Extending the Pivotal Labs Way: How Tanzu Labs Helps Organizations Deliver Great Software

May 25, 2023 Rita Manachi

This article was written by Rita Manachi and Danielle Burrow.

Pivotal notebooks with covers that say Do what works, Do the right thing, and Be kind

Notebooks featuring core tenets of the Pivotal Way

Do the right thing. Do what works. Be kind.

Those were the core tenets that drove Pivotal Labs client engagements for decades. These days, we go by VMware Tanzu Labs. We changed our name in 2021 to better reflect the full scope of our capabilities and how we partner with our clients to build software and app platforms. Yet those same core tenets behind Pivotal Labs still shine through the approach we take with clients as Tanzu Labs: 

Do the right thing. 

Do what works. 

Be kind.

All of our engagements start with collaborative, working sessions with the Tanzu Labs team and the client team. An objective of these first sessions is to build empathy for the client and their end users. We begin by collectively unpacking root challenges, assumptions, and user needs. Some typical outcomes from these first sessions include goal prioritization and risk identification, customer journey maps, and stories. Discovery and framing activities, user-centered design methods, and a lean product management approach help us figure out what doing the right thing is for both the business and end users. 

From here, we work side by side with our clients, often utilizing pair programming and other modern app development and delivery practices to quickly build high-quality software. The “I do, we do, you do” approach to upskilling and reskilling your engineers is more sustainable and scalable, allowing your teams to keep building, running, and managing platforms and applications at scale long after the engagement is over. Ultimately, this leads to a culture that can continuously innovate and deliver software to production faster and more reliably, forever.

Critical to allowing a continuous innovation mindset are fast feedback loops. Check out the example of Australian nonprofit Healthy Heads in Trucks & Sheds (HHTS), which embraced fast feedback loops and empathy to help road transport workers dealing with mental health issues. This is a practice the Tanzu Labs team tries to instill in our clients. Fast feedback loops not only help you do what works, they help build empathy and foster a learning culture. 

Empathy is at the heart of all our Tanzu Labs engagements; without awareness, we cannot change anything; and being kind requires awareness and empathy. That’s why we embrace user-centered design, where empathy and awareness are critical. Not only do we feel better when we lead with kindness, we get more done because our colleagues trust us and will likely be more open to collaboration! 

Since the onset of Covid, as teams are distributed and working from home is the norm, kindness and empathy have taken on more meaning. Making remote teams successful takes empathy. While we believe in-person interactions are the most impactful, we understand that the reality is distributed teams are now commonplace. As such, at Tanzu Labs, we shifted our model to embrace distributed work to accommodate for everything from time zone differences to preferred communication methods to dispersed environments and collaboration styles. We incorporate popular tools like Zoom, Miro, and Slack to stay connected and re-create the visceral aspects of in-person interactions and reserve in-person interaction for project kickoffs and major milestones on a long project.

Expanding services to help organizations transform at scale

The former Pivotal Labs team continues to help organizations of all sizes, spanning multiple industries, to build better and more secure software—on a bigger scale.

Since rebranding to VMware Tanzu, the Pivotal Labs team has expanded services to include rapid portfolio modernization, custom secure software supply chain implementations, establishing a software factory, and data transformation, all while continuing to enhance our flagship product and platform development services. Meanwhile, building on our Spring heritage, VMware launched Spring Academy last year in collaboration with Tanzu Labs. You can expect more learning opportunities modeled after all the real-world experience that the Tanzu Labs and Spring teams bring.

Tanzu Labs is also helping customers better scale their own outcomes and practices by building an in-house portfolio management discipline. To learn more about how that works, check out Portfolio Management: Aligning Autonomous Teams to Scale Outcomes, which covers cultural, organizational, and architectural considerations. 

Better software is better business  

Pivotal Labs’ heritage was born out of helping enterprises internalize the reality that all companies are software companies. This remains the heart of the Tanzu Labs raison d’être: making companies and government organizations better at delivering secure software more quickly…forever. Between the work that Tanzu Labs had begun and the height of the Covid pandemic, those organizations that had already embraced what they previously learned from Pivotal Labs were better equipped to respond quickly to meet new regulatory requirements and customer demands. From Fiserv’s PPP loan-processing app to DICK’S Sporting Goods’ curbside pickup, Tanzu Labs was critical to their success in some of the most surreal and disruptive times in recent history.

Our team also learned a lot and shared that knowledge, from how to build effective distributed development teams and fostering effective hybrid app modernization work to how to develop software during a pandemic.

Focused expertise 

Through the years, Tanzu Labs experts have gained indispensable knowledge in various industries, from financial services and healthcare to retail and government. To better serve our clients, Tanzu Labs builds on the team’s collective industry expertise. For example, our specialists have worked on many app modernization and new product development projects in healthcare, so they understand the unique issues of organizations operating in that industry. While VMware Tanzu products and services offer universally valuable outcomes, like increased developer productivity and secure software supply chains, working closely in specific vertical industries gives us a deeper understanding of our customers’ unique business outcomes and needs.

What’s next?  

Previously only offered to clients, Tanzu Labs has made its popular product manager playbook available to anyone, and we’ll soon be expanding our playbook series to include topics like data science and AI. Tanzu Labs will also continue to support our clients as they build an innovative culture by fostering upskilling and building in-house expertise and disciplines like platform engineering, product design and management, portfolio management, and application security so customers can take advantage of the latest innovations in our industry. If you’d like to stay connected subscribe to our newsletter. 

We’re also hosting some great conversations in the coming months, including the webinars Managing Machine Learning: How to Adapt your Product Mindset for Machine Learning Products on June 14 and Transforming Service Delivery in the Public Sector on June 21.

To get in touch with us directly, reach us at tanzu.vmware.com/labs or join us for virtual office hours.

About the Author

Rita Manachi

Rita Manachi is a product marketing manager at VMware Tanzu.

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