Two technology principles to help offset the economic uncertainty

By Tim Chinchen, Senior Director, Solutions Consulting, PagerDuty.

As businesses grapple with an increasingly uncertain economic environment, technologists must play their part in protecting their organisations. Building resilience starts with making sure your organisation is well-positioned, including being flexible and agile to adapt in a shifting macro-economic environment.

The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago, and the second best time is now. Preparation can help ease the blows that will land if budgets shrink and customers lighten their spending. Even as technology budgets come under pressure teams will be expected to not only keep the lights on but maintain quality of services to keep their customers. Anything that threatens IT operations can have a direct impact on customer experience. Without business resilience measures taken now, incidents and outages will risk customer happiness, halt business innovation, and very likely impact the operational staff who must work daily miracles, causing talent flight.

Back to first principles: Staying agile and flexible

Staying adaptable to circumstances is key for resilience in tough times. Technology will glitch and software will occasionally fail. Vital operations are complex and dependent on many factors, often outside of the organisation’s control. Yet doing business relies on digital operations continuing to perform under all conditions or recovering well in the event of an incident.

Operational complexity tends to encourage bloat when times are easy. Trimming the excess and focusing digital operations on efficiency is key in difficult times. Business resilience rests on multiple foundations, but foundational to the ability of the firm to keep revenue coming in, sits its digital operations. Forecasting the impact of changes on service levels and staff productivity and welfare will be a key provision in ensuring infrastructure and operational resilience over the next one to three years.

Using operational data to forecast maintenance or replacement, and to plan staffing supports flexibility. A larger business with higher DevOps maturity might start by improving business processes and will channel resources towards optimising workflows. Smaller or less digitally mature organisations might start with ensuring that they know their most likely incident scenarios and what supplier or support staff needs to be given access to which systems to ensure that break-fix remediations happen smoothly. In any situation, organisations improve their resiliency when they mature their digital operations to become proactive in solving incidents before they create a cascading impact.

The blockers of flexibility and agility

Smooth operations are foiled by staff engaging in ‘manual toil’ and outdated processes and technologies. It can add up. PagerDuty’s 2022 State of Digital Operations report found that operational teams are afflicted by overwork and burnout. 64% of respondents expected increased turnover this year because of these factors. The overall cause of all these factors stems from the increase in digital complexity. Particularly for those less operationally mature organisations, this causes chaos from increasingly frequent incidents. The more operationally mature – particularly in DevOps – the organisation, the greater flexibility and agility they tend to bring to all situations, resulting in greater resilience. With highly complex digital operations central to all business, inefficiency can compound when any element wobbles, leading to ever greater increases in all those factors: Manual toil, creaking processes, and dependent technologies all creating a perfect storm.

To halt this negative cycle, organisations must take a beat and consider how they shift to greater levels of operational performance as they move into economic firefighting. Complexity is here to stay, but resilient digital operations are achievable. Key principles include simplification of the tech stack, tracing dependencies and owners, and breaking down silos of communication and ownership. Making sense of infrastructure data so that signals can be brought out of noise and a proactive stance taken on incident management is a very effective measure to improve digital resilience and impact overall business resilience. Back to that mantra: Flexible and agile will win the day.

Full speed to operational maturity

Proper operational maturity immediately puts the business on a strong footing and also gives teams a more manageable workload where they are able to manage incidents predictably and effectively. What's more, they will be able to schedule maintenance with greater regularity in order to prevent incidents from ever arising.

Our report outlines the five stages of operational maturity:

Manual: No inbound integrations

Reactive: Has some inbound integrations but not other configurations

Responsive: Has schedules and multiple escalation levels

Proactive: Uses outbound integrations, service dependencies, change events, or response plays

Preventative: Adopts event intelligence features or consumes analytics

14% classified their teams as manual or reactive, 50% as responsive, and 8% as proactive. We saw that those who were reactive had a noticeably higher turnover than the preventative maturity cohort.

Three steps

Here’s how to go about getting that flexibility and agility embedded as a prelude to raising resilience and operational maturity.

First, technology must incorporate automation to enhance team and process efficiency. Organisations will go through a period of education as they operationalise machine learning and AI models for success.

Secondly, aim for the flexibility to manage changing situations and to scale technology and team processes. Planning this in advance will help guide resource allocation and reassess workloads.

Thirdly, teams should have the tools and training for proactive operations where they can anticipate situational requirements and take steps to remediate those triggers of future disruption.

Putting this all together will lead to resilience through operational maturity. Your teams will not be stuck in break-fix mode. Faults will be minimised in advance, leading to time for innovation and improvement. The result is better business operations in toto. Just what’s needed as the economic waters get choppy.

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