77% of retail CIOs say it could become impossible to manage digital performance, as IT complexity soars

Digital performance management company, Dynatrace, has announced the findings of an independent global survey of 219 CIOs in the retail sector, which reveals that 77% of organisations think IT complexity could soon make it impossible to manage digital performance efficiently.

IT complexity is an increasing concern as retailers adopt new technologies, such as cloud and containers, to accelerate innovation to meet soaring customer expectations and create a competitive advantage. However, these technologies are also adding significant layers of complexity to an already complicated ecosystem.

The study further highlights that IT complexity is growing exponentially; a single web or mobile transaction now crosses an average of 34 different technology systems or components, compared to 20 just five years ago. This growth has been driven by the rapid adoption of new technologies in recent years. However, the upward trend is set to accelerate, with 53% of retail CIOs planning to deploy even more technologies in the next 12 months. The research revealed the key technologies that retail CIOs will have adopted within the next 12 months include multi-cloud (98%), microservices (89%) and containers (86%).

As a result of this mounting complexity, IT teams now spend an average of 30% of their time dealing with digital performance problems; costing their employers $1.8 million annually. As they search for a solution to these challenges, four in five (81%) retail CIOs said they think Artificial Intelligence (AI) will be critical to IT's ability to master increasing IT complexity; with 80% either already, or planning to deploy AI in the next 12 months.

"Today's retailers are under huge pressure to keep-up with the always-on, always connected digital economy and customer demands for constant innovation to enhance the shopping experience both in-store and online," said Matthias Scharer, VP of Business Operations, Dynatrace. "As a consequence, IT ecosystems are undergoing a constant transformation. The transition to virtualized infrastructure was followed by the migration to the cloud, which has since been supplanted by the trend towards multi-cloud. Many CIOs have now realized their back-end apps weren't built for today's digital ecosystems and are rebuilding them in a cloud-native architecture. These rapid changes have given rise to hyper-scale, hyper-dynamic and hyper-complex IT ecosystems, which make it increasingly difficult to monitor digital performance and manage the user-experience effectively."

The research further identified the challenges that retailers find most difficult to overcome as they transition to multi-cloud ecosystems and cloud native architecture to meet customer expectations. Key findings include:

  • 75% of CIOs from retail organizations say multi-cloud makes it especially difficult and time-consuming to monitor and understand the impact that cloud services have on the user-experience
  • 72% are frustrated that IT has to spend so much time setting-up monitoring for different cloud environments when deploying new services
  • 74% of retail CIOs say monitoring the performance of microservices in real-time is almost impossible
  • 85% of CIOs from retail organisations say the dynamic nature of containers makes it difficult to understand their impact on application performance
  • Maintaining and configuring performance monitoring (57%) and identifying service dependencies and interactions (50%) are the top challenges retail CIOs identify with managing microservices and containers

"For cloud to deliver on expected benefits, retailers must have end-to-end visibility across every single transaction," continued Mr. Scharer. "However, this has become very difficult because they are building multi-cloud ecosystems on a variety of services from AWS, Azure, Cloud Foundry and SAP amongst others. Added to that, the shift to cloud native architectures fragments the application transaction path even further.

"Today, one environment can have billions of dependencies, so, while modern retail ecosystems are critical to fast innovation, the legacy approach to monitoring and managing performance falls short. You can't rely on humans to synthesize and analyse data anymore, nor a bag of independent tools. You need to be able to auto detect and instrument retail IT environments in real time, and most importantly use AI to pinpoint problems with precision and set your environment on a path of auto-remediation to ensure optimal performance and experience from the customer's perspective."

Further to the challenges of managing a hyper-complex IT ecosystem, the research also found that IT departments are struggling to keep pace with internal demands from the business. 71% of retail CIOs said that IT is under too much pressure to keep up with unrealistic demands from the business and end users. 79% also highlighted that it is getting harder to find time and resources to answer the range of questions the business asks and still deliver everything else that is expected of IT. In particular, 79% of CIOs from retail organizations said it is difficult to map the technical metrics of digital performance to the impact they have on the business.
This research, commissioned by Dynatrace, is based on a global survey of 219 CIOs in retail organisations with over 1,000 employees, conducted in August 2017 by Vanson Bourne.

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