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The IT Ninja Star: From Reactional to Silent & Deadly Transformational

Level 13

This post is the result of an idea from and is co-authored by gerardodada‌‌‌, VP of Product Marketing.

What is an IT Ninja? IT ninjas eliminate issues and incidents in data centers with their unique set of skills specifically remediation and troubleshooting. They are out of sight, out of mind, and only called on when the mission calls for immediate resolution. IT ninjas are perfect for dealing with rogues and shadows found in the IT ecosystem with their myriad of tools like the ninja star. Ninja stars enable agility, travel lean, and provide security. However , they require skill and experience to use effectively and efficiently.

Deconstructing the IT ninja star

The ninja star can be thought of as a triangle that intersects with an inverted triangle. This also happens to be a perfect representation of what IT organizations must deal with in order to succeed in their IT transformation.

Think of the upright triangle and the area at each cross section of the triangle as time spent on tasks.  The base is urgent tasks i.e. a system is broken or an application is down. As you ascend the triangle, there are more gains to be had in overall value to the organization, but there is also less time allotted to do so.

Next, think of the inverted triangle as representing impact to overall business. Tasks such as incorporating best practice policies provide the best value for differentiated lifting of business objectives while fixing broken things just keeps the needle where it is.

The intersection of the two triangles in the ninja star represents the best use of time and value add creation. It’s a balanced approach to keeping the lights on while moving forward in enabling practices that can create disruptive innovation for the business.


Figure 1: IT Ninja Star

Reactional to transformational

And for the benefit of the business, Enterprise IT organizations are embracing transformation to extract disruptive innovation and value added differentiation from their applications and intellectual property. Chatter from cloud and virtualization conferences like AWS re:Invent and VMworld remind us that most IT departments are still mired in the reactional culture of keeping the lights on. In turn, they are struggling to fully embrace the DevOps culture.

The struggle starts with the process and inertia that made IT rigor and discipline the dependable stalwarts in the times of crisis. Now that same process is called outdated and a time sink. The goals of IT are shifting to creating value from the important tasks i.e. implementing best practice policies versus fixing stuff that breaks i.e. keeping the lights on.

IT professionals tend to spend most of their time on these urgent “keep-the-lights-on” things, such as recovering from a disaster incident, maintenance, or dealing with “my app is slow” tickets. Time that should be spent on disrupting is instead spent on just keeping afloat.

How to succeed in transformational IT

Transformational IT organizations are embracing the DevOps culture, one that strives for continuous delivery and continuous integration. The ones that have been successful are using a tried and true, tri-modal method shared by Simon Wardsley - Pioneers, Settlers and Town.  They recognize the importance and value of each persona to glean from best practice policy and rigor from one another. By embracing these best practices and policies along with best-in-class monitoring tools that cross each stage, they can gain scale and be agile in their application implementations. And ultimately, do what they do best as IT ninjas.

Closing remarks

It’s high time that IT professionals become IT ninjas and unleash their ninja stars to transform their organizations. A transformation that will allow reactionary teams with a high internal tech inertia to being innovatively disruptive teams with frictionless delivery and integration from the application to business utility.

What say you?

Level 21

I say this philosophy also applies to fishing, improving one's productive time, catching & releasing more.

And education.  And life.  And business.

And relationships.

Saayyy--you're Ninja-ing us quite sneakily, molding our subconscious minds toward productive thought and action patterns.

Are there Ninja points that we can borrow from Whose Line Is it Anyway?  If so, 1.6M each to kong.yang‌ and gerardodada‌!

Level 17

if all you ever do it put out fires, then it's hard to come up with a new fire suppression system... i.e. those best practices. this is where DevOps can shine and carry that innovation to the next level.

Level 17

Awesome Getup by the way! Thanks for the break down!

It is the tough thing of needing to implement best practices for processes, standardization and optimization when you are treading water.  It is is vicious circle.  

Level 14

Always working to stay ahead of the curve. 

Level 12

Totally agree on the concept. We've all worked in enough IT shops to see the perils of a culture that doesn't encourage or require professional development, which is what's needed to break out of day-to-day operations and into strategic planning. Professional development is needed because the skills that make IT workers wildly successful at daily administration do not guarantee success in the big-picture thinking that teams often require.

It's best to consider that there is no clear career path in IT. You don't put in n years in help desk, then n1 years in administration, n2 years in engineering, et cetera until you reach the CIO's office. It's because the skills that propel you through a highly technical career don't necessarily prepare you for architecture or management responsibilities. For this reason, it's helpful to bring in some external resources (I'd say consultants, but that's a divisive word in IT, right?) to focus on strategic operations.

By all means, encourage staff to acquire and master skills needed to move the needle. Ideally, you'd promote existing staff, train them to be successful in their new roles, and hire replacements. And while the technical skills of an admin may not cut it at the higher levels, the experience and institutional knowledge may prove more valuable in the long run.

Level 13

Well said my friend.

Level 11

Great write-up! I do love when someone puts it together with a visual. This makes common sense standout, and oh boy, everyone needs a little of that. We all know that, "common sense is not so common!"IT-Ninja-Star.PNG

Level 16

I work in the office for where the past 7 years this model was inverted when it came to "Urgency" in relation to "Transformational". To the extent that "Best Practices" was perceived as a roadblock and therefore sacrificed. For the longest time I was under the opinion that the primary focus of my leadership was to dazzle their LinkedIn profiles with accomplishments. Many of those "leaders" are now gone and we are now beginning to settle down and going back and addressing our infrastructure. We are paying the price for being so heavy on "Transformational" for all those years. The lesson learned is that it is always best to maintain a balance for long-term stability.

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