#16: Observability vs. monitoring and its effect on the customer experience with Gerardo Dada, CMO at Catchpoint

In today’s tech-driven landscape, the concepts of “observability” and “monitoring” play pivotal roles, especially for B2B companies involved in web-based applications and DevOps. Understanding these concepts is crucial for ensuring application reliability and providing superior customer experiences. We’re diving into why these distinctions matter, how shifts in architecture influence observability strategies, and what benefits end customers can gain from a focus on observability. To help me delve into these topics, I’d like to welcome Gerardo Dada, Chief Marketing Officer at Catchpoint.

About Gerardo Dada

Gerardo Dada is Chief Marketing Officer at Catchpoint. He has over 20 years of experience in technology marketing and has been at the center of the Web, Mobile, Social, and Cloud revolutions. He has held senior marketing and strategy positions at SolarWinds, Microsoft, Rackspace, DataCore, BazaarVoice, and Keeper Security. Today Gerardo is the CMO of Catchpoint.


Catchpoint website: https://www.catchpoint.com The B2B Agility podcast website: https://www.b2bagility.com

Sign up for The Agile Brand newsletter here: https://www.gregkihlstrom.com

Get the latest news and updates on LinkedIn here: https://www.linkedin.com/showcase/b2b-agility/

Check out The Agile Brand Guide website with articles, insights, and Martechipedia, the wiki for marketing technology: https://www.agilebrandguide.com

B2B Agility with Greg Kihlström is produced by Missing Link—a Latina-owned strategy-driven, creatively fueled production co-op. From ideation to creation, they craft human connections through intelligent, engaging and informative content. https://www.missinglink.company


Greg Kihlström:
Now let’s get on to the show. With technology playing a stronger role in marketing and the CX landscape, the concepts of observability and monitoring play pivotal roles, especially for B2B companies involved in web-based applications and DevOps. Understanding these concepts is crucial for ensuring application reliability and providing superior customer experiences. So today, we’re going to dive into why these distinctions matter, how shifts in architecture influence observability strategies, and what benefits end customers can gain from a focus on observability. To discuss these topics, I’d like to welcome Gerardo Dada, Chief Marketing Officer at Catchpoint. Gerardo, welcome to the show.

Gerardo Dada: Thank you, Greg. It’s a pleasure being here today with you.

Greg Kihlström: Yeah, looking forward to talking about this with you. So before we dive in here, why don’t you give us an overview of your role at Catchpoint and a little bit about what Catchpoint does? Sure.

Gerardo Dada: So I joined about a year and a half ago at Catchpoint. The company has been around for 15 years. It’s one of those things that when you’re looking for an opportunity to CMO, which is my role, I was looking for a company that had a really good product, but really bad marketing. I found that the company had something that was very valuable for the market, but they were not doing a good job in marketing. So that’s kind of a dream job for a marketer, right? Especially if you’re. the marketer that likes changing things and likes building things up. The company is in the digital observability space, right? So the company serves only the largest 5,000 customers in the world. We have about 300 customers, most of them companies you would know from large banks to Amazon to Walmart, you know. every big company, or I would say about 70% of the largest global brands are our customers today. And we help them understand the digital impact that their technology is having on their customers, their employees, their partners, and optimize that digital interaction through what we call internet performance monitoring.

Greg Kihlström: Right, great. Well, let’s dive in here. And I want to start, you know, I mentioned some terms, and maybe not everybody’s familiar with those listening here, you know, so I want to talk about the distinction between observability and monitoring. And so DevOps and web based applications, the landscapes rapidly evolving with, you know, traditional monitoring of infrastructure, shifting to a more holistic approach of what we call observability. So can you talk about, you know, what are the key differences between observability and monitoring in the context of, you know, web-based apps and, you know, why is it critical for B2B companies to grasp these distinctions?

