A New Day for Developers in Driving the Digital Customer Experience

Observability tools place developers at the intersection of technology and business

Estimated time to read: 8 minutes

It’s no exaggeration to call digital customer experience one of the most important functions of an entire company. It is now and it will be a decade from now. User experience, in fact, has increasingly become a key performance indicator at the boardroom level because customers, more and more, prefer to interact with your business online.

That’s why so much of today’s IT architecture is really business architecture. Aligning service level agreements (SLA) to the service level objectives (SLO) and service level indicators (SLI) of technology is about ensuring systems are creating the right experience at the right time in the right channel for customers.

Developers, who once focused primarily on building and fixing applications, have expanded their remit to fine-tuning, improving, and evolving these same applications for the betterment of the business. Armed with the system insight and user data from powerful new observability tools, developers are, practically speaking, taking a seat at the digital customer experience table alongside designers, content strategists, and platform specialists.

They build, after all, the “shop windows” of online commerce and the digital touch points of customer engagement. Since every page view can burnish the brand or lead to a sale, it’s on developers to deliver top-notch applications that are simple to use and perform to visitors’ expectations. The stakes are high when competitors are just a click away.

Full-stack observability turns developers into customer champions

Full-stack observability solutions, aided by digital experience management tools and AI, are like the trusted assistants to the shop window builder. These tools deliver comprehensive, real-time information and insights on application performance and customer behavior to developers. With these insights, the developer can communicate with and assist business leaders in making accurate, informed decisions about the technology that drives the business. Gone are the tunnel-vision days of code-and-fix development; with a broad view of applications throughout the development lifecycle, developers now have influence over business-critical customer experiences.

Before observability, embedding business context and measurement into the technology stack wasn’t really possible; now it’s a critical capability of an observable system. The ability of companies to get a complete picture of their applications’ health and customers’ behavior ultimately leads to better user experiences and business outcomes.

It’s all about data. Observable systems are fully instrumented to read and collect data from every node, circuit, and API across the entire technology environment. Those data tell a story, about the performance of a small piece of code or the string of components involved in completing a business function like, say, adding a Carhartt hat to a digital shopping cart. Business context sets the technology expectations for performing that carting function, and full-stack observability allows you to measure whether the technology is delivering.

For developers, the goal is to turn the visibility that the data provides into insight, and that insight into action, across the entire development lifecycle. Automation and orchestration capabilities, especially AI-powered tooling, can pick up some of the operational heavy-lifting; machine learning algorithms can analyze data across application layers. An observable system is an easier system to work with and understand and, therefore, one that can be calibrated to the needs of the customer.

The virtues of observability across the dev lifecycle

The benefits of using full-stack observability for digital customer experience begin accruing as soon as developers start to develop. Observability can function as an early warning system for buggy code, helping developers isolate problems and fix them before they slip into production. As a result, customers will see fewer issues live on the application.

It can also help developers assess the impact of adding or deprecating application features, decide how to scale applications, and evaluate performance characteristics of proposed changes. With a wealth of performance data, developers can prepare for live users before new functionality launches.

Cloud dependency creates challenges in system transparency, and observability tools can bring visibility across environments to make it easier to understand system functions when introducing changes to source code. Once applications are in production, full-stack observability inputs can help developers align their time, priorities, and efforts in service of business objectives.

FSO delivers answers to three main questions at the heart of creating a great digital customer experience:

  1. How quickly can I fix it?
    Developers are responsible for fixing what they release. Bugs that ops teams can’t repair find their way back to them in queues of service tickets. These tickets can be hard to prioritize, and even harder sometimes to understand, especially when the teams flagging them can’t agree on the root or nature of the problem.

    From a customer perspective, application faults are blots on the brand. At worst, they’re blockers to buying or annoyances that drive visitors away. Fixing them fast is paramount to credibility and, possibly, commerce. Nothing undermines the digital customer experience more than an application that doesn’t work or works poorly for delivering products and services.

    An observability platform can align around shared data AppOpps and NetOpps teams’ understanding of the issues, leading to quicker agreement on next steps and resolutions. Teams start to see a lot less disagreeing about and a lot more responding to the problems that arise. In the not-too-distant future, artificial intelligence will begin to interpret this data in real time and alert teams to problems.

    Fewer service tickets mean fewer headaches for developers. When tickets do filter through, observability can help developers quickly answer questions like “why did this happen” and “how do I fix this?” Quicker fixes mean less time for customers experiencing buggy or broken functionality or blockers to transacting on the application.

