Building a Culture of Visibility

To combat complexity, visibility deserves to be elevated to a cultural level of importance in our organizations.

Building a Culture of Visibility
Michael Szabados

Managing complexity has become synonymous with managing organizations. Although digital connectedness brings a myriad of benefits, it also breeds integration challenges, bureaucracy, and inefficiency. Yet to stay competitive, we must continue to expand our digital ecosystems to meet customers, employees, and partners wherever they are with higher-value services that consume and produce exponentially more data over time.

Inside our organizations, the runaway interdependence of processes and systems reduces predictability and resilience in the face of growing pressure to adapt to rapid market changes. At the heart of the issue is limited visibility into the implications of necessary decisions.

Thus, as our companies grow, exponentially increasing opacity produces and strengthens departmental silos. Although they may operate with high efficiency, siloed teams work in an environment of limited visibility and fail to connect to a single collaborative culture. That’s why silos lead to friction or conflict and produce risk, whether in planning, execution, or compliance with laws and regulations.

Lower Visibility, Higher Risk

Consider, as an example, transitioning a business model from selling on-premises software products to selling subscription-based software that lives in the cloud. This requires tight collaboration across engineering, finance, and sales departments. On the face of it, this transition sounds straightforward, but layer on all the contract idiosyncrasies, pricing details, licensing flows, multiple vendors, and internal politics in a siloed organization, and decision-making often feels as if it’s happening in a digital fog.

Security risk is another threat tied to lack of visibility. When a company’s fixed asset management is out of sync with its physical inventory management, it may be concealing theft. When security operations teams are too siloed from network operations to use their data, the risk arises that an emerging security exploit may escape their notice. The list goes on.

How to Build a Visibility Culture

To manage rising complexity, increase collaboration and responsiveness, elevate morale, and remain competitive in our expanding digital ecosystems, companies must set visibility as a priority and bring it to life at three levels.

This starts with organizational visibility. Creating greater visibility as a business principle is about ensuring that the core values, goals, and strategies of your business are clear, accessible, and understood by all relevant stakeholders. Organizational visibility is about creating transparency, building trust, and enabling better decision-making. Establishing this culture is an approach that some companies tout outside their organizations as well; for instance, through a supply chain that is a reflection of their ethical vision and the ability to literally “see” where products are made.

It deepens with process visibility. Collaborating to improve processes is a key activity here, because these dialogues inevitably turn up points of misunderstanding, lack of shared ownership, political power centers, unspoken system dependencies, or opaqueness in process flows that need to be worked out. Once you can see into all the steps that actually are part of a process, you can begin to do the work to revise and improve it to everyone’s satisfaction.

And it culminates in digital visibility. Because organizational and process visibility both require a constant sharing of information, technology has an important role to play. In extended organizations, technology can act as a kind of visibility substrate that complements and even enables what people aspire to achieve. In practice, technology can build a common data model and a lingua franca as well as a lens into organizational dynamics. As people become increasingly connected, everyone can benefit from insights based on real-time, accurate, and actionable information. The more an organization can enable complete, uncompromising visibility, the more flexible and aware it becomes and the better it’s able to anticipate problems and respond to opportunities.

Of course, visibility as a business principle is not a one-time effort; it requires commitment, Smart Data governance, and strategic planning. It not only fosters trust and alignment within the organization but also can provide a competitive edge in the marketplace by enhancing your brand’s reputation and strengthening relationships with customers and other stakeholders.

Visibility as Organizational Evolution

For all these reasons, visibility is a proven way to maintain an alert stance in the face of threats and to proactively manage complexity. In fact, visibility deserves to be elevated to a cultural level of importance in large organizations. The failure to master complexity is at the core of why 70 percent of large-scale transformations fail to improve organizational performance and sustain those improvements over time. No matter how passionate an organization is about creating business value, without a culture of visibility at its digital core it will remain in a nascent, even primordial state.

Improve your organization’s visibility for performance management, cybersecurity, DDoS defense, and service provider needs.