Gerardo Dada: Yeah, so not only for B2B companies, but, you know, if you think about it, every interaction that we have today, it’s either digital Or it’s about a digital workflow, right? So if you imagine going to a restaurant, you find the restaurant on Yelp, you use Google Maps to get there, you scan a QR code to look at the menu, and then the waiter puts the order on a PDA or on a cell system. Then you need to get the bill, then you need to do transaction processing on a credit card. All those things are digital, even in what you could call an offline experience. The same for boarding and playing and the same for almost every B2B interaction, right? Whether you were having a team’s call with a provider. or Walmart doing EDI transactions with their suppliers or, you know, any of those things. So digital is the foundation of the model world and everything that we do nowadays depends on the internet. So historically in technology, monitoring has been kind of a set of tools to look at what’s happening, right? And they’ve been fairly tactical in the sense that it will tell you, like, if you look at your PC or a big server running your website, what is the percentage of the CPU, how much memory is available, et cetera, a lot of different metrics that allow you to understand the health and performance of the system. But observability takes that a step further in three ways. One is the answer to the question, what does that mean? The second is looking at the system as a whole, right? Like it’s, you really don’t care about CPU in your computer. You just care that it really works, right? Whether CPU is 70% or 80%, I don’t know what makes a difference. I don’t know what I can tell when those numbers go up or down. And third, the idea of customer experience, right? We focus on whether it’s CPU is high or low, or memory is high or low. What you really care is that your customers can go to website, for example, and receive a page in about three seconds, because we know for a fact every second after that your page takes to load, lower than three seconds, you’re still losing customers. And some of those customers are not going to come back. That’s true for consumers, but also in the B2B space, right? Like as a B2B company, we track everything from the portals, the internal employee applications, because nowadays retaining customers and employee productivity is really critical. So observability now is kind of the set of technologies that allow you to keep an eye on all your digital systems and make sure they’re supporting your business initiatives.

Greg Kihlström: Yeah, yeah. And so, you know, we definitely have a lot of marketers and CX professionals listening to the show. And, you know, so maybe not directly responsible for engineering teams or things like that. But certainly, the term DevOps has come up a lot. And there’s certainly a shift to that model. And I think marketers are feeling the effects of that in a positive way. But, you know, just for you, you know, how has this emphasis in DevOps shifted to favor what you were just describing as far as observability over that traditional monitoring approach? And, you know, what what implications does this have for not only reliability and performance, but also that that customer experience?

Gerardo Dada: Great question. So so that is a practice that basically is trying to merge or get the teams that build applications and the teams that operate those applications working together. It’s almost like if you’re our age in the 80s, there were a lot of quality problems with products. And then there was this idea, it’s like, why don’t we design a product for manufacturing when all this technology like Six Sigma and stuff like that. Yeah. Think about the product not only as what you want to build, but how is it going to be built so that it can be built with quality and everything works all the way to the end, which is the customer. So DevOps is basically don’t build a website and then hope that the IT department runs a website and locks it out. It’s merge those two teams so that the You develop something and you test it and you understand how it works. And the team operating it is providing real-time feedback to the development team, often it’s the same team. a job that’s called a site reliability engineer. And this is a function that is based all on this metrics on observability and monitoring, right? Because you don’t know, you cannot fix what you don’t measure. So it’s ingrained in this concept of DevOps that you need to measure everything. You need to measure not only consumption of resources, which often become very expensive in the cloud, If you’re building a large application, like if you look at companies like, I don’t know, Yelp or any of the new startups, most of their expenses is either people or cloud costs, right? So efficiency is important for them, but also making sure that whatever you’re building, because it’s a rapid, you know, deploy situation with DevOps, where they might release a new version of the website every day, that you don’t impact the customer experience. And it’s important that as you make changes to that website, to that application all the time, that you understand that your customers are still going to be able to perform the task. Like if you’re a bank, you need to make sure that people can still log in, check their balance, complete a transaction, transfer money, whatever they want to do and log out. So if you’re a marketer, you need to make sure that every one of your systems, including, for example, you might rely on HubSpot for Salesforce. Well, we monitor those applications for companies. You might rely on the connectivity between those, right? Like there’s an API that sends information from your marketing automation to your Salesforce. And if that goes down, you might lose leads and you might lose business. You need to make sure that any changes you create to a form does not break your website. If you think about March 2024, about a month ago, there was an issue with an Adobe plugin for websites, and it brought down a very large number of websites. We worked with one of the leading, I would say, tennis shoe manufacturers, well, sport equipment manufacturers in the world. And we found this incident even before Adobe announced that there was an issue. And so they were able to make changes to the website and make sure that they were still able to sell tennis shoes and other stuff. preserve that continuity and support the business, even before Adobe acknowledged that they have an issue. If you don’t have this level of observability, whether it’s with one or another company, then you basically are at the mercy of, wait, the website is down, why are my transactions not happening? You get a bulk call from the VP of e-commerce, you start checking everything, it’s going to take you an hour or two of a fire drill, finding out what’s wrong, and you might have lost two hours of sales plus upset a bunch of customers.

