The impact of technology failures: why IT departments must step up

Be a hero, not a casualty, in the interconnected tech war

The technological advances that we've seen over the past decade have brought countless benefits for today's society. People are touching and using IT every few minutes – whether they're booking train tickets online, checking their bank balance on their mobile, or sharing a news article with their friends on Facebook.

In the workplace, our dependence on IT is even more ingrained, with most lines of business, from finance to marketing, being unable to function without their core IT systems.

Massive impact

As a result, when the technology underpinning these services goes wrong, the impact on consumers and businesses alike can be catastrophic. In fact, our research indicates that a single major technology failure can cost a business as much as £6.9 million (around $10.8 million, AU$12.8 million) on average.

Added to this, from a long-term perspective, nearly half (45%) of organisations have experienced a loss of brand equity or market share following a major technology failure. As the impacts of failures ripple across lines of business and out to customers, it is increasingly evident that technology performance management is no longer the sole concern of the IT department.

High-profile failures

Unfortunately, technology failures are becoming increasingly common, with high profile cases in the news on a regular basis. Perhaps this shouldn't be all that surprising given that research has found that four out of five organisations experienced at least one major technology outage over the course of a 12 month period.

Companies are fire-fighting problems on a daily or weekly basis, and haemorrhaging money while damaging the long-term health of their organisation in the process. Adding to the burden, the introduction of mobile and cloud has added links to the application chain, making it much more difficult for IT departments to proactively identify the source of performance bottlenecks and prevent outages before they occur.

However, keeping technology running smoothly is becoming a greater challenge than ever before – particularly when it comes to online services. With the growing popularity of cloud, and the integrated nature of the online world, many businesses are reliant on third-party web services such as social media integration, ad servers and online security features.

Data from Outage Analyzer identified that there are around 1,500 third-party web services in use, with the average website using between nine and 13 to complete a typical web transaction.

While being able to integrate with third parties provides many benefits, from improving the user experience to SEO, there are drawbacks. There is an average of 25 full-scale outages that take down a global site every day, which means that even if a business is doing everything right from their end, they can still suffer downtime and loss of sales due to problems with third-party services.

Taking back control

There are a number of issues that need to be addressed if organisations are to take back control of technology performance. Firstly, IT needs to be recognised for what it is – a crucial element of the business' financial health and integral to all lines of business.

Line of Business managers and IT teams need to be better aligned in how they prioritise investments and respond to problems. IT can no longer be banished to the basement; it must be integrated into the business at all levels, which means making it a boardroom consideration.

Next, organisations must realise that they need to adopt a new approach to how they manage the IT stack. As the number of links in the systems that underpin services like e-commerce sites and online banking have grown exponentially, so too has their complexity and interdependency on one another. Too many organisations are still managing the IT stack in silos, which can make preventing service outages and identifying the root cause of them extremely time-consuming. A more proactive, better integrated and service-centric approach to managing technology is called for.

Two-pronged strategy

The best solution is a two-pronged strategy for performance management. Firstly, IT departments need to obtain a granular level of visibility into their applications, with the ability to auto-discover performance issues in real-time so that they can quickly and efficiently remedy the root causes.

Secondly, in order to identify any potential issues with third-party services that could be having a knock-on effect on their own, IT teams also need to test the service from the end-user's perspective 24/7 to see how it is performing in the real world at any given time.

Every single user is important, so it is essential to have total visibility into every single transaction, across all devices and networks, rather than relying on sampling techniques. This will help to identify the source of any performance bottlenecks, inefficiencies and weak spots wherever they may be occurring in the application transaction path – from the data centre, through the cloud, across the internet and right down to users' screens.

Don't be a casualty

The business is then in a far better position to remedy any issues ahead of demand hitting, rather than being alerted by the support desk phones ringing off the hook once disaster has struck. The question is, will IT teams step up to become the hero their business needs, or will they just sit idly by whilst it becomes another casualty in the interconnected technology war?