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Beyond firefighting: Three ways to embrace a more strategic approach to IT performance and innovation

By Contributor
Mon 7 Mar 2022

Article by Cisco AppDynamics executive CTO Joe Byrne.

Working in IT has been pretty tough over the past two years.

At the start of the pandemic, technologists stepped up to deliver the urgent digital transformation organisations needed to survive the initial shock. They worked round the clock, under the most intense pressure, to ensure their businesses could meet constantly fluctuating customer needs and enable employees to work remotely.

But, incredibly, fast forward to 2022, we’re still in the same situation. The pressure hasn’t eased up, and in some cases, it’s only getting worse.

Organisations continue to prioritise digital transformation to navigate the pandemic and prepare for an uncertain future. And more than ever, they’re reliant on their technologists to drive this innovation and deliver world-class digital experiences to customers and employees at all times.

But it’s not the speed of transformation itself that is piling pressure onto technologists; look a bit deeper, and you find that most IT professionals are actually excited about this opportunity to make a positive, lasting contribution to their organisations.

The real issue here is that most technologists simply don’t have the tools and insight they need to manage the soaring levels of complexity engulfing IT departments on the back of accelerated digital transformation. They don’t have visibility across the IT estate, and they can’t cut through incessant data noise to focus their efforts in the right areas.

The result is constant firefighting in the IT department, with technologists frantically trying to identify and fix IT issues, potentially causing frustration and burnout for the IT team.

The situation is exhausting, stressful and unsustainable for technologists, and ultimately, it presents a huge risk for organisations whose success now depends on their ability to deliver faultless digital services.

In the AppDynamics’ latest Agents of Transformation report (Agents of Transformation: The Rise of Full-Stack Observability), 91% of technologists stated that they need to be able to better prioritise their activity according to business outcomes rather than firefighting. With that in mind, here are three tips for technologists to leave the firefighting behind and adopt a more strategic, sustainable approach to IT innovation and performance.

Get full visibility of your IT estate

To escape the never-ending cycle of firefighting, you need to free up some time. Our research found that 68% of technologists waste a lot of time because they can’t easily isolate where IT performance issues are happening. 

This is why you need visibility of performance data across the entire IT estate, from traditional, legacy IT systems through to new, hybrid cloud environments. And, given the current shift towards cloud computing, it’s vital to ensure you have visibility into applications and underlying infrastructure for large, managed Kubernetes environments running on public clouds. 

With the right tools to monitor the full IT stack, from customer-facing applications down to core network and infrastructure, you can massively reduce the amount of time it takes to identify root causes of issues and understand dependencies, and you can fix these issues before they impact end-users. That will free up time for you to think about other strategic initiatives as well as drive innovation and increase the speed of delivery.

Put a business lens on your IT data

You now have accurate and comprehensive data on IT performance, but there’s going to be an awful lot of it! You need to find a way to cut through the data noise and quickly pinpoint the most critical data points.

This is why you need to connect full-stack observability with real-time business outcomes, such as customer experience, sales transactions and revenue. It will allow you to prioritise actions and investment based on what really matters to the business. 

Technologists across all sectors are realising this – our research found that 96% feel that the ability to monitor all technical areas of their IT stack and directly link technical performance to business outcomes is now important to achieving innovation goals.

When you link technology performance data with business metrics, it’s a genuine game-changer. Suddenly, you can take a more proactive approach to IT performance management, making informed decisions based on real-time business impact. Having a business lens also helps validate that the spend on technology is delivering the right business outcome. And that means you spend less time firefighting issues and worrying about costly mistakes and more time focusing on innovation. 

Get ready to let AI and automation take the strain

The amount of data organisations generate will increase exponentially over the next few years – it’s inevitable given the focus that business leaders are now placing on innovation and new digital services to drive competitive advantage.

IT teams will be asked to manage, optimise and automate an ever more complex and distributed IT estate, but it won’t be long before they simply don’t have the resources to do so effectively. What’s more, most current observability solutions will struggle to cope with the level of IT complexity and volumes of data we’ll see over the next few years.

The danger is that businesses manage to get a grip on the complexity and data deluge they face today, but very soon, they’ll be forced back into firefighting mode.

This is why you need to start thinking about the role that automation and AI could play in removing your organisation’s reliance on manual intervention to monitor and manage IT performance.

AI-enabled observability solutions have the potential to deliver real-time insights on IT performance and address anomalies before they become issues and impact customers and the business. And they can do this without any level of human involvement.

This means you’ll be able to deliver world-class technology performance at all times, without losing sleep at night!

Article by Cisco AppDynamics executive CTO Joe Byrne.

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