Greg Kihlström: Yeah. Yeah. Well, and so to build on that as well. So, you know, you, you mentioned some systems like, you know, CRMs and, and DXPs and stuff that rather large systems that are, that are integrated with, with one another, there is definitely the trend. And I’m sure, you know, those listening are familiar with the term composable. You know, there, there’s this trend towards composability, which break some of those things down into much smaller pieces in many cases. And so, thinking about this trend of composable, now not only do we have a few big platforms that we’re integrating between and need uptime, and all that between, but now we’re talking about microservices, I mean, composables. I think it’s been called by many names in the past as well to your earlier point, but now we have all these microservices and composable platforms that we’re integrating with. How does this impact observability and are there strategies that we need to use to adapt to this shift to composable architecture?

Gerardo Dada: Yeah, it’s a great question. So I feel like composability is one of those buzzwords that we marketers love. That can mean many things, but at the end of the day, it means that if you look back 20 years to about 24 years of the early days of the web, most applications were monolithic, right? You install an application and it worked. You had a content management system probably at the time and it just did everything you needed it to do. Nowadays, websites are applications in general, collections of multiple things, hosted in multiple clouds, connected in multiple different technologies, right? So it’s an assembly of sometimes hundreds of different applications. We have a tool called webpagetest.org, which is a tool everybody listening to the podcast can use to check the performance of your website will tell you how you’re doing from a Core Web Vitals and what’s the performance and usability. And if you do that on your website, you can look at the request map and you can see all the dependencies, all the things that their website is depending on for it to load. I just checked CNN the other day, 625 different requests. So if you think about it, it’s composed of 625 different components that your browser puts together. to give you a page and all that happens in three seconds. Right. And so all of those components are, well, you have to load the fonts from someplace. Your CDN is delivering some graphics. There’s a video that’s being loaded from a video platform. There’s an app application running on it as well. There’s some security stuff going on, like, you know, on and on and on. And so it means that every. Part of technology that we use nowadays, whether it’s an application on your phone or it’s your core B2B business platform, whatever you want to think about in terms of technology, it has oftentimes hundreds of these dependencies that are distributed around the world. They come from different clouds, different locations that might be hosted, and every one of those connections depends on multiple things on the internet for it to work. From DNS to something called BGP, Border Gateway Protocol, that most people don’t even know what it is. Honestly, I didn’t know until two years ago, to basically like the zip code system of the internet. And the things, if you’re a large business and you don’t pay attention to all those things. It can be very damaging. Two years ago, exactly, we had, if you remember, Facebook went down, WhatsApp went down, Instagram went down for hours. It costed Facebook hundreds of millions of dollars, and it was precisely this BGP technology that they were not paying attention to, but which they now do with Cashpoint. But they were not paying attention. And if the SIP code, imagine your SIP code goes down, you’re a big enough company, you have your own SIP code. If it goes down, nothing will get to your mailbox, right? You cannot get to the website. But the IT people were not able to get into the data center because their key cards were not able to authenticate the users. because there was no way to connect to their IT systems. So it was a catastrophe. And for smaller businesses, it requires a little bit of this awareness, right? So again, if you use this tool, webpageset.org or any other tool out there, our tool is free and you can just go in, you don’t even need to register, check website. Look at not only what your website is depending on, but what is the performance impact of each one of those applications. And it will give you even some recommendations on what to do to make sure that if one of those things goes down, your site can still be running, right? So you don’t make it a hard dependency for your website to work.

SPEAKER_01: Ever tried reading while jogging, cooking, or even juggling flaming torches? Yeah, doesn’t end well. But with audiobooks.com, you can conquer books without the circus act. Dive into over 450,000 titles, including more than 10,000 free ones. Get hooked on a bestseller, find your next obsession, or finally read that classic you’ve been avoiding since high school. And here’s the inside scoop. Sign up today for a free 30-day trial and snag your first three audiobooks on the house. Sign up for your free trial at audiobooks.com slash podcast free today. That’s audiobooks.com slash podcast F R E E.

