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VMblog Expert Interview: Troy McAlpin Talks xMatters Survey Findings, Digital Transformation and Digital Service Operations

interview xmatters mcalpin 

xMatters recently released survey findings and an infographic that reveal how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the role of digital service operations.  To find out more and to look at these findings within the context of an evolving incident management discipline, VMblog spoke with Troy McAlpin, CEO of xMatters.  xMatters is an incident response and management platform that keeps technology issues from affecting digital services availability.

VMblog:  The xMatters survey found that there is a rise in application performance errors reported by more than half of consumers.  What's your advice for digital service providers for how they can mitigate performance errors?

Troy McAlpin:  Businesses have certainly seen an increased demand for digital services during COVID-19 and some of them are scrambling to keep up. To meet consumers' needs and expectations, operational resiliency should be designed-in. Technology teams on the hook for ensuring customer experience, such as those driving continuous integration and deployment, application monitoring, and incident response, should be given full visibility into the entire customer lifecycle. 

VMblog:  What's your advice for companies who are looking to undertake digital transformation?  Are there specific tools or services that should be prioritized?

McAlpin:  Digital transformation is an ongoing process not a destination. When COVID-19 came along many organizations fast tracked digital transformation projects out of necessity.  Sacrificing resiliency and thereby customer experience, especially during this time, is not a viable long term solution. 

It is not as exciting to think about things that might go wrong, but they always do and if your business is built on digital you have to be able to respond and resolve quickly. An increased reliance on digital services during this pandemic is forcing businesses to find a way to quickly resolve incidents and ease the toil felt by DevOps and operations professionals tasked with service delivery and maintaining continuity of existing services.

These teams, which have seen a big impact on their work-life balance, need automated workflows that address incidents (e.g., interruption in service, downtime) regardless of the infrastructure, monitoring platform or support tools used. Tools and services should be able to evolve fluidly with an organization as it innovates and changes with market conditions. 

VMblog:  Nearly half (48%) of the consumers surveyed said privacy and security concerns would stop them from using a digital service.  How can technology providers like xMatters support the privacy and security of digital services?

McAlpin:  xMatters is a tightly integrated part of our customers' technology infrastructures and business operations. It's always been critical to us that they have total confidence in our security and privacy capabilities. Technology providers should demonstrate their commitment to privacy and security by attaining the certifications customers care about. For example, xMatters' technology is ISO 27001 certified and we submit to an annual audit to demonstrate compliance with the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), General Data Protection Regulation 2016/679 (GDPR) and Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA). We also have data hosted in different regions around the world, so we can keep a customer's data in its original region if that's important to them.

At the same time, business leaders have a role to play. As offices begin to reopen I believe we will see significant flexibility in the workplace, with a number of companies having employees working from home and in the office. This means leaders need to put measures in place to ensure all have a reliable and secure infrastructure, no matter where they work.

VMblog:  Many digital services reside in the public cloud.  Fifty two percent of consumers surveyed said they would stop using a digital service if it was too slow.  How should companies approach ensuring the performance and availability of digital services in the public cloud?

McAlpin:  Companies should choose a platform that is equally capable of ensuring the ongoing performance and availability in the cloud, on premises, or in a hybrid environment. Most organizations will have multiple applications, both delivered as-a-service and installed, which will generate their own dataflows and trigger their own alarms and alerts. The platform responsible for orchestrating and resolving those should be able to integrate with a wide variety of applications, relaying data between systems, including those behind firewalls, and engaging the right people when human intervention is necessary.

VMblog:  How do you talk to business leaders about the role incident management plays in a digital transformation?

McAlpin:  Today, business success is inextricably tied to the quality of the customer experience. This must be accomplished against a backdrop of more complex IT environments.

Everyone across a technology organization has a hand in accomplishing this. In xMatters' survey of over 300 business leaders, DevOps and ITOps teams, almost 92% of respondents reported that delivering a superior customer experience is a priority in their role, even while most organizations (54%) are introducing at least one new software release a week, some even introducing several per day.

It's logical that the faster you deploy, the more errors there will be. Fifty seven percent of survey respondents said they're experiencing degradations in their digital experiences, ranging from minor performance issues to major outages, on a weekly and daily basis. Additionally, more and more teams will be taking on the challenge of supporting microservices and a proliferation of different tools.

Addressing these challenges requires an open incident response management system that will work fluidly across multiple teams' styles and preferences.

VMblog:  In addition to the COVID-19 related changes in consumer and IT behaviors, what factors are driving changes in incident management and what do you expect incident management to look like one-two years and five years from now?

McAlpin:  COVID-19 emphasized the importance of digital services, which continue to accelerate the pace of digital transformations. At the same time, for many companies there is a gap between their ability to innovate and the ability to also maintain uninterrupted customer experiences. The modernization of incident management practices (including IT tools and services) will aid in closing this gap, with increased automation, more extensive integration, data/event-level visibility and advances in ease-of-use playing critical parts.

A modern approach will include solutions to collect data to better understand incident patterns and identify correlations so teams can proactively address incidents.  Automation capabilities in these platforms will play an increasingly important role, taking care of mundane tasks like code deployment, rollback and incident response, allowing IT professionals to focus on digital service innovation and customer experience.

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Published Wednesday, June 17, 2020 7:33 AM by David Marshall
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