What DevOps, SRE and CloudOps teams can learn from CEOs

September 15 2022

What can IT teams learn from today’s most successful CEOs? And, perhaps more interestingly, how can IT pros think like a CEO to level up teams across DevOps, SRE and CloudOps? Find out here.

Jeff Bezos won’t organize meetings where two pizzas can’t feed the group, Warren Buffet spends as much as 80% of his workday reading, and Elon Musk breaks his entire day into five-minute slots.

Indeed, the habits of successful CEOs are fascinating to study.

So while books upon books have been written about leadership, what can we learn from today’s most accomplished CEOs? And, perhaps more interestingly, how can IT pros think like a CEO to level up teams across DevOps, site reliability engineering (SRE) and CloudOps?

As it turns out, the same traits that drive CEO success can drive your success. In this article, we’ll explore what makes a successful CEO — and how you can apply the same mindset to take your IT team to the next level.

Five ways to think like a CEO

Ready to discover the five traits of the most successful CEOs? In McKinsey’s article, The mindsets and practices of excellent CEOs, the analyst firm delved deeper into the characteristics that set outstanding CEOs apart from ordinary ones. Here’s what technologists can learn from them.

1. Look at the big picture

It’s no longer enough for a business to simply create good products. Consumers now hold companies to a higher standard and will consider how they meet overarching environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards before buying a product or investing their money.

While the big picture for a CEO might be a bit broader than that of a technologist — this industry is also moving towards more of a big-picture mindset. But instead of stating the ESG impacts of a project, technologists are moving towards unified solutions that help them achieve full-stack observability rather than monitoring individual data points.

Developing an observability mindset helps you gain deeper insights into every part of your tech stack. This offers significant advantages over a monitoring mindset that relies on a set number of metrics based on data you already know how to collect. In contrast, an observability mindset does give the big picture because it allows you to look at the entire IT ecosystem to gain a deeper understanding of app performance.

2. Prioritize teamwork

The best CEOs know the dynamic of their teams is a strong indicator of success — but they also acknowledge that the diversity, skills and size of each team is ultimately their responsibility. Adjusting low-performing teams can involve difficult decisions, but with teams who collaboratively work towards a shared goal being 1.9 times more likely to deliver above-average performance, those decisions are worth making.

Effective, functional teams are just as crucial for technologists and the success of their projects. Do your management processes support your teams as they meet their goals? Senior leaders often think so, but the individuals on those teams don’t always agree. Prioritizing effective DevOps processes helps remove silos and increase collaboration between your development and operations teams.

Another way to drive efficiencies and collaboration is through full-stack observability. With the broad overview of all application components that this offers, it’s no longer possible to simply “blame the network.” Gaining detailed situational awareness of all application components allows your team to balance infrastructure with performance.

3. Defend against biases

Successful CEOs recognize that institutionalized bias can impact the effectiveness of their business and the dynamics of their teams. They’re also self-aware enough to realize that we’re all subconsciously affected by bias. One way to counteract this bias is to first of all, recognize it and secondly, do something about it. This involves strategies like conducting a premortem to anticipate a project failing or carefully structuring meetings so that honest and open discussions are possible. What’s also vital, both for CEOs and technologists, is creating a diverse team.

In DevOps, using shared data sources can help provide objective, unbiased information. If something goes wrong, this can help reduce the chances of guesswork or finger-pointing, making it easier to identify the root cause of errors or failures. This strategy can also help you prioritize steps for a successful remediation.

4. Build resilience ahead of a crisis

Exceptional CEOs know that the time to plan for a crisis is before it happens — not as it unfolds. Developing a resilient business is a key marker for success, giving significant market advantages over companies that haven’t planned for or anticipated a crisis.

The COVID-19 pandemic not only accelerated the speed of digital transformation at many companies — but also sharply reminded us of the importance of proactive resilience. This is something that many successful CEOs concentrate on cultivating, and their approach is just as relevant to technologists.

Our research found that 43% of security breaches target applications. These breaches can not only impact operating costs but also harm reputation and lose you business. SRE and DevOps teams can use automated visibility, insights and action to build better business resiliency. It’s also a good idea to correlate key business metrics, like conversions, with full-stack performance. That way, you can quickly identify and resolve issues before they impact the bottom line. Again, this links to teamwork — so ensure everyone has access to your application performance monitoring to ensure you’re offering the best performance and user experience.

5. Manage your time and energy

Burnout is becoming the new norm, so much so that the World Health Organization (WHO) has now classified it as an occupational phenomenon. In addition to chronic stress, McKinsey found that many CEOs are also impacted by loneliness, exhaustion, irritation, disappointment and frustration. Of course, these challenges have the potential to impact any technologist, too — it’s how you manage them that makes the difference.

AppDynamics’ 2022 Agents of Transformation report found that 56% of technologists report feeling burnt out. To maintain your health and well-being, balancing delivering innovation with protecting your time and energy is vital.

Effective CEOs know that rather than look to remove the emotions that can lead to burnout entirely (which isn’t possible in any case), it’s more effective to manage their impacts by creating a robust working structure. Technologists can do the same by balancing delivering innovation with prioritizing the work that only they can do. Everything else? If it can be delegated or automated — do it.

For example, you can enhance the speed, scalability and productivity of your CloudOps team by enabling auto-provisioning so that applications can either decrease capacity based on usage or request more machines.

Encourage your team to consider their energy as sacred as their time. After all, without enough energy or motivation, a task won’t get completed, no matter how much time you have. Another best practice that many successful CEOs follow is carefully considering how to sequence activities to avoid troughs of low energy. Make sure there’s time set aside in your day for recovering, whatever that looks like to you.

Change your mindset, change your team

CEOs can make or break their company—but so can the skills and knowledge of technologists. Unfortunately, modeling your business practices to emulate those of a successful CEO takes a little more time and effort than reading a book by Bill Gates or Tim Cook.

The good news is that certain attributes have been identified as hallmarks of the best CEOs — and you’ve probably got some of these traits already. By understanding and adopting the mindsets and practices that drive CEO success, you can also drive the success of your IT team.

See the bigger picture with AppDynamics

Great CEOs are known for their big-picture thinking. And AppDynamics can help your IT team see the big picture, too. With full-stack observability from AppDynamics, you’re only one step away from understanding your IT ecosystem in better detail than ever before. Ready to see your data through the lens of business impact? Start your free trial today.

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