At Practical Performance Analyst we see interviews as a great opportunity to get to know industry experts better, understand the work they do, their passions, their experiences and the contributions they’ve made over the years to the field of SPE (Systems Performance Engineering). In this article we talk to Rick Lebsack (LinkedIn) , the president of the Computer Measurement Group (CMG). Rick is an Executive Systems Architect at IBM and the current president of CMG International. As an Executive Systems Architect at IBM Rick plays a very important role in the design and build of server hardware from mainframes to x86 boxes.
As President of CMG Rick is responsible for setting the course and vision for CMG through 2015. Rick works closely with his team of Directors at CMG to translate the organizations mission into real world initiatives. CMG (link) is a not-for-profit, worldwide organization of IT professionals committed to sharing information and best practices focused on ensuring the efficiency and scalability of IT service delivery to the enterprise through measurement, quantitative analysis and forecasting.
PPA : Thanks for taking the time to talk to us. Please tell us a little bit about yourself, what you do for IBM and what is your day job all about’
Rick : I currently am a Systems Architect for IBM. I like to say that this means I am responsible technically for everything IBM makes that has metal in it — all the servers, all the storage and a little bit about all the software that makes it all work. I work with clients across everything and that means I am involved and have to be conversant in the continuum of IT – from mainframe to mobile, from operating system to API management, from tape to flash. In my spare time I am involved in roller hockey, photography, exploring drams of the worlds whisky’s (and whiskey’s) and I love a good drop of red wine. I live in Denver Colorado USA and travel both for work and pleasure.
PPA : How long have you been involved with CMG and how did you get involved with CMG in the first place?
Rick : I have been active with CMG since 1989. It was then that I wrote my first paper and went to a conference. One of the hats I have worn at IBM included a stint as a Large Systems and Storage specialist and I found my way to capacity and performance planning as a means to help clients determine what resources they needed to meet service levels. CMG seemed to be a perfect place to share experiences and learn how to apply these disciplines so I wrote a paper based on some benchmarks that I had been part of and I was hooked. I became active in the local Rocky Mountain CMG and started writing papers each year so that I could come back and learn more. I then became Subject Area Chair (SAC) for the management track for multiple years and through the years became one of the “old timers”.
PPA : Tell us about CMG. Who are its members and what is the organization all about?
Rick : CMG has a wide reach and our members come from all fields within IT. One thing you will see when interacting with CMG members is passion. Passion for their jobs and a passion for ongoing learning. CMG-ers seek to learn from formal classes, webinars, conferences, and from each other. CMG supports all these avenues of learning and by participating in their local chapters, as well as attending our annual conference, the personal interaction becomes enhanced. I was always appreciative of the broadening of my network of people beyond the people I saw day-to-day. I found that meeting colleagues in person made it easier to stay in contact and trade questions/challenges/successes over distance. No one can know the answer to every challenge, so it is just as important to know the people who know what you don’t know and a CMG network of contacts is a great place to both build a base and expand your range.
PPA : Is CMG a global organization? How many national and international chapters does CMG have?
Rick : CMG is global. We have regions across North America and International Chapters on every continent but Antarctica. CMG has been in existence since 1975 and the complexion and makeup of the regions and chapters ebbs and flows over time. Each of the International Chapters and North America Regions are affiliated with CMG, but have their own bylaws and standards based on the local rules and laws. All of our affiliates are challenged with the same challenges of CMG and have many different business models which they share with others.
PPA : What does it mean to be the president of CMG and what is the role of the president at CMG?
Rick : Being President of CMG is very challenging these days because I view CMG as undergoing a transformation and we are experimenting with new ways to be relevant to our members and provide a value to participation. CMG thrives when we have a large diverse membership and participation across all facets of IT. We are no longer just a mainframe organization (haven’t been for many years) but we still have the perception of being not relevant. One look at the agenda for the past years’ conferences would find a little bit of something for everyone. I view the role of CMG President right now is to guide this transformation, gather the right team to execute it and carry the vision of CMG going forward.
