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81% of technologists say COVID-19 put more pressure on IT than any other event. What comes next?

By Linda Tong, General Manager of AppDynamics, a Cisco company

When it first began, the COVID-19 pandemic created an overnight need for businesses to increase their emphasis on digital transformation and put new pressures on technologists to drive rapid change in their organizations and adjust to a new reality. The recent AppDynamics Agents of Transformation Report, which surveyed 1,000 global IT leaders in May 2020, illustrated this demand clearly, with 81 percent of technologists stating COVID-19 created the biggest technology pressure for their organization that they have ever experienced. However at the same time, 80 percent of technologists also reported that their IT teams’ response to the pandemic has positively changed the perception of IT in their organization, giving today’s technologists the opportunity to lead their businesses toward long-term solutions for success during this unprecedented time.

As we come to terms with how this pandemic will change our lives moving forward, digital-only interactions are the new standard and companies are now planning for it. This encompasses a company’s daily interactions with both employees and customers, and requires leadership from technologists to shape these digital experiences. 

As we have weathered some of these same pressures at AppDynamics and worked with our customers worldwide to resolve challenges, my advice to these technologists is to immediately consider how they can support and implement sustainable solutions within their organizations to create change for a new future. Companies are in a pivotal time and we need to push for long-term resiliency versus plugging holes with quick fixes. Secondly, we should focus on solutions that offer insights and real-time data across the technology stack, from day one, to give leaders the information they need to ensure a smooth customer experience. Finally, we need to build for the future leveraging machine learning and automation in order to scale.

Resiliency is critical

We know the pandemic is the most disruptive event that many technology leaders have experienced in their careers. While the past few months have certainly been overwhelming and challenging for most, the disruption has created important opportunities for innovative and forward-thinking teams and individuals to adopt solutions and new models for success.

Some of the recent IT challenges have also shown the need for resiliency across multiple IT domains. In the Agents of Transformation Report, 74 percent of technologists said digital transformation projects that would typically have taken more than a year to be approved have been signed off on in a matter of weeks. In examining trending pages on our company website, we’re also seeing a significant increase in requests for information about application performance management (APM), cloud computing and microservices advice. The smartest technologists are using this disruption as an opportunity to expand into modern frameworks, ensuring they’re building in resiliency from the start.

Image Credits: AppDynamics

Visibility into the digital experience

Even before the pandemic, customers would judge brands based on the seamlessness of their digital experiences. As our lives are now more digital than ever — working from home, grocery shopping online, continuing to talk with loved ones via video conference — the need for smooth digital experiences is even more pronounced. Unsurprisingly, Gartner predicts that by 2021, organizations with robust, scalable digital commerce will outperform non-commerce organizations by 30 percentage points in sales growth by better using digital channels during the COVID-19 outbreak. Achieving true digital experience success requires managing constant iteration and testing, without breaking things. 

One critical piece of creating a seamless digital experience is having real-time visibility and insight into application performance to be able to identify and address any issues immediately. Reducing the mean time to repair, or MTTR, can improve the end-user experience while keeping IT tickets and workloads manageable. Issues can be caused by everyday occurrences, such as an unexpected spike in traffic, and real-time visibility allows IT teams to be problem solvers by addressing incidents quickly and contributing to positive customer experiences. 

For businesses, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a rapid change in the way and speed they are deploying new technologies and applications. The massive move to all-digital experiences was a wake-up call for many. We saw 92 percent of technologists report that having visibility and insight into the performance of the technology stack and its impact on customers is the most important factor in becoming a leading technologist during this period. Also, 89 percent say they need real time data to be successful, which comes in the form of business intelligence, performance monitoring and AIOps. 

AI and automation

As companies examine how this experience has changed their business and what the new future will look like, AIOps can play a critical role for any business looking to deliver a flawless digital experience at scale. What is AIOps? AIOps is short for Artificial Intelligence for IT operations. It is an emerging operating model that uses AI to derive insights and automate tasks based on real-time data from across the complex environments that power today’s applications. When we talk about the digital experience, we’re talking about applications as the primary way businesses interact with customers. Applications no longer just support a business, they are the business, with massive implications for companies across every industry. 

At a brick-and-mortar business, we know customers would not be satisfied if a cashier was unresponsive or couldn’t complete a transaction. In fact, even in 2019, 70 percent of consumers said they want digital experiences to be even more personalized than those that happen face-to-face. Forward-looking IT leaders need to ensure that digital resources and applications are performing to the same standards by leveraging the power of machine learning to customize the user experience AIOps. 

Backed by machine learning and data science, AIOps enables business and IT leaders to work together and make decisions based on real usage data. They can drive rapid updates across complex systems without sacrificing quality, and gain a competitive advantage by more quickly getting to winning experiences. IT teams can continue to show value by using AIOps to correlate business and technical data and proactively alerting leaders to opportunities for future optimization and better decision making across the board. 

Now is the time to act

In 2018, we conducted our inaugural Agents of Transformation Report, revealing the need for a new breed of technologists, able to deliver transformation and business impact within their organizations. We call these elite technologists the Agents of Transformation, and they are the change makers in their industry that possess the skills and attributes needed to drive innovation. When the 2018 research concluded, the findings showed that in order for businesses to remain competitive, 45 percent of technologists within an organization needed to be operating as Agents of Transformation within the next ten years.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, technologists report that the target must be reached not within ten years, but today.

There is an immediate need for IT leaders who want to be Agents of Transformation within their organizations to make an impact right now. This is the most disruptive moment ever experienced by technologists as the work they do becomes more visible and impactful than even before, with flawless digital experiences being an absolute business priority. Emphasizing access to visibility, insights and real-time data across the technology stack will allow teams to provide valuable information that impacts their business, employees and customers. With the right tools, this is a time when technologists can lead and prepare their business for what comes next.

For technologists who don’t know where to start — AppDynamics is extending support to companies with a free trial of its APM software, and one-on-one meetings with a consultant, until October 31, 2020. Visit https://www.appdynamics.com/covid-19/assist-program to get started.