Survey: Observability is Becoming IT’s Secret Weapon
As most people who have worked in the retail industry over the pandemic know, consumer demands for the best possible online experiences are at an all-time high. Consumers are not tolerating hiccups in performance. With potential loss of revenue and consumer trust on the line, potential outages and downtime aren't something retailers can afford.
For IT professionals in the retail industry, these increased expectations underscore a dynamic shift towards full-stack observability to manage growing complexity across an increasingly fragmented IT environment and to support new hybrid working patterns.
Because of the nature of the industry, retail IT professionals need better visibility across their entire IT estate as a way to meet customer demands. They must make critical decisions around the solutions they select for their organization, including a combination of legacy on-premise architecture alongside cloud-native environment as well as increased deployment of microservices and container solutions.
Cisco AppDynamics’ latest survey of professionals, The Journey to Observability, reveals that 60 percent of retailers have begun their transition to full-stack observability, and a further 37 percent plan to do so over the next year. That means a significant 97 percent of retail organizations will find themselves somewhere along the journey to true full-stack observability in 2022, more than in any other industry the report examined.
Full-stack observability provides IT with unified, real-time visibility into availability and performance up and down the IT stack for compute, storage, network and public internet, from the customer-facing application down to the back-end. Importantly, it allows operations, development and networking teams to quickly and easily identify anomalies, understand dependencies and fix issues before they impact end users, who are the customers who invest their time, money and trust into a retail organization.
When this data connects to business outcomes, retail IT teams can assess issues based on their potential impact to customers and the business, allowing them to better prioritize their actions. The following are just a few key findings from this report that retail IT practitioners can reference in their decision-making process.
2021 Investments Are Seeing 2022 Gains
The efforts retailers made during 2021’s digital transformation boom are already starting to see positive results. As many as 89 percent of retail IT practitioners report their organizations have increased visibility across their IT stack over the last year, once again more than in any other sector. This visibility into IT availability and performance is leading to some significant gains.
Among these benefits are enhanced productivity and reduced operational costs in the IT department, resulting in teams more quickly isolating and tackling performance issues within the IT stack. To boot, IT departments have been able to better prioritize IT innovation based on what will have the biggest impact on customers and the business rather than having to search for “a needle in a needlestack.”
Additionally, full-stack observability promotes better collaboration between teams, which are increasingly able to focus their activities on a single source of data instead of working in silos with their own disconnected monitoring tools.
But perhaps the most notable benefit of improved visibility across IT environments is that technologists can escape the constant firefighting that has plagued retail IT departments over the last two years. They're starting to find time to focus on more strategic work rather than dealing with the constant pressures of identifying and fixing issues that arise. This is, of course, a huge win for retailers that need to get their innovative and creative minds aligned on the critical digital transformation programs that don’t just maintain existing customer experience, but improve it to adapt to a dynamic and fiercely competitive market.
The research shows that retail business leaders understand this — the results achieved to date show they're keen for IT teams to accelerate their plans to deliver further business value. A whopping 98 percent of technologists report that business stakeholders are now supportive of their plans and making the necessary budget and resources available for them to press ahead in 2022, which is a victory for any IT department.
Several Steps Still Needed for Success
This is a lot of progress, however, retail IT teams need to understand there's still a lot of work to realize a full-stack observability vision. The transition isn't easy; it’s a complex, multistage journey which takes time and sustained effort, as expected in an emerging area of enterprise technology. However, many retail IT technologists are optimistic they’ll be able to implement and use this to improve their organizations and their own work.
One main source of optimism comes from IT teams that have identified exactly what they need to focus on to achieve success. Key skills are a top priority, with recognition of the need for specialized skills related to performance monitoring in the cloud, particularly with the ongoing shift to Open Telemetry — a specific observability framework for cloud-native software. With a finite talent pool and a “great resignation” currently underway, retailers must develop competitive strategies to attract and develop the skills they need to manage and optimize availability and performance in microservices, container and server-less environments.
IT practitioners also cite the need to partner with the right technology vendor as critical in 2022. Retailers will be looking for vendors that can deliver end-to-end support, including application monitoring, security, workload optimization and financial cloud cost optimization. But beyond technical solutions, the vendor that retail IT practitioners partner with must be able to help them navigate this journey given the shifts aren't just as easy as setting and forgetting software. Full-stack observability requires cultural and operational changes to unleash its full value for the business and individuals.
What Comes Next?
The last two years for retail IT departments were challenging, however, there's finally a sense of hope for many technologists. Retailers got a small taste of what full-stack observability can deliver and they’re now hungry for more.
Retail IT practitioners have every right to feel confident and optimistic about 2022. They’ve made fantastic progress over the last year and they’ve put themselves in a position where they’re now operating with valuable support from business leaders. They know where they need to focus in order to achieve their goals and they’re absolutely determined to make it happen.
For IT professionals in the retail industry, it’s good to be on the other side of the storm and now enjoy this unique opportunity to deliver game-changing impact for their organizations.
Joe Byrne is a regional CTO at AppDynamics, the application intelligence company and part of the Cisco family.
Joe Byrne is CTO Advisor at Cisco Observability. His primary focus is on working with customers and prospects on observability strategy and helping with digital transformations. He also works closely with Sales, Marketing, Product and Engineering on product strategy. Prior to AppDynamics, Joe held technology leadership roles at Albertsons, EllieMae and Johnson and Johnson.