UPDATED 17:39 EDT / JULY 30 2021


Cisco AppDynamics study reveals the risk of getting digital wrong

Earlier this month, Cisco’s AppDynamics group released the results of its latest App Attention Index, which measures customer attitudes toward applications and digital services — and unsurprisingly, the study found that consumers reliance on digital services has skyrocketed since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

That’s consistent with my discussions with business leaders, most of whom have stated they have accelerated digital initiatives in the past year. I recently did some research that quantified this.

A recent ZK Research study found that 76% of organizations have accelerated digital initiatives by at least one year and a whopping 49% by two-plus years. There’s an expression that “necessity is the mother of invention,” and the pandemic created a scenario where QR code menus, touchless payments, curbside pickups and more all became necessary for a business to survive.

The AppD study surveyed more than 13,000 global consumers to reveal their attitudes toward apps and digital services. One of the interesting data points is that 76% of consumers claim their expectations of digital services have increased since the start of 2020. Another worth noting is that 60% of consumers blame the application and the brand when a problem is encountered, regardless of what the actual problem is. Also, 57% of consumers claim brands have one shot at impressing them and, if the experience is subpar, they won’t use them again.

That last data point is consistent with my research that found that two-thirds of millennials admitted to dropping a brand because of a single bad experience. Knowing that customer experience is the top differentiator for companies, this makes sense. In some ways, though, it flies in the face of what some business leaders have told me.

Many viewed 2020 as a year of experimentation where organizations tried new services such as virtual contact center agents, voice authentication for passwords and new, mobile applications. Although I certainly advocate trying new things, my and AppD’s data clearly show that whatever the business tries, it needs to work, or customers will drop a brand faster than J-Lo dropped A-Rod.

Whether it’s fair or not, consumers associate the entire experience with the brand in front of them – whatever the issue. This can include pages loading slowly, a technical issues, confusing interfaces, or problems with a partner. In fact, according to AppD, 72% of people believe it’s the responsibility of the brand to ensure that the digital service or application or brand works flawlessly – and I agree with that sentiment.

That underscores the importance for technology leaders to shift information technology away from silos and to look at the infrastructure through the lens of user experience. Typical IT management is done “bottom up” where each silo has its own management tools, and the data is rolled up and some kind of correlation is done to try to extrapolate user experience.

The model has not worked. I say that because my research has found that almost three-quarters of trouble tickets are opened by the user and not the IT department. Ideally, IT would see things and fix the problems before they hurt the business.

What’s needed is a shift to a top-down approach where the infrastructure is viewed through the lends of the application or user. AppD refers to this as “total application experience” and it leverages Cisco’s full-stack observability solution where all the infrastructure components that make up a service and the relationship between them is monitored. This can also stop what I call “resolution ping-pong” where trouble tickets are passed around from group to group until someone takes ownership of it and fixes the problem.

In many ways, the vendor community has perpetuated this problem historically. So many IT management companies talk about “mean time to innocence” where their product can help prove the problem isn’t in that specific domain, such as network or server or cloud. The problem with this is that it doesn’t solve the problem; it just passes the buck to another group.

The concept of top-down or total application experience is that the application itself is baselined as well as all the infrastructure components that support it. If the experience of the app itself degrades, that is negatively moves off the baseline, IT should be alerted. Ideally the baseline would be set below the threshold where its user impacting so engineers can proactively look for and fix the problem.

Admittedly, this is a big change for IT organizations, since the silo model has been in place for decades. The best way to invoke this change is to shift to an outcome-based structure where the entire IT team is provided bonuses on the success of the digital initiatives.

For example, if a retailer implements a new mobile application, the entire IT team should be measured on the success of the app – after all, consumers are measuring the company that way. This prevents one group from claiming it isn’t its issue and letting someone else solve the problem.

Digital is certainly the way forward for business in all industries. IT and business leaders need to understand that consumers have lots of choices and, if you can’t deliver a high-quality experience, you’re going to lose customers.

Zeus Kerravala is a principal analyst at ZK Research, a division of Kerravala Consulting. He wrote this article for SiliconANGLE.

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