Survey Findings: 2020 Hits New Heights in Digital Pressure

by PagerDuty December 10, 2020 | 5 min read

2020 has been a year like no other. Our dependency on digital services has reached new heights, leaving many companies trying to accelerate transformation initiatives while simultaneously keeping said digital services running perfectly. The ITOps and DevOps teams on the front line of this struggle are facing more pressure than ever. With the holiday season now in full swing, that strain will only grow as virtual festivities and online shopping pick up the pace. But even beyond this exceptionally busy retail period, the pressure is here to stay as much of the world continues to live, work, and learn online.

PagerDuty wanted to shine a light on this new normal and understand the challenges that IT teams are up against as this shift takes place. We wanted to go behind the scenes as over-burdened ITOps and DevOps teams scramble to deal with the huge uplift in unplanned work that this year has delivered. So, who better to ask than those in charge of keeping the world always on? We commissioned independent research of 700 developers and IT operations professionals across industries, and asked them about their work this year. The results offered some much-needed insight and underlined just how much 2020 has become the year of digital pressure.

Pressure Rising as Unplanned Work Hits New Heights

The demand for scalable, optimized, and resilient digital services has skyrocketed in 2020. Just one week in March saw 62 million downloads of video conferencing apps, and research from eMarketer forecasts growth of 18% for ecommerce in the U.S. The increased reliance on digital services is causing a huge rise in pressure. The majority (80%) of respondents in our survey said they are experiencing increased pressure on digital services. And more than half (53%) said this pressure has reached unprecedented levels in the last 3-6 months.

The massive surge in unplanned work and the subsequent alert storm is to blame for the pressure-cooker environment. On average, organizations have seen a 47% increase in digital incidents in the last 3-6 months, so simply separating the signals from the noise is a huge challenge. Many of the systems used to keep services running can’t handle the weight, and teams don’t know what needs fixing and what can wait, leading to inefficient and only partly effective firefighting. Four in ten respondents say their team is solely focused on dealing with customer impacting issues, instead of taking a modern approach to identification,
resolution, and prevention.

Teams at Risk of Burnout as They Work Around the Clock

This surge in unplanned work and the need to operate in firefighting mode has resulted in most ITOps and DevOps teams working much longer hours. In fact, many are not just working longer hours but are also sacrificing their precious downtime to keep services running. More than half (55%) are having to fix incidents during their time off at least five times a week. Not surprisingly, 46% of respondents say they are feeling overwhelmed. The risk of burnout is high and managing work/life balance is a big concern. In the long term, this may have a detrimental effect on retaining talented ITOps and DevOps professionals.

Innovation Takes a Backseat to Keeping the Lights On

It’s not only the impact on people that’s concerning—the impact on the business is considerable as well. Unplanned work is the enemy of innovation. Many are walking a fine line between finding ways to reduce their spending in the wake of COVID-19, and the need to invest and accelerate digital transformation initiatives that will enable them to capitalize on the digital shift. And as the workload for ITOps and DevOps teams soars, innovation is taking a hit. Organizations have had to delay or cancel an average of 7.6 projects in the last 3-6 months because they needed to balance increased operational responsibilities against product development.

Arming Teams to Succeed

To deal with the challenges of our new normal, organizations must help teams succeed by optimizing incident response processes to improve how digital incidents are handled. Balancing legacy and modern tools and reducing manual workflows will be key. Data and intelligence are vital to identifying the root cause of a problem, and many legacy tools simply can’t provide these insights—for instance, 51% of respondents said it’s critical to have data that helps prioritize where to spend time by pointing teams at the incidents that matter. Arming DevOps and ITOps teams with tools that relieve their stress, and free their time to innovate and create, will help organizations capitalize on digital opportunities. This is where PagerDuty can help. If you’re interested in learning more about digital operations management, sign up for a free 14-day trial today.

For more information, check out the full independent global study, Digital Pressures in 2020. We’ll also be discussing the findings of the research in depth in an upcoming webinar, Perspectives on Digital Operations: Real-Time Work on the Front Lines in 2020, on December 9-10. Register here to attend the webinar live and for access to the webinar on demand after the event.