Business and IT leaders have been inundated for years with stories of digital disruption and urgency to act. And for the past decade, those who work in IT have been dealing with a frenzying pace of change. Technology platforms, development paradigms, and the vendor landscape have been shifting at a rate that very few organizations have been able to keep up with. The organizations that do manage to keep up are further driving change by redefining the technology landscape around their platforms, causing the rest to fall even further behind. Enter Dr. Mik Kersten’s new book, Project to Product: How to Survive and Thrive in the Age of Digital Disruption with the Flow Framework [IT Revolution Press, November 2018], based on two decades of research, spanning almost every domain of software delivery. Dr. Kersten, Founder and CEO of Tasktop, an award-winning company changing the way companies deliver software, introduces the Flow Framework – a new way of building an innovative technology infrastructure that will change the way enterprises do business – and provides a toolkit for delivering software at the pace of a startup. The Flow Framework will change the way enterprises think about software delivery, enabling every organization the opportunity to win a portion of the $18.5 trillion (IDC) that will be created annually through better software delivery. We had a chance to interview Dr.Mik and asked about his story, how he started his business and the future of Tasktop.
Tell us your story. Why did you start Tasktop?
The inspiration for Tasktop came from the need to connect developers to what we call the software “value stream”, ie, all of the people, process and tools involved in delivering value to customers through software.
Before Tasktop, I spent a decade building open source software development tools. The feeling of delivering value to and through a community of developers at the pace of an open source software project was exhilarating. I wanted to bring the same benefits we were seeing in the small in these highly productive open source projects, to software delivery organizations as a whole.
Tell us about your products and services. How do you help clients?
Most large organizations are aware that they need to undergo digital transforms, and are adopting new software delivery practices such as Agile and DevOps. However, the majority of these transformations are failing to produce business results in a meaningful time frame and some are failing outright. The biggest problem with enterprise software delivery is that organizations are mis-applying a dated project management paradigm to the creative and product driven work of delivering value to customers through software and digital experiences.
Our mission is to help these organizations protect their investment in digital transformations and deliver more business value through software by connecting the tools and teams that make up the software delivery value stream and by providing insight into the process of software delivery. We save enterprises time and money and increase the business value of the software they produce while making the process much more satisfying for the people doing the work.
What makes you unique? What is your unique selling proposition (USP)?
The disconnects between all of the various tools are and teams necessary for software delivery have become the biggest limiting factor to delivering software at scale. This is a huge problem, and a competitive disadvantage, for large enterprises in every industry.
Tasktop’s goal is to make it easy for these organizations to create and connect their Value Stream Networks, making it possible for information to flow seamlessly across the many specialists and teams involved in software delivery, no matter how large the organization or how many teams the organization has, or how many products they are tasked with delivering. We are in a unique position to deliver on this vision because we allow organizations to create and use a toolchain that makes sense for their business. They never have to use a tool that’s not right for a particular team or process.
In my upcoming book, Project to Product I introduced the concept of the Flow Framework. This framework makes it possible for organizations to “see” and to manage software delivery while focusing on the flow of business value as well as the productivity and happiness of the delivery teams. Our products are designed to bring about this shift in how large-scale software is built.
Where do you see Tasktop in the next 3-5 years?
All of our product and service offerings are focused on helping today’s enterprises become software innovators, so they can compete in a rapidly evolving marketplace. I see us continuing down the path of connecting software delivery to business value in more and more sophisticated ways as flow-based software delivery becomes recognized as a the path to the success of digital transformations. Tasktop has pioneered the concepts of the Flow Framework and of Value Stream Networks, and I see these as becoming the key missing framework and infrastructure layer needed for enterprise organizations to become software innovators. Over the coming years I see Tasktop becoming the trusted provider of that new infrastructure andvisiblity layer to some of the world’s largest organizations, enabling them to succeed with their transformations.
Any advice you would give to entrepreneurs and business owners?
Figure out what you need to learn next to successfully execute on your vision. For example, early on in my career, the most important thing to me was to become a great developer. But after founding the company, I realized that I need to take a similarly disciplined approach to learning leadership and management. Every year or so, as the company evolves, I find myself needing to gain substantially more depth in a part of the business or domain. It’s that approach to learning that I find so useful and encourage others to take, whatever the state of your career or business.
What is your favorite business quote and why?
I read this quote from J.S. Bach when I was in my late teens, and it has stuck with me since then. I have continued to listen to Bach when I’m writing and neither the music nor the quote has ceased to amaze me.
“I worked hard. Anyone who works as hard as I did can achieve the same results.”
What have been some of your achievements that you are most proud of? Why?
I’m proud of writing the book, Project to Product, while continuing to run the company—with the support of my great team. It almost killed me but didn’t, and the opportunity to go deeper into these topics around the Age of Software transformed my understanding of where the industry is headed.
Anything else additional you want to tell (share with) our readers?
For me, there is nothing like seeing a large customer using our product at a massive scale to address complicated challenges. When you work closely with customers, there are always interesting insights and new problems to be solved—some that you haven’t even envisioned yet. For example, when a Fortune 100 insurance company used Tasktop’s integration facilities to reorg thousands of IT staff across hundreds of teams into an organizational structure more closely around to product delivery, it was a fascinating learning experience for us as we had not envisioned that use case. It’s these kinds of experiences, learning along with customers and solving hard problems, that make running and growing a technology company so interesting and exciting as adoption grows.