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80% increase in pressure on digital services. Your IT team is at risk of serious burnout.

By Rachel Obstler, VP, Product Management at PagerDuty

Almost overnight, COVID-19 forced the world online. Entire companies started working from home, schools went virtual, video apps became the only way to keep in touch, and retail sites brought us just about everything we needed. The pressure of these shifts on digital services was and continues to be significant. 

Even before COVID-19 entered the picture, businesses knew digital transformation was something they needed to do. But these past few months have shown they no longer have the luxury of time. The world is now “digital default”, and it’s time for companies to capitalize on this shift. But to do this successfully, they’ll be relying on the IT practitioners and developers in their organization who right now are drowning in a sea of digital incidents. 

Approaching burnout

Recent research from PagerDuty delved into what effect this year is having on DevOps and IT practitioners . Right now, it’s more important than ever that digital services run perfectly, even while demand continues to surge. Of the 700 practitioners across North America, EMEA and APAC that we surveyed, most (80%) said their organization has seen increased pressure on digital services, and over half (53%) said the pressure to keep digital services running perfectly has reached unprecedented levels in the last 3-6 months.

The result of all this unplanned work is a serious risk of burnout. More than half (53%) of practitioners are concerned about managing work/life balance, and 39% think practitioner burnout will be an issue in the near future. Little wonder, when many (62%) are working more than 10 additional hours a week, and 55% are fixing incidents during their time off at least five times a week. 

These are the people on the front line who develop, manage, and operate the digital services we are increasingly dependent on. And they’re also the people who will create new and innovative projects to tap into the digital opportunity. But they can’t innovate in the current climate because too many are ‘firefighting’ digital incidents to simply keep services running – 39% say they are firefighting or focused on unplanned work 100% of the time. So, they’ve had to take their focus off digital innovation, with nearly half (49%) having more than five projects delayed or cancelled. Clearly, this is not sustainable.

The challenge of alert noise

Businesses need to help practitioners cope with the increased workload and strain as the pandemic continues. They must relieve pressure and release practitioners to work on the creative, transformational work that businesses need in order to thrive. To do this, businesses need to stop relying on outdated legacy tools that force IT teams to take a manual approach to managing digital incidents.

Legacy tools weren’t built to cope with the complexity of modern IT and application infrastructure. 59% of practitioners say finding the root cause of issues has become harder due to app and infrastructure monitoring complexity. Practitioners need access to data, intelligence, and insights to pinpoint a problem. But today, many are manually monitoring disparate data sources to identify what is a problem, and what is just a distraction. This alert ‘noise’ is a daily struggle for most (69%) practitioners. 

Realizing the potential of AIOps

In a bid to refine their approach, many businesses have considered AIOps (artificial intelligence and machine learning tools for IT operations). AIOps holds great potential for how data from IT and application infrastructures are handled, but the first generation of AIOps solutions haven’t delivered the promised benefits so far. 

More than half of practitioners (52%) think the return on investment from AIOps tools takes a long time. In some cases, organizations are having to hire consultants for up to a year to get solutions up and running, and 46% say training a team to use their AIOps solution was expensive. Overburdened IT practitioners and developers need to see the benefits of AIOps instantly, but offerings to date come with such a high initial cost and resource burden (both upfront and ongoing) that they’re currently impractical.

To overcome this, organizations need to seek out second generation AIOps tools that deliver value and do not require extensive periods of configuration before they can be used. That next generation of AIOps tools must include automated incident response management, which is critical to relieving pressure on practitioners and handling the surge in unplanned work that 2020 has seen. 

Automation helps pinpoint issues like outages, empowering teams to take the right real-time action. In our research, 51% of respondents say intelligent data and insights that help prioritize where to spend time are critical. And when automated incident response is integrated with the entire IT toolchain, it reduces alert fatigue and means fewer people are dragged into unnecessary “all-hands” calls and meetings. Check out Senior Vice President for Product, Jonathan Rende’s session on day two of the upcoming PagerDuty Summit to learn about a new generation of AIOps capabilities.

Acceleration is critical

Though practitioners might be feeling overwhelmed today, they are proud of the essential role they play in the smooth running of the digital economy. Organizations must encourage teams to own and deliver successful digital outcomes, but must keep morale high by equipping practitioners with tools that help them work smarter. This will relieve some of the pressure they are under and free them up to spend more time pursuing digital transformation initiatives. 

Accelerating digital business is critical to organizations’ success today and is core to competitive advantage. Failure to mature digital operations practices will see businesses slip behind those that are able to reshape themselves for the digital default world. As recent events have shown us, in an ever-changing technology ecosystem, now is the time for digital operations. We’ll be exploring this idea further at the PagerDuty Summit, the virtual event for real-time digital ops professionals. In her opening keynote, PagerDuty CEO Jennifer Tejada will explain the essential role of digital ops in today’s world. You can register for free, here