Think Fast Service and Operations Leadership

Visibility, Transparency, Whatever You Call It

transparent_spreadsheet_largeIn September of 2008, Aberdeen surveyed 167 organizations to examine best practices for improving visibility into network and application performance.  The firms that performed best shared the following common characteristics.

  • Twice as likely to have a real-time view
  • Six times more likely to have tools that establish and learn from thresholds
  • Four times more likely to have tools for anomaly detection
  • Twice as likely have have tools to filter traffic

The same is true of service teams or general business operations.  Visibility and transparency of objectives, tools, and metrics clarify and accelerate improved performance.  I’ve spoken with several organizations in the last month that are still not using a CRM, business analytics, or a real-time operational dashboard.  In today’s Web world with easy to use tools like SharePoint it is absurd to ignore these applications of information systems regardless of how large or small your organization might be.

Last fall we elected a President who ran a substantial portion of his campaign on a promise of more transparency in the government.  There are far too many business operations that are missing this essential method of enhancing their team’s buy-in and dedication, as well as the performance improvement that comes when everyone knows what the objectives are and where they are at in achieving them.

What are you doing to improve transparency in your organization?

For service and operations teams the parallels to network visibility and transparency are

  • Real-time view = operational dashboard on customer calls, survey scores, revenue objectives, etc.
  • Establish threasholds = including bars on the dashboard with team and individual objectives
  • Anomaly detection = alerts for major issues, customers or situations outside of operating norms
  • Tools to filter traffic = CRM, telephony integrated phone system, integrated Web service sites

Every aspect of a business operation can create similar views to improve their transparency, can’t they?  I would love to hear your feedback on this because I find it to be an imperative for any organization that is not following similar methods.



May 19, 2009 - Posted by | Leadership


  1. There’s such a thing as being TOO transparent.

    Comment by Pat Duggan | May 19, 2009 | Reply

    • What does “TOO transparent” mean?

      Comment by ThinkWiki | May 19, 2009 | Reply

  2. Bryan,
    I am following you on Twitter and would like to subscribe to your blog in my Google Reader. But I don’t see an RSS feed link here. Would you consider adding one?

    Comment by Tom Aplomb | May 20, 2009 | Reply

    • Great suggestion Tom. I’ll get an RSS feed on here and let you know.

      Thanks! Bryan

      UPDATE: Should be all set now through FeedBurner. Thanks again.

      Comment by ThinkWiki | May 20, 2009 | Reply

  3. Bryan,

    So far, you have a great signal-to-noise ratio!

    I agree completely with the transparency assertion. And I’m a huge fan of being able to draw actionable conclusions from statistically relevant data. So in addition to being able to see all the metrics, focus has to be given to the “right” metrics (as the Aberdeen study illustrates) on which to base those conclusions.

    Definitely a basis for some meaningful discussion with our head of operations. And we need to refine a similar set of stats for the development organization.

    — Ed

    Comment by Ed Lucas | May 20, 2009 | Reply

    • I agree Ed, and thank you for passing along the blog on actionable metrics from the Tim Ferriss site. I love meaningful stats, and I equally despise meaningless data regardless of whether it is interesting or not.

      Thanks for the reply and let me know if you have other hot topics to contribute.


      Comment by ThinkWiki | May 20, 2009 | Reply

  4. Bryan,
    This is a very insightful post. Today too many organizations that claim to be technology leaders have archaic infrastructures. Its amazing that they can remain profitable with so many inefficiencies!!!

    Comment by David Munoz | May 20, 2009 | Reply

    • Thanks David, and thanks for commenting.

      I agree that many have infrastructures that can’t support these productivity improvements, but I’m equally concerned that a lot of organizations don’t culturally embrace transparency and visibility to operational metrics.

      In my management experience I don’t think I ever had negative experience from being as open as possible with information. But I certainly have had a lot of issues with people hoarding information.

      Comment by ThinkWiki | May 20, 2009 | Reply

  5. Bryan,

    Transparency brings about significant change to an organization and defines it’s maturity level and it’s ability to handle such information. This all comes at a cost. Education is vital to providing the right internal/external communication at all levels when dealing with transparency. Employee and customer feedback help the develop new informational needs which takes time, focus and of course resources.

    Shock and awe, or deliberate long term planning that ratchets up levels of performance. What’s your plan for transparency?

    Comment by Bull | May 23, 2009 | Reply

    • Many years ago a style called “open book management” was developed but it never really gained much widespread adoption. The definition includes education for all levels just as you note. This is true empowerment from my perspective, because empowerment without information is simply reckless.

      Now the word “transparency” is getting a tremendous amount of play, but in a business context it is really the next logical evolution of the open book management concepts.

      No shock and awe from me, but a comprehensive plan with supporting metrics for incremental improvement. I think we now have the tools and networks go give everyone on the team a dashboard of the information they need to make the right business decision.

      As any consultant will tell you (in order to maximize consulting revenue) the plan depends on the situation. I met with a company with dozens of people in service roles that doesn’t use a CRM. Talk about baby steps!

      Comment by ThinkWiki | May 23, 2009 | Reply

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