Infusing A.I. Into DevOps w/ JetDock

Infusing A.I. Into DevOps w/ JetDock

Organizations are always searching for ways to become more efficient and secure. With the rise of DevOps processes, organizations inevitably need to adopt, build, and deploy tools to support their growing development staff. These tools may include Jira, Confluence, Jenkins, MongoDB, and other applications and services on the marketplace.

With the list of tools growing, it’s important to keep all these tools organized, updated, and secure. This itself is a full-time job requiring multiple resources.

So, why not automate and consolidate your DevOps and DevSecOps processes?

Automatically Identify and Apply Updates

Imagine this: you have multiple tools deployed in your environment supporting your DevOps processes and most importantly – your development team. How do you keep on top of application updates and not interfere with your team’s support of these products?

One word: automation.

By having a tool intelligently pulling, scanning, testing and deploying updates as the updates to the applications are released ensures your environment remains secure and highly functional. This also enables your team to focus on continuing to provide DevOps tool support to your team.

Execute Security Scans

Categorizing and maintaining a list of Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVEs) and findings for your security team can be a real hassle, especially when its spread across multiple DevOps tools.

Why not automate? The ability to automatically integrate with Twistlock, Anchore, or other security scanning tools on the marketplace to build a centralized list of CVEs and maintain these will be an automatic win for you, your security team, and your IT Auditors.

JetDock – the AI DevSecOps Platform

We focused on automation in this blog – but which tool on the marketplace is right for you?

JetDock – Ascend’s DevOps tool which enables the automation and deployment of new DevOps tools using AI and Machine Learning to automatically build, scan, and deploy containerized applications. Using state of the art frameworks, JetDock can be deployed securely within your environment and becomes a DevOps consolidation tool for your team; a one-stop-shop for maintaining your DevOps environment. The tool has already shown success with the U.S. Air Force, obtaining funding through AFWERX contracts and use in the Platform One program.

Interested in finding out more or want a demo of JetDock? Contact us here:

Train Your Service Desk Customer: End walk ups, emails and Service Portal Anxieties

Train Your Service Desk Customer: End walk ups, emails and Service Portal Anxieties

So you’ve got a great service desk system like Jira Service Desk in place, but customers are still sending emails directly to you for password resets or new hardware purchases. While adoption has gone well for some customers, others still want that personal interaction to allay their fears of choosing the wrong software license type or ensuring an employee gets onboarded within the week. How can we continue to deliver great personalized customer service while also promoting comfort and ease-of-use around your new Jira Service Desk? Here are some ideas:

  1. Name your Service Desk: Sometimes having a system with a name and a mascot help to personalize a system so that users feel more comfortable using it. For example, you could name your system “SANDY” and create logo character based on one of your brands as a mascot. Your customer can think of it as asking SANDY a question rather than just typing a question into the Confluence knowledge base.
  2. Give Thanks for the Heads Up: Did one of your customers report a possible problem early that saved a system from going down? Perhaps they suggested a fix that helped an agent close a ticket. Find a way to recognize those who help put out fires before they start. It’s a great way to encourage other departments to look for proactive ways to prevent issues from cropping up.
  3. Customer Training: Maybe a customer is unsure of how to use the service desk and is still walking up to your desk or calling in issues? Be proactive, provide training and easily accessible videos to walk customers through the ticketing process so they are assured that you have received and are working on their request / issue. This could be a way to see from the customer’s perspective some ideas to improve your service desk processes, layout, and policies so that customers are more comfortable with the system. 
  4. Customer Usage Feedback: Too many fields for a user in the customer portal? Too many request or issue types? Simplify. It’s important for the user experience to have straight forward forms and easy to understand questions.
  5. Create Meaningful Satisfaction Surveys: Provide users the ability to submit satisfaction surveys and make them easily accessible. For instance, after a ticket is resolved / closed, send an email to the customer asking to complete a customer survey. Make sure you also leave room for suggestions so that feedback can be used to create a better experience.

Interested in learning more about Jira Service Desk, Confluence, or the Atlassian Tool Suite? Contact us today!  

