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September 13, 2022 By Bruno Kurtic

How to drive better decision-making with reliability management

Better decision-making with reliability management

Rethinking reliability management: How aligning technology performance with business outcomes drives better decision-making

Almost every organization is going through digital transformation. According to IDC, direct digital transformation investment is growing globally at a compound annual growth rate of 15.5% and is expected to approach $6.8 trillion by 2023.

Customers quickly embrace the benefits of a customer experience reshaped by technology. However, they have little patience when that technology doesn’t work as expected. A 2021 survey by digital commerce provider Avionios found that reliability is considered table stakes: for 45% of consumers, the ability for brands to deliver as expected is their top consideration when trusting a brand.

While there are time-tested methods of monitoring legacy applications to ensure reliability, the speed and complexity of digital transformation threaten to render them obsolete. Instead, forward-looking companies are embracing a new approach to reliability that focuses on measuring business outcomes rather than system performance.

Yes, your business is in the software business

Consumers are no longer satisfied with traditional products and services. From chip-embedded running shoes to refrigerators that use AI to conduct real-time content inventories, technology is disrupting virtually every aspect of the customer experience. That means that most businesses, by necessity, have become software companies, creating applications to harvest and process data from their products.

While product data is captured locally, its destination is almost always the cloud. For example, Samsung SmartThings uses small, IoT home automation devices that monitor lighting, heating, and other home systems and upload data to centralized, cloud-based applications. With modern technologies, these cloud-based apps can be built faster and placed nearer to the consumer.

Reliability is a competitive differentiator

However, as companies use technology to build new, disruptive products, there’s a catch — they have to work reliably. Imagine you are an hour away from home, and your kids have locked themselves out of the house. If your home automation system alerts you, then lets you unlock the door remotely, you’re probably pleased (and relieved). If the system fails to work as expected, you’re an unhappy customer and may start looking for a new solution.

Technology makes it easier for unsatisfied consumers to switch providers. For example, if your web store doesn’t perform properly, it’s simple for your customers to abandon their carts and shop elsewhere. For most digital businesses, reliability is critical to keeping customers and is a key competitive differentiator.

But for businesses, the reliability challenge can be daunting — how to deliver a reliable digital experience in a complex, cloud-based environment?

Legacy reliability monitoring can’t cope with the cloud

Compared to cloud-based applications, legacy systems were easy to monitor for reliability. Once deployed, neither the application nor the underlying infrastructure typically changed much. This meant that tools, processes, and benchmarks for reliability were usually stable for long periods.

With cloud applications, change is unrelenting and happens fast. Measuring and delivering reliability is a significant challenge when design teams constantly push more change into applications and digital products.

The underlying architecture for cloud-based applications can also change at a rapid pace. With legacy applications, the average life of a server could be three years. With the cloud, a virtual machine's average life is about 30 days, a container about 30 minutes, and a serverless function perhaps three seconds.

The methods for monitoring and benchmarking reliability in legacy applications simply won’t work for cloud systems. Businesses need a new approach.

How monitoring business outcomes benefit developers — and CXOs

At Sumo Logic, we believe that a better approach involves de-emphasizing systems, infrastructure, and workload performance monitoring and instead focusing on measuring business key performance indicators (KPIs). If the business is meeting its service level objectives (e.g., <1% login failure rate or a dropped cart rate of <50%), then the underlying technology is deemed to be operating as required.

This approach resonates with business leaders. For many executives, the challenge is aligning technology with business performance. Focusing on KPIs helps connect application performance, technology initiatives, and measurable business outcomes. These insights help keep business leaders out of the weeds and inform their technology decisions based on business metrics.

Focusing on business outcomes also benefits developers and technologists. Viewing the flood of performance data through ‘a KPI lens’ helps IT teams prioritize their efforts and zero in on the technology issues that are materially impacting the business and customer experience. As a result, issues can be resolved faster and with fewer IT resources.

Transforming reliability management With Sumo Logic

At Sumo Logic, we’ve leveraged our full stack observability technology to enable this new approach to reliability management. We’ve created the ability to create constructs for KPIs and service level indicators (SLIs) as ‘first-class citizens’ in our observability stack. When a performance threshold is breached, the Sumo Logic solution leverages its metadata and topology discovery capabilities to quickly navigate through the system from service level objective monitoring to diagnostics. This improves IT’s ability to pinpoint and remediate issues within the system’s many components and complex architectures.

The benefits of the Sumo Logic approach are three-fold. First, it enables businesses to measure system reliability in the context of what truly matters — KPIs and business outcomes. Next, this ‘business-first’ approach to managing reliability reduces the need to monitor countless complex and rapidly-changing applications and systems. Finally, Sumo Logic’s full stack observability capabilities allow IT to quickly work backward from a KPI performance issue and identify the root causes within an application or the infrastructure.

Read more about Sumo Logic’s reliability management, and how you can use it to deliver an ideal digital customer experience.

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Bruno Kurtic

Bruno Kurtic

Founding Chief Strategy Officer

Bruno leads strategy and solutions for Sumo Logic, pioneering machine-learning technology to address growing volumes of machine data across enterprise networks. Before Sumo Logic, he served as Vice President of Product Management for SIEM and log management products at SenSage. Before joining SenSage, Bruno developed and implemented growth strategies for large high-tech clients at the Boston Consulting Group (BCG). He spent six years at webMethods, where he was a Product Group Director for two product lines, started the west coast engineering team and played a key role in the acquisition of Active Software Inc. Bruno also served at Andersen Consulting’s Center for Strategic Technology in Palo Alto and founded a software company that developed handwriting and voice recognition software. Bruno holds an MBA from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and B.A. in Quantitative Methods and Computer Science from University of St. Thomas, St.Paul, MN.

More posts by Bruno Kurtic.

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