PPA : As President of CMG international, could you tell us about your plans for CMG for FY 15?
Rick : Since CMG is predominately a volunteer organization and everyone has “day jobs” to balance we have to we have to spend our time wisely. I told the membership at our Atlanta Conference that 2015 was the Year of Do. That is exactly what the board and I have been focused on this year — The Do. We are focusing on the conference as our main product and enhancing its delivery, content, location and scheduling. Included with the conference work has been streamlining the paper/presentation process.
CMG needs to be more than a once a year conference, so we are expanding our value to members through webcasts, publications and social media. The Webcasts have two flavors — partner sponsored and CMG sponsored. Partner sponsored webcasts allow our partners to share success stories and lessons learned with CMG members and potential members. We are also implementing CMG Sponsored Webcasts where we provide a forum for invited guests to present and share their knowledge. We started these in December 2014 and have had at least one per month since then with fabulous participation for each. Anyone who is reading this and would like to participate all you have to do is contact me or CMG HQ. Additionally, to grow our relationship with our partners we are adding a vendor virtual partner showcase to our website where sponsors can exhibit their solutions directly to our members.
To expand our awareness to others, the Marketing Committee has been working on demand generation and how to reach those who don’t know about us but should. This has been through increased focus on delivering relevant communication, including expanding our advertising of Blogs and postings by our members through the use of social media and keeping our website useful and current.
Lastly, FY15 is the year when we make CMG HQ a virtual organization. We are well on our way to having virtual employees and running our business in the Cloud. When that is complete we will be selling the last bit of brick and mortar — the building. The objective is to have that done by end of 2015.
2015 has certainly turned into a Year of Do and I look forward to reporting on everything at the November conference in San Antonio.
PPA : How big is the CMG leadership team and who are your counterparts within the CMG Leadership team?
Rick : The CMG Leadership team is comprised of 3 officers and 6 Directors at Large. I could not ask for a better and more responsive team to work with for this transformation. Every member has duties on committees and focus responsibilities for the various projects and efforts we have underway. Every member of the board is passionate about the value of CMG and open to change going forward as we evolve. Working with the Board we also have a leadership team that focuses on the conference. For that role we have a General Chair and Program Chair that lead the conference committee. Under them are various SACs that lead the creation of the different tracks. Every one of these roles is a volunteer who contribute their time and skill to making CMG better. I don’t want to list a bunch of names but they are all important. You can find contact information for Conference Committee at conference committee and Board of Directors at board of directors
PPA : What challenges do you see CMG facing currently and what is your approach for addressing some of those challenges?
Rick : CMG’s largest challenge is a financial one. We for many years been operating at a deficit and drawing down on our reserves. The business model had historically been based on one large conference each year which generated cash surplus to fund the organization the rest of the year. That model is fine when there are large crowds but the industry has changed under us. No longer are organizations sending entire staffs to the conference, many companies have merged, been outsourced and personnel costs result in fewer people doing more. The focus on time to market has resulted in “just in time” capacity planning and “smoke jumpers” for performance with leverage on tools and techniques.
With this as background CMG is well positioned to support this new environment – we have over 35 years of papers and presentations, we have a wealth of knowledge that can be applied to the new challenges. Long ago we expanded our content to be cross platform and are more than just a mainframe conference. However, we have done a poor job of communication. To this end we are tying together with a common goal all of our efforts — marketing campaigns, surveys to gauge our gaps – both for members and vendor partners, tight coupling between Conference Committee and Board on all communication, soliciting speakers for specific content at conference, monthly webinars to become more than an annual conference, expansion of vendor relationships and sponsorships, maintaining our Measure IT monthly newsletter and a continuing the enhancement of our website. Not everything is done but we are making headway.
PPA : What is your vision for CMG of the future?
