The Case for Full-Stack Observability with Business Context

Online environments are becoming more complex, and full-stack observability can help. Four ways to convince business leaders it’s a good idea.

Gregg Ostrowski

March 15, 2022

6 Min Read
The Case for Full-Stack Observability with Business Context
(Image: Pixabay)

The reality of today’s digitally transformed and ever-online world is that website outages, security breaches, and application performance anomalies can hit an organization at any time. Even a slowdown of a digital service can be enough to negatively impact the business. The question on many IT leaders’ minds is how to best prepare and defend environments so when service disruption happens, it can be resolved before an end user ever notices something is amiss.

That’s where full-stack observability comes in. Nearly two years into a pandemic that drove many businesses, employees, and consumers to a world that’s more digital than ever before, IT practitioners now see the need for greater visibility across the entire IT stack. Full-stack observability provides technologists with unified, real-time visibility into IT availability and performance up and down the stack. However, with many options and opinions available, the central reason why business leaders should invest in full-stack observability can be overlooked.

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.

See also: Network Visibility: What It Means and How to Achieve It

So, how can IT teams, who understand the importance of implementing a comprehensive full-stack observability solution, make a compelling case to their business leaders?

#1 Demonstrate how full-stack observability can maximize the benefits of digital transformation

Digital transformation programs and innovation initiatives have been rolled out at phenomenal speeds over the last two years as organizations reacted to the unique pressures that the pandemic caused. This rapid innovation shows little sign of diminishing, but as the pandemic switches gears, IT leaders need to adapt their strategies to accommodate long-term sustained change.

However, many organizations aren’t equipped with the right tools or processes to fully align this digital transformation with the key performance indicators (KPIs) that are integral to the business’ ongoing overall goals.

With accelerated change came the attitude of “get it done now and think about it later.” All while struggling to balance the demand to keep services running while continuing to innovate. 

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.

#2 Illustrate how full-stack observability supports cloud ambitions

From retail and financial services to healthcare and government, virtually all sectors are experiencing a massive transition to cloud computing to deliver the speed, agility, and operational resilience organizations need to keep up with growing digital needs of customers and stakeholders. Cloud computing, whether it’s fully cloud-native or hybrid, is here presently and will continue to be crucial in the future. 

Some existing monitoring and observability solutions struggle to provide real-time visibility and insight into increasingly complex cloud environments, especially when considering microservices and Kubernetes monitoring. By using a full-stack approach to show that a strategy can encompass the entire IT stack across both traditional and cloud environments, IT practitioners can better deploy new applications and demonstrate the agility needed for a cloud-first future.

#3 Show the risks of doing nothing 

When making the case for full-stack observability, also review the cost of keeping the status quo. This should begin by looking at the impact which performance issues or longer mean time to resolution (MTTR) can have on the actual downtime of an application or digital service, and the way an issue can affect the user experience, brand reputation, and revenue.

Our own survey of more than 13,000 consumers found that more than two-thirds of users (61%) said they won’t tolerate poor performance as their expectations of digital services have drastically increased during the pandemic. So, the risk of losing customers is far more important. For your business, 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.

Also, consider the negative impact on productivity and engagement within the IT team, and the proportion of time highly skilled technologists are having to spend firefighting issues, instead of delivering on strategic innovation goals. In a competitive employment market, good people will leave if they don’t have the right tools and resources or feel like they are doing unrewarding work.

#4 Outline the business KPIs and how IT decisions can drive the business

Finally, the best way to show how full-stack observability can benefit an organization’s overall goals is to outline the KPIs that matter most to a business's bottom line.

For example, is the current run rate of daily sales normal, or is it dropping due to poor application performance? Did a decrease in lag time during a retail application's payment lead to more sales overall? Or did an IT team's ability to quickly identify a potential anomaly lead to a faster MTTR and result in better lead conversions for a sales team? Each KPI is going to look different depending on the organization, but the common trend is the same: viewing full-stack observability efforts through the lens of business context will benefit both the IT teams who must implement the technology and the business leaders who need to show tangible business improvements.

By linking business outcomes, such as customer experience, sales transactions, and revenue, to technology tools and strategies, leaders can make accurate decisions based on what matters most to the business.

These steps are just a start on the journey to better visibility across the entire IT stack, but they provide the backbones for the necessary conversations, KPIs and level-setting needed to break down organizational silos, improve collaboration, create, and deploy better applications, and ultimately give end users the best experience possible.

Gregg Ostrowski is Executive CTO at Cisco AppDynamics.

About the Author(s)

Gregg Ostrowski

Gregg Ostrowski is an Executive CTO at Cisco AppDynamics. He engages with customer senior leadership to help prioritize their strategy for digital transformation. Prior to AppDynamics, Gregg held senior leadership positions at Samsung and Research in Motion.

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