The Dark Side of Troubleshooting
March 13, 2019

Joe Kim

While developers have the power to change the world with each tap of the keyboard, results from SolarWinds Cloud Confessions: The Trouble with Troubleshooting revealed a disconnect between technology pros' skills to innovate and the tasks they must deal with on an everyday basis. Troubleshooting application issues was the No. 1 activity on which tech professionals (including web product managers (WPMs), developers, and DevOps teams) spend their time, which results in less time for product development and innovation.

The lack of time dedicated to important priorities like building product roadmaps has tangible consequences — it can even make or break a business. IT leaders who claim to embrace DevOps but don't implement solutions to cut down time spent troubleshooting are even in danger of losing credibility among their teams. If IT leaders express the benefits of DevOps within their organization, all while their staff spends most of their time on application troubleshooting, some tech pros may believe their leaders are out of touch with their everyday reality. Then, IT leaders run the risk of losing staff due to a lack of motivation.

Here are a few best practices for business and technology leaders to implement to help developers, WPMs, and DevOps teams get back to doing what they love and what will move the business forward:

Prioritize Business Drivers

In a team's day-to-day activities, it's important to prioritize business drivers over troubleshooting alone. This can be done by taking a step back and becoming more proactive about approaching DevOps. Carefully adopt capabilities like observability and find better, automated ways to monitor staging/developing environments. Think about how to push the boundaries behind automation to find better (and more) ways to automate.

Educate and Distribute Knowledge

Document and institutionalize all the knowledge across the organization, specifically for the teams that are touching the code and rolling out updates across the DevOps chain. After adopting the DevOps philosophy, educate and train people in the organization. It's a business leader's job to implement/leverage resources and tools to train individuals in the organization in the DevOps philosophy and update internal processes accordingly.

Look at People, Process, and Tools

IT and business leaders must look at their teams and find ways for them to improve. Look at processes and figure out what they can do better tomorrow than today. The "right" tools can help facilitate this; look at tools and ensure they will support key parts of the DevOps philosophy, including proactive work, automation, and spreading knowledge across the board. After considering this, set goals and expectations for how to improve and how to practice what they preach regarding DevOps integration.

Measure Time Spent Troubleshooting

Measure time spent troubleshooting quarter after quarter, to help inform strategy and course correct if the time is not decreasing.


Nearly half of the SolarWinds survey respondents said if they can't move away from troubleshooting into areas of work they love — e.g., creating meaningful products and services and making a difference in their organization — they will look for new jobs. Business leaders risk losing valuable employees if they don't address the troubleshooting issue internally.

The survey results are clear: business and technology leaders must set developers, WPMs, and DevOps teams up for success — to help drive our business forward, empower them to do what they love most, and put the "Dev" back into DevOps.

Joe Kim is EVP, Engineering, and Global CTO at SolarWinds
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