Rick : The most important thing for CMG is to become financially sustainable and provide value to our constituents. To make this happen, my vision for the coming years is for CMG to keep building on our core competencies and expand our reach with technology. I see the transformation of CMG into multiple new product areas – training, education, publications, reference source, peer networking – in-person and electronic. I see the continuation of the annual conference as our prime vehicle right now. However in the future, I could envision a series of conferences with some change in delivery model. I think that the conference is valuable, but that there are always ways to make it better so the format and delivery model of the conference is always open for change. We have tried alternative methods and scheduling and content at the conference these past few years and will continue to do so going forward. Nothing is set in concrete, CMG is open for change.
You ask me what I envision for the future of CMG and I have a big one right now on the burner — creating a CMG Certification process. This would allow us to codify the core practices of CMG community and develop a course work and certification testing to allow practitioners to become “certified” in a field. The idea is that we would not necessarily develop all the education, but rather develop a skill template and final testing along with recommended courses (which we may or may not be the source of) as part of a discipline. We have experience in course learning already — the many years of CMG-T and pre conference workshops so we have a foundation and a good reservoir of collateral with the over 35 years of papers and multiple hundreds of years of collective experience. This would take our education mission to the next level and provide way for members to get credit for what they do, codify better the skills required, provide value for CMG participation and most important – bring CMG front and center as a source of advice and guidance as an independent advisory group.
This is not a quick fix for CMG but we are taking the first step of evaluating this change for CMG. I would be very interested in any feedback on this concept and its relevance to members and the performance and capacity community at large. So please email me at email@example.com with your thoughts.
PPA : CMG conducts an annual conference each year. What are your plans for the 2015 conference and what can audiences expect?
Rick : I am very excited about this year’s conference November 2-5th at the St Anthony Hotel in San Antonio, Texas. The St. Anthony Hotel is a historic site having been built at the turn of the last century. This hotel has just completed a multi-year renovation that combines old-world elegance with modern amenities, and has a downtown location that is just minutes walking from San Antonio landmarks like the Alamo and the Riverwalk entertainment district. While the location is fabulous, the content of the conference is even better. We will have a cram packed 4 days of events and speakers with over 90 hours of presentations and 20 of the top industry solution providers. There will be three types of sessions; General, Keynote and Plenary; Birds of a Feather sharing and exploration and specialized workshops for detailed drill down on specific topics.
The presentations and papers will be in these functional areas – Server Computing, Cloud and Mobile, Virtualization, z/OS, Network Capacity and Performance, Storage, Application Performance Management and SPE, IT Service Management, Analysis and Reporting of Capacity and Performance Data and Organizational and Cultural trends impacting us all in IT.
We also include something we call CMG-T in the program which is where experienced CMG SME’s teach multi-session class type course in their particular area of expertise. These sessions vary every year and span beginning basics to advanced application of techniques.
Needless to say, there is something for everyone coupled with the ability to network with experts in many fields which makes CMG a valuable investment of 4 days and for the years afterwards.
PPA : The digital revolution has changed the way we live, work, network and learn. What role does CMG have to play in today’s digital world?
Rick : The digital revolution in many respects has created many islands of isolation. We often work from home. We live on conference calls and share/fix things through some flavor of a web-sharing screen. At the same time the expectations of everyone is that things just work and are easy. The reality of the digital world is that there is a lot of behind the curtain activities that depend on agile response to problems, available capacity for absorbing true random demands and building applications that are both valuable and performant. CMG is right there with the methodology and approaches to design applications for performance, to architect infrastructure deployments for extensibility and systems management. For years CMG has been the only independent cross vendor, cross platform, cross discipline group that focused in these core competencies — Performance and Capacity Management. As demands on IT have evolved in the digital age CMG has too — we adapt and evolve to new technologies and how our members apply the core principles to the new challenge.
PPA : Why should professionals with interests in Systems Performance Engineering consider joining CMG?
