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Ep. 9: Agile Drives People, Process and Technology

Neysha Arcelay of Prexica, Kelly Fetick of Landis Consulting and John Miller of Real CIO merged minds to talk about the importance of developing an agile mindset and methodology around People, Process and Technology. It is defining who will emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic on top and those who might not survive.

Read a TEQ thought leader article from the crew on this topic here.


Everybody, it's Jonathan Kersting here, bringing you our summer of Pittsburgh tech stories hanging out with Comcast powering this thing up, because we have so many great stories to tell this summer. And this story I think, is going to really knock your socks off. This is like our trifecta of people that I think are just so cool here in Pittsburgh, that they're putting their minds together in the tech community to help it be a stronger force for lack of a better term. When it comes to help people especially around things like like agile, picking up people and process and technology and really COVID has like brought all this to the forefront as to how important is to have this mindset and how these applications coming through your business and I think you can dream life I think at this point in general I keep telling everybody if you're not thinking agile man you're gonna be left so far behind as far as that is and i like i said i got these three people here I got John Miller from Real CIO, Kelly Fetick from Landis and Neysha Arcelay from Pecixa. Guys, thanks for coming together and doing this. I just love that you guys bring such an awesome energy every time I meet with you, you pumped me up and so I'm looking forward to being pumped up today, no pressure. Let's just start with a little background and then someone can tell a story as to how you guys can all found each other and kind of like weird things up in a really good way. submission. Let's start with you.

No pressure. Um, I think you described it perfectly Jonathan. We came together actually through the Pittsburgh Technology Council. And literally was something that just clicked between the three of us and we decided to find, initiate these partnership, sharing ideas supporting each other pushing each other from the 3d perspective because I think all the three of us have experience the wonders and the importance of in every single strategic decision. About people process and technology and considering people process and technology. And then we discovered how all of my experience have been in process process improvement operational excellence. Kelly, we'll talk a little bit about hers and John, so it was a perfect match.

I like it. And then John's got some serious serious CIO skills. This guy he knows technology. I know, he knows process inside now I can start seeing where these pieces start building on each other. JOHN, give us something about your background and what you do with a Real CIO.

Oh, well I was in Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh I've been in the IT community for I hate to say it but well over 40 years All right, I like that. Starting in the old days when we had the glass house and kind of wall and you couldn't see the mainframe and, and how it's developed into where we have more power in our cell phones now than we had in the mainframe. That we had back then. That's amazing. growing the technology, presence in Pittsburgh through the tech console has been great. The lines between technology and process are really blurred. Oh, yeah. The lines between people and technology have been really blurred. You know, the people that used to never have a computer before now all have them and it's so that the partnership that the three of us have together, and I don't think it really correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think our relationship really started as a people press process and technology thing I think it started is we're just business people who got together and we're networking and we had friendships and it kind of dawned on us one day that we're working together. Kelly really does know the people peace and nature really knows the process piece and I know the technology piece and Exactly. Those are the three factors that always seem to bubble up to how things are divided.

Exactly. It's like this perfect three legged stool most like you got all the angles covered. Absolutely. I think it's cool and so the final leg of that stool course here with Kelly, you know the people why are you hanging out with these two?

Yeah, so my background is all within people. I've been doing technology staffing 15 years now it's really the only thing I know how to do.

More than that, I'm sure.

So yeah, so that's my background on Landis consulting groups about four years and these guys you know, we met we just like like john a nature person. We just really enjoy each other and like each other. And now it's a bit of a lonely world whenever you're running a business sometimes. So it's just nice to have your own mini board to bounce ideas off Exactly. Then one day we kind of realized, hey, we are you know, three P's people process technology and that's That's powerful. So it's just been, it's been a really great, you know, valuable relationship for me too. And I love hearing it. I think this makes such a unique story as far as it is. And what I'm really pumped about is in summer in a few weeks, our next issue of TEQ magazine has a really cool article that you guys kind of you don't think co authored. I'm trying to remember there's three people try authored, I guess, or something hijack for more than two. I don't know these things. Anyhow, you guys put your brains together and you wrote a really powerful piece. I kind of want to nerd out on that a little bit today because I think you guys kind of go through the flow of this thing just perfectly in the article and then you just set the the tone, Kelly, like, what was the idea for the piece? And what was the inspiration for you guys to come together and put this together.

