Soundbites: Lessons on Navigating Digital Transformation from Top IT Leaders

Technology has become intrinsic to our daily lives. From the way we travel, shop, commute, and consume entertainment, there’s no disputing that we live in a digital world. And no one knows this better than the businesses that are delivering the services we’ve become so dependent on.

These consumer-facing organizations are under immense pressure to keep up with evolving technology trends and deliver digital experiences that consumers not only expect, but demand. As a result, businesses are now investing in agile models that rely on multi-cloud and IOT environments, distributed services and microservices, APIs, and relentless code releases that introduce constant improvement and constant change.

And it’s this constant improvement and constant change that characterize digital transformation. Every company is undergoing a digital transformation because if they don’t, they run the risk of falling behind their competitors and putting customer loyalty in jeopardy.

Unfortunately, not all organizations feel equipped to tackle digital transformation. In fact, only 27% of technologists are confident about their personal readiness for digital transformation, according to research from AppDynamics. Despite this, they recognize it’s a challenge they must overcome, with 71% of technologists reporting that they see an urgency for true innovation within their organization.

So, what can today’s technologist do to help their companies innovate and progress on their digital transformation journey?

We asked some of our Agents of Transformation to share their words of wisdom on how they’ve navigated digital transformation throughout their careers. Here’s what they had to say:

Arnaud van Rietschoten, the Emirates Group, Vice President IT Service Management and Digital Workplace

“Never accept the status quo. People tend to think of digital transformation as this huge, monumental task but transformation and innovation can – and should – happen at a much smaller scale.

In the early days, I was in a very labour intensive and boring role. I knew there was a more efficient way to get the job done, so I decided to write a program to automate the process. It was my own initiative – no-one asked me to do it. I believe if you go above and beyond your day job, and push yourself to be a driver of change, that your efforts will be rewarded throughout your career.”

Heather Fry, Paychex, Director of Product Development

People should always come first. I didn’t necessarily fully understand that early in my career, but I recognize today how easy it is to become so focused on technology, business goals, and project deliverables that you create a sort of “hardened shell” around you and a culture that doesn’t cultivate an open, team-focused, growth mindset. As a leader, I have learned that mentoring others and building an open environment where it is ok to make mistakes, learn and grow, drives engagement. Positive change ultimately happens as a result of partnerships that are approachable, collaborative, and supportive of a shared set of values.

Jelle Van Wijk, T-Mobile, Product Owner for Performance Monitoring

It is easy for me to see the value of a big idea, but it’s not just about me, it’s about communicating with and convincing others of the potential of that big idea. I have learnt how important it is to be able to explain in a tangible and meaningful way how new ways of working, or new technology investments, will help the business. I’ve also learnt the importance of listening to their feedback and trying to understand their concerns. This has enabled us to find common ground from which we can move forward. As individuals we can all be successful, but when we work together we can deliver something spectacular.

Want to meet the Agents of Transformation? Read their full interviews here.

 

Successfully Deploying AIOps, Part 1: Deconstructing MTTR

Somewhere between waking up today and reading this blog post, AI/ML has done something for you. Maybe Netflix suggested a show, or DuckDuckGo recommended a website. Perhaps it was your photos application asking you to confirm the tag of a specific friend in your latest photo. In short, AI/ML is already embedded into our lives.

The quantity of metrics in development, operations and infrastructure makes development and operations a perfect partner for machine learning. With this general acceptance of AI/ML, it is surprising that organizations are lagging in implementing machine learning in operations automation, according to Gartner.

The level of responsibility you will assign to AIOps and automation comes from two factors:

  • The level of business risk in the automated action
  • The observed success of AI/ML matching real world experiences

The good news is this is not new territory; there is a tried-and-true path for automating operations that can easily be adjusted for AIOps.

It Feels Like Operations is the Last to Know

The primary goal of the operations team is to keep business applications functional for enterprise customers or users. They design, “rack and stack,” monitor performance, and support infrastructure, operating systems, cloud providers and more. But their ability to focus on this prime directive is undermined by application anomalies that consume time and resources, reducing team bandwidth for preemptive work.

An anomaly deviates from what is expected or normal. A crashing application is clearly an anomaly, yet so too is one that was updated and now responds poorly or inconsistently. Detecting an anomaly requires a definition of “normal,” accompanied with monitoring of live streaming metrics to spot when the environment exhibits abnormal behaviour.

The majority of enterprises are alerted to an anomaly by users or non-IT teams before IT detects the problem, according to a recent AppDynamics survey of 6,000 global IT leaders. This disappointing outcome can be traced to three trends:

  • Exponential growth of uncorrelated log and metric data triggered by DevOps and Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery (CI/CD) in the process of automating the build and deployment of applications.
  • Exploding application architecture complexity with service architectures, multi-cloud, serverless, isolation of system logic and system state—all adding dynamic qualities defying static or human visualization.
  • Siloed IT operations and operational data within infrastructure teams.

Complexity and data growth overload development, operations and SRE professionals with data rather than insight, while siloed data prevents each team from seeing the full application anomaly picture.

Enterprises adopted agile development methods in the early 2000s to wash away the time and expense of waterfall approaches. This focus on speed came with technical debt and lower reliability. In the mid-2000s manual builds and testing were identified as the impediment leading to DevOps, and later to CI/CD.

DevOps allowed development to survive agile and extreme approaches by transforming development—and particularly by automating testing and deployment—while leaving production operations basically unchanged. The operator’s role in maintaining highly available and consistent applications still consisted of waiting for someone or something to tell them a problem existed, after which they would manually push through a solution. Standard operating procedures (SOPs) were introduced to prevent the operator from accidentally making a situation worse for recurring repairs. There were pockets of successful automation (e.g., tuning the network) but mostly the entire response was still reactive. AIOps is now stepping up to allow operations to survive in this complex environment, as DevOps did for the agile transformation.

Reacting to Anomalies

DevOps automation removed a portion of production issues. But in the real world there’s always the unpredictable SQL query, API call, or even the forklift driving through the network cable. The good news is that the lean manufacturing approach that inspired DevOps can be applied to incident management.