Greg Kihlström: So, you know, given, at least for the time being, you know, composable seems like it’s a trend that many are adopting. And, you know, to your point about the CNN site, it’s like, even if you’re not all in on composable, there’s still a lot of things being pulled from a lot of different places, whether you’re, you know, 100% composable or not, you know, are there opportunities here, you know, with with a move to composable, like, you know, we talked about some of the challenges already, but you know, are there some opportunities here with with observability, and, you know, just for that better customer experience with with a composable approach?

Gerardo Dada: Yeah, of course, because the advantage of composability is that it allows you to pick best of breed elements. So I have a small blog, theadaptivemarketer.com, and I use one tool for SEO. I really use WordPress. I rely on a hosting company. I have an SEO tool, I have a tool for security. Even my little website that I run on the side has like 20 different components. And so the composability has allowed me to make the decisions to not only use best-in-class, but actually use components that were not available on the core platform. So that’s the opportunity. Now, individually for people listening to your podcast, I think the opportunity is to be aware of those changes and to be aware of what are those elements that impact every component of the Martek stack. The Martek stack itself, it’s a list. If you think about it, like if you use 20, 30 different tools, that’s a great example of like, look, our marketing engine to work relies on this 30 tools. Well, there might be another 50 tools behind that that you’re not aware of. And like I said at the beginning, you cannot fix what you cannot see. As an expert in marketing technology, it’s all your job to understand those dependencies, understand the risk, not only the upside, but also the risk to your business, and to be able to manage that accordingly, having plan Bs, or at least being aware of not only that they exist, but the role How hard is the dependency on them? And what is the resource or performance impact to your overall business? To me, that’s the biggest opportunity of possibility from a marketing perspective. And of course, we all know, you know, there’s thousands and thousands of marketing technology component that you can plug in into your Salesforce platform, into your website, into your house, et cetera. And that’s just one of the evident values of composability that everything is pluggable and everything can be integrated now into a big system that does a lot more than what the original system was doing. It should was just a monolithic thing.

Greg Kihlström: Yeah. Yeah. So I want to get back to, you know, at the beginning of the show, we were talking about you know, not only the definition of observability and how that differs from monitoring, but also, you know, the benefits for the end customer. And I want to end there as well. And, you know, so you touched on this already, but I wanted to get back to this idea of, you know, focusing on observability versus monitoring, and, you know, just how not only how it benefits the end customer, because I think you touched on that some, but does this get into, you know, how should marketers be thinking about this from, you know, from that approach? Is there messaging here? Is there a way that they do, you know, do their work differently when this kind of observability versus monitoring approach is taken?

