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Why AppDynamics CPO says full-stack observability is the post-pandemic key to competitiveness

Presented by AppDynamics

How well a company handled digital experiences became a game changer during the pandemic. Being digital-ready exploded in importance when it became the primary avenue for businesses to interact with customers, and for employees to continue to be productive from home. “For many companies, IT projects that typically would get done in 21 months were completed in as few as seven,” says Vipul Shah, chief product officer at Cisco AppDynamics. That’s not going to change any time soon.

“Demanding IT departments accelerated their projects by three times the speed — but also had some major implications,” Shah says. In the most recent AppDynamics study, “Agents of Transformation 2021: The rise of full-stack observability,” 77% of respondents dramatically accelerated their move to cloud computing — and also dramatically increased the complexity of their IT landscape. IT professionals are quickly adding cloud infrastructure to their internal infrastructure. They’re not just developing new cloud native apps, but iterating on them and innovating quickly.

“In 2021, the expectation for IT is that they will not only need to keep with the pace of innovation that they set in 2020, but most likely they’ll need to accelerate that pace,” says Shah. “The ability to link technology performance to business outcomes such as customer experience, sales transactions, and revenue, will be what’s really important to delivering innovation goals over the next year.”

Almost three quarters of respondents fear that the inability to link IT performance with business performance will be detrimental to their business in 2021 — and 96% said that connecting full-stack observability with real-time business outcomes will help them make sense of what’s relevant and take action.

“Fundamentally, IT has learned that full-stack observability has always been an essential pillar in delivering those goals, but it’s not enough,” he says. “An IT person will need to go an extra step to link the performance of the technology to the business outcomes.”

Full-stack observability allows technologists to monitor the full IT state, from legacy or traditional infrastructure to public and private cloud environments, and tie it to traditional and modern cloud applications all the way to browser and mobile applications. Today, true observability means collecting all data types — metrics, events, logs, and traces — and then evaluating that data in the context of configuration, across the stack. In other words, how the configuration of each application relates to its output, which is where business outcomes come into play.

“When you have applications, it’s not just good enough to say that the performance of this application is impacted, you need to look at it in the context of its configuration and state, and link the impact to an end user,“ Shah explains.

For example, if someone notices a part of their shopping cart user experience, such as the inventory, is slow to respond, they may abandon the application completely.

How to address business goal challenges

“Across teams, both on the IT and the business side, the challenges are multifold,” Shah says. “To make this increased pace work, IT technologies and the C-suite have to work together on three major goals.”

The first step is to align priorities across all stakeholders, and drive those priorities in a transparent way across the organization. Not only does that reduce the increased friction that ramped-up business goals necessarily cause, it increases the pace of delivery on that demand.

The second step is understanding what skill shortages may have risen while delivery has ramped up. For instance, there will almost certainly be a shortfall in application-building skills and experience, given the need to build and develop new apps to meet customer demand. There may also be a gap in cloud skills, in light of the acceleration to public cloud development that’s happened in such a short period of time, which is further proven by nearly 80% of organizations surveyed.

The third big step is to choose the right tools, Shah says. Full-stack observability, with the ability to contextualize through the lens of business, is key to making these deployments work, and also requires the right set of tools.

As an example, the AppDynamics Business Observability Platform starts with applications. For internet and network insights from end-user applications into the back-end, tools like ThousandEyes paired with AppDynamics take full-stack observability further, expanding the view to a comprehensive, in-depth visualization of the entire application delivery chain. Cisco Intersight works with AppDynamics to provide workload optimization. AppDynamics’ end-user monitoring and BusinessIQ solutions monitor end-user activity, track how end users interact with apps, where drop-off points occur and how this impacts the business.

Consumers use applications in a very simplistic way, but an app is very complex, Shah explains. From databases, message brokers, message queues, the application logic, the load balancers to the whole infrastructure supporting all of it, as well as monitoring tools for each of the components, siloed teams are tracking each of these elements.

“With the new normal that is emerging, [and] with full-stack observability, you need a set of tools, which are today powered by machine learning, that will give you visibility across your entire IT landscape, cut noise from the real data, and then give you insights,” he says.

But while the technologists are aware of the need to contextualize the IT performance with real-time data, the survey also found that 66% don’t feel that they have the resources and the support needed to do so, despite 96% identifying at least one barrier they would need to navigate in order to adopt this new approach.

“Three-quarters of the technologists say that their organization needs to connect full-stack observability to the business outcomes within the next year, in order to remain competitive,” Shah adds. “That’s what IT leaders will need to future-proof their IT departments.”

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