To understand how to deploy AIOps, we need to break down the “assembly line” used to address an anomaly. The time spent reacting to an anomaly can be broken into two key areas: problem time and solution time.

Problem time: The period when the anomaly has not yet being addressed.

Anomaly management begins with time spent detecting a problem. The AppDynamics survey found that 58% of enterprises still find out about performance issues or full outages from their users. Calls arrive and service tickets get created, triggering professionals to examine whether there really is a problem or just user error. Once an anomaly is accepted as real, the next step generally is to create a war room (physical or Slack channel), enabling all the stakeholders to begin root cause analysis (RCA). This analysis requires visibility into the current and historical system to answer questions like:

  • How do we recreate the timeline?
  • When did things last work normally or when did the anomaly began?
  • How are the application and underlying systems currently structured?
  • What has changed since then?
  • Are all the errors in the logs the result of one or multiple problems?
  • What can we correlate?
  • Who is impacted?
  • Which change is most likely to have caused this event?

Answering these questions leads to the root cause. During this investigative work, the anomaly is still active and users are still impacted. While the war room is working tirelessly, no action to actually rectify the anomaly has begun.

Solution time: The time spent resolving the issues and verifying return-to-normal state.

With the root cause and impact identified, incident management finally crosses over to spending time on the actual solution. The questions in this phase are:

  • What will fix the issue?
  • Where are these changes to be made?
  • Who will make them?
  • How will we record them?
  • What side effects could there be?
  • When will we do this?
  • How will we know it is fixed?
  • Was it fixed?

Solution time is where we solve the incident rather than merely understanding it. Mean time to resolution (MTTR) is the key metric we use to measure the operational response to application anomalies. After deploying the fix and verifying return-to-normal state, we get to go home and sleep.

Deconstructing MTTR

MTTR originated in the hardware world as “mean time to repair”— the full time from error detection to hardware replacement and reinstatement into full service (e.g., swapping out a hard drive and rebuilding the data stored on it). In the software world, MTTR is the time from software running abnormally (an anomaly) to the time when the software has been verified as functioning normally.

Measuring the value of AIOps requires breaking MTTR into subset components. Different phases in deploying AIOps will improve different portions of MTTR. Tracking these subdivisions before and after deployment allows the value of AIOps to be justified throughout.

With this understanding and measurement of existing processes, the strategic adoption of AIOps can begin, which we discuss in part two of this series.

Why Your Business Needs a ‘Wrapper’ to Transform Itself

How do you treat your most precious items? Chances are you wrap them up nicely to protect  them for longevity. Since your applications are the most precious items to your business, consider wrapping them with a solution that protects them for the long haul.

Modern applications are changing the way we conduct our day-to-day lives. Disruptive companies like Uber and Lyft are capitalizing on the consumer need for better, faster access to in-demand products and services. Could they have done this with a poor performing application? Most likely, no. This transformation is causing a ripple effect, as companies change their internal processes to develop projects faster. But despite the critical need to fully understand the complete software lifecycle—from planning and design to rollout and business impact—companies are using lackluster monitoring tools that provide only a siloed glimpse of their total environment, not a comprehensive view.

Business leaders increasingly are keen to see how their software impacts the bottom line. But problems arise when independent factions actively involved in the software development lifecycle are unable to see how their actions impact other teams. This shows the critical need for a cultural shift inside corporations, one that tightly aligns multiple teams throughout the entire development lifecycle. By changing the culture to enable cohesive team interaction and full lifecycle visibility, companies will find it far easier to verify if development changes are positively impacting the business. Conversely, when changes are not beneficial, firms will be able to quickly course-correct to reduce or eliminate negative trends.

Your Team Affects My Team

In recent years, companies have made tremendous strides in improving processes to enable faster software development, releases and MTTR. And yet many groups within these organizations remain unaware of how their actions, changes and implementations affect other teams. Say, for example, an automobile insurance provider releases a new application, a crucial component of its digital transformation. This application proves wildly successful, and many groups within the company develop an interest in its performance. For example:

  • The development team leverages the newest container technology to ensure proper scalability.
  • The infrastructure and network teams enable additional capacity and cloud capabilities.
  • The security team keeps a close eye on fraud and hacking.
  • Multiple teams ensure the best user experience.
  • Lastly, the business, keen on revenue performance, sees the application as a big revenue driver that will lower the cost of customer acquisition.

Ideally this leads to closer scrutiny of each group’s performance, which ultimately leads to greater customer satisfaction. This poses a problem, though, when each group operates within its own silo. For instance, when the network team fixes a problem or makes an upgrade or enhancement, it may not be aware which groups along the application flow are being impacted. Conversely, other groups may see an impact to their application without knowing the reason for the change.

Granted, most of us have change management procedures in place. But full visibility enables you to quickly triage and understand how all teams in the organization are being impacted, both positively and negatively. This visibility has become a fundamental requirement of today’s digital transformational efforts, and is essential for every team following the path of the application. Even modifications to marketing campaigns can cause a flurry of team activity if the company doesn’t quickly see the gains it’s after.  We’ve all sat in conference rooms to draw out a lifecycle that resembles the diagram below, where each group is part of the overall flow: A never-ending cycle of dependencies.

As part of this ongoing process, each group enacts changes to enhance its efficiency. The DevOps movement, for example, is a culture shift designed to help companies deploy applications faster and respond more adeptly to customer expectations. But ultimately, connecting every team within an organization requires a “wrapper” of sorts around the entire workflow process—one tying all domains together, including the lines of business.

This is easier said than done in some organizations, however, particularly those that have operated under a tried-and-true process and culture for many years. But with today’s business environments evolving at breakneck speed, companies must adapt much faster to survive. This brings us back to the concept of a wrapper—a comprehensive tool covering multiple domains to help provide full visibility of the application and the user journey throughout your business environment. By delivering these real-time insights, the wrapper ensures your business is moving in the right direction, enabling you to justify budgetary needs for future investment.

