Seven tips for building a business case for investing in full-stack observability operations

IT departments across all sectors have spent the past 18 months delivering the rapid and wholesale digital transformation their organizations have needed to navigate through the pandemic. The skill and dedication of technologists has often been the difference between success and failure.

But the result of this sustained period of innovation, and in particular the acceleration of cloud computing initiatives, has been soaring complexity in the IT department. Technologists are now trying to manage a sprawling IT estate, across patchwork of distributed legacy and cloud technologies, but many are having to rely on disconnected monitoring tools across their IT infrastructure. They don’t have the insight to identify and fix performance issues before they impact the business. It’s become beyond human scale to see and manage the complexity. 

The need for complete visibility up and down the IT stack, from customer-facing applications down to core network and infrastructure, has become mission critical. More than this though, technologists also need a way to connect IT performance data across the IT estate with real-time business metrics. This enables them to identify which technology issues really matter to customers and prioritize actions based on business outcomes. 

In fact, in our latest Agents of Transformation study, Agents of Transformation: The Rise of Full-Stack Observability, as many as 96% of technologists reported 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; and 66% cited this as being very important.

But whilst the need for visibility across the IT estate and to connect performance data with business metrics is understood in the IT department, it’s a different story in the wider business. 

Many technologists report difficulties in building a business case for full-stack observability. They’re struggling to persuade business leaders of the benefits of visibility across the IT estate and linking performance data with business outcomes.

So, with that in mind, here are seven tips for technologists to build a robust business case for full-stack observability with business context.

  1. Demonstrate how observability is critical to maximize the benefits of digital transformation

Currently, many organizations don’t have the tools, processes and cultures to align digital transformation and technology performance to business and commercial outcomes. 

To a large degree, this issue has been overlooked during the pandemic – it’s been a ‘needs must’ situation. But as the speed of innovation accelerates even further in the coming years, business leaders know they need to get a better understanding of how their investment in digital transformation is impacting the bottom line. They also should keep in mind that end users’ expect more innovation now than ever before. As shown in the App Attention Index 2021: Who takes the rap for the app?, 57% of them say brands have one shot to impress them and that if their digital service does not perform, they won’t use them again.

Any business case for full-stack observability should start here. This link between IT performance and innovation to business outcomes is right at the top of any C-Level agenda. 

Ensure your business case shows how full-stack observability with business context can address the current measurement gap and help business leaders to embed a sustainable continuous innovation culture across their operations to thrive in the future. 

  1. Take a holistic approach

Implementing full-stack observability isn’t as simple as integrating a new monitoring platform. It’s a new business context operating model and involves new skills, processes and thinking. And it requires IT teams to come together to collaborate and share ownership for technology performance across the IT estate. 

It’s a process to start in certain areas of your business where you need it the most, then you expand it to higher levels. So you need to map out how the new platform will be integrated from a cultural and skills perspective, as well as the advantages that it will deliver in bringing IT teams and wider business stakeholders together around unified data – a single source of truth for all performance data and the impact of IT on business outcomes.

  1. Show how observability supports your organization’s cloud ambitions

Across all sectors, businesses are turning to cloud computing to deliver the operational speed, agility and resilience they need to respond to dramatic fluctuations in customer needs. Cloud computing will be critical and will give you the agility to quickly achieve strategic innovation goals in the coming years and therefore your business case needs to clearly demonstrate how it supports and accelerates this shift.

It’s worth being aware that some observability platforms struggle to offer real-time visibility and insight in cloud environments, particularly when it comes to managing microservices and monitoring Kubernetes. 

Consider this in your planning and make sure your observability platform really is ‘full stack’, across both traditional and cloud environments as you’ll need it to rapidly deploy new applications. And then make a point in your business case of showing how your strategy is fit for purpose in a cloud-first future. It’s all about observability while being agile with the cloud. 

  1. Create a vision for IT performance and seamless digital experiences in the future

Factor in how your full-stack observability platform can support future growth and changing requirements. It shall be the foundation to continuously deliver new digital experiences.

The sheer volume of additional data that businesses will generate in the coming years is likely to push most IT departments to their limits, even those that have full-stack observability in place. 

So, show how your platform will evolve beyond manual interventions, and deploy automation and AI to monitor data at any scale and address performance issues. Demonstrate how AI will soon be able to provide real-time insights to deliver effective world-class technology performance at all times and drive game-changing business impact. 

  1. Show the risks of doing nothing

You’ve shown the upside; now it’s time to spell out the consequences of not having full-stack observability linked to business metrics.

This should start with the impact of performance issues and increased MTTR, and the knock-on effect on customer and employee experience, brand reputation and revenue. To illustrate this further, 61% of users state their expectation of digital services has changed forever and they won’t tolerate poor performance any more. So the risk of losing customers is far more important. For your business, they look at the revenue loss opportunity of the average transaction value flowing through your application. This value could be key to help determine the ROI from implementing full-stack observability licenses. 

It should also include the negative impact on productivity and engagement within the IT department, and the proportion of time highly skilled technologists are having to spend firefighting issues, instead of delivering on strategic innovation goals. Maybe reference the fact that 79% of technologists state that organizations need to adopt the latest observability methods in order to attract and retain elite technologists – and show how a shortage of these Agents of Transformation would impact the organization’s ability to deliver market-leading innovation in the future.

  1. Lean on a trusted partner

As with any relatively new technology, it can be hard to find the proof points you need to demonstrate how a full-stack observability platform has been successfully deployed in an organization similar to yours. And it can be difficult to cover all the bases when it comes to financial and operational forecasting.

This is where you need to work closely with your technology partner and tap into their knowledge and experience solving the pain points for thousands of other companies facing similar situations. Look to collaborate as much as you can and present a joint case for investment. 

  1. Show the business KPIs and how IT decision can be driven for the business

From reduced mean time to resolution (MTTR), fixing applications errors, identifying root cause of bugs and potential issues before they impact the end-user, performance analyses, infrastructure support… full-stack observability is key for organisations. 

But for it to come into full motion you need to contextualise IT performance insights with real-time business data. You can add that 92% of technologists recognise as crucial the ability to link technology performance to business outcomes in order to show ROI as key to delivering innovation goals.

Only by linking tangible business outcomes like customer experience, sales transactions and revenue can you make accurate decisions based on what really matters for your business.

The article has been written by Abhilash Purushothaman, Managing Director (India & SAARC) at AppDynamics, part of Cisco

2 responses to “Seven tips for building a business case for investing in full-stack observability operations”

  1. Amod says:

    I really like this post…. Well done.

  2. Amod says:

    I really like this post.

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