Three Habits of Highly Effective Service Desks

Three Habits of Highly Effective Service Desks

Many organizations today have mature Service Desks and Support Centers. Service Desks for many companies begin as a one person IT shop or a customer relations person. For a small entity, a walk over to their desk or a quick phone call is all it would take to get a new workstation or to answer a product related question from a customer. One challenge many small companies encounter as they grow larger is how to scale their services without detracting from the customer experience or the quality of service. What used to be a stroll down the hall to the cubicle of the IT person and a sticky note placed on their monitor now goes unanswered. A call from a customer now gets routed to an automated phone system where they must listen to a recording and press zero to bypass all the options given to them by the recorded voice. How can you continue to deliver great customer service and keep up with the higher volume of requests?

  1. Track everything – Offline sticky notes, emails, phone calls, and verbal walk-ups must be kept to a minimum. This can be a hard habit to break if your staff is used to this personal touch. It becomes difficult to prioritize different requests coming in and notify your customers when their order has come in. Using a tool such as Jira Service Desk enables a consistent intake for both internal and external customers. You should direct customers to use an easily accessible service desk portal. If you must continue to take phone calls and walk-ups, tickets can be created by agents to document the customer’s request in Jira. As a best practice, you should document how many of these offline requests you receive to recognize the need for training opportunities or better access to the customer service portal.
  2. Promote Self-Service – While it’s always good to have a support specialist ready to handle customer requests, creating a knowledgebase with a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) will empower your customers and free up your Service Desk team. An important metric to track for self-service are view counts of these knowledge articles. Low view counts and high ticket counts for a related issue may indicate that your team must update your knowledgebase to make an article easier to find. Confluence, when integrated with Jira Service Desk, provides a searchable knowledge base which can provide these metrics in reports so that agents can make the best use of their posted knowledge articles for customers.
  3. Create Realistic Service Level Agreements (SLAs) – As the adage goes, “Under promise, Over deliver”. Setting turn-around goals for your support team ensures that your customer is aware of the length of time a request takes to fulfill. This creates expectations around when something will be delivered to them. Many times, customers will try to get around these SLAs by going around the system (i.e. phone calls / walk-ups) or by stating that their own request takes precedence over others. It’s important to think about the types of requests that your service desk agents receive and try to create reasonable SLAs based on priority. One best practice is to calculate the impact (number of users affected) and urgency (how quickly something is needed) as part of a priority calculation. Creating a Priority Matrix with these factors is a good way to look at this. Jira has automation that can be created to calculate priorities using these variables.

Interested in optimizing your Service Desk, or demoing Jira Service Desk? Contact us today!

Transforming DevOps at the Department of Veterans Affairs

Transforming DevOps at the Department of Veterans Affairs

After years of utilizing the Rational Suite extensively across programs and projects, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is looking at other options for their DevOps and project management capabilities. Increasing collaboration across teams within OIT, and enabling the ability for teams to quickly adopt to change is key for DevOps to be successful within the VA and OIT. How can the VA do this? DevOps is not a quick implementation or a “quick fix” to challenges encountered across multiple organizations. Instead, it requires three components working together in order for a successful DevOps strategy to be implemented across an agency: policy & life cycle updates, cultural adaption, and tools to ensure enablement.

Policy & Life Cycle

The VA Veterans Integration Process (VIP) software development methodology was implemented in the summer of 2016 replacing PMAS. VIP was an attempt to establish an agile process environment that unfortunately continued to require the Rational process. The most positive aspect of VIP is allowing enhancement Release the freedom from Rational compliance. Post go-live release, e.g. Releases 1.1, 2.0, 3.0, 4.1, can use Agile, SCRUM, and modern tools. Now, whichever tools and approach the respective vendors have internally within their respective development environments is acceptable for VA project enhancement releases.

Cultural Adaption

Within the VA, there are innovators such as Bill James, the Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, who support a swift transition away from the Rational suite and the adoption of modern tools to help transform their DevOps and project management capabilities. Most projects supported by the various T4NG vendors, are performing Agile with modern tools for Agile development, e.g. Epics, User Stories, Test Cases, Defects, Backlogs re: the SCRUM process. The new world of DevOps will likely be dependent on the adoption, implementation and administration of automated testing, deployment and monitoring tools. The administration of the Department’s Tools and Workflow is the opportunity to seize upon. Such as a Center of Excellence (COE) established and supported by the vendors for the VA. 