This is where AppDynamics comes in. Think about the demand placed on IT and business leaders, and the need to transform the enterprise. The critical element here is the need for the right tools. One of the first steps to consider: how can you gain a full view of your development, testing, implementation, production and business systems? The best solution must provide multiple benefits to ensure success, enabling you to detect both technology and business-related problems. It should help you understand how your end users are impacted by your technology, and even deliver insights to help you determine where to prioritize future  enhancements.

By leveraging AppDynamics, you’ll gain a full view of your critical applications across all stacks, as well as deep insights into how well your business is performing. A successful AIOps strategy with automated root cause analysis will provide the core framework for understanding all the working intricacies in your environment—a major first step toward maintaining a competitive edge.

How AppDynamics Assures Guidewire Software

Guidewire Software delivers the industry platform that property and casualty (P&C) insurers rely upon to adapt and succeed in a time of accelerating change. The company provides the software, services and partner ecosystem to enable its customers to run, differentiate and grow their business. Recognized as a market leader by Gartner, this rapidly growing software company serves about half of tier-one insurance companies, trades publicly on the NYSE, and has more than 350 customers across the globe. Consisting of several products for managing the lifecycle of insurance, Guidewire offers a strategic platform for insurers’ digital transformations, helping its clients meet their customer demands and discover new revenue channels.

Guidewire’s partnership with AppDynamics was created in a most unusual way. In 2013, a Guidewire customer approached AppDynamics and asked us to measure the availability and performance of a new system. Since this solution interacted with many non-Guidewire systems, visibility was critical—from browser to backend—for rapidly identifying, isolating and remediating issues.

Enter AppDynamics

AppDynamics’ sales engineering team was brought in and quickly determined a way to instrument Guidewire software using our Java agent. But this was no easy feat. Guidewire had created a language called GOSU that runs inside the JVM. This custom language introduced challenges by reducing visibility in some areas. Nonetheless, AppDynamics’ APM solution was able to provide great operational benefits, particularly in end-to-end monitoring.

After a couple of successful implementations, the number of Guidewire customers using AppDynamics increased dramatically around the world. To help these customers, we needed greater visibility inside GOSU to understand the JVM better. Two years ago, we approached Guidewire and began working with its technical, product and development teams. The results have been excellent. We’ve made many improvements to our Guidewire integration since then—hard work that has driven adoption of AppDynamics across Guidewire’s install base. Today AppD and Guidewire have more than 30 mutual customers, and that number continues to grow.

A Growing Partnership

The relationship between Guidewire and AppDynamics has grown even closer in the past six months. One Guidewire customer, for example, deploys AppDynamics across its enterprise. This company, a traditional shop with infrastructure and applications on-premise in its data centers, recently embarked on a CIO-driven initiative to digitally transform and adopt public cloud technologies. The company began working with its trusted providers, including Guidewire, to explore a move to SaaS. It wanted assurance that AppDynamics could provide visibility into all production systems within its environment, including Guidewire. Our previous work with Guidewire made this possible.

At the same time, Guidewire itself began researching APM tools for in-house use. The fact that AppDynamics had done extensive work with Guidewire software made us an ideal choice. This long-term relationship, combined with our industry-leading solution, helped us become a provider of APM for Guidewire, both in preproduction (development, performance testing and QA) and production.

We’re looking forward to continuing our work with Guidewire Software and ensuring that users of Guidewire’s cloud offerings have the best experience possible. AppDynamics would like to thank Guidewire for its partnership, and we look forward to growing together in the future.

Migrating to AWS Without Losing (Too Much) Sleep

As my fellow CIOs are well aware, the rapid changes to our digital economy can seem daunting.

Despite the challenges of our digital world, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, the world’s largest hotel franchisor, executed a significant digital transformation requiring change from our North American hotel owners that ultimately enabled them to provide better service to their guests. We succeeded without losing loyalty from our owners or guests, and with the right partnerships, support and strategy in place – you can too.

New research shows that only 22 percent of technologists are optimistic that their organization is ready for the rapid pace of technological advancement and 67 percent of IT professionals worry that technology innovation is outpacing society’s ability to harness it and adapt to change.

In light of these statistics, it’s easy to feel like these obstacles could create real problems for your customers and your business.

But it doesn’t have to.

For those of you in travel and hospitality, you understand the criticality of seamless digital experiences, especially on mobile. Consumers can book their flight, order room service and schedule guided tours – and owners can change rates, respond to guest requests, and see what competitors are doing – all from the touch of their phone.

At Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, we are on a mission to democratize travel for guests and the people who serve them with a portfolio of iconic hotel brands strategically designed to offer a wide range of compelling experiences and price points for guests.

We know our hotel owners are the platform for our growth, and together we serve the everyday traveler; as the stewards of our brands, owners are vital to delivering the experiences our guests want. That’s why we believe in providing our owners with the best technology resources. We knew we needed to evolve our digital platforms to meet our owners’ changing needs, enabling them to give the best travel experiences possible to their guests.

Supporting that business mission, here are three keys to a successful digital transformation.

Evaluate your company’s strategic direction

The first step in our digital transformation was to re-evaluate our existing capabilities and direction. After reviewing all of our options and conducting plenty of due diligence around scale, security and performance we decided to migrate many applications in our existing datacenter to AWS so we could innovate faster.

While we knew leveraging the speed and flexibility of AWS was the best way for our owners to receive the reliability and accessibility they need to manage digital information about their properties (from photos, to descriptions, to rates), we knew we had to mitigate any negative impacts a migration of this size and complexity could have.

We needed the right partner to protect our brand and accelerate the process.

Choose the right partner

Wyndham prides itself in partnering with like-minded companies that are customer-centric, nimble and experts in their fields.

We found AppDynamics and discovered our teams were drawn to an AWS-based approach at the same time, and we saw the potential of cross-enterprise monitoring. By partnering with AppDynamics, we were able to migrate 8,400 hotels across 18 brands with confidence by rapidly and securely adopting AWS’ cloud-native architectures, maintaining ongoing performance throughout the migration, ensuring equal or better customer experience in our new hybrid environments and driving business objectives while maximizing value.