So we've always kind of talked about doing a collaboration piece. I'm just with incorporating all the different facets of you know what we do, and then with everything that happened when the pandemic was going on, we're like, you know, this is a really great time to really puts together and do what we've been thinking about doing. So we did. And it really made sense to because when you're thinking about, you know, what we did when you know COVID head and the way that everybody had to transform and you know really adapt quickly and it was really important to think and consider people processing technologies in these decisions that needed to happen really quickly. And it really it just made sense to kind of really do this and put it on paper and share it with the community.

Absolutely. Let's talk about agile everyone's heard about it. And this is kind of start with that and and drill into how you need that going across as people processing technology.

You said you want to start off for us.

I can definitely start I think we saw and we started as a discussion. Although we have never seen something of this magnitude before. We have seen transforming of my good businesses, many, many things. Before, and the companies that can adapt quickly are the companies that survive. And john makes a fantastic point in the article, we think about blockbuster on all the companies in that regard. From my perspective, he did DS provided the opportunity to slash the red tape and bureaucracy of our processes in order to make decisions faster, quicker here and just come together so that our customers suffer the least amount of impact possible. So So the fact that companies were continuously able to improve and that can only be accomplished through agile processes, definitely resilient people and resilient organizations but through agility is the only way that you could quickly switch gears Make sure they used to rob your operations as quickly as possible. And john, you have a fantastic perspective in terms of your examples. 

Oh, um, it's interesting, thinking about how technology has changed in the Agile world, you know, used to be that we would put together disaster recovery plans. And we always look for what components are likely to fail, what server rooms are likely to fail, what, what things are going to happen that's going to prevent us from being able to support our organizations. And if when the three of us first got together to write this article, as I recall, it didn't really look like it ended up looking like we started talking about how has people processing technologies been affected by this this COVID thing and the shelter in place? How is it affected Are worlds. And what it came down to was after our discussion, we started talking more about leadership and our ability and our need to lead our organizations and the three of us run our own organizations. So we had to figure out how could we lead our organizations to become more agile, to be able to recover from things that we have no clue we're going to happen. Exactly. technology perspective. Server fails. You know, we had we have backup servers, we have redundant data sources and other locations. We have multiple fiber circuits into our data centers, things like that we could recover from this. We had no clue when someone said you can no longer go to work and neither can anybody in your company. That presented a very unique situation. And if companies were not agile with the technology to be able to Provide the connectivity to work from home and the the the people so that the people had to have there were things that we had to look at as far as having hourly employees working in some cases around the clock and we had processes that had to change allowing remote computers into our network that we never encountered before. And you know, so we we started looking at how can we make all this happen? How can we do it quickly, literally, overnight, literally over a weekend.

We got entire windows that weekend. Well to what were you doing that weekend? Did you know that I was like, Yeah, well, I think about how this compared to even y2k. And we worked on y2k for 35 years.

35 hours for us. Yeah. To deal with 30 year mortgages that were going to be expiring. After the year 2000. So in it we've been working on on y2k for 30 years, right, this came out of left field and had to be solved immediately. Exactly.

And then from a people standpoint, then Kelly, I mean, obviously, I mean, that's where it gets super tricky, because you're talking about people's minds and their attitudes and a culture within a company and everything like that. How does this work on your head?

