American Eagle Outfitters taps PagerDuty to transform incident management

Size: 10,000+ Employees

Industry: Retail

Location: Pittsburgh, PA

Customer Since: 2017

American Eagle Outfitters (AEO) opened its first store in 1977 and today boasts more than 1,000 stores and 40,000 associates worldwide. Part of what keeps this successful retailer in the game is its full-throttle embrace of digital technology, including retail websites, mobile apps, and order management systems. But it’s no cakewalk to keep digital services across multiple sales channels running smoothly around the clock in both the U.S. and abroad. What’s a retailer to do?

Many Tools and Fragmented Processes

A couple of years ago, AEO’s leadership noted that the company’s manual incident management process was highly fragmented. AEO’s teams use a plethora of different alerting, ticketing, and monitoring applications. “Worse yet, no one was willing to give up their tools,” shared Matt Kundrat, Sr. Manager of Production Support. “It was really holding us back from true, unified incident management.”

“All alerts and reported incidents were being sent to a single email box,” he continued. Staff—who had to focus on responding to alerts and incidents—often didn’t understand their role and wasted time trying to figure out who was on call and how to reach them. At the same time, there was the “jump-on-a-grenade” approach where someone would send an alert email and multiple people would respond.

In short, AEO needed to modernize and standardize its approach to incident response across its entire organization.

PagerDuty Makes the Grade

Kundrat and other managers evaluated different vendors, but PagerDuty as an industry leader got their attention. PagerDuty supports over 200 integrations, including the various tools used by AEO’s teams. “We were able to meet the goals that we outlined for incident management, while allowing everyone to continue to utilize their own tools,” said Kundrat. Teams could continue to follow their own SLAs and escalation policies, but AEO standardized alerting and notification on PagerDuty. “We found that PagerDuty has the most advanced and streamlined tool on the market. And people really liked its UI the best.”

When we began deploying PagerDuty late last year, AEO onboarded the digital teams first, as they had multiple monitoring tools spanning their entire digital technology landscape. “With PagerDuty, one of the biggest gains we saw was the visibility into the problems that happened,” noted Kundrat. Now, every team across the organization—approximately 200 responders—are on PagerDuty, just a few short months after rolling it out to the digital teams.

“From our perspective and for our needs, PagerDuty has the most advanced and streamlined tool on the market.”

– Matt Kundrat, Sr. Manager of Production Support, American Eagle Outfitters

Intelligent Alert Notification Tops the List of Big-Time Benefits

PagerDuty has transformed AEO’s incident management processes in several key ways, enabling the company to successfully handle everything from the smallest customer complaint to the biggest, system-wide catastrophe. Specific benefits include:

  • Intelligent Alert Notification. PagerDuty enables AEO to get alerts into the right hands so staff can respond quickly. “The incident management piece is very key. We’re able to get those alerts out of email and onto people’s phones,” Kundrat explained. “It’s allowed us to implement a very controlled, manageable on-call schedule.” Now, instead of multiple people checking a single inbox, PagerDuty notifies the right teams, who can immediately start working on the incident from PagerDuty’s mobile app.
  • Seamless Integration. The first thing AEO did with PagerDuty was integrate all of its different tools. In doing so, the company can meet its service level agreements while offering employees flexibility in how they work. “It didn’t matter what the ticketing tool was, it didn’t matter what the alerting tool was, it didn’t matter what the monitoring tool was: PagerDuty allowed us to aggregate them all together at a service level,” said Kundrat. “PagerDuty enabled the teams to still use the tools that they wanted to use.”
  • Engagement. Using PagerDuty, AEO now addresses incidents more quickly than before. “We saw reactiveness improve,” Kundrat shared. Moreover, by providing increased visibility and analytics, PagerDuty has enabled AEO to gain valuable insights and quickly identify issues that warrant further attention. “With PagerDuty used as a notification aggregator, it allows us to better react to large issues that need immediate attention,” said Kundrat.
  • Better Work-Life Balance. Instead of being awakened in the middle of the night for seemingly random alerts, employees are only notified on incidents that require immediate action, thanks to PagerDuty’s ability to differentiate signal from the noise generated from thousands of alerts. For example, Thanksgiving is AEO’s third-biggest day of the year. “PagerDuty allowed us to manage the monitoring and responsiveness to issues from our phones, while letting us spend more quality time with our families during the holiday,” said Kundrat. “Once employees realized that PagerDuty supports work-life balance, everybody who now uses it loves it.”
  • Improved Business Communications. AEO’s executives are very hands-on and want to stay informed during customer-impacting incidents. Kundrat’s organization can keep the business apprised of incidents while enabling the technical teams to stay focused on incident resolution. “PagerDuty allows us to get the message out quicker and keep everybody on the same page,” said Kundrat.

Unified Incident Management the Result—But Only the Beginning

Whereas AEO’s approach was previously fragmented, PagerDuty has helped unify incident management across the entire organization like never before. By using PagerDuty, AEO has been able to successfully implement a “follow-the-sun” methodology, providing 24/7 support across the globe and across teams.

Building on this success, AEO plans to continue evolving its incident management strategy using PagerDuty. The customer service team uses PagerDuty, with the security team not far behind. “Different teams utilize different on-call methodologies, and we’re able to showcase that to other teams to demonstrate how PagerDuty might work for them,” said Kundrat. They’re also looking forward to leveraging more advanced Event Intelligence capabilities for reducing operational noise and better understanding patterns in their monitoring data.

According to Kundrat, the importance of unified, on-call management across the organization is huge. “We’re getting closer and closer to being a single team,” Kundrat noted. “PagerDuty is really helping us unify and really understand things at more of a holistic level across the technology organization.”