The powerful level of visibility and real-time diagnosis provided by AppDynamics helped us deliver high quality service to our owners before, during and after the move to AWS.

Put the customer experience first

Not only was AppDynamics critical to the success of our cloud migration, to support our larger digital footprint, they enabled us to segment customer experience by category, track user sessions to understand how much time users spend at each step, filter and analyze by geography, device type and receive proactive alerts and analysis before the customer was ever impacted.

These additional insights gave us a holistic view of our applications and how our users interact with our apps, down to the design and feature level. This enabled us to focus on other critical improvements, accelerating user acceptance testing (UAT) during the migration process while maintaining application performance throughout.

Since our migration to AWS with the support of AppDynamics, we’ve seen an increase of 75 percent in mobile bookings. Together, AppDynamics and AWS are hugely strategic to our company’s continued innovation.

The digital economy today presents the opportunity to become an agent of transformation for your business.

With the right partners, culture and leadership in place, you too can drive the innovation necessary to keep up with the rapid pace of technological change, while maintaining and growing customer loyalty and your business at the same time…allowing everyone to migrate peacefully and without losing (too much) sleep.

IT Leaders Reveal 6 Key Trends Driving Digital Transformation in the Enterprise

The future of information technology is happening right now. And, as the IT industry continues to change at a rapid pace, the decisions that enterprise companies make today will have the potential to establish them as leaders in the space tomorrow.

As part of the recent AppDynamics U.S. Global Tour, we had the opportunity to connect with customers and IT leaders in both Boston and Chicago to hear more about what they’re doing to drive digital transformation, optimize DevOps, and make the most of cloud investments in response to the changing technology landscape.

1. The need for faster — and more — innovation.

EBSCO Information Service is the leading discovery service provider for universities, libraries, and other research institutions, serving millions of end users in over 100 countries. EBSCO solutions enable researchers and clinicians to quickly find the content they need to find answers and accelerate time to discovery.

Like many other organizations, EBSCO has adopted a DevOps model to help the company innovate faster and better serve its users. But this approach is only successful if there’s a high level of accountability within an organization. And, according to Dipankar Biswas, Agile Development Director of Enterprise Engineering and Operations for EBSCO, that accountability comes in the form of team ownership.

“We have service level dashboards where every department team is responsible for a given set of software components and are accountable for the health of their own releases and services. We don’t have dedicated standalone QA teams. So it’s all DevOps. It’s all development teams releasing and being accountable for their code. They won’t be successful if we don’t enable them with the observability and measurability they need,” Biswas explains.

Innovation happens as a result of empowering teams to own their work, and leveraging tools like AppDynamics to provide accountability and measurement of key KPI.

“AppDynamics was successful in helping us drive cultural change around these initiatives. The platform made it possible to make our goal a reality,” he says.

With AppDynamics, EBSCO development teams can quickly pinpoint issues early on in the development process.

“The development teams are now able detect things earlier, which lowers costs and speeds up development cycles. And those are huge wins for us,” says Biswas.

2. The desire for cross-functional visibility.

In the world of tax and government reporting, there’s a lot at stake when systems go down and deadlines are missed. That’s why Sovos is on a mission to protect leading global brands from the burden and risks associated with compliance. But the team could only do that by first ensuring total visibility into performance of its own software platform.

That’s why Amit Venugopal, Vice President, IT Cloud Operations, at Sovos turned to AppDynamics.

“Performance is obviously crucial to delivering world-class customer experiences with our software,” explains Venugopal.

“So when we had a customer who experienced performance issues for six months, we decided to evaluate AppDynamics with their situation in mind. We ended up putting them on AppDynamics to evaluate the platform. Lo and behold, we were able to identify the specific long running transactions, and more accurately locate the exact functional code logic associated with the transactions. We had been trying to resolve an issue for months and were able to identify the cause, and have a fix in production by the end of the week,” he explains.

Service teams use AppDynamics to provide cross-functional visibility, rally around customer issues, and quickly reach resolutions.

“We have several service teams, so for us, the desire for visibility really drove our adoption. And AppDynamics was pivotal in identifying hotspots and activating the right teams, at the right time,” he explains.

3. The ubiquity of cloud migration.

Agero provides roadside assistance solutions for leading auto manufacturers and car insurance providers. They’re driving the next generation of vehicle and mobile technology forward, and that means embracing digital transformation that includes a full IT migration to the cloud.

“Moving to AWS, we did a big lift and shift migration last year and we started using AppDynamics just before the lift and shift move. It was incredibly important to us to have a tool like AppDynamics to ensure the move was going smoothly,” explains Karen Hutchison, Director Information Risk and Security Management.

Hutchison and Agero aren’t alone in this regard — migration to the cloud is still an area of growth, with many enterprises still in the process of determining the right strategy for approaching it. That’s where tools like AppDynamics play a significant role in helping to ensure a seamless process.

“Agero couldn’t have made the migration without a tool like AppDynamics,” explains Hutchison.

4. The ability to reduce mean time to resolution (MTTR).

During an outage of any type, every minute counts. That’s why reducing the time it takes to resolve a service-impacting issue — or lowering the “mean time to resolution” (MTTR) — is an important goal for many enterprise companies.

That certainly was the case for JLL, a leading global professional services firm that specializes in real estate and investment management and runs a complex IT environment.

“We’re running close to 300 Tier 1 applications all tied to different business verticals to different applications teams, processes, and owners. AppDynamics helped us wrangle in that dispersion,” explains Mike Phillips, Manager Cloud Tools and Automation, IT Operations, JLL.

“Most developers will need to write some fairly complicated code that interacts with many points in several systems, but can now determine what ‘this line of code’ is actually calling and doing from an operation standpoint. It’s a lot easier for us to engage the right folks and teams to drive down MTTR in the process,” he says.

Geoffrey Mecoy, Vice President, IT Operations at JLL, says he’s not only able to run a more efficient and productive team, but he’s able to demonstrate measurable wins to executive management with AppDynamics.

