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AppDynamics CTO: When applications are the business, user experience should be your currency

Presented by AppDynamics

COVID-19 has pushed customer interaction from in-person to online so that 65% of customer interactions today are digital, according to McKinsey & Company. And applications are the gateways for customers and key stakeholders to interact with a brand, from the mobile apps used to order pizza to the applications that allow banks to manage thousands of customers’ sensitive information.

Even brick and mortar stores have an application somewhere within their processes, whether that’s a point-of-sale or inventory management system, and that digital experience contributes to a customer’s day-to-day journey with the brand. Delivering exceptional experiences isn’t optional — it’s critical, because negative experience with an application can mean the difference between gaining or losing a loyal customer, says Ty Amell, chief technology officer at AppDynamics, part of Cisco.

“Switching costs for consumers are low,” Amell says. “They’re looking for which one has the best end-user experience. So, a hit to performance is a knock to user experience and to a company’s bottom line.”

Whether it’s bugs, breaches, or outages, effective monitoring is crucial across the full IT stack to prevent this from happening, because no matter where an issue comes from, whether it’s the application or the network, the end result is the same: loss of customer trust.

The challenges of increasingly complex IT

We’re in a massive digital transformation spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Agents of Transformation report recently conducted by AppDynamics found that the pandemic forced a 3X acceleration of digital transformation projects. Companies have shifted from traditional on-premise applications to cloud and cloud-native applications, changing how applications are built.

Plus, many large enterprises have hybrid environments, with both private and public cloud, so performance hinges on ever-more complex and unpredictable application delivery chains that make up the public internet and third-party networks, cloud services, and application programming interfaces (APIs).

Relying on cloud and third-party services means less control of the hardware and the network, and greater monitoring challenges. Adding to the pile of monitoring challenges are the new, unpredictable variables brought on by hybrid and remote work: spotty Wi-Fi, weak security, and cross-solution workflows, and more.

“We realize there are questions like, how do you understand all the different performance issues you may be having and how they’re impacting your end users?” Amell says. “We have more data than ever, so there’s a lot of noise. How do you get a signal out of that noise to be able to understand what’s actually happening to your end users?”

In fact, 85% of technologists said that quickly cutting through that noise caused by ever-increasing volumes of data to identify root causes of performance issues is a significant challenge they face in the year ahead. There are so many pieces involved in delivering the end-user experience because applications are now a set of micro-services that are running in the cloud. On top of that, technologists need to layer on the business context to be able to tie issues into how they’re impacting the bottom line, because not all issues are created equal, Amell adds.

He points to the Agents of Transformation report, where 92% of technologists agree that the ability to link technology performance to the business outcomes will be important to delivering their innovation goals over the next year. Tied to that, nearly three quarters (73%), fear that inability to do that will be detrimental to their business in 2021.

“It’s important to ask companies what signals in the noise are most impactful to your business, and how do you prioritize fixing those?” he says. “That’s where full-stack observability comes in.”

How full-stack observability impacts customer outcomes

Full-stack observability offers not only visibility, but also insight and action by teasing signals out of the noise. Deep visibility into their application environment allows IT teams to proactively monitor the performance of infrastructure, service tiers, and business transactions. With a single solution, technologists gain a complete view of what is actually impacting the end user’s experience.

Observability into your systems breaks down silos between security, operations, engineers, and business teams, giving them a single pane of glass to view vulnerabilities in your production environment in real time, and a common language that allows teams to work in tandem to identify and resolve issues more quickly and with more agility, without putting blame on others.

“With full-stack observability, you’re no longer just hunting for random anomalies,” says Amell. “As issues arise, you can measure them against your business goals and impact to prioritize and stack-rank those fixes, so you can operate in an agile manner and get those customers back in action before they realize there’s an issue.”

An overwhelming number of respondents in the Agents of Transformation report, 96%, believe this ability to connect full-stack observability to real-time business outcomes will be essential to delivering that first-class digital experience and accelerating digital transformation. Business and IT teams can not only keep up with their full supply chain, but with full-stack observability, platforms like AppDynamics help head issues off at the pass.

Leveling up full-stack observability

AppDynamics has always provided enterprises with deep visibility into their application environment, allowing IT teams to proactively monitor the performance of infrastructure, service tiers, and business transactions. The next step in breaking down and building bridges between apps and networks is the integration of AppDynamics and ThousandEyes. ThousandEyes Intelligence in AppDynamics Dash Studio takes full-stack observability further, expanding the view to the internet and third-party networks, cloud services, and APIs outside their control.

With the platform’s next-generation dashboarding capability, Dash Studio, teams can pull in metrics from ThousandEyes, and view them alongside application performance metrics in a single dashboard home shared across network and application teams. If the latency of an application is increasing in your tests, along with an increase on the network side on ThousandEyes, it’s immediately clear, simply by looking at the dashboard, that there’s a network problem. From there, a link within ThousandEyes can be sent directly to your network and operations team, where they can see that same transaction in context and understand exactly what’s happening with the network and where the problem is.

“It gives you that single view within AppDynamics and a clickthrough to ThousandEyes in context with that request and test, so you can see it in real time and, again, break down those silos,” Amell explains.

Case study: Accelerating mean time to resolution

AppDynamics and other solutions from within Cisco’s expansive portfolio have been game changers — and life savers — for customers like Freedom Financial Network, a financial services company that offers custom debt solutions. The multichannel engagement business model, where prospective customers are driven by website forms, marketing campaigns, phone calls, or TV ads, requires an expansive and sophisticated back-end infrastructure to execute every engagement flawlessly. And behind the scenes, teams needed to manage a complex and widespread hybrid IT infrastructure — which required a level of visibility across the entire environment that the company simply never had with its previous tools and systems.

The company deployed AppDynamics to consolidate and streamline its application and cloud instance monitoring. The solution, a robust platform for end-to-end visibility of complex, business-critical environments, gave them a single platform for greater efficiency and responsiveness of cloud and application monitoring, and accelerated mean time to resolution due to real-time visibility and custom alerting, removing the need to individually instrument each transaction.

End-to-end observability now enables the company to get the specific operational metrics they need to proactively address issues before they become problems and keep the team pushing toward larger business objectives.

Dig deeper: Learn more about how a full-stack observability approach with business context can make an impact across your IT environment and benefit your end-users with the AppDynamics Business Observability Platform and Network Monitoring for complete end-to-end visibility, all in one place.

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