Why full-stack observability needs the business context

By James Harvey
James Harvey, EMEA CTO, Cisco AppDynamics on the art of conquering IT complexity

In 2020, technologists across the world delivered incredible feats as they pivoted their organisation's IT strategy to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a new AppDynamics report ‘Agents of Transformation 2021: The Rise of Full-Stack Observability’ technologists implemented digital transformation projects faster in 2020 than in any previous year - on average three times faster. This stat will perhaps come as little surprise to those who have found themselves at the sharp end of their organisations’ response to the pandemic. 

But the pressure is not set to relent. In fact, many technologists expect the pace of digital transformation to accelerate in 2021. Furthermore, the research reveals technologists struggling to manage IT complexity caused by the rapid digital transformation, increased adoption of cloud and technology sprawl that occurred in 2020. Tackling crippling complexity in the IT department is critical to the survival and growth of their organisations. 

Increasingly, full-stack observability - the ability to monitor the entire IT stack, from customer-facing applications down to core network and infrastructure - is seen as a solution to tackling these pressing challenges. However, technologists beginning their journey to full-stack observability should take caution. Whilst visibility across the entire IT stack might seem like the answer, it will only succeed when IT teams can connect IT performance to business impact. 73% of technologists believe that the inability to connect full-stack observability with business outcomes will be detrimental to their business in 2021. So where next for technologists as they consider the next defining moment in their careers? 

Conquering complexity

It’s well understood that in response to the COVID-19 pandemic many businesses shifted to digital-only propositions and remote working almost overnight, whilst simultaneously delivering world-class, flawless digital experiences for both customers and employees. Timelines for what used to be lengthy IT project rollouts were delivered in a fraction of the time last year. It’s no understatement to say that the actions of global IT teams were pivotal in the survival of many enterprises in 2020. But there are consequences that must now be tackled.

Technologists are facing a new set of priorities and challenges across their organisation. In Agents of Transformation 2021: The Rise of Full-Stack Observability, 75% of technologists claim that their response to the pandemic has created more IT complexity than they have ever experienced and as many as 83% feel that their own job has become more complex over the last year. 

Many technologists fast-tracked the move towards cloud computing in order to respond to the changing needs of their organisation. But now they face the challenge of controlling systems both within and outside of the core IT estate. The end result is huge numbers of technologists (75%) struggling to manage overwhelming ‘data noise’, without the resources and support they need. 

The race to full-stack observability

It’s clear that in an increasingly data-driven environment the idea of relying on gut instinct is out-dated and a recipe for failure. Nearly three-quarters of technologists (76%) acknowledge that they can no longer afford to rely on gut instinct with technology performance when confronted with these heightened levels of complexity. 

To get a handle on this spiralling complexity, 95% of technologists agree that having real-time visibility across the entire IT estate is important. They appreciate the usefulness of having a single, unified observability platform to monitor and manage the full technology stack, instead of multiple, disjointed monitoring solutions. 

It’s no surprise then that full-stack observability is racing up the priority list for IT leaders across the world.

Full-stack observability solutions give technologists the ability 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 (compute, storage, network and public internet). But with complexity levels and data noise spiralling out of control, is it enough to just have visibility? Sure, IT teams are in a much better place if they see what’s happening across their whole technology environment, but what comes next? How do they use this data to prioritise actions and make the best decisions for their organisation?  

Observe what matters

On its own, full-stack observability is just not enough - business context is critical. The answer lies in having the ability to directly correlate the technology performance of the IT stack with business transactions and outcomes.

Only by tying IT issues to tangible business outcomes such as customer experience, sales transactions and revenue can technologists prioritise decision-making and actions based on what really matters to the business. And IT leaders agree, 96% of technologists recognise that having the ability to monitor all technical areas across their IT stack and directly link technical performance to business outcomes will be important during 2021. 

But the clock is ticking. Three quarters (75%) of technologists believe that this technology needs to be implemented within 12 months to remain competitive. Worryingly, whilst businesses unanimously agree that combining full-stack observability with business insights is important, 66% of technologists admit that they don’t currently have a solution in place. 

Time to shine

By observing what matters and truly connecting IT performance to business outcomes, technologists can elevate their performance to a higher level and put themselves back on the front foot. 2021 will be another defining year for IT leaders professionally and personally. They will need to find creative and innovative solutions to solve business-critical issues. Realising the potential of full-stack observability must now be a priority. 


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