“Measuring the hours, measuring time that we’re saving — when you roll that up to the CIO, [AppDynamics] becomes an easy pitch. We can save thousands of hours of developer time per year,” Mecoy explains.

5. Identifying problems before they become system-wide issues.

American Hotel Register is a leading global supplier of hospitality products. Matt Pacholek, Manager of eCommerce IT, and team are charged with ensuring that customers can purchase supplies to run their businesses seamlessly.

“We run a very lean IT organization, so we needed something we didn’t have to monitor all the time. So with AppDynamics, we’re able to set up alerts based on thresholds that tell us something’s going wrong before it actually becomes an issue for our customers,” explains Pacholek.

Pachelok shares, “Being able to see those trends and how they’re trending over time helps us be proactive about resolving potential issues.”

6. The need for a common language across groups.

Discover is one of the most well-known brands in U.S. financial services. Kurt Schneider, Senior Manager of ESM Tools at Discover, shared insights around how AppDynamics has helped his organization drive business value and team unity around solving issues.

Schneider explains, “A few members of our team are on many critical rapid response calls (RRT). AppDynamics gets people aligned by sharing the screen with all people in RRT, so we all speak the same language and see the same data. AppDynamics became a great visibility tool between peers, between teams, and between different organizations,” he says.

Making Digital Transformation Possible With A Powerful APM Platform

Digital transformation isn’t possible unless your entire organization can get behind the change. Often that means identifying the trends that are influencing adoption across your company, and highlighting how a potential solution meets the needs and can drive value for each and every stakeholder. When evaluated from this perspective, it’s possible for enterprise companies to deliver a powerful customer experience and drive value with the right APM solution.

Turning Digital Transformation into Digital Dexterity

The goal of digital dexterity is to build a flexible, agile workplace and workforce invested in the success of the organization. This dexterity allows the enterprise to treat employees like consumers—researching their challenges, goals and desired technologies—and then allowing the employees to exploit existing and emerging technologies for better business outcomes. This post advises line-of-business and product owners, already acting as agents of transformation inside their enterprises, on extending the metamorphosis into dexterity.

The Road vs. The Mountaintop

The journey begins with digital transformation, a road leading to multiple destinations. It is not a singular goal, but rather a way of life. Even digital-first enterprises continue to transform as they experiment with different business models or expand into new markets.

Enterprises executing digital transformations share three common goals:

  • Making analog tasks digital
  • Seeking new ways to solve old problems
  • Making the business better

While all three goals are important, the technical challenges of digital transformation often end up overshadowing the goal of improving the business. Transformation must leave the business not just different, but better. The transformed enterprise needs to be more agile in both application development and business. Digital transformation needs to result in a new company with digital ’savvy’, an understanding of the power of the data being collected, and the flexible and informed mindset required for digital dexterity.

Dexterity vs. Transformation

The real goal of digital transformation is to shorten the time required to transform business processes. How quickly can you spot a new or altered opportunity? Is the business digitally savvy enough to comprehend the possibilities of new technologies like blockchain, internet of things, and edge computing? Is your business now digitally dextrous?

Digitization without exploiting resultant data is a negative technical investment.

The next step in this journey—data extraction and data-driven decision making—mines the real value of going digital. The significant power of digital over analog is the ease of accumulating and assessing data, including data on each customer click, each cloud system executed upon, each line of code, and even each stage in a business process.

Often the first projects in digital transformation take long, lapsed periods of time. IT will need to rebuild itself first, and take many steps to respond faster to evolving needs. IT will also need to upgrade traditional waterfall models into agile development lifecycles with continuous integration and continuous delivery. Departments can restructure to create DevOps teams to reduce time from coding to deployment.

In the middle of long transformation projects, it is worth stepping back and asking anew: Why are we doing this? Digital transformation has been around so long, it may feel like it’s past the use-by date. Though some enterprises birth as digital-first, many are still struggling with basic analog-digital transformation. In the rush to deal with technology of multi-channel digitization, the goal often is missed.

(For more on digital transformation in specific industry verticals, read our AppDynamics blog posts on insurance, retail banking and construction.)

Digital Dexterity

Once your digital processes are generating data, the next step is to ensure you can exploit the wisdom of that data.

Achieving digital dexterity requires a new culture on both the business and technical sides. The technology team not only needs the technical skills to transform, but also the diplomatic skills to boost the organization’s digital dexterity. Amongst the “best coders on the planet” that you hire, you will want to seed the best communicators and evangelists as well. The business team will initially need your support in understanding what can be exploited with technology; the technical team will need to communicate using business terms. Similarly, these teams need to be presented with clear correlations from their application deliverables to business outcomes. Developing a multichannel awareness may be a new thing for your salesforce.

The real measure of dexterity is the enterprise’s ability to empower technical staff to make business decisions, and business staff to drive technical choices.

Challenges You Will Meet

Culture

Gartner’s 2018 CIO Survey reveals that CIOs believe corporate culture is one of the biggest barriers to digital transformation, followed by resources and talent. Those three elements make up 82% of digital business impediments, the survey says.

Consider expanding DevOps into BizDevOps. For this, you will need a nervous system connected to all parts of your enterprise to define common goals for both the business and technical teams, both of which need a common, shared view of data to allow differently trained participants to discuss and identify solutions.

Build a common vision and strategy across your business and technology leaders. Collaborative learning across team and knowledge structures is an effective way to help employees become dextrous.

Embracing diversity is a key action that adds a variety of viewpoints for spotting new opportunities. Make sure your strategy considers the employee experience (also a good time to preclude bias for gender, disabilities, etc.). Consider if the approach makes the employee more business-literate and more empowered to exploit new business processes.

Application owners need to continuously search out ways to improve employee effectiveness. The applications we develop should always listen to, interpret, and learn from their users. In the same way smart speakers were extremely stupid initially but self-improved over time, the enterprise application should consider user activity and create more efficient workflows for the user.