Yeah, it's, you know, and in my world, you know, cultural is already such a big pit, you know, all of our worlds caught cultures a big piece, but when you talk about recruiting high tech talent into these organizations in such a competitive environment, you know, it's a really, really big deal. So, when you think about the way that our culture needs to kind of reflect what happened and make sure it continues in a positive way, you know, people really need to incorporate you know, resiliency, by design, you know, into their culture, and also just the the people that really people that cared about that showed their support and cared about their employees and his culture, cultures that had true empathy and leaders that have empathy and their thoughts and decisions. Employees aren't going to forget that, you know, it's it's going to be really continually important moving forward to so it's just a matter of focusing on that and really supporting your people.

Oh, absolutely, absolutely. Now the tough part is stringing all three of these things together. I'm assuming also, I mean, as this whole thing has transpired, I know you've had lots of people reaching out to you, either with problems of one or two or all three of these or just realizing, hopefully not drugs, and I'm sure there's maybe just realizing now that like, man, I kind of caught with my guard here, how do I begin? Because we think we're all starting to sense that it's gonna be it's gonna be a tricky environment for the next few years. You know what I mean? Like, I think it's just begun. So how do you get someone kind of started to begin these types of processes to get that methodology going to get the processes to get the people lined up to get the technology to kind of power all of that, I guess, at the end of the day, I think holistically, Jonathan, and you You know, we definitely want to lay it out in the article but I think holistically you can engine summarize perfectly. And so, clearly, we cannot think about resiliency and business continuity plans based on technology based on people based on our processes. These always from now on more than ever are going to have to come together because this is not going to be the only situation that we face in the future will you know experts are already calling out for a second search. We can have are seen it here MPs were already studying. So considering people process and technology and something that is incredibly important, not people process and technology based on the things on the way things are today, but also refocusing on the purpose and the why behind your business. Because we can get distracted with Oh, we can do this. We can do But if he's not online, it's going to cascade through your offerings, your clients are going to feel a disconnect, and your employees are going to go slow. And I feel that they do not have a path that connects them to the bigger thing.

Exactly. I mean, that actually sounds a lot like getting yourself into this mindset of continuous improvement. And it was a point that that's an article and I feel like if you're not taking that mindset, then you're just going back again, like you're not being dialed in at all. So you got to go back to square one. And really begin your consultation with you guys. Right?

Exactly that you get that you got the three of us because then we rely on each other whenever the tough questions come.

And again, this this, it goes back to leadership, it goes back to the person at the top of the organization leading the organization into a mindset of being agile, you know, used to be for IT people you know, you would look for really skilled technicians that can take a Cisco switch apart and put it back together again with their eyes closed. Being able to make all these changes and configure things. Now we're looking at a totally different set of skills. We're looking at innovation, and adaptability and collaboration and synergy, you know, getting getting people to work together that never worked together before, or maybe never even like working together, and getting them to solve problems. And again, we had to pull so many people together, to get remote processing to work flawlessly. And, you know, the three of us pulled together to to put our put our thoughts together and put it into something that was cohesive and, and it's the leadership thing that that comes up really makes a difference. And Kelly touched on or I'm sorry, Neysha touched on a really important topic about the why and really getting in touch with the why the organization What do we do, why do we do what we do? Because your y doesn't change in a crisis. And fortunately, you're identified at that point. You know, it does point then becomes like this magnified. It does and being able to still deliver on your why with a solid solution is is what is important?

Absolutely. Because the faster you're moving, that you aren't, you're moving faster. The more ability you are, the quicker you can actually think back to why your company does what they do, what are your what's important to your clients, what's important to people, and just incorporating that into these quick decisions that need to be made. It's going to be so valuable moving forward.

