Why lack of observability impacts business performance and the customer experience

BrandPost By Sharryn Napier, New Relic ANZ regional managing director and vice-president
Sep 09, 2020
IT Leadership

sharryn napier new relic regional vice president for anz
Credit: New Relic

Did you know that Australian organisations experience an average of five major outages a month – many of which have serious implications? Or that 30 percent of the time, IT teams learn about software and service interruptions through complaints from external customers?

These findings were revealed in a recent global survey commissioned by New Relic titled “Deeper Than Digital: Why and How More Perfect Software Drives Business Success”.

In terms of a proactive approach, very few organisations are building for resilience with 8 percent of Australian firms taking a cloud native approach to software development, and only 2 percent engaging in chaos engineering: an experimental form of testing used to gauge a system’s ability to withstand turbulent and unexpected conditions.

It’s clear that a lack of observability is having detrimental effects not only on business performance, but also on customer experience. Businesses need to future-proof their software with full stack observability to ensure their customers get the digital experience they deserve. 

So how do CIOs and technology leaders achieve observability success? Firstly, we need to understand exactly what observability is.

Understanding observability  

New Relic defines observability as “automatically monitoring all software and infrastructure performance data – metrics, events, logs, and traces – in real time to rapidly deliver a complete understanding of an IT stack’s operation and performance.”

To paint a picture of why observability is so critical to operations, look no further than Australia Post. Demand for Australia Post’s services during the first COVID-19 lockdown earlier in the year well surpassed their busiest periods, including the Christmas rush. In April 2020, the volume of transactions were 340 million – higher than any other month in Australia Post’s history. By May, parcel tracking volumes were up 40 percent and authentication requests increased 70 percent compared to Christmas 2019.

The postal service wasn’t anticipating the kind of levels that they experienced in April for at least another two years. This rapid increase in demand forced them to create a new road map, and bring forward a lot of their capacity planning, explained Australia Post’s head of platform engineering, Andrew Nette.

“This has been necessary for us to maintain our high levels of customer service and will benefit our ability to meet customer demand in the long run,” said Nette.

“New Relic gave us the ability to view our systems at the transaction level and create a clear understanding of which elements weren’t responding as they should be”.  

By having clear visibility into their technical stack, Australia Post was able to navigate unprecedented demand, proactively pinpoint potential issues, and still deliver a great digital customer experience. 

Observability, digital transformation and the customer experience 

Although Australia Post is mature in its observability and digital customer experience journey, there are many other businesses and government departments that are falling behind. 

A recent report by Forrester titled ‘Embrace Customer Obsession to Achieve Mission Success’ emphasises the importance for government agencies to step up their digital transformation initiatives to adequately cater for both internal and external stakeholders, including employees.

“As governments around the world deal with the COVID-19 pandemic and global recession, the need for digital transformation and exceptional government customer experience has never been greater,” the report states.

“We don’t just mean the experiences of only your citizens and constituents. This should also include all other stakeholders as well, such as government employees, tourists, overseas investors, and non-resident business owners. 

“Their experience is equally crucial to a government’s ability to achieve mission goals.”

The drivers for government to aggressively pursue digital delivery of services is both about customer experience and the employee experience – to achieve this, organisations need observability.

Imagine if Nette and his team at Australia Post were using archaic or manual tools back in April. How would they have fared without clear visibility into their tech stack? Bad tech at an organisation level leads to frustration both internally and externally.

Some critics may dismiss observability as yet another buzzword, but the results speak for themselves – it’s a business-critical application that both your staff and customers deserve.