Rick : Systems Performance Engineering is a complex arena with many lenses to look through and angles to approach. It spans the building blocks – HW, SW, connectivity and service management to name just a few. Each of these building blocks have their own nuances regarding performance but when you couple them together and deploy the application software it becomes even more complex. Other organizations give a small space to this complex field, however, this is what CMG does. CMG puts a performance, capacity and service management lens across all platforms. If it is part of IT service chain then we consider it and welcome papers and presentations on the topic to share knowledge and learn from others — no need to relearn what someone else has already discovered. If you want to connect directly with people who share your interest and commitment in CPE and CP/SM, CMG is the only organization that offers this. You have a chance to begin your career in this field, develop it and eventually, become a leader. This path is smoothed and straightened by the educational and networking
opportunities available at both the annual conference and at regional meetings.
PPA : What message do you have for our readers and how can they help you and your organization achieve its vision and objectives?
Rick : CMG is basically a community of volunteers. People volunteer to share their experiences and to perpetuate the organization and facilitate the sharing. No matter where you are in your career, you have the opportunity not only to benefit from those sharing but also to contribute. Some of our most-valued sessions, both locally and at the annual conference, are from those who do this work, hands-on, every day. Newer people to the field bring a fresh perspective; old hands bring their years of experience and best practices. Both are welcome.
You can help CMG thrive if you take just one step today, either start a relationship with CMG or to deepen an existing one. Small contributions do add up and that is how CMG evolves. You can contribute without leaving home, you can write a short piece for Measure IT, you can blog about what you have learned, you can like us on Facebook, you can Tweet the joys of a local CMG Forum, you can post on LinkedIn, you can referee submitted papers or you can become an editor of final papers. It doesn’t take much time and you don’t even have to travel! We are always seeking new experiences so write a paper, submit it to CMG and come to the conference and present it to your peers! You do not have to be a world renowned expert to present at CMG – all you have to do is translate your experiences to written or presentation format and take a deep breath for your first presentation. If you are coming to our annual conference we can also use your help because even the conference is run with volunteers.
Beyond sharing information, being involved with CMG as a volunteer gives you powerful leadership experience. Though frequently overlooked, those who learn how to lead and manage open new doors in their careers. CMG offers leadership and management opportunities at all levels; this experience can bolster your case for promotion at your company. If you want to help guide CMG going forward then I would ask that you offer to run for a directorship at your regional group; write a paper; encourage a colleague to join; form a group and bring in even more people; vote in our election.
Bottom line is that there are many ways to become active in CMG. The path to CMG in the future is a lot levels of sharing – share your time, share your knowledge, share your passion. The more we all bring to the group, the more we ourselves benefit.
We appreciate you taking the time out to answer our questions and wish you the best for a successful CMG conference.
To learn more about The Computer Measurement Group please visit – www.cmg.org
Copyright of the CMG logo is owned by The Computer Measurement Group.
Editor : Nell Owens (LinkedIn) has been in the IT industry for over 30 years. Her professional experiences have involved a wide variety of hardware and software platforms across a range of industries including computer hardware manufacturers, medical imaging companies, government consultants and currently the power industry. She has been a software developer, systems programmer, systems administrator, pre and post-sales technical support engineer, benchmarking engineer and presently is a performance analyst. Nell also has experience with a range of hardware platforms from mainframes to desktop appliances as well as an assortment of operating systems from MacOS to Linux to VMS.
Interviewer : Trevor Warren (Linked In) focuses on building innovative solutions that have the potential to impact people’s lives in a positive manner. Trevor is inquisitive by nature, loves asking questions and sometimes does get into trouble for doing so. He’s passionate about certain things in life and building solutions that have the ability to impact people’s lives in a positive manner is one of them. He believes that he can change the world and is doing the little he can to change it in his own little ways. When not hacking, building new products, writing content for Practical Performance Analyst, dreaming up new concepts or building castles in the air, you can catch-him bird spotting (watching planes fly above his house). You can reach trevor at – trevor at practical performance analyst dot com. The views expressed at Practical Performance Analyst are his own and not that of his employer.