Tools for Enablement

With the establishment of new policies around lifecycles and culture, comes the adoption of new tools that enable DevOps capabilities across the VA. The ideal tool for the VA would include integration capabilities with the current software tool suite utilized by the VA (i.e. Rational), along with the ability to support the entire DevOps process. Integration with the current toolset is key, as many tasks, stories, requirements and configurations will need to be translated from one tool to another. The DevOps tool suite will need to be customized to include stage gate reviews and processes as required by the VIP. Fields, configurations, permissions and notifications will be standardized across all of the projects, with only minor customizations added if required by the program or project manager. The tool should also require minimum training for users, most users should after only one or two training sessions, be able to begin utilizing the tool for their teams. 

Next Steps for the VA

Implementing a new lifecycle policy, culture, and tools at the VA will ensure a consistent and repeatable approach to DevOps is taken within the agency. One tool with an extensive suite of capabilities utilized across multiple agencies is the Atlassian Tool Suite, Jira / Confluence / Bitbucket / Bamboo. Combining these tools provides users with a powerful, DevOps and Project Management focused tool suite highly customizable and flexible enough to meet the constantly changing needs of the VA. What do you think about enabling agencies to adopt DevOps practices?

Co-Authored – Michael Brown & Cavin Clayton of Ascend and Carahsoft

References / Links:

Office of Information and Technology Executive Biography:

Government CIO:

Atlassian Jira and Defense – Supporting the Agile U.S. Warfighter

Atlassian Jira and Defense – Supporting the Agile U.S. Warfighter

Last week, Ascend Integrated accompanied Atlassian and Carahsoft and attended the AFCEA West 2019 event in San Diego, CA. The conference is an excellent event to attend, whether you are an IT professional or working in some way with the United States Military / Department of Defense. The conference was attended by many ranking officers, leaders, and program / project managers.

Vice Admiral Mathias “Mat” Winter, Director of the Joint Strike Fighter Program, emphasized the importance of being agile, and its applicability across the DoD. With new equipment coming online utilizing a combination of IT systems and the implementation of Open System Architecture (OSA), the necessity to “Adapt or Die” to changing political and military climates has never been more important. Bug fixes, new features / capabilities, and maintenance must be tracked and managed in a centralized and secure repository.  

While attending, Atlassian (and specifically Jira / Confluence) were referenced repeatedly by multiple programs in speeches and working sessions, including Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) and members of the United States Air Force (USAF). Many enjoyed using the tool for project and requirements management, but spoke directly to us regarding ways they would like to see it improved, adapted, and implemented across multiple teams.

Ascend Integrated reviewed this feedback and determined three ways we can best adopt the Atlassian Tool Suite to supporting our Warfighters.

1. Interoperability: Enforce Widespread Adaption & Consistency

Interoperability is a key objective of many of the military programs. This extends not only to the systems being implemented through these programs, but also the supporting systems and DevOps implementations, such as the Atlassian Tool Suite. With Jira and Confluence containing the majority of the project management components, other tools utilized for testing and deployment should integrate directly with the suite at both a system and process level. If you’re looking for integrations, try reviewing the Marketplace or REST API capabilities. Keep all your data centralized, secure, consistent and easily accessible for your team.

2. Lean Governance & Continuous Improvement

We all know, governance may add bureaucracy, but it’s important when implementing large scale implementations of any tool. Jira and Confluence have multiple ways of implementing lean governance to support continuous improvement and enhancements to the tool. One simple way of implementing lean governance and continuous improvement, is creating a specific Jira project to track, plan, and implement enhancements to the Atlassian Tool Suite based on feedback received by your users.

3. Training

For any software tool, training is key. Users will learn how to consistently administer, develop, or track / manage their projects and programs. Ensure your users are trained, using consistent training at both the administration and project levels. This can be completed by using a combination of Atlassian University courses and enlisting the help of Certified Training Partners.

Ascend Integrated is a U.S., DC based Atlassian Solution Partner providing support services to multiple branches of the DoD for Atlassian, FedRAMP and Security support. How would you suggest supporting the Agile Warfighter? Contact Us Today!