, right? In terms of that transaction holding the ledger context of it, I think there's a real essence where banks have attempted to look at it for quite some time. You've got the ASX and a couple other organizations that are looking at how that fits in their platform space. You've got groups like VISA or MasterCard that have come out and been very anti-blockchain in terms of going from a power consumption space. .

Ben: It's one of the three big advancements that we've ever had in accounting. There was single-ledger accounting, a double-ledger, and then there’s blockchain. I think that’s going to have a big impact eventually.

Liam: The question I always wonder is, “Is this like the internet?” Is this the early days of the internet when people are just saying, "They can't necessarily see that far ahead". The idea of going, "Okay, if we could tell the future then we'd all be millionaires in certain aspects." But is it like the internet where it existed in like '98, to what it is today and what we do over it today? Were there that many people back in the '90s talking about eCommerce and web platforms and API-driven aspects? 

Allan: I’ve got very strong feelings about this…

Marley: If you follow the analogy, it's kind of concerning for the future of blockchain, right, because you're going to go again from a distributed system to things like siloed, walled gardens we have today on the internet, right?

Liam: Roughly speaking, yeah?

Marley: I mean it kind of defeats the purpose of technology in the first place.

Liam: How distributed does a distributed system need to be to still be effective? So if you treat the idea of a monopoly as a single ledger, and you say oligopoly is a controlled network. So let's say the banks all start to do blockchain between themselves as they're all the trusted ledgers. But they don't have untrusted ledgers in terms of, "Hey, you could just go and run the blockchain for the bank or be a node within the blockchain of the bank."

Ben: I might be okay with it if I could read the blockchain. At least to PenSpec what’s going on.

Liam: Yeah, you could still inspect it and look for fraud. Maybe with the Royal Commission that’s happening right now, maybe that’s one way to at least get visibility into a banking institution. But does blockchain always have to public? How distributed does a distributed network need to be?

Ben: Well, considering what Facebook's going through, I'd say distributed is a good thing.

Liam: Yeah...data sharing.

 

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