Observability can be the secret to enabling the board room

The big questions can’t wait for quarterly reviews anymore — live insights can help


For a long time, the best many organizations could do was to look at trailing business and operational data to understand enterprise performance or make proactive business decisions. But today, with the right technology, data streams in real-time — IT leaders can instantly elevate risks and opportunities to their boards.

This is where observability kicks in with answers. Observability enables organizations to collect metrics, logs, and traces with high dimensionality to detect root causes faster and answer the unknown unknowns. With Application Performance Monitoring (APM) for log, infrastructure, and digital experience monitoring, decision-making becomes less about having a crystal ball and more about having a live view of the state of the enterprise. Observability is key to enabling data-driven organizations to thrive.

When boards consider ways to save money or grow a business, they examine how they invest resources in people, processes, and technology. Old-school spreadsheet reports don’t fly anymore in the modern cloud and microservices-driven environment where the application ecosystem can change multiple times a day.

By using observability tools, IT leaders can enable board members to tap a flow of real-time information drawn from critical enterprise data inputs. And those data inputs may scale into the billions daily. Machine learning-powered observability tools analyze this voluminous data and turn it into actionable insights.

Board members will use data to correlate customer experience and business fluctuations — from slow page load times to disconnected digital and physical environments to unexpected financial results. How long does it take to engage and convert a new customer? With the right inputs, executives can determine what it will cost to fix those problems. That often leads to board-level questions, such as whether to spend that money in-house or engage a third party to manage everything.

Boards may seek answers to essential questions such as these:

  • Is our application team or cloud provider meeting uptime service level agreements (SLAs) for core enterprise applications?
  • Do we need to operate our own data center, or is the cloud better?
  • Is our customer experience up to industry standards? 
  • Do employees have the data they need to make timely or proactive decisions? 
  • Is the size of our technical debt holding us back from making more strategic investments?
  • Is the organization optimized for employee impact and retention to combat the IT talent gap?

Answers on demand about the state of digital transformation

Boards have endless questions to prioritize, but among the most salient considerations today is the ROI of digital transformation

While many boards look at metrics such as customer satisfaction, a real-time board may seek a set of custom metrics to track technical KPIs that map to quantifiable business objectives, such as customer retention and revenue leakage. A CIO equipped with real-time data could share these KPIs via a live dashboard rather than a weeks-old canned report.

Every board expects its core systems to remain online or that IT will resolve issues in minutes instead of hours or days. It gauges the mean time to resolution (MTTR) and compares it against SLAs and industry standards, including what service providers promise to deliver. 

Not every monitoring system has the capacity to track user journeys from login to check-out, but tracking customer experience and business outcomes has become a board priority in recent years. 

How to keep the board in the loop with observability

Yet, not every board member wants an under-the-hood look at how an enterprise infrastructure is performing. Boards may feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of data generated by the application ecosystem that flows through observability solutions. For example, it’s not unusual for core applications in a large enterprise to generate multiple terabytes of storage per day. 

IT leaders can forge that real-time board experience in two main ways:

First, great visualization technology can be another piece of the puzzle to making observability data comprehensible and actionable. Even if board members do not request custom dashboards or lengthy reports, or outage root-cause analysis, data visualization tools can provide them with at-a-glance insights that speak volumes in board meetings. 

Second, actionable alerts can be set up by IT for boards or individual directors/committees who want to be in the know as things occur. These alerts can be based on a core set of metrics that indicate business or technology status changes. These may include notifications about anomalies, such as a degraded customer experience or a store below expected daily revenue. Board members know that resolving customer-facing issues in minutes can boost customer trust and satisfaction.

“Observability starts with the fundamental premise that organizations will automate their systems and instrument applications to generate performance data among other indicators,” said Gagan Singh, vice president of product marketing, observability at Elastic. “Many firms establish a Center of Excellence (CoE) that establishes best practices for developers and operations teams, ensuring that telemetry including log, metrics, and traces along with business parameters can be tapped by operational teams or executives for real-time insights.” 

As boards gain a real-time understanding of enterprise activities, usage, and costs, they can make better-informed resource allocations that can lead to faster innovation, increased employee productivity, and greater cost efficiencies. With the right tools, a billion data inputs here or there can generate timely and valuable insights.

Watch the on-demand webinar — Observability trends in 2022: A look into the future