Technical Delay

As part of digital transformation, enterprises build out business intelligence frameworks, creating data lakes and gaining a rearview-mirror view of their business. Executives may even bring on data scientists to create models to predict the coming quarter. Each of these actions has value but excludes one key timeframe: today. Right now.

Why Aim for Dexterity?

Every company today is experiencing disruption. In fact, more companies experience disruption than act as disruptors. Right now, there’s a startup somewhere that will eventually flip to a business model that challenges yours. It might be a small change, or a permanent change in the marketplace. Your job is to prepare your enterprise by making sure your employees are empowered with self-serve, consumer-like technologies, and that they’re aware of the possibilities of change.

A dextrous enterprise can easily respond to market movements and disruptions. New businesses can be created with less struggle once it’s easier to connect departments and businesses. Employees with common awareness of the business—and the technology supporting the business—can readily identify, define and exploit new revenue opportunities. The holy grail alignment of IT and business will come through having all parties look at the same data to enable data-driven decisions.

Remember, the dextrous enterprise provides a consumer-like experience for its employees.

Transformation must leave the business not just improved, but better at surviving disruptions. The transformed enterprise is more agile in both development and business. It is able to rapidly integrate and partner with external businesses when the opportunity or need arises, and connect disparate business processes into a new buyer’s journey when a disruptor changes the marketplace. Digital transformation needs to deliver a new company that understands the power of collected data and the flexibility to harness the latest technology.

Digital dexterity is people using digital technologies to think, act and organize themselves in new and productive ways.

For more uses cases supporting digital dexterity, read how our customers are using Business iQ for AppDynamics.

Why DevOps Often Fails in FinServ

Financial services organisations are often late adopters of new technologies and methodologies. There are a number of reasons for this, some related to the way regulators and auditors operate in the industry, others to the difficulties of replacing old systems and practices, which often scale to such levels that it’s not always feasible to replace them without significant disruption.

Furthermore, banks and other FinServ companies are often some of the oldest and largest businesses around, making technological innovation much more challenging than it might be for smaller and newer companies.

Despite these hurdles, large FinServ firms have been investing heavily in digital transformation programmes over the last few years, as modernising the technology stack becomes a competitive necessity. These programmes are aimed at aligning the bank’s technology with recent industry standards, as well as looking for new ways to improve the use of said technology. They often involve the adoption of cloud services, improved automation, better scalability, usage of IaaS/PaaS, and adoption of DevOps methodologies.

A transformative journey is challenging in so many ways. This blog will take a closer look at the DevOps adoption hurdles facing FinServ organisations in their digital transformation.

DevOps Challenges

Why is it so difficult to introduce DevOps in large FinServ companies? I have already highlighted some of the reasons why digitalising large financial services can be challenging, but what specific difficulties do organisations face?

Processes and Structure

By the nature of their business, financial services are heavily process-driven, relying on bureaucracy and structure established over a long period of time. They are also heavily regulated and audited and as such, must carefully consider potential changes such as new methodologies.

One area that might limit the success of DevOps methodologies is the segregation between development and production services. This segregation is driven by role-based access control, which in many cases doesn’t allow software developers to access production environments. As a result, DevOps teams—comprised mostly of developers—can’t access the very software they’re expected to operate in production.

Segregation is caused not only by regulations, but also by historical structure across many FinServ companies, where management of the support groups and development teams is shared only at the CIO level, which means that connecting the Dev and Ops is not always feasible.

Another common theme that separates Dev and Ops is the company’s budget structure. Here’s where two acronyms come into play: Change the Bank (CTB) refers to development projects and budgets assigned for short delivery durations (usually annual projects), while Run the Bank (RTB) refers to operational budgets that get renewed annually.

RTB (or business-as-usual, BAU) support teams are usually handed over completed projects/products that are ready for operations. They will start familiarising themselves with the new products, whereas the CTB teams will most likely be dissolved or move on to develop new products. This approach can conflict with the expected continuity of DevOps methodologies, where a team shepherds products through their entire lifecycle.

Here’s another interesting angle about the way budgets are processed in financial services: budget approvals often require committed financial benefits, which means that newly funded projects are expected to drive future savings. This approach doesn’t always align well with the actual need for DevOps, which is mostly about enabling growth and continuation, and not always cost reduction.

ITIL vs. DevOps

ITIL is a set of detailed practices for IT service management (ITSM). Many articles have addressed the ITIL vs. DevOps debate—whether IT organisations should choose one over the other, or whether DevOps can work together with ITSM disciplines. I’m not taking sides on whether the two are friends or enemies; however, the way ITSM/ITIL is often implemented in FinServ might limit the benefits of DevOps.

One example is the frequency of releases, a core tenet of Agile and DevOps. It’s difficult to operate DevOps methodologies where there are frequent release freezes, or expectations that release cycles adhere to approval processes that may take weeks before a release can go ahead.

One FinServ organisation I worked with was aiming to drive their digital transformation programme as a standalone development entity with full autonomy. The teams were highly innovative and started developing products using cutting-edge technology and DevOps practices.

However, when the programme started looking into the practicalities of releasing products to production, the teams had to take several steps back and reconsider their technology decisions, some of which weren’t approved as part of the organisation’s technology stack. The teams were also required to prepare support handover documentation and follow existing change management procedures. Furthermore, they weren’t allowed access to production environments.

This example highlights the fact that even cutting-edge technology programmes must consider the existing technologies and methodologies used by the organisation, as they’re not likely to be allowed to ignore them.

Skipping the Agile Phase

Since FinServ firms are often late adopters of new technology, they have opportunities to skip, or leapfrog, incremental stages that other enterprises and industries have gone through. But while there are advantages to leapfrogging a few steps, these maturity phases are often necessary for successful implementation.

In DevOps, many organisations and industries have experienced long periods of introducing, fine-tuning and mastering agile development methodologies, which were later complemented by DevOps. While FinServ orgs are trying to move from structured, waterfall-based methodologies straight to DevOps, this transition introduces maturity risks that are not easy to overcome.

