Developers Spend More Time Firefighting Issues Than Delivering Innovation
June 06, 2024
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Software developers are spending more than 57% of their time being dragged into "war rooms" to solve application performance issues, rather than investing their time developing new, cutting-edge software applications as part of their organization's innovation strategy, according to a new report from Cisco, From frustration to innovation: How full-stack observability can help developers escape war rooms and maximize impact.

Software developers play a critical role in building, launching and maintaining the applications and digital services that are essential to the way modern organizations operate today, and the pressure on them has never been higher. Globally, 85% of those surveyed report encountering increased pressure to accelerate release velocity, while 77% point to mounting pressure to deliver seamless and secure digital experiences.


But while developers are being expected to deliver new tools and functionality at ever faster speeds, they also find themselves on the receiving end of endless demands to help Site Reliability Engineers (SREs) and IT operations teams manage the ongoing availability and performance of applications. The result is teams of developers spending hours in war room meetings and debugging applications, instead of creating code and building new applications.

Lack of Critical Insight into Application Performance

Developers report that the issue is down to their organizations not having the right tools and visibility required to understand the root cause of application issues. They believe this stems from IT departments lacking a full and unified view into applications and the supporting IT stack. Developers are acutely concerned about the potential consequences this could have, with three quarters (75%) of those surveyed fearing that the lack of visibility and insight into IT performance is increasing the chances of their organization suffering downtime and disruption to business-critical applications.

The situation is significantly affecting morale among developers, with 82% admitting that they feel frustrated and demotivated, and 54% increasingly inclined to leave their current job. These findings should ring alarm bells for organizations who are now dependent on developers to create the compelling, intuitive digital experiences that customers and users expect. With demand for developer skills at an all-time high and a finite pool of talent, businesses cannot afford an exodus of talent simply because their IT teams don't have the tools they need to do their jobs.

"While most IT departments have deployed a multitude of monitoring tools across different domains, they simply fall short when it comes to today's complex and dynamic IT environments, leaving technologists unable to generate a full and unified view into their applications and the supporting IT stack," said Shannon McFarland, VP, Cisco DevNet. "When things go wrong, it's incredibly difficult to quickly identify where the root cause lies, often resulting in panic war room situations and developers having to spend hours trying to help their colleagues in IT operations identify the quickest path to remediation."

The Potential for Full-Stack Observability

Encouragingly, developers are acutely aware that there are solutions available to address these concerns, and as many as 91% feel that they should be playing a bigger role in shaping and deciding on the solutions needed within their organization. Above all else, developers point to full-stack observability as being a potential game changer, providing SREs and IT operations teams with unified visibility into applications and supporting infrastructure, across both cloud-native and on premises environments.

While developers themselves may not be the primary users of full-stack observability solutions — focusing instead on their specific areas of domain expertise — 78% believe that implementing full-stack observability within their organization would be beneficial. Developers recognize the benefits of having unified visibility across the IT estate and acknowledge that full-stack observability would make it much easier and quicker for operations teams to identify issues, understand root causes, and carry out necessary remediation. In turn, this would result in fewer technologists from multiple domain teams being required to attend war room sessions, and free up that talent — including developers — to focus on their day jobs.

76% of developers went so far as to state that it's becoming impossible for them to do their job because SREs and IT operations teams don't have the insights they need to effectively manage IT performance. This explains why 94% point to full-stack observability as the single thing that would most help them to escape war rooms and focus on innovation.

The Role of AI

Alongside full-stack observability, many developers (39%) also feel that their organization (and they themselves) would benefit from deploying AI to automate application issue detection and resolution. Rather than relying on manual processes, AI can enable IT teams to cut through overwhelming volumes of application data to identify the most serious issues and apply fixes in real-time.

In addition, developers are ready to embrace new ways of working within the IT department to drive greater efficiency and productivity, and a more streamlined approach to managing application performance. The majority (57%) believe that there needs to be greater ongoing collaboration between developers and IT teams. This is already being seen in shift left testing and widespread adoption of DevOps and DevSecOps methodologies, so that application availability, performance and security considerations are embedded into the development lifecycle from the outset.

"At a time when developer talent is in such high demand, organizations must do everything they can to empower their teams with the tools they need to be able to perform to their full potential and maximize impact," added McFarland. "Full-stack observability has become mission-critical — without it, IT teams simply cannot deliver the levels of digital experience that consumers now demand."

Methodology: Cisco conducted research amongst 500 global software developers split across the U.S. (200), UK (100), Australia (30), and the rest of the world (170 - including Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Scandinavia, Japan, Singapore, India). The research was conducted by Insight Avenue in March and April 2024.

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