New Relic’s sales teams spend a lot of time working with our customers on their journeys toward digital transformation, and the adoption of DevOps, cloud native solutions, and modern software technologies.

It turns out, though, that a typical journey seldom takes a straight path to the top of the mountain. In reality, the trip is often full of confusing switchbacks and plenty of moments of feeling lost in the wilderness.

Look at it this way. Instead of occupying specific positions along a relatively simple maturity curve, companies populate a complex spectrum of technological maturity, often mixing areas of powerful cloud-based innovation with backwaters of silos and legacy on-premise technologies and processes—sometimes simultaneously at the same company! (This is especially common in hyper-growth situations and after mergers and acquisitions, where fast-changing companies must incorporate disparate infrastructures, processes, and attitudes even as they work to evolve their core technology initiatives.) Just as important, these factors may be deeply interrelated, as critical business initiatives lead to complex downstream effects.

To illustrate, let’s take a look at a few representative stories of enterprises—ranging from international automakers and electronics retailers to media companies and financial institutions—working to embrace modern software practices. No matter what industry you’re in, you might see some situations you recognize:

Getting engineers to manage incidents to reduce technical debt is not easy. Teams at one large enterprise, for example, told us that they’re drowning in technical debt trying to manage a sprawling, heterogenous ecosystem. They're trying to get developers involved in the incident-response process, which is really challenging for them. On the plus side, they know they have to change.

Too many ops teams are stuck in reactive mode. Similarly, another customer finds its technology teams stuck in silos, unable to take a cooperative, DevOps approach. While the operations team really cares about adopting modern development practices, they're forbidden by corporate mandate to do monitoring until an app goes live. They want to do better, but they can't get out of reactive mode.

Decision makers are burdened with competing sets of metrics. One New Relic customer with dozens of business units spread across dozens of countries started a massive AWS migration that touched thousands of servers and hundreds of apps. Since every team was using a different platform, different processes, and different metrics, key decision makers had to learn 30 different organizational "languages" to analyze the technical and business data from the migration. (Spoiler alert: They brought New Relic in to standardize metrics across that entire process, so those senior decision makers could better understand the underlying data and make the right decisions.)

Teams embrace modern technology, but their spending is out of control. Even more perplexing, perhaps, is a company that seemed to check all the technology boxes: Its apps are deployed in containers; the ops teams are leveraging serverless technology in AWS Lambda; and developers are using distributed tracing to troubleshoot their systems. Looking at this group on paper, you'd probably say, "Wow, this company is really modern." But from a spending perspective, the firm’s infrastructure is completely out of control, and they have no way of predicting what their cloud bill is going look like every month. They know they have a problem, but they just can't prioritize that right now given pressing concerns about aligning their SLOs and SLIs, building up their SRE practice, and many others.

A single company can have vastly different levels of maturity. A recent sales call with a major customer had at least three different organizations represented, each with a completely different level of technological maturity. One group still does all its ticketing manually. (Yes, it’s OK to feel bad for them.) Another group writes runbooks, but the people writing them don't fully understand the entire company’s technology landscape, so the runbooks can be frustratingly unhelpful to the people reading them. A third group, however, says, "Yes, we've read the Google SRE book (Site Reliability Engineering) and we want to know how to monitor the four golden signals with New Relic."

Lift-and-shift DevOps likely isn’t enough. Then there’s the outfit that got its design, engineering, and ops teams together to completely revamp a key business process in just eight hours. "Wow, they're totally modern DevOps shop, right?" Well, when the teams stepped back to look at their DevOps journey, they realized they’d settled for a lift-and-shift DevOps implementation—treating it as a box to be checked off instead of asking themselves why they were doing it in the first place. Why did they want to embrace DevOps? Why did they think it was important to deliver updates more quickly? What did site stability mean to them? The company invited New Relic to one of its quarterly cloud-migration events, to sit at the table with the team and watch as they migrated services to the cloud and help them optimize that process.

All this isn’t to shame any company or organization for not being fully modern. The point is that despite their undeniable benefits, digital transformation, cloud migration, and the shift to modern software practices can be surprisingly complex and difficult in a world of constant change and finite resources. Just as important, New Relic has been there, understands your pain, and can be your strategic partner to help ease and optimize your modernization journey, no matter where you reside in the modernization maturity landscape.

In fact, we've been asked so many times how to make the move to modern software and processes that we’ve created detailed guides for some of the initiatives we see most often: