The top 4 key levers to build towards long-lasting digital operations maturity

by PagerDuty August 17, 2021 | 6 min read

Digital operations maturity is a journey. The first step is to understand where you are, where you want to get to, and what’s keeping you from getting there. Only then can you make strategic decisions and lay out a plan for how to approach any hurdles and land where you want your organization to be. For many organizations, upleveling operational maturity requires investment in driving cultural change with fundamental shifts to operating models.

Change is hard, but accepting two facts can help your team embrace the need to adapt to your increasingly complex technology ecosystem:

  1. Incidents are going to happen.
  2. There are ways to prepare your team and your technology stack to ease the pain and impact when things go wrong.

There are four key levers that can help businesses accelerate their journey towards adopting a more proactive posture for digital operations. Companies may be at varying degrees of sophistication in these areas, but investing in any or all of these levers building them into your strategic roadmaps will set your teams up for success.

Lever One: Leverage AI/ML & Automation Across The Incident Response Lifecycle

One of the key differences between reactive and proactive organizations is the use of artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML) and automation. Not only can it help reduce and collate noise so that only the most urgent and significant signals come through, it can also help with root cause analysis and auto-remediation. Automation and applying advanced technology like AI/ML for various phases of the incident response lifecycle can dramatically cut down on repetitive, highly manual tasks, reduce the number of false positives, and streamline processes to help empower more individuals to take action.

Mature organizations are looking to technologies such as AIOps and runbook automation for more efficiency and improved productivity. AIOps uses big data, machine learning, and analytic insights to suppress noise, correlate events, and automate the identification and resolution of IT issues, while runbook automation takes repetitive manual tasks out of the equation using SOPs containing expert knowledge for common actions.

To learn more check out these resources:

Lever Two: Shift Towards Full-Service Ownership

Full-service ownership, commonly known as “You Build It, You Own It” or “code ownership,” can improve digital operations maturity because it’s a shift towards DevOps practices by having developers take responsibility for supporting the software they write in production. This methodology sets up the people closest to the technology from a design and implementation perspective as responsible for the code throughout the entire product development lifecycle.

Mature, proactive teams reap the benefits of this cultural shift in the form of bringing developers closer to their customers, the business, and the value being delivered by the service or application. It also means they will have to be on call for their own work, which involves some change management, but ultimately it puts accountability directly into the hands of that engineer or team. When ownership is established, this direct connection helps to orchestrate the incident response lifecycle, and makes escalation and routing of an incident more straightforward.

To learn more see these resources:

Lever Three: Establish a Blameless Culture of Knowledge Sharing and Continuous Learning

A feature of mature, proactive organizations compared to their more reactive peers is a commitment to knowledge sharing and continuous learning. Sharing information may sound easy, but building the right foundation for pervasive continuous learning requires cultural change and cannot be achieved overnight. Making this shift involves a change in philosophy and an intentional effort to create a blameless culture and psychological safety based on the acceptance that with complex systems, incidents are inevitable and will happen. Collectively, these efforts help to ensure that ITOps and DevOps teams have access to the right information to do their jobs and operate effectively.

Establishing this blameless culture starts with breaking down silos of knowledge and encouraging sharing and productive conversation around how to solve for issues and furthermore, prevent them in the future. Otherwise, engineers will hesitate to speak up when incidents occur for fear of being blamed. This silence increases overall mean time to acknowledge (MTTA), mean time to resolve (MTTR), and exacerbates the impact of incidents. The mindset must be one of accepting that failure is inevitable in complex systems, but being aware that how we respond to failure is what matters. Once you have that, then you can leverage practices like blameless post-mortems to proactively plan for preventing repeat events in the future.

For additional resources, see these Ops Guides:

Lever Four: Collaborating Across the Enterprise as a Unified Front for Customer Experience

In a time when customer and enterprise service expectations have never been higher, technical teams don’t want to be learning about issues from their customers. An invaluable trait of more digitally mature organizations is improved communication and collaboration with cross-functional partners in the business. This creates a united front for handling updates to external stakeholders (such as partners or customers) to manage that end-user experience.

Organizations can then be more proactive about handling any customer-impacting issues. It keeps all involved stakeholders on the same page and improves internal coordination among developers, IT, operations, and customer service. Better alignment enables each segment of the business to keep their respective leadership teams up to date on resolution status and proactively make any plans necessary to address real-time issues.

To learn more check out these resources:

Your investment in any one of these levers may vary by your maturity level or unique organizational needs. However, at some point during your digital transformation, you’ll need to evaluate how you’re pulling on each of them to build towards long-lasting digital operations maturity. This process is a marathon rather than a sprint, and any effort put towards these initiatives will allow you to reap the benefits for the long term.

If you want more information about how to plan for and begin improving your digital operations maturity, take a look at this eBook. If you want to learn how PagerDuty can help you achieve these goals, contact your account manager and sign up for a 14-day free trial.