With 2020 being the year where digital customer experience both made and broke many companies, there were many lessons learnt by organisations on what their customers actually want in their experiences. 

A key learning was that organisations wanted to understand what it was like to be one of their customers. In order to gain this understanding, the “outside in” lens provided by Observability surpasses that of application performance management and infrastructure monitoring.

Due to this, 2021 looks to be the year when Observability will move from being a discussion contained within the confines of the IT department, to one that will command a presence in the boardroom as companies bet the future of their existence on digital differentiation. 

Why is Observability a critical business asset?

In the past, companies could get by with the basics like tracing the performance of their software with conventional monitoring tools. 

But modern day systems have become increasingly complex and distributed with code being developed and deployed at lighting speed across multiple teams.

The possible points of failure are unpredictable, and problems can’t be fixed if they don’t yet exist.

Monitoring is effective if and when systems can be monitored. Observability as the practice of instrumenting systems to gather actionable data provides not only the when of an error or issue, but also the why

The ability to answer why is how teams truly resolve issues at the root cause and ensure system reliability. To achieve observability of your systems, you need three core elements: open instrumentation, connected entities and programmability.

Yuri Shkuro, author and software engineer at Uber Technologies, explains the difference this way: Monitoring is about measuring what you decide in advance is important while observability is the ability to ask questions that you don’t know upfront about your system.

Organisations who are first to embrace Observability at the executive level will find themselves at a significant advantage to the firms who do not.

With this change the value of “Observability Literacy” for practitioners in the DevOps, business operations and analyst community will become a highly valued skill set. 

Thailand digital powerhouse True Digital Group has led the way in its Observability practises. 

True Digital wanted insights into customer experience and how issues were actually impacting its users. To do this, the organisation established a command centre to provide complete Observability across all device types, including various mobile devices and web browsers.

Using New Relic, True Digital could map any issues to the user experience and obtain better perspectives on the business or customer impact. This enabled True Digital to fix problems faster as well as reduce the level of escalation.

‘“Many times when you’re troubleshooting, you need a very transparent system so all the technicians can see the same information. With New Relic, we could actually solve the transparency issue between our dev teams and other teams, for example, the frontend and backend team. New Relic shows the details and blocks between backend and frontend,” True Digital head of operations engineering Pakavat Nonkunakorn said.

The undeniable link between observability and business value

Tokopedia, Indonesia’s version of Amazon.com, recently selected New Relic to provide end-to-end visibility of its IT systems to ensure it achieves its next phase of growth with limited friction.

New Relic’s Observability Map dashboard will assist Tokopedia in viewing metrics, events, traces, logs, alerts, deployments markers, custom nodes and custom icons in a single map. The Indonesian technology giant will also be able to quickly identify which userID, client number or operation ID will have a direct positive or negative impact on underlying revenue.

Herman Widjaja, Senior Vice President of Engineering, Tokopedia, described New Relic as a “game changer” for both the technical team and wider business.

“We will now be able to achieve end-to-end observability of our platform, especially our mobile app. Engineers and managers will have greater visibility on how our IT stack is performing while the ability for in-depth analysis of technical issues can greatly improve the usability and responsiveness of our platforms and mobile app for Indonesian users.

“New Relic’s solutions will ultimately lead to improved customer experience and a direct, positive impact on our contribution to the digital economy in Indonesia,” Widjaja said.

Observability in the mainstream

I believe Observability will start to become a core curriculum in higher education and academic programs due to the rarity of these skills today. People who embrace education and certification around Observability will find themselves in a position of great opportunity for career development both within and outside of their organisations.

Already, there is clear demand for Observability-related roles from leading brands such as DBS Bank and the new Singtel-Grab consortium building Singapore’s newest digital bank.

DBS has been looking for a candidate to lead its Cloud Migration team since September 2020 and have had to repost the job ad externally. It counts Observability as one of the key areas of responsibility for the role.

The Singtel-Grab ‘Digibank’ venture came to life after it received one of four digital bank licences by the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

Digibank has wasted no time in shoring up its resources since MAS made the announcement in December 2020. As part of its quest for talent, Digibank is on the hunt for candidates with experience implementing Observability platforms.

We can also expect a rise in traditional consulting firms establishing Observability practices to bridge gaps that exist today in many organisations. 

The drive towards Observability will also see the creation of many boutique consulting firms who have strong domain expertise around Observability, leveraging the industry’s leading tools to help organisations achieve business relevant Observability quickly. 

With this evolution, 2021 promises to be an exciting year underpinned by the huge number of organisations embracing digital transformation and Observability as they emerge from the period of COVID. 

This article was contributed by Ben Goodman, Senior Vice President of New Relic across Asia.

About the author

As a proven leader in the digital space, Ben has deep expertise and knowledge across key growth markets in the Asia Pacific region, and is committed to driving the ongoing success of New Relic’s customers. 

Ben is based in Singapore and has 20 years of experience in the IT industry leading sales strategy and driving channels growth. Prior to joining New Relic, he was managing director and head of DX at Adobe Asia-Pacific. He previously held senior regional roles at EMC, Dell EMC, and Pure Storage.

Ben is focused on helping enterprises across Asia define what observability means within the context of their application landscape – as they move to the cloud and multi-cloud environments. 

As their technology ecosystem grows in complexity, New Relic enables senior leaders to simplify their understanding of the digital customer experiences that drive their business strategy. Some of Asia’s largest digital natives such as Indonesia’s Tokopedia and True Digital Group Thailand rely on New Relic’s Observability expertise for business success.

Ben’s approach is centred around the quote from Henry T Ford: “if I had asked people what they had wanted, they would have said faster horses”. Ben is passionate about helping people and organisations realise potential they never knew they had, and achieve outcomes they hadn’t considered pursuing.