When speaking with colleagues in financial services on this topic, I often hear quotes like: “The terms ‘Agile’ and ‘DevOps’ are used as excuses for lack of planning.” I’ve also witnessed a few examples where projects were approved and funded with no clear target deliveries and dates—all on the basis that “This is Agile.”

How FinServ Can Make DevOps Work

Looking at the challenges described above, successful introduction and adoption of DevOps methodologies in FinServ sounds difficult. But being aware of these challenges—and carefully considering them as part of the digital transformation programme—can help prevent most known issues. Here are some suggestions and shared experiences.

Consider a hybrid approach: Don’t get caught up in a quest for DevOps purity, but instead focus on achieving successful agile development. Introduce operational methodologies that contribute to improved agility, mostly where role-based access control and segregation of duties are required by regulators.

Bring Dev and Ops closer: Focusing on DevOps can alienate production services teams, as their roles are theoretically under threat. However, the support of these teams is often critical to the success of new methodologies.

There are a few ways to achieve better relationships between existing support teams and new DevOps teams. Examples include:

  • Integrate support staff into the DevOps pods.

  • Introduce site reliability engineering (SRE) teams that, in addition to providing support services, also focus on DevOps autonomy and reduction of overhead. These teams can eventually integrate with production services.

  • Invest in skilled operations: For Ops teams to become agents of transformation, they need to have the right experience, exposure and skills. In addition to investing in experienced staff, you must provide existing staff with development opportunities.

Another way to introduce DevOps methodologies in FinServ is to identify independent business areas, projects and products that can be delivered and operated using DevOps practices.

There are a few examples in the industry where senior managers gave full backing to DevOps methods in certain projects or product lines. In these successful adoption examples, the DevOps teams managed to isolate their deliveries from the wider technology and process-related dependencies.

One caveat: Having such isolation during development, delivery and operations is rarely feasible in FinServ, so these examples are not common.

Investment in Tools

While the general use of technology in FinServ may lag behind that of other industries, budgeting for some of the best tech tools has never been a problem, and that includes DevOps tools.

The use of tools for development, deployment, testing automation, pipeline automation, analytics, etc., is a must-have for DevOps enablement. But it’s not only about the right tools, it’s also about the successful adoption and use of these tools.

A mature CI/CD process can encompass a significant part of ITSM requirements, and provide governance and confidence in the release process. And with good, well-adopted deployment tools, developers won’t need to access production servers during the release process. Successful adoption of the right monitoring and analytics tools will also provide the information that DevOps teams need to capture and troubleshoot potential faults—again, removing the need for access to production environments.

Summary

A significant gap remains between IT industry gurus who often live and breathe DevOps, and financial services enterprises which—despite their best efforts—face many hurdles when trying to introduce these methodologies. The good news is that FinServ can make DevOps work by embracing a pragmatic approach to DevOps, improving relationships between existing support teams and new DevOps teams, investing in the right tools for DevOps enablement, and other steps.

AppDynamics has been used by many of the top financial services organisations in their own digital transformation journeys. Learn more about how AppDynamics can help accelerate your own DevOps adoption.

6 Ways CIOs Can Drive Digital Transformation and Lead Their Companies Toward Revenue

Growing a digital business is essential for virtually every enterprise across every industry. Large enterprises and small businesses alike are digitizing their internal and customer-facing processes and services to increase efficiency, scale their businesses, and collect meaningful data. Yet, while many companies have launched digital services to collect data, we haven’t fully tapped into the potential of data analytics—even though studies suggest that digital will be a top differentiator in years to come.  Curious how you can get a better handle on digital transformation? Read on to learn why it’s so crucial, plus discover six key ways to digitize your business.

Why Digital Transformation Is Such a Big Deal

A recent survey of 573 senior executives from North and Latin America, Europe, and the Asia-Pacific region conducted by Forbes Insight and Hitachi shows that less than half of executives see themselves as advanced or leaders in data and analytics. The survey drew responses from executives across a wide range of industries, from technology and services to finances, telecommunications, and healthcare.

Even though the vast majority of companies—91 percent—that use data and analytics have experienced increases in revenue, only a third see themselves as leaders in customer experience. This gap highlights how underutilized data and analytics continue to be in the business world.

Researchers from the MIT Center for Digital Business define digital transformation as “the use of technology to radically improve performance or reach of enterprises.” In a 2014 survey of 157 executives at 50 companies, researchers found the best-performing companies combined digital activity with strong leadership to leverage technology for transformation. According to the researchers, these companies had reached digital maturity—a differentiator that led them to outperform their competition.

The key areas where the MIT Center for Digital Business saw executives digitally transforming their processes were customer experience, operational processes, and business models. Additionally, as Forbes and Hitachi’s survey shows, these are also areas where IT leadership can lead the way. To be successful with digital transformation, CIOs need to steer their companies in two seemingly opposed directions. IT leaders need to take a bigger, long-term vision while executing on outstanding operational delivery within the organization. In order to fully transform their company digitally and ensure success, CIOs need to take these six steps.

1. Make data and analytics a top company priority

The majority of companies are already putting digital transformation at the forefront. Forbes Insights and Hitachi’s research shows that digital transformation is a priority for 50 percent of respondents. This focus is especially notable when it comes to how executives make investments that will benefit their organizations in the long term. The study found that, in addition to increasing their data and analytics capabilities, new technologies are the top investment priority of 51 percent of respondents for the next two years.

However, a not-so-small subset (49 percent) of companies still lags behind. In the years to come, this will be a huge differentiator between these organizations and their competitors as they rush to play catch up. This is because data, like a fine wine, improves in value over time. The more data an organization is able to collect and analyze over a longer period of time, the sharper their insights.

2. Design digital transformation around business goals

Forbes and Hitachi’s research also found that a changing business model was the top reason that 41 percent of respondents had begun the process of digital transformation. The availability of new technologies came second, driving 40 percent of respondents to digitize their businesses. This is likely due to the impact that digital disruption has made on a number of industries. Companies, such as Uber and Airbnb, seemingly transformed their industries overnight by leveraging cloud and mobile technologies to gain access to customers.

