If observability is the solution, why are so many enterprises reluctant to embrace change?

By Rob Johnson, SolarWinds, VP Solutions Engineering

  • 2 months ago Posted in

IT environments today are so complex that humans cannot manage them alone. Just ask anyone who’s been on the sharp end of a digital services outage.  

Depending on the scale and longevity of the outage, such incidents can lead to a loss of revenue, customers, productivity, and reputations. And that’s just for starters. 

According to SolarWinds 2023 IT Trends Report, the typical enterprise suffers, on average, nine outages every month — each lasting around twelve hours — costing organisations $13.7M (£11M) a year. Although the data for the report came from 300 IT and C-level managers from North American global enterprises, the figures will resonate with enterprises in the UK and Europe. 

As the report clarifies, “Modern enterprises revolve around being reliable, effective, and frictionless — especially in providing end-to-end digital service.”

To ensure that these systems continue functioning without interruption, the IT teams charged with keeping them up and running must embrace observability. 

“Observability tools have emerged as a solution for achieving optimal performance, compliance, and resilience in digital environments. In essence, observability provides visibility across your network, infrastructure, systems, application, database, digital experience, and log monitoring — all in one end-to-end solution,” said the report. 

“The observability discipline also goes a step beyond monitoring, using cross-domain data correlation, machine learning, and AIOps to provide actionable business insights needed to identify and remediate issues in real time.

“In other words, the value is right there in the name: observability enhances your ability to observe your digital ecosystem with increased transparency, improved detection, and more intelligent insights,” it said. 

Indeed, the report found that almost all (96%) of those who had adopted observability tools had seen improved customer service. Seven in ten (71%) said they could innovate faster, while the same number said they could reduce the average time taken to solve issues. 

With such a strong case favouring observability, it begs one question: why have so many enterprises yet to embrace it? 

Recognising the barriers to adopting observability

In truth, many enterprises are still beginning their observability journey. And while there are plenty with the drive to make the necessary changes, there can be — at times — strong headwinds. 

In some cases, IT professionals face a ‘cultural resistance' to change. Overcoming the ‘Why do we need to change? This is how we have always done it’ mindset can often be compounded by a lack of support from leaders to advocate such a shift. 

IT leaders with an outdated best-of-breed approach are also causing headaches. The inefficiencies triggered by the traditional approach, both in cost and time, can only be addressed with a change in philosophy. The trouble is, philosophies are deeply ingrained in a person and can be very difficult to alter. To optimise operations, businesses must champion IT leaders with a platform philosophy.

Inadequate communication — to explain why such change isn’t just necessary but essential — can be another hurdle. 

Even if the argument is accepted and leaders’ philosophies change, the obstacles don’t end there. Users may revert to old processes and systems without proper training and ongoing support. And if there’s any misalignment with the business — or if the current infrastructure is incompatible with the new observability solution — then there is bound to be pushback. 

Even then, implementing a new solution requires time and money. And if teams are stretched — or budgets are thin — it isn’t easy to justify and find resources, especially since there is now an overwhelming choice of observability tools available. 

Anyone who has spent any time looking into this will know that there is a plethora of choices available, a situation at times so confusing it can lead to decision paralysis. 

And it goes without saying that as soon as you start discussing the automation of tasks, talk inevitably turns to concerns about whether such a decision is a precursor to job losses. 

What’s clear is that enterprises are holding back for plenty of reasons. More than seven in ten (72%) reported that the accelerating pace of technological change — including apps and networks — was problematic, with 58% citing the growing complexity of modern applications. 

A similar number (58%) said that observability blind spots in today’s modern networks — including cloud, tunnels, and databases — also made life difficult. At the same time, just over half (52%) said that insufficient observability budgets were an ’extremely challenging’ obstacle.  

The results of observability are plain to see

That said, these obstacles can be overcome. Those enterprises that have already embarked on observability solutions report greater automation, a reduction in tool sprawl, and the 20/20 vision of comprehensive single-pane-of-glass visibility. 

In fact, according to the survey, enterprises that adopted observability saw an outstanding 233% improvement in the auto-escalation of IT service management (ITSM) or help desk tickets. They also recorded an off-the-chart 213% increase in performance for the auto-remediation of simple alerts. 

In fact, they saw improvement across the board in a way that not only fosters transparency and collaboration but also encourages a system of ongoing review. 

The message is clear. Observability can play a key role in bringing these successes to enterprises. How? By accelerating insights, improving data integrity and resilience, implementing automation, and reducing human error — all while supporting data privacy regulations. 

Or, to put it succinctly, making the transition to observability makes business sense. And it makes enterprises function better. 

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