Why every CIO should care about full-stack observability
As IT systems become increasingly more complex to meet the digital demands of customers and employees, companies have to improve visibility across the entire infrastructure to cut through the data noise
The topic of digital and business transformation has been high on the agenda for IT and business leaders alike as companies have had to find new ways to weather the Covid-19 pandemic.
For many, this meant shifting to a digital-first model to ensure products, services and information could be easily accessed by customers, and that workforces could operate from home with the tools they need to be productive, and the ability to connect with remote colleagues all over the world.
As a result, consumer dependence on applications and digital services has never been higher, and tolerance of poor performing services has never been so low. When it comes to digital customer experience, we now live in an age of heightened expectations, and that is putting extraordinary pressure on both business leaders and technologists.
In order to deal with the sweeping change of switching to digital and spinning up new applications and digital services to meet user demand, there has been a significant shift in how IT works. To enable innovation and meet the needs of users, many businesses have opted to migrate to the cloud. This has added technical complexity throughout IT departments, with technologists having to cope with technology sprawl and a patchwork of legacy and
It has also significantly increased the amount of data being created. Cutting through the ‘data noise’ caused by this increasing volume of information – and identifying the root cause of performance issues – is creating a challenge for technologists.
“The technology stack is infinitely more complex than at any time in the past. It’s also being reconfigured at speed,” says James Harvey, executive chief technology officer at AppDynamics, a part of Cisco, and a global leader in application performance management and full-stack observability solutions for enterprises.
It’s also why technology teams are increasingly working at high speed, to keep ahead of competing businesses and achieve the real-world outcomes expected of them, including flawless digital experiences for customers and employees.
The bar is being raised on a daily basis. Technologists implemented digital transformation projects faster in 2020 than in any previous year; on average three times faster, according to ‘The Agents of Transformation 2021,’ an AppDynamics survey of more than 1,000 global IT decision makers.
At the same time, IT departments are expected to innovate, consolidate and rationalise their own infrastructure, much of which can sprawl across many physical sites, legacy systems and cloud architectures. In response, technologists have recognised the need to have a greater understanding of the full IT estate.
“It’s increasingly important for CIOs and their teams to get a single view of the entire IT environment. They need to connect the dots up and down the stack, from the customer or employee-facing application, all the way down to the lowest level infrastructure. The concept is known as full-stack observability, and it’s now vital to every business,” says Harvey.
It doesn’t matter what industry or sector an organisation is in, the technology that’s working behind the scenes to enable transactions, inventory or customer experience must be more visible.
“It’s exciting to see how technology is showing its true value to an organisation. When you have full visibility of all your IT systems, you are in a position of empowerment. In real-time, you can view your baseline infrastructure, as well as the applications that sit on top of it. You can also monitor the workflows that deliver business transactions,” Harvey adds.
Having IT systems perform at their best is vital. AppDynamics recently surveyed 13,000 global consumers; 57% said if a digital service does not perform, they won’t use it again.
“Brands only have one shot to impress. Consumers are now looking for the ‘total application experience;’ a high-performing, reliable, digital service, which is simple, secure, helpful and fun to use. This becomes the new benchmark. This is a moment of reckoning for brands. They must deliver, or risk losing customers,” Harvey says.
The research also found that 83% of consumers had incurred problems with applications and digital services in the past 12 months, and most are now far more likely to take action when they run into performance issues. This includes switching to an alternative provider, sharing negative experiences with other people or deleting the service permanently.
“Right now, consumer and business users expect every application to be as effective as the best application on their phone. That is why every corporation needs to know what is working well and what isn’t from an IT perspective. But critically, they need the ability to link that IT performance with business outcomes such as customer experience, sales transactions and revenue. We call this full-stack observability with business context,” Harvey says.
He adds: “This gives technologists complete visibility of their IT stack, across their own network and the internet, and then the ability to act on that information based on what will have the greatest impact on their organisation. In previous CTO roles, I’ve had lots of alerts and information about IT performance issues, but they lacked context to prioritise fixes based on business value. In short, they left me wondering where to focus my attention in order to minimise the negative impact to the business. That’s all changed. Now technologists can prioritise IT problems and know which are the most important to fix first.”
Harvey says: “The move to full-stack observability is only going to accelerate in order to answer the growing needs of IT teams and the unavoidable complexity that comes with rapid innovation and digital transformation. IT leaders need a finger on the beating heart of their business and the ability to observe what matters most within the organisation. Get this right and more CIOs will continue to expand their influence in board-level decisions and we’ll increasingly see IT teams spearheading value creation across their organisations.”
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