What observability can teach us about corporate culture

Observability is big business. As an IT tool, it seamlessly integrates and encompasses visibility across datasets, networks and user experiences, pinpointing the root causes of outages or performance issues while delivering tailored insights.

With a market projected to be worth over $2 billion by 2026, observability can deliver tangible benefits in terms of its impact on both digital ecosystems and the bottom line.

But while these tools tend to be the sole preserve of IT departments, the foundational elements upon which they are based do have a place beyond the digital ecosystem.

In fact, I would argue that transparency, collaboration and continuous improvement — the three pillars that support this methodology — can also be used across any organisation to deliver broader cultural change.

Let me explain. Though company culture may often seem intangible, the repercussions of a weak or non-existent culture are far from inconsequential. Studies have shown that if the culture of an organisation deteriorates, employees may start to look for new opportunities elsewhere.

In other words, company culture matters. This is why it’s so important to be authentic and specific when setting the values at the heart of that culture.

For instance, in 2021 we introduced Secure by Design as a guiding principle for how we approach security and cyber resiliency at SolarWinds. But this approach isn’t just restricted to security. We now use it as our approach to everything — from infrastructure and software development to people.

For us, it’s important to establish that our culture doesn’t just focus on what we do — which is providing leading IT solutions. Instead, we wanted to focus on being the trusted global IT leader we wanted to become.

So how do the three guiding principles of observability make lasting changes to corporate culture?

Transparency

Observability is, essentially, all about transparency. By providing a single pane of glass through which you can see your entire IT environment, observability helps organisations address and prevent issues before they arise.

The same can be done with a company’s culture by promoting open communication while giving people a greater insight into the work and priorities of other departments. It also helps if organisations can be purposeful and direct about the company’s values and goals.

What’s more, it costs nothing to be transparent. And yet the ROI can be massive.

A company culture underpinned by transparency is proven to deliver high-value benefits including establishing trust and boosting employee engagement. On the other hand, without transparency, even the most thoughtfully planned initiatives can fall at the first hurdle.

Corporate transparency is a tonic for enhancing employee morale and retention, while at the same time helping to improve stress levels. And since all of this helps to improve productivity, it can have a direct impact on your business’s bottom line.

Collaboration

Observability breaks down silos and makes it easier to collaborate seamlessly across different clouds, databases, and dashboards. By taking a similar approach, business leaders can do the same for their teams by fostering greater collaboration across the entire organisation.

With a culture underpinned by collaboration, employees won’t just learn how to get along — they’ll understand why each cog in your machine functions the way it does. They’ll also understand how their work impacts colleagues, the end product, and the business as a whole.

Collaboration doesn’t need to apply only to interpersonal or interdepartmental work. For instance, learning to collaborate with machine learning tools is one way to keep employees engaged and productive.

Far from replacing your employees, solutions such as AIOps can support employees by delivering insights, automating mundane tasks, and reducing the risk of human error — all while freeing them up for the creative, innovative and forward-looking parts of their jobs.

Continuous Improvements

It’s worth keeping in mind that being transparent doesn’t just apply to the things you’re doing well.

Being afraid of change has little place in today’s business landscape, where agility and flexibility are increasingly table stakes. If your organisation is competitive and has longevity, it stands to reason that the challenges it faces tomorrow may not be the ones it met yesterday. As the company grows, evolves, and shifts, make sure that the culture does as well.

Otherwise, you may look around one day and realise that the business and its culture have fallen completely out of sync with one another. And nobody — least of all your teams — wants to start from square one.

Unlike technological observability solutions, no tool can monitor for cultural issues at the root cause and deliver tailored insights for remediation. So how do you find out what improvements need to be made? Just ask. Speak to people. Canvass their opinion.

With a diverse, distributed, and distanced workforce, the best practice for building company culture is to include your people in the process. But it’s not just a case of giving people a voice. You need to listen to what they have to say. And, where appropriate, you need to act.

Let’s be honest, the most valuable capital of any organisation is its people. Making sure this ecosystem is healthy and full-functioning is critical to the success of any organisation. By adopting the principles of transparency you can instil a methodology that can help drive positive change. Not only will you gain more than just a clear view across your organisation — you’ll gain a clearer understanding of the road to success ahead.

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Cullen Childress is group vice president of product at SolarWinds. Cullen has deep knowledge and experience founding software start-ups, as well as leading innovative and successful software product groups at scale. Prior to SolarWinds, he was the Head of Product at Atlassian and Global VP of Product Management at Groupon. He holds a bachelor's degree in Economics and received his MBA, both from The University of Texas at Austin.

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