Sustainable innovation: 8 action points for IT leaders

Cisco AppDynamics

By Gregg Ostrowski, CTO Advisor, Cisco AppDynamics
Friday, 04 August, 2023

Sustainable innovation: 8 action points for IT leaders

Across all industries, the speed of innovation continues to soar, as deployment of no code and low platforms enables IT teams to accelerate application release velocity. In the latest research from Cisco AppDynamics, ‘The Age of Application Observability’, the majority of technologists predict that increased adoption of these cloud native technologies will deliver applications at least four times faster in coming years.

Cloud native technologies are already delivering game-changing benefits to many organisations, providing the agility and resilience to respond effectively to constantly evolving customer needs and enabling hybrid work. And they create a platform for brands to deliver ever more intuitive and personalised digital experiences to consumers, building loyalty and engagement and opening up new revenue streams.

However, with IT teams all over the world concerned because of the intense pressure they are now facing, there is now a growing realisation that many organisations simply can’t sustain the current pace of innovation; not unless they adopt new approaches and working practices within their IT departments, and implement new tools to help technologists manage an increasingly complex and fragmented IT estate.

Currently, IT teams don’t have the tools and visibility they need to manage availability and performance across hybrid environments, with no clear line of sight for applications where components are running across both cloud native and on-premises technologies. This is making it impossible for teams to rapidly troubleshoot issues and significantly raising the potential for disruption and downtime to customer-facing applications.

For all the effort and investment that organisations are directing towards digital transformation and cloud migration, they’re now at risk of not being able to maximise their returns, because technologists aren’t able to deliver the seamless digital experiences that customers now demand at all times.

In the research from Cisco AppDynamics, technologists acknowledge the need for urgent change within the IT department to better manage application performance, and they point to eight key action points for all organisations to establish a more sustainable approach to innovation:

1. Application observability across hybrid environments

Seventy eight per cent of technologists say that the increased volume of data from multi-cloud and hybrid environments is making manual monitoring impossible. And this is why, more than anything else, technologists point to application observability across hybrid environments as important for their organisation to deliver accelerated and sustainable innovation.

Rather than using separate monitoring tools across on-premises and cloud native technologies, application observability provides IT teams with unified visibility across their entire IT estate. This means they can easily detect issues, understand root causes and remediate issues in a timely way, bringing down metrics such as Mean Time To Resolution (MTTR). As many as 97% of technologists now see a critical need for their organisation to move from a monitoring approach to an application observability solution to manage their hybrid environment.

2. Strategic technology partners

Sixty four per cent of technologists admit that they find it difficult to differentiate between application observability and monitoring solutions. And this lack of clarity in the market is slowing down buying decisions and implementation timelines. Therefore, technologists recognise the need to lean on the expertise and consultancy of trusted partners to ensure they select the right application observability solution for their business. Critically, this means finding a tool which serves its purpose now but also supports and eases their journey towards cloud native technologies over the coming years.

3. Unified teams

Within many organisations, the introduction of cloud native technologies (and the associated new teams) has created major siloes between people, processes and data within the IT department. New teams such as Site Reliability Engineer (SRE) and CloudOps are working in isolation from legacy teams looking after on-premises technologies, and security teams aren’t being integrated into the application development lifecycle until the very last minute.

Technologists recognise the need for much closer collaboration between teams to manage hybrid environments. With application observability in place, all IT teams can come together around a single source of truth and adopt new approaches such as DevSecOps, where security has input into development from day one.

4. Shared vision and execution plans

Linked to the above, IT leaders need to develop and communicate a shared vision for all technologists, as opposed to each team or discipline working towards their own individual goals. They need to inspire technologists around their innovation plans at an organisation-wide level and incentivise the entire IT department to achieve common goals. Encouragingly, 88% of technologists state that they are open to sharing KPIs with other teams.

5. Fully skilled team

Recruiting and developing the right IT skills to deliver digital transformation remains a major challenge for all organisations, and this is being accentuated by rapid adoption of cloud native technologies which require very specialist skills.

IT leaders need to develop creative and far-reaching strategies to engage with new talent pools, as well as focusing on upskilling programs for existing employees. Crucially, IT leaders need to ensure that all technologists are widening their skill sets, and expanding their knowledge and appreciation of other disciplines in order to operate within cross-functional teams.

6. Leadership buy-in for new approaches and tools to manage performance

Unfortunately, 71% of technologists state that leaders within their organisation do not fully understand that modern applications need modern approaches and tools to manage availability, performance and security. That needs to change in order for IT teams to get the budget and senior sponsorship required to implement new tools and affect cultural change.

Technologists need to build robust business cases for application observability approaches and solutions, highlighting the role that application observability needs to play in enabling brands to meet customer expectations for seamless digital experiences. Crucially, technologists need to demonstrate how application observability must be the foundation for sustainable innovation and for organisations to compete and differentiate in the market.

7. Modern metrics to link IT performance to business transactions

Most IT departments don’t have the insights they need to measure the impact of IT on the business. They're still deploying separate monitoring tools across their IT estate so can’t get a complete picture to link IT data with business metrics.

Technologists are therefore looking for application observability solutions which allow IT teams to correlate IT data with business metrics. The ability to access business transaction insights in real time, and then analyse them in business-level dashboards, is vital for teams to prioritise issues based on severity and potential impact on customers and the business. Technologists can focus their efforts in the right places to maximise their impact.

8. Ability to validate investment in cloud native technologies

Within all sectors, IT leaders report that they are coming under increasing pressure to demonstrate the value that their innovation initiatives — and cloud investment in particular — are bringing to the business. This pressure is likely to intensify as economic conditions continue to be challenging and organisations look to streamline costs.

Application observability enables technologists to track, measure and report on the impact that their innovation programs are generating. IT leaders can make insight-driven decisions on where to focus investments based on what will have the biggest benefit for customers, employees and ultimately, the business. In this way, application observability is essential for organisations to reap the full benefits of their accelerated innovation programs, and to build on their current momentum.

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