Savvy leaders are turning to digital transformation to modernize—before their industries are turned upside down. For instance, the ability to innovate was listed by 46 percent of survey respondents as the top metric used to measure the success of digital transformation, closely followed by revenue growth (46 percent) and cost reduction (43 percent).

3. Take an enterprise-wide approach

Digital transformation can’t be accomplished in a silo. Currently, the bulk of the work is carried out by IT teams—without the involvement of cross-function teams within the company. The focus on IT is partially because they were cited by 53 percent of Forbes and Hitachi’s survey respondents as the most prepared for digital transformation. Only a third of the survey respondents viewed other company functions as ready.

Instead of focusing solely on IT for digital transformation, companies should empower IT teams to collaborate with other departments on ways to digitize their systems. By partnering with other departments, IT teams can make an efficiency and revenue impact across the organization. If digital transformation continues to live in a silo, its effectiveness will remain limited.

4. Expand the role of IT

CIOs have a unique opportunity to grow and expand their influence within the organization. A survey from Gartner shows that 75 percent of executives expect digital to help double revenue. Digital transformation can give IT leaders an opportunity to expand their roles and oversee technology across the organization. To make this change, CIOs need to shift away from focusing just on operations and infrastructure to embracing a more consultative and collaborative role.

Much of IT spending happens outside of the IT department. When IT leadership oversees all technology spending, they gain a holistic view of what technology the company uses the most as well as redundancies and opportunities to innovate. IT leaders need to both manage traditional IT while also act as an advisor and guide for the rest of the company on what technologies and digital projects they should research and experiment.


5. Transform talent acquisition

The recruiting process at many organizations is one clear area where digital transformation and collaboration with IT can make a big difference for companies. Companies are constantly searching for the best talent, and it’s a challenge to find people with the right skill sets, especially when it comes to tech roles such as data science and DevOps. What’s more, the technology landscape constantly changes and there’s a high likelihood that this time next year, companies will seek people with an entirely different set of skills.

The right digital tools can help make the process of finding and connecting with candidates much easier. Solutions such as videoconferencing for interviews, sharing job openings on social media, and leveraging LinkedIn make recruiting and interviewing much more efficient—and not just for the IT department. Teams across the company can hire top talent more easily and efficiently by digitizing their recruiting process.

6. Prioritize employee-friendly processes

Just as digital transformation can’t flourish in a silo, new procedures and technologies that aren’t employee friendly will also fall flat. Busy employees will only be frustrated by technologies they don’t know how to use or those that need constant troubleshooting. When this occurs, they simply return to the old way of doing things. Instead, IT leaders have to think like user-experience professionals and HR teams. They need to assess new technologies based on user-friendliness, as well as educate, train, and support employees when new technologies are implemented.

Digital disruption brings change, which can be uncomfortable for employees—especially team members who are used to the old system. It’s important to be understanding and patient. Setting the right tone is crucial. For instance, let employees know that a dip in productivity is expected while everyone adjusts to the new system. There are also many ways to make learning new technology more enjoyable for everyone. Holding new tech trainings with snacks, games, and prizes, and allowing for some time to let everyone socialize can help the team relax and have fun.

Conclusion

The growing interest and adoption of digital transformation by the business world has created new opportunities for IT leadership to evolve their roles within their organizations. This gives companies more access to tech leaders who can steer their business toward higher levels of productivity and efficiency, which can increase revenue and decrease costs. To do this, CIOs and IT professionals have to make a shift toward developing more strategic and consultative roles for themselves. This is the only way they can effectively partner with departments across the company to enact change and drive digital transformation.

Digital transformation: Two words don’t fit all, or do they?

It’s only two simple words, but in the increasingly complex, customer-centric enterprise IT landscape, it’s a phrase that carries multiple meanings — to the point where some would probably observe, tongue-in-cheek, that it doesn’t mean anything anymore.

It’d be hard to argue that “digital transformation” hasn’t been pushed into buzzword territory by those of us who write about business IT, but I feel like that speaks more of the concept’s genuine relevance and importance to the success of today’s digital first enterprises than just simple hype. The sports media talks about the Golden State Warriors, Cleveland Cavs, and their superstar players a lot, too.

Admittedly, we enablers and evangelists of digital transformation at AppDynamics couldn’t be considered the most unbiased lot. We wear our passion for the subject on our sleeves. But our rallying cries like, “Your applications are your business,” and “Every company must become a software company,” are phrases that are being backed up by plenty of anecdotal and statistical evidence. Maybe the biggest piece of personal evidence I can offer of how seriously digital transformation is being taken by the enterprise world is that we’re a quickly growing company with a lot of happy, successful customers — oh, and there’s that being bought by Cisco thing!

But, for some more unbiased proof, I’ll point you toward a recently-conducted IDG Market Pulse Study on the importance, challenges, and solutions on the execution of digital transformation. The infographic of the results, Embrace the Growing Power of the Application, posted below, is extremely thorough, and highly recommended to anyone involved in their own digital transformation who wants to see their colleagues’ experiences. Also not to be missed is a companion webinar, Digital Transformation & its Application Dependencies, led by Janet King, General Manager and SVP of IDG Research with commentary by Justin Vaughan-Brown, Director, Product Marketing of AppDynamics.

The survey results start with the issue brought up around 300 words ago, addressing the concept’s variety of meanings — essentially, what does digital transformation mean to your company? More specifically, the survey asked the 500+ director-level enterprise IT managers what they saw as the desired outcome of their digital transformation.

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The topic of measuring the success of digital transformation throws even more variety into the discussion:

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So, it’s pretty apparent that those two words mean a lot of things. Understandable given that every company is different.

As Ms. King will note in the webinar, one thing that we can all agree on is that digital transformation is all about doing things smarter, faster, and with more of a focus on customer happiness. How great is that for everyone involved, both customers and employees? However, as anyone knows, in today’s complex, multi-cloud world, full of customers with high expectations, that it’s much easier said than done. But us passionate drivers of digital transformation always have and always will have your back.

Learn more

Listen to the Digital Transformation & its Application Dependencies webinar.