Without doubt, the job of a technologist has become more difficult over the last few years – technologists are having to respond to constantly fluctuating business and technology demands, to deal with heightened security threats, and to manage and optimize availability and performance across an increasingly fragmented IT stack. Perhaps most significantly, they’re increasingly being required to shift to a cloud-native approach to applications and infrastructure.
These changes have brought massive complexity and severe challenges to IT teams, with technologists struggling to get full and unified visibility across their IT estate, and particularly into new and dynamic cloud-native environments. Many technologists are finding themselves being bombarded with data but without the tools to cut through this noise to quickly identify and resolve issues before they impact end users. The latest research from Cisco AppDynamics, the ‘Agents of Transformation 2022’ report, finds as many as 65 per cent of technologists admitting that they now feel overwhelmed by complexity and data. They’re on the back foot, without the insight they need to make informed decisions and prioritize their actions in the right places.
At a broader level, the research uncovers a strong desire amongst technologists to move beyond the reactive firefighting that has characterized most IT departments since the start of the pandemic, and to embrace a more proactive and strategic approach to innovation. Around three quarters of technologists report that their organization is still largely in reactive mode following the pandemic, although a significant number claim that they are now starting to make the shift towards a more strategic mode.
Interestingly, this need to leave behind the firefighting of the last couple of years is also being felt by technologists at a personal level. The research shows that technologists are still spending the majority of their time on reactive, operational activities, as opposed to strategic and innovation-focussed initiatives. And this is having a profound impact on their own career development and ability to fulfill their potential.
The research explored how global technologists are progressing on their journey towards becoming Agents of transformation – elite technologists with the skills, vision and ambition to drive sustainable transformation and leave a lasting legacy within their organizations. It found that 10 per cent of technologists are currently operating at this level, but that more will need to reach the pinnacle of their profession in the next few years in order for their organizations to compete.
Tellingly, technologists pointed to the amount of time that they are having to spend firefighting IT issues as the biggest barrier to them becoming an Agent of Transformation. Alongside this, a lack of long-term thinking was also cited as a major obstacle.
Technologists (and indeed business leaders) urgently need to address this situation as the consequences if they don’t are likely to be severe. The research shows how organizations that fail to develop or recruit enough Agents of transformation will fall behind competitors in the innovation race and be unable to meet customer and employee expectations for brilliant digital experiences. And this will ultimately hit them on the bottom line. Indeed, 84% of technologists state that the need to maintain the performance of applications is now more important than ever.
Encouragingly, technologists are clear on exactly what is required to enable them to adopt a more strategic approach and in doing so, to become Agents of transformation. 93 per cent state that having the ability to monitor and observe all technical areas across their IT stack and to directly link technology performance to business outcomes is important to them being able to operate as an elite technologist. Full-stack observability is regarded as critical for technologists to cut through data noise and complexity and to focus their actions on the areas that will have the biggest impact on the business.
Across all sectors, technologists recognize that their organizations will need to re-imagine their applications over the next 12 months to meet the changing needs of both customers and employees. This will mean accelerating the shift to cloud-native technologies, which provide IT teams with a platform to deliver innovation at new levels of speed and scale.
However, in order to support this, technologists need to be able to observe cloud-native applications and infrastructure and to connect IT performance in cloud-native environments to real-time business metrics. Otherwise, they will find themselves facing an even greater deluge of data than they’ve experienced over the last two years and, once again, stuck in firefighting mode.
After an extremely tough period, technologists finally have the opportunity to get back onto the front foot and to focus on driving strategic and sustainable innovation for their organizations. In doing so, they can propel themselves towards the summit of their profession. They just need to ensure they have the unified data and insights required to overcome complexity and maximize their impact.
Gregg Ostrowski is Executive CTO, Cisco AppDynamics.