Unlocking sustainable innovation

James Harvey, CTO Advisor, Cisco AppDynamics, on five prerequisites to fostering innovation on a more sustainable basis

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The pace of digital transformation is constantly accelerating, as modern applications stacks give organisations the ability to innovate at ever greater speeds. IT teams are deploying no-code and low-code platforms to dramatically increase release velocity and respond to constantly evolving customer and employee needs.

Recent research from Cisco AppDynamics, The Age of Application Observability, highlights the extent to which cloud-native technologies are transforming how organisations approach digital transformation. Technologists in the UAE report that 49% of their innovation initiatives are now being delivered with cloud-native technologies, and they predict that this figure will steadily rise to 58% over the next five years. This indicates that most new digital transformation programmes will be built on cloud-native technologies by 2028.

As beneficial as modern application stacks are, there is no escaping the complexities they add to IT environments. Cloud-native technologies are bringing soaring levels of complexity into IT departments, with massive volumes of data being spawned by microservices and containers. So, while business users focus on slick functionality, IT teams must work tirelessly in the background to manage the application availability, performance, and security that underpins these end-user experiences.

Given how rapidly the space has evolved, most IT teams don’t yet have the right tools to cut through this data noise, nor do they have unified visibility across hybrid environments. This is a major problem as an increasing number of applications run across both cloud native and legacy, on-premises technologies. This obscures the IT department’s view of the entire application path, making it difficult for them to detect issues and understand root causes.

The inescapable truth for most technologists is that it’s becoming far harder to troubleshoot issues before they impact end-user experience and there is, therefore, growing concern about the potential consequences of this — productivity losses, customer dissatisfaction, and impact on the bottom line.

Unsurprisingly, approximately half of all surveyed technologists from the Emirates are fully confident that their organisation currently has the right skills, processes, and tools in place to manage application availability, performance, and security in a sustainable way. For all the advancements made in speeding up application development times, organisations are undermining their investments in digital transformation because their IT teams aren’t in a position to deliver seamless digital experiences to customers at all times.

CIOs and technology decision-makers must address this situation before it derails their innovation programmes, and our research highlights five key areas they need to prioritise to achieve a more sustainable approach to innovation.

  1. Optimise application performance with observability

Almost all (99%) technologists in the UAE point to a critical need for their organisation to move from a monitoring approach to an application observability solution in order to manage multi-cloud and hybrid environments.

IT departments need an application observability solution that has the flexibility to span across hybrid environments, ingesting and combining telemetry data from cloud-native technologies and data from agent-based entities within on-premises applications.

By arming themselves with application observability, IT teams can access real-time insights into application availability and performance across their hybrid environments. Crucially, they can correlate IT data with real-time business metrics. This empowers them to identify and prioritise the most pressing of issues.

  1. Necessary investments in the right skills

The growing utilisation of cloud-native technologies requires IT teams to learn new skills and embrace new ways of working. Consequently, we’ve seen the emergence of new teams, such as Site Reliability Engineers (SREs), DevOps, and CloudOps in recent years.

To serve these new functions, IT leaders need to recruit, develop and retain highly quality IT talent. And this applies across the board, whether it’s developers, operations, or security experts, across both cloud native and on-premises technologies.

  1. Create a collaborative culture

At a point when having a unified view of the organisation’s sprawling IT infrastructure is more important than ever, it is disheartening to see that as many as 78% of UAE technologists report an increase in silos between IT teams as a result of managing multi-cloud and hybrid environments.

The importance of breaking down any silos between people, processes, and data cannot be understated. It is imperative to reduce the likelihood of application performance and security issues and to retain their best talent. 89% of UAE technologists report that the persistence of silos is already resulting in IT talent leaving their organisation.

Here too, investing in application observability provides a foundation for greater collaboration between teams within the IT department, and allows all technologists to come together around a single source of truth. IT leaders need to implement new processes and structures and provide training so that technologists can leave behind entrenched mindsets and embrace new ways of working.

  1. Create a coherent, common vision

To foster a more collaborative approach, IT leaders should be looking to create and communicate a shared vision for IT and innovation within the organisation. This means inspiring and incentivising all technologists around shared KPIs and business objectives, rather than just individual and team goals.

With the constant need to expand their knowledge and skill sets being a defining characteristic of their profession, most technologists are eager to work in new ways and with new people. They know that they need to adapt their approach and embrace change to become more rounded IT professionals and accelerate their careers.

  1. Measure and showcase the value of innovation

To be impactful, innovation must be strongly tied to business outcomes. 84% of local technologists report that they’re coming under increasing pressure to validate the impact of their cloud investments. And with economic conditions likely to remain challenging for some time to come, there is a real possibility that IT leaders could see their innovation budgets cut unless they can prove the value that they’re delivering to customers and the business.

By implementing the right application observability solution, IT teams can generate business transaction insights in real-time, and then view them in business-level dashboards to understand and report on the value that their innovation programmes are delivering. It means they can make rapid but informed decisions on where to focus investments based on what will have the biggest benefit for customers, employees, and ultimately, the business. This in turn will enable them to validate their innovation investments and secure future budgets.

We are already starting to see that organisations are recognising the need for new tools and processes in order to embed a more sustainable approach to innovation. This is evidenced by the fact that 91% of UAE technologists claim that observability is now a strategic priority for their organisation.

With a robust application observability strategy in place, IT leaders will have the platform they need to innovate at pace; meeting demands for accelerated digital differentiation, while also ensuring that applications are always optimised.

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