Digital transformation strategy puts BizDevOps into action

BizOps isn't enough. Add business operations and provide application performance monitoring and the result is BizDevOps, a key component in building a digital transformation strategy.

Expanding the DevOps circle to encompass IT's impact on business processes and decision-making is a natural next step resulting from the formulation and implementation of a digital transformation strategy. Whether you call this growth BizDevOps or application performance management, enterprises are embracing it. Matt Chotin, director of product management at AppDynamics Inc., a San Francisco provider of application performance management products, recently discussed BizDevOps and digital transformation strategy with SearchCloudApplications.

BizDevOps brings business decisions into the DevOps circle and quantifies the impact of IT on business outcomes. How do biz, dev and ops work together within a digital transformation strategy for the best result?

Matt Chotin: The world is going through digital transformation with a huge amount of technology spending. The importance of customer-facing apps cannot be overstated; up to 42% of technology spending by 2018 is going to be on customer-facing apps. Cloud support and the modernization of IT are a big part of that.

When applications fail, there's a huge impact, including the cost of downtime and loss of business continuity. This affects more businesses than ever, because every company today is essentially a software company. Application performance monitoring helps biz, dev and ops understand how they interact with and impact each other.

To get that understanding, how broad a net do your monitoring tools have to cast?

Matt Chotin, director of product management, AppDynamicsMatt Chotin

Chotin: We map the entire ecosystem of the software environment, from where the end user is through the application servers through the infrastructure. And you need to understand all of that in the context of a business transaction. That could be user login, search or checkout. The result is you get a better understanding of how users are using your applications.

We look at thousands of metrics for each server, node or business transaction and create a dynamic baseline. You need to do this to understand what 'normal' performance is. From this, it's possible to indicate when there are deviations from that norm.

How does that work when the concept of 'normal' is never static?

Chotin: 'Normal' changes throughout the day and time of year. It might depend on when you have a database backup happening or during peak traffic periods. That's OK, because you can't have static thresholds. It's better if we figure out those thresholds dynamically, rather than you having to specify them manually.

As a developer, you need to be aware of how what you build directly impacts the business.
Matt Chotindirector of product management, AppDynamics

What else are you monitoring?

Chotin: We watch every line of code, everything that flows through the system, but we're looking a mile wide and only an inch deep. When something is above or below normal, we can drill down a mile deep and collect the information needed for developers or operations to start diagnostics.

Where is IT in regards to implementing a digital transformation strategy?

Chotin: Digital transformation is entering a new phase. Think about smart cars. And smart watches. And conversational [user experience] with Siri and Alexa. The appetite for this type of consumption is increasing and response times need to be [instantaneous]. The willingness of users to stick around if response times are slow is essentially zero. There's very little barrier to exit.

Whose job is it to figure this out and act on it?

Chotin: You have to know that users are properly engaged with the business. Figuring that out is up to IT. That means IT needs to be completely in sync with the business. A challenge is the lack of a common language between IT and business. BizOps addressed this by developing a common language that covers development and operations.

When ops is saying that servers are slow, they might determine that it is occurring during the customer checkout phase. They can tell the developers where they need to look. We want to add business to this commonality, and that is BizDevOps.

How well does the business side comprehend the systems changes that come with developing a digital transformation strategy?

Chotin: Businesses are often unaware of the impact of innovation. We can all agree that business velocity is very fast; you can no longer do once-a-year software releases. Today, it's necessary to make fast, incremental enhancements to continually drive customer adoption and retention. The 'mean time to business awareness' -- the time it takes for the business to understand the impact of systems changes -- is too high. It needs to happen in real time. Our Business iQ product provides real-time monitoring to correlate information from a variety of sources.

What is the impact on the developers who write the cloud and mobile applications that your product is monitoring?

Chotin: For the majority of runtimes, we can be injected. For Java, we use runtime flags to get injected into the process. .NET is similar. When you get into some other languages, we require the insertion of one line of code to get us launched. It's meant to be painless.

What does an IT group do when your application monitoring results come in and they are bad?

Chotin: There are two kinds of 'bad.' There's technical bad and there's business bad. If you're doing business monitoring, we might note that the total number of orders has gone down. Or the total dollars in shopping carts per customer is down. But we can also say that the average response time of the checkout process has slowed.

There are two sides to this. One could be a technical problem. We can see every segment of the checkout transaction, every method called, every database call or call to a third party. For each segment, we can identify what's taking longer than normal, allowing a developer to get to the specific line of code that is making the call or a database administrator to diagnose a slow query.

The other 'bad' is the business side. If it's not a technical problem, the business then needs to understand what it has done. Maybe they're running a sale or forgot to launch an email campaign.

What is the takeaway message for cloud and mobile application developers dealing with their company's digital transformation strategy?

Chotin: The reason you move to DevOps is because modern software is complicated and you need an active view of how your application is being used. But that application is part of the business. As a developer, you need to be aware of how what you build directly impacts the business. That's going to further your career. You're not just servicing the business from within IT, but actually helping to drive it. Tying yourself to the business result and driving business outcomes is what developers need to do.

Joel Shore is news writer for TechTarget's Business Applications and Architecture Media Group. Write to him at [email protected] or follow @JshoreTT on Twitter.

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