    Seeing the issue first-hand is key, but that’s not always possible, especially if it can’t be reproduced in the development environment. The Cisco Observability Platform’s Session Replay functionality captures session clicks in action. Developers are able to see how the application works from the customer perspective by replaying a video of the issue in production to understand what happened before and after the event. That can be a big time-saver in resolving issues.

  2. How well is it working?
    It’s not always about whether something is working — often it’s whether it’s working to expectations. Performance issues can affect developers and customers. Often, these issues are measured by SLIs and SLOs, which translate business objectives into technology goals against which metrics and health goals can be tracked. In an application, there can be hundreds of these goals to monitor and measure.

    Page load times, for one, can influence buying decisions. It takes dozens of actions for an application to load a page and many more to complete a business transaction. Constantly monitoring these steps — and figuring out where load times are lagging — can be challenging. And that doesn’t even include understanding whether key pieces of the infrastructure are performing as expected.

    Full-stack observability monitors these steps. For simplicity, grouping these steps into logical buckets that reflect your business, like “logging in,” can help with this oversight. When alerts come up on these business transactions you’ll know what business-related functionality is at risk and can drill down into the component steps to evaluate the issue. Developers can use observability tools to track performance at the page and element levels against baseline metrics and alert on bottlenecks or anomalies that indicate trouble. Maybe a single page element is causing the delay.

    When you plumb security monitoring into observability and these two worlds converge, you’re now not only watching performance of your commerce engine, you’re finding vulnerabilities that could threaten your business transactions in the application. Ignoring them is dangerous since they all are links in your digital supply chain.

    That’s an important function of full stack observability – tracking and measuring system behavior to ensure that customers are getting what they expect from an optimized, performant, and secure technology stack.

  3. How much do they love it?
    So, everything’s fixed. Your application is meeting all its performance goals. Now you’ve got time to drive innovation, optimize customer experience, and turbo-charge the application’s performance for the business. Observability tools and digital experience management functionality support this by providing insight into key application business processes and user behavior.

    Cisco Smartlook provides developers with analytics that show how customers are interacting with a browser or mobile app. Customer experience journey mapping provides an aggregated view of all sessions across the application. With these, developers can visualize how customers interact with the application across devices and identify opportunities to optimize the experience. For example, if analytics suggest that conversion rates are too low, developers can make informed decisions to potentially move a “buy” button higher on the site.

    Better user experience isn’t just a nice-to-have. Google now includes good user experience in its ranking algorithms, measuring loading performance, responsiveness, and visual stability, and has set its own set of metrics for what it calls Core Web Vitals. This, “along with other page experience aspects,” Google says, “aligns with what our core ranking system seek to reward.” Without a positive user experience on your application, Google may de-rank you and users won’t find you in the first place.

    Building the best customer experience isn’t just a virtue for delighting customers; it’s more and more a necessity in the digital ecosystem.

Creating a collaborative culture

It’s easier to work collaboratively when everyone can access the same information. From fixing bugs to building the killer app, developers now have intelligence and insight to make informed decisions collaboratively with their colleagues. Common metrics shared across teams enable companies to reward teams for the performance of applications, not just the patch they control.

Developers are also embracing the possibilities of observability for continuous feedback, learning opportunities, and the operational insight that leads to better-performing and optimized applications.

Customer experience ultimately benefits. Fewer bugs, more uptime, performant systems, tighter security, and greater alignment to customer needs produce a better application experience, which today is pivotal to commercial success. Developers become custodians of the business by getting involved in application oversight and refinement.

To summarize some key ways full-stack observability can support developers:

  • Provide broader visibility into system DNA
  • Better align dev teams with ops for problem-solving
  • Improve productivity, agility, and responsiveness
  • Deliver deeper business context to aid decision-making
  • Show how customers use applications


The days of arms-length development are over. Understanding the need to stand out online, organizations are leaning more on developers to champion the digital customer experience. It’s no small ask for an already over-burdened role, but it’s an all-hands imperative as customers gravitate to doing business digitally.

With observability and customer experience tools at their disposal, developers can embrace this responsibility for more intimately influencing business outcomes. Working through these solutions with the visibility and insight necessary to support informed decision-making and fast, high-impact contributions, developers can fix, refine, and upgrade their applications to responsively address the needs of customers and the business that serves them.


Blog: Digital Customer Experience Monitoring

Developer Hub: Full-stack observability

Topic: Digital Experience Monitoring

Learning Lab: Cisco Cloud Observability