GitLab and the Need for Client Transparency

We here at ClearlyAgile are strong proponents for distributed source control systems (namely Git) and are happy users of GitLab, a cloud-based Git repository manager.  GitLab allows us to utilize Git to manage our software revisions without having to worry about maintaining the infrastructure to provide a central repository for our developers.  It was easy to set up and integrate with and has been a joy to work with.

Recently though (1/31/2017), GitLab suffered a major outage (over 20+ hours) because of an accidental production metadata deletion by one of their developers.  An embarrassing situation for the developer responsible and the company as a whole.  In this same situation in the past, many companies have resorted to the following options:

#1 Cover up the problem or blame someone or something else external to the company.

#2 Pretend the problem doesn't exist, blame the user or ignore it until is goes away.

#3 Come clean about the problem and resolution.

We were directly affected by this outage as we were getting ready for a major code push but were glad that the GitLab team went with option #3.  They posted about the problem on their status twitter (https://twitter.com/gitlabstatus) and were forthcoming about the root cause of the issue right from the start; even though it did not put them in the best light.  They also published updates on the resolution to the problem every hour and even did a live stream with their developers as they restored their backups!!! 

As a direct result of their openness and honesty about the problem, the company endeared themselves with their current customers (us included) and gained more respect throughout the community as a whole.  Customers were actually supportive of the company during the downtime rather than angry or upset.  

We hear at ClearlyAgile have this same approach with our clients.  Our Sprint process with a real live demo every two weeks allows us to show our clients progress on their projects and discuss good news and bad news right as it happens.  That level of transparency was a scary proposition at first, but our clients appreciated it and that approach allowed us to form real, meaningful partnerships with them.  Like GitLab, our open and honest communication with our clients created a great relationship built around trust in the team.  

Other companies can definitely take a lesson from this approach.  Customers want to know that the companies they do business with really care about their individual success and that they are not just another project or another number on a spreadsheet.  Thank you GitLab for a great product and a great response to a complicated problem!