1% 100% so one thing I'm excited about is we're going to have this article posted up on our PGH website, our brand new website we just relaunched it's got a big old new center with thought leaders section so we're going to encourage everybody go and check it out. It's good a PGH click on the T q link could be right at the top there this articles gonna be this you can kind of read through it and nerd out and I think being able to hear a bit about it's one thing but then you're actually reading it and going through your words I think really makes all this stuff. Just super concrete and I just think you guys are raising some great points. And I just love seeing the three guys come in together like that that to me makes Pittsburgh very magical because you guys find each other and I'm glad the tech council had a little role and you guys connecting, I think it's I think it's just awesome and John's gonna change gears just a little bit since this is part of our our summer 50 stories with Comcast part what we're trying to do here is raise some awareness and funds to bridge the digital divide. We're trying to raise some money for the beyond the laptops, Foundation, trying to get laptops into Pittsburgh public school, students hands and we've raised a bunch of money to date, which means a lot of laptops for kids going back to school. So I'm just curious to pick each of your brains real quickly. What are some thoughts on ways that Pittsburgh could be in in the worlds that matter could be better bridging this divide? How can we make sure we're bringing everybody along for the ride? Everybody has access to good technology. And you want to jump in there first, john, maybe you since you are the official tech geek of the crowd.

Um, well that's a that's a very difficult situation because that takes a lot of funding. I think involving corporate America in this was a great idea. I think partnering with, you know, partnering organizations that need the equipment with organizations that have the equipment. There's a lot of IT shops out there that have old equipment, a lot of laptops and at the end of every three years you rotate laptops out, right? from an IT perspective, from a CIO perspective, one of the things we always ask ourselves is, you know, what are we going to do with this old equipment? And unfortunately, the answer is, throw it away.

Ah, don't scrap it, there are there are really good technologies you can you can explore that you can basically rebuild a laptop, put a new operating system on that is designed to work on older technology, and you can repurpose it for for schools and people Organizations that really don't have the technology that they need. There's a lot of equipment out there. Good to know. And getting organizations to realize that they have another another destination for some of their obsolete equipment is is a great idea. There's a lot of this have been designed to run for, for four or five, six years, and has half its life left or more to get that into someone's hands and have the right OS and the right discipline to do that it's going to work. I think it's just fantastic.

And just just the way the whole world is going towards cloud computing, the device you have on your desk really doesn't need to be that powerful.

Right, exactly. It's happening into a server someplace else to a cloud server, and that's where all the data is. And that's where all the programs are. You know, I talked earlier about, you know, coming through the time when we had the glass house, we're back.

We're back here, kind of funny on your desk and you're working off of some supercomputer and no one knows where it is.

Word is it somewhere?

Great. We really need to put together some program that matches up need with with availability.

Definitely. Kelly, what are your thoughts?

Well, just so you know, piggyback off what john saying that's, that's the people do want to people want to help right now. So the more visibility, the more that we, you know, leaning into the tech community and getting into the corporate hands to, you know, put it out there to people. I mean, everybody wants to help that stuff. That's one of the things that was really cool. Now, throughout the whole pandemic is just seeing how many people stepped up. And, you know, it was it was inspiring from that aspect. And that's definitely an area to focus in.

Absolutely, in last, not least, Nisha, what are your thoughts on this whole topic?

I am going to emphasize on everyone's point and on the article, cross collaboration is key. I know that organizations are dealing with all of the turmoil of the market of their employees, but once you strengthen the core, and the community, the community is going to support To continue to grow. So cross collaboration between public private partnerships and in shooting organizations keep an eye out for those community initiatives that are a no brainer and low hanging fruit so that they can continue to grow and continue to provide value to the community is in credibly important, including their internal initiatives are equally as important as saying they're not initiatives.

Absolutely. I think that's great, great advice all the way around. I can't you guys for hanging out with me today, I really want to encourage everybody go to PGH tech org, click on the old media drop down. The article is right there a plus has your contact information on there as well to also put in the liner notes, of course of the podcast and the video of this series as well too, because I think if anyone's out there looking for some advice, or turn their agility up to the next level their process up to the next level. They got to talk to you guys, you guys do some great work and understand that a little bit of your story today cuz it's a good one. And I'm glad you're part of our 50 that Comcast is helping us do this year. Great stuff, guys.

Thank you, Jonathan.

Pleasure. Absolutely.

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