Transparency is important for many reasons. Knowledge is the fuel to solve problems and create opportunity.  Giving everyone the knowledge maximizes the power of the team.

Report reality, not perception

In life, perception of a problem is usually worse than reality and complaints about IT services are no exception.  To put this into perspective, for a system with 1,000,000 end-user transactions per day, if 99.9% of all transactions are sub-second and well within the acceptable range, technically it would be considered a great system.  However, that .1% that is over 1 second is 1000 transactions, potentially resulting in hundreds of calls to the help desk!  If there are no measurements from an End-User’s perspective, the count of complaints is the only metric you have.

With metrics, IT and the business can evaluate the impact and can work out solutions together. Having “all the cards on the table” greatly increases trust in the business for IT.

There are only two things worse than having no data.  Namely: incomplete data or, even worse: inaccurate data.  Thus, accuracy and completeness of the information provided is paramount to the understanding of the health of IT processes and capability!

What’s in it for you?

The benefits of the paradigm shift to a totally transparent IT shop are many:

  • For those who may have a political agenda and will cherry pick data to bolster their own point, a completely transparent implementation is the best defense.  Everyone can see the entire reality: the good and the bad.
  • It helps to improve the trust between the business and IT.  Even if business users never look at the dashboard (and our experience shows the vast majority don’t) the comfort level of just knowing it is there whenever they want to take a look to “check-in” is a huge factor in improving trust.
  • Collaboration between silos becomes far easier to initiate.  For example: Two applications have the same dependent sub-system.  One is performing well with the sub-system calls and another is not.  The owner of the poorly performing application can look at the performance of the other application, find it is better than his, and reach out to the other team to figure out how they were able to resolve their performance issues.  In our experience, this type of collaboration happens quite frequently in this type of transparent set up.  Conversely, in classic environments, if the collaboration ever happens at all, it is only after months or years of struggling because the right people were never engaged.
  • Finally, while this relates to the first point, the “Chicken Little’s” of the organization, who may have no ill intention but still are spreading misinformation can be easily checked by calmer minds and can become better informed.

What about the drawbacks?

The problems that come with full transparency are generally very short-lived and quite minor when compared to the long lasting benefits.  If one compares APM to a commercial airliner in-flight, where the dashboard is the cock-pit’s instrument panel many potential problems are solved naturally:

  • If a passenger who knows nothing about avionics walks into the cockpit, they will see wall to wall gauges and switches and toggles which will make absolutely no sense to them.  At most they will look for a giant red light which says something like: “crash imminent.”  When he sees the pilot and co-pilot alert and paying attention to their job, and appearing to know how to operate all of those dials and read all of those displays, they will go back to their seat happy and content they will reach their destination alive.
  • For those who might have studied a little bit and who want to really try and give the pilot a hard time, it won’t take long for the trained pilot (ie, the person who does this all day, every day) to prove that the amateur is completely out of his depth.  Eventually those types fade away and go back to their seat as well.
  • For the passenger who looks in and just decides to run around screaming that the plane is going to crash everyone on the plane is going to die, while disturbing the first time it happens, if the cockpit is open for everyone to see, he will be quickly debunked.  And, most importantly, that person will be branded as unreliable.  So the next time he attempts something like that, the likelihood of anyone paying attention to him is quite small

How do you do it?

There’s several things you can do right now to begin the shift into a more transparent culture.  Some of the items in the list below are easy fixes, some of them will require a significant amount of time, reorganization, or even a completely new set of tools to implement.  Rest assured though, all of them have dramatic payoffs almost immediately after implementation.

  • Cross train IT leaders in the business – The more your IT staff knows about the day to day operations of the business the more they will relate to and come up with innovative ways to solve the real problems and inefficiencies within the business
  • Implement a centralized, public dashboard – Public meaning available to any employee, not to the outside world.  This puts all the information out there for consumption and allows trust to be built across all the teams
  • Convert or remove the people in the way of transparency – If they are just someone who is more old-school then they will see the benefits when showed to them.  If they are against transparency despite the clear benefits, then they likely are hiding something.  This will allow you to make the decisions to remove the people who aren’t interested in the company, but only interested in keeping their own kingdom
  • Be vigilant! – The road to transparency isn’t an easy one.  It is easy to fall back into the secretive traps, most times innocently.  Keep on top of each other to make sure it doesn’t happen

Summary

The fact is, a shop that isn’t transparent will foster distrust.  That distrust leads to gossip, bickering, and lots of other things that take the focus away from the real goal of the organization.  Namely, service the customers you have and have a great year in review season.  There are consulting firms out there that can help you realize these goals.  And while InsightETE is certainly one of them (and yes… probably the best out there!) the purpose of this blog is not to sell our services, but to educate you on why they are so valuable whether you get them from us or not.  So, give transparency a shot.  You’ve gotten far despite not having it, see how far you get when you remove that drag.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Matthew Bradford has been in the I.T. Performance Business for 15 years and has been critical to the success of many Fortune 500 Performance Management groups. He is currently the CTO of InsightETE, an I.T. Performance Management company specializing in passive monitoring and big data analytics with a focus on real business metrics.