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How Observability Ends the Battle Between IT and Business Stakeholders

By Nick Heudecker Senior Director of Market Strategy, Cribl

With digital channels driving more company revenue, it's time for a truce for this ancient conflict

The pandemic-induced acceleration of corporate digital transformation is well documented. As the pandemic took hold, companies shifted business models and experimented with new approaches to customer engagement and service delivery. These digital experiences have been largely successful. According to a survey conducted by AppDynamics, 84% of people report digital services had a net positive effect on their lives during the pandemic.[1] These services, once an afterthought, are now critical to how we connect with family and friends, access healthcare, and even how we earn a living.

As more services become critical lifelines, expectations have shifted. Reliability and security are essential, and customers expect a personalized service. Customer tolerance for lackluster experiences is non-existent, with 96% of users stating performance issues will push them to an alternative service.[1] That represents lost revenue and damage to brands.

Rather than push IT and business stakeholders farther apart, the pandemic has linked the two. All facets of IT must comprehend what's impacting applications and share information with stakeholders in a way that's understandable and actionable for all parties. In the past, we'd turn to the array of monitoring applications deployed throughout the enterprise, but these legacy approaches aren't up to the challenge of distributed applications and ephemeral infrastructure. They're often too expensive to deploy widely and cumbersome to adapt to container-based applications. Observability promises a new, exploratory, approach to understanding applications that bridges the communications gap between these stakeholders.

Delivering on this promise requires a new approach to how IT communicates with business colleagues. The typical observability story of metrics, events, logs, and traces falls flat when talking to business leaders. They simply aren't interested in jargon-laden conversations. Business leaders need context they understand to take action. It falls on IT to translate the mountains of data into a story people can grasp and use.

Storytelling, at least as it relates to data, is often associated with eye-popping visualizations. Data visualizations are an important, but incomplete, part of storytelling. They lack the most important part of a story, and that's the narrative. The narrative explains not just what's important, but why. An effective story needs a narrative, data, and visualizations to have impact.

Doing this effectively and at scale is a tall order for IT professionals. Telling a complete story takes data, and lots of it. You need the full suite of metrics, events, logs, and traces from applications, containers, and any other infrastructure you've deployed. Then, data must be distributed to the range of analytics tools spread throughout the enterprise, commonly using an observability pipeline to manage observability data, normalize formats for destinations, and enrich data for downstream processing. This enrichment step allows IT to add additional context to the data sources, increasing their relevance for business stakeholders.

Destinations span a range of tools, including log analytics platforms, time series databases for metrics, security tooling like SIEM and XDR, as well as traditional tools like data warehouses and lakes. Each platform has different optimizations useful for varying types of analysis. The gap in today's tooling is around collaboration with different audiences. Previously, audiences were limited to a few key constituencies: IT and SecOps. Today, audiences have expanded to a range of stakeholders and include application developers, SREs, business leaders, and security teams. Observability tools must keep pace with the evolving consumers of data and offer ways to collaborate across teams and functions.

Conclusion

Companies shifted how they serve and engage with customers to digital channels, linking application performance and reliability with customer satisfaction. As applications drive more revenue and brand awareness, business stakeholders and IT must rethink how they collaborate and understand complex, distributed infrastructure environments. Observability, with its focus on discovering previously unknown application behavior, is an ideal concept to drive this new collaboration approach, but data and tooling must align to drive better outcomes. 

[1] Evidence

https://www.appdynamics.com/c/dam/r/appdynamics/Gated-Assets/analyst-reports/AppDynamics-App-Attention-Index-2021.pdf

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nick Heudecker Senior Director of Market Strategy, Cribl

Nick Heudecker 

Nick Heudecker is the Senior Director of Market Strategy at Cribl. Prior to joining Cribl, he spent over seven years as an industry analyst at Gartner, covering the data and analytics market.With over twenty years of experience, he has led engineering and product teams across multiple successful startups in the media and advertising industries.

Published Monday, October 18, 2021 7:31 AM by David Marshall
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