In our rapidly evolving microservices and digital landscape, keeping track of what is happening with these services and making well-informed decisions is paramount for business success. With observability, organizations can navigate complex challenges and unlock their full potential in the digital world. Observability is a term that was coined for control systems to measure how well a system’s internal states can be inferred from knowledge of its external outputs.
In today’s digital world, it refers to the practice of an organization to monitor, analyze, and understand its systems’ internal signals (traces, metrics, and logs) and take corrective action based on those. In this article, we will walk through why you should consider observability and how it impacts your decision-making.
Observability as a Business Catalyst
In the business world, as complexity grows, finding the answer to “why” becomes important. And in the world of computing, observability is about answering “why something is happening this way.” The advanced tools of observability act as the heart of your environment, giving you enough context to debug the issues and prevent the systems from business outages, if followed with the best practices.
But how can observability serve as the catalyst for your organization’s growth? According to The Observability Market and Gartner’s report, enterprises will increase their adoption rate of observability tools by 30% by 2024.
In recent years, the emergence of technologies such as big data, artificial intelligence, and machine learning has accelerated the adoption of observability practices in organizations. Harnessing these advanced tools (to name a few top open-source observability tools – Prometheus, Grafana, OpenTelemetry) empowers organizations to become more agile and responsive in their decision-making processes.
Furthermore, observability is not limited to just the technical aspects of a business. It also encompasses the human element, as it involves fostering a culture of transparency, collaboration, and continuous learning. By embracing observability, organizations can break down silos, streamline communication, and ensure that every team member has access to the information they need to make the best possible decisions for the company.
The Importance of Observability in Decision-Making
Given the fast-paced and increasingly complex business environment, making quick, accurate, and pro-active decisions is imperative for business success. According to the 2022 State of Observability report, observability leaders are 2.1 times as likely to detect problems in internally developed applications in minutes, as well as reduce costs associated with downtime by 90%, from $23.8 million for beginners to $2.5 million for leaders. Let me walk through some benefits of leveraging observability.
- Enhanced performance: Observability enables organizations to identify bottlenecks, inefficiencies, and areas for improvement, allowing them to optimize their operations and boost performance. This, in turn, translates into increased productivity, higher profits, and better customer satisfaction.
- Proactive problem-solving: With observability, organizations can detect issues and anomalies before they escalate into major problems. This allows them to take timely corrective actions, minimize downtime, and prevent potential losses.
- Improved agility: Observability equips organizations with the ability to respond quickly and effectively to changing market conditions, customer needs, and emerging trends.
- Informed strategy development: By providing a holistic view of the business landscape, observability facilitates organizations to develop more robust, targeted strategies that drive growth and success.
- Streamlined innovation: Observability fosters a culture of continuous learning and experimentation, which is crucial for driving innovation and staying relevant in today’s dynamic business world.
In my previous article on observability, I mentioned its three key components (traces, metrics, and logs) and gave a small example of what organizations can achieve from adopting observability for their environment. Here, we will discuss building the culture around it.
Building an Observability Culture in Your Organization
Creating a culture of observability within an organization involves more than just implementing the right tools and processes. It requires a shift in mindset and a commitment to fostering a transparent and collaborative environment. Per DEJ’s 2022 report, organizations are losing around $7.2 million annually due to a lack of observability. This is a significant financial loss and organizations should consider cultivating an observability culture to bolster their digital environment. Let me walk through some steps here:
- Establish clear objectives: Define the goals and objectives of your observability initiatives and ensure that they align with your organization’s overall strategy. This will provide a sense of direction and purpose for your team and help them understand the value of observability in driving business success.
- Encourage collaboration and communication: Break down silos and promote open communication between teams and departments. Opening gates for teams to share insights, learn from one another, and work together more effectively to achieve common goals goes a long way.
- Provide training and resources: Equip your team with the knowledge and tools they need to effectively implement and leverage observability practices. This may involve providing training sessions, workshops, or online resources to help them develop the necessary skills and expertise.
- Foster a data-driven attitude: Encourage your team to make decisions based on data and evidence and to become more objective, analytical, and strategic in their approach for problem-solving and decision-making.
- Celebrate success and learn from failure: Recognize and reward your team’s achievements in observability while embracing failure as an opportunity to learn and grow. This will foster a culture of continuous improvement and innovation within your organization.
Real-World Case Studies
Observability has helped organizations improve their decision-making and achieve greater success. Let us see some real-world cases:
- According to this 2021 article by Dynatrace, SAP Commerce Cloud achieved an 88% reduction in their system’s downtime during the pandemic in 2020 and increased customer satisfaction by using Dynatrace’s observability solution.
- With nearly 127 million members for Optum, a U.S.-based healthcare service company, using Grafana as their observability dashboarding tool, they were able to reduce their MTTR (Mean Time To Response) and engage with other monitoring and observability vendors seamlessly instead of a single vendor.
- From spreadsheets to dashboards, Utilia – one of the UK’s top 10 energy suppliers – was able to grow its customer base from 150,000 to 800,00 and a £850 million turnover, back in 2021. They attributed their growth to Grafana Enterprise, a monitoring and visibility solution, which saved them time, effort, and money spent in huge administration overhead in managing the unorganized spreadsheets.
Challenges in Implementing Observability
Till now, we have been reading about the benefits of observability, but it comes with its fair share of challenges. Some of the most common obstacles organizations face when implementing observability include:
- Data overload: The sheer volume of data generated by today’s complex systems can be overwhelming, making it difficult for organizations to extract meaningful insights and make informed decisions. Understanding data volume management and creating specific policies for data retention can be a starting point.
- Integration challenges: Incorporating observability tools and processes into an organization’s existing infrastructure can be complex and time-consuming, requiring a high level of technical expertise and coordination between teams.
- Skill gaps: Implementing and managing observability initiatives requires specialized skills and expertise, which many organizations may not have in-house. This can make it challenging to effectively leverage observability practices and achieve the desired results.
- Resistance to change: Fostering an observability culture within an organization often involves breaking down silos, promoting transparency, and embracing a data-informed/driven perspective. This can be met with resistance from team members who are used to traditional ways of working.
Ongoing and Future Trends in Business Observability
As the business world evolves and becomes more complex, observability is expected to play an increasingly important role in organizations’ decision-making processes. Here are some trends that are likely to shape the future of observability in business:
- Greater adoption of AI and machine learning: As organizations generate more data, the use of AI and machine learning will become crucial in analyzing and interpreting this information, providing real-time insights and predictive capabilities that drive better decision-making.
- Increased focus on user experience: As customer expectations continue to rise, organizations will need to prioritize user experience in their observability efforts, ensuring that their applications and services are optimized for performance and usability.
- Continued growth of observability tools and technologies: The market for observability tools and technologies will continue to grow and evolve, providing organizations with more advanced, comprehensive, and user-friendly solutions that help them achieve their goals and accelerate time-to-market.
Summing It Up
Observability is a powerful concept and a strategic practice that can significantly improve an organization’s decision-making capabilities, leading to greater business success. By embracing observability practices and fostering a culture of transparency, collaboration, and continuous learning, organizations can unlock their full potential and thrive in today’s digital transformation landscape. With the right tools, technologies, strategy, and mindset in place, observability can incentivize your organization’s growth and success, empowering you to make proactive decisions and propel the business forward.