For Sendachi, creating an agile company is about culture, not tools

Services company CEO: "In order to take full advantage of new tech products, you have to think differently about the problems you're trying to solve."

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A few years ago, it was agile. Then came lean. Somewhere in there, DevOps raised its head. All variations on a theme, these approaches are all about taking enterprise development teams (and, more broadly, enterprise organizations) into the 21st century.

Traditional development is slow and prescriptive. It is viewed as a process with outputs which are largely static. Traditional enterprise software was, after all, largely static -- developers created a product and it stayed the same for years. Contrast that with the consumer Internet, where Facebook, Uber, Airbnb and the like change on an hourly basis. The modern approach is to view software as an ever-changing, dynamic thing.

So if we accept that software needs to be dynamic to meet the needs of its users, then clearly the teams that conceive of, build and manage software need to be similarly dynamic. And this is where the tension arises: It's hard for a traditional IT practitioner who is very much used to a steady-state way of doing things to suddenly transform into an agile master.

And yet this is what many vendors suggest. There are dozens and dozens of tools out there that promise to transform organizations into lithe, agile performers. From project management tools to collaboration offerings, from code repositories to continuous deployment tools, it seems that vendors (and by vendors I actually mean Silicon Valley-focused people who think everyone works the way they do) want to sell a pill that will magically transform these companies.

The reality is that agility is a cultural shift, and alongside all of the products (which, I'll admit, are part of the way to effect a move to more agile approaches), there is still a requirement for a service element.

Which is where Sendachi comes in. Sendachi is a company focused on DevOps and continuous delivery. But the difference is that it is unashamedly a services company.

According to the company's blurb, Sendachi provides training, development, deployment and optimization services for the full stack of DevOps and agile technologies, including application lifecycle management (ALM), modern development and continuous delivery tools, microservices architecture, containerization, security, analytics, testing and cloud infrastructure platforms. As Sendachi said via email, the most disruptive Internet-age companies have demonstrated how harnessing these techniques (agility, DevOps, etc.) can enable exponential growth and secure competitive advantage. Established enterprises want to follow suit, but need hands-on guidance and technical support to get there.

Sendachi has just raised $30 million in venture funding. Interestingly, that funding came from Columbia Capital, the company that led the investment in another service-based organization, Cloud Sherpas. In its case, Cloud Sherpas was focused on helping organizations make the move to cloud software (Google Apps, Salesforce and the like).

I first met with Cloud Sherpas founders several years ago and was frankly stunned at the company's meteoric growth. That growth culminated last year in its acquisition by Accenture for a reported $400 million. And everyone said that services businesses weren't scalable, huh?

Anyway, Columbia is looking to replicate that success by going in deep with Sendachi. The company is headquartered in Seattle but already has a large European presence. Expect to see lots of M&A activity as Sendachi does what services companies need to do: grow by acquisition.

Sendachi's approach to culture change is to follow a "mentorship" approach within its clients. This ground-up approach to culture change is an interesting angle and may prove difficult to more broadly grow.

CEO Steven Anderson believes he has a formula, however. "Our biggest differentiator," he says, "is that we don't train internal teams in an abstracted way; we participate with them, showing them how by executing their real-world work. It's not academic; it's absolutely practical. We show them how to use new stack technologies and work differently to achieve acceleration and quality."

I was pleased to see Anderson concur with my view about culture, not tools.

In an email, he was very clear: "In order to take full advantage of new tech products you have to think differently about the problems you're trying to solve. When the car replaced horses as the main mode of transportation, everything needed to change -- you needed roads that were paved, fueling stations, speed limits, sidewalks for pedestrians, etc. The whole idea of 'getting from one place to another' had to be redesigned in order to take full advantage of the new tech, otherwise, it was just fancy cars bumping along on horse paths, which was even worse than just having the horse!"

I'm predicting a rosy future for Sendachi, but that will require the company to be able to snap up other players quickly as it grows. Watch this space.

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