Gerardo Dada: Well, so yeah, the short answer is yes, there needs to be a shift, right? Because monitoring would be, I just want to make sure that our website is up, right? That is it. Like, okay, your website is up, but can customers in your key areas reach out to it, right? If you work with a global customer. Let’s say one of our focuses as a company is in luxury companies. The biggest luxury brand in the world right now is Porsche, and their most important market is China. So using them as an example, it’s not enough for the people in Stuttgart to know that the website is up. They need to know that people in Shanghai can go to the website, can configure a car, that the dealers all over China are able to connect and place orders, that they can do service requests, that they can register customers, et cetera. So it goes beyond just making sure things are up to, with observability, understand that they are actually supporting the business. And that means that you need to understand what is the digital customer experience. And that also means that as a business, you need to adopt a new terminology, again, with the buzzwords we call internet resilience. And resilience means not only, I mean, technically the word means that in case of an error, you can always come back and survive it, right? It’s almost like survival. But if you peel down the onions, resilience means your website is up, but it’s also fast and it’s reachable for the people you care about. And it’s something you’ve got to rely on so people can count on you. At the end of the day, this whole thing about digital resilience and observability and digital customer experience is about trust. If you, as consumers, B2B or B2C, you always have options. And nowadays switching from one vendor to another takes seconds oftentimes, right? If you were shopping around, it just doesn’t take anything to go from Amazon to Walmart, to Target, to any other store. Same is true in B2B actually, right? Like wherever you want to buy, there’s hundreds of companies happy to transact with you. And if your business, if your consumers cannot trust your digital systems to work and to be reliable, then you’re toast. Like one of our customers is Motorola, who sells 911 systems, right? So imagine you’re the major of a city and your 911 system goes down for an hour and people die. Or imagine you’re running a hospital and your systems go down. Well, that simply cannot happen, right? So resilience is not only in those cases, mission critical, but it’s life critical. So the approach is understanding that digital systems support everything in our lives nowadays, and that you as a marketer need to be aware of those digital systems to the power of observability, which means you need to look at those systems, understand the complexity, understand the dependencies, understand their performance and risks. and be aware of how they’re impacting the customer experience. We see many of these major brands building what we call a digital operational center, basically a digital customer experience room. Imagine IT, there’s all these war rooms for security, like the SOC. They used to have a NOC, Network Operations Center. Now they have a SOC, Security Operations Center. Well, there needs to be a DOC, a Digital Operations Center, that basically says, let’s get together as marketers and IT people, just like DevOps bridges developers and operations. A DOC helps bridge the business and marketing and IT into, let’s understand what is that experience that we’re delivering to our customers. Again, B2B, B2C, but also our partners and our employees, because now with, after COVID, the pandemic, The majority of B2B people are working remotely or at least they have a lot more flexibility to work from everywhere. So IT needs to make sure that you can be productive wherever you are. And I think all of us experience problems where connecting to conferencing platforms or logging into systems, which in a small business might not be that much, but at the end of the day is what companies call digital friction. And if you’re a large company, like one of our customers is Dell, Their salespeople were having some issues with connecting with the sales platforms. And it was like what we call paper cup outages. Not massive, it’s not in the news, but every salesperson across the company was spending 20 minutes a day just trying to connect to a system. When we fixed it, multiply 20 minutes a day times 300 days a year of your work times thousands of people, now you’re saving multiple man years of productivity, right? And so that applies not only of course to employees, but to partners as well. And people nowadays that everything is so, it’s so easy to change providers. A lot of people are going to make the decision based on the company they can trust and they can trust that their systems will work, that their systems will be reliant. They will have that resilience and that it’s not going to go down. Like if you’re, I don’t know, go back to the restaurant. If you have the option of using Stripe or one of other, there’s probably 10 different payment processing, you’re probably going to go first with the cheapest one. And then after your restaurant is not able to process transactions for a few hours, you’re going to go with the most reliable, right? Because you understand the reliability trumps and resilience trumps cost in most instances nowadays in business. We see CEOs and boards prioritizing resilience over revenue and growth today.

Greg Kihlström: Yeah, yeah. Well, Gerardo, thanks so much for joining here. One last question before we wrap up here. You’ve already, you know, given some great insights and advice, but, you know, wanted to just get your thoughts on, you know, you used a few terms here, one of them digital resilience. And I think that that really resonates as far as the relationship to trust and the trust in a brand. How do you see that digital resilience and trust evolving over the years to come? And what should companies keep in mind to stay ahead here?

Gerardo Dada: Well, so the first thing is an awareness of the importance of trust as the leader or the key driver for customer loyalty and for business growth. I use a lot of consumer examples because they’re more easily understood, but think about the time where last Thanksgiving Southwest Airlines had a problem and people were not able to get to their families to spend Thanksgiving with them. And one person was not able to get to the hospital to get the transplant in time, right? So, and how their business has been impacted even now, I seem to get a lot more sales and offers from Southwest since that incident happened. It costed them billions of dollars. And it’s only, what happened at the end day is not only the impact in those hours that they have an incident, but how it erodes trust. And the important thing is trust is built over years. It can be lost in five minutes. And so that’s the first step, understanding the importance of trust and how trust relies on that digital resilience. And the second part is making digital resilience a priority for your operation. And it’s not enough to say my systems work. The question is, are they going to be resilient? And resilient means, okay, you have a massive influx of visitors to your website or transactions on your system. Are you able to manage those? Are you able to understand your system dependency using that proposal architecture and have a plan for what happens if Amazon goes down for two hours? Are you just going to sit there and wait until they fix it or do you have a plan B? What happens is Adobe or any other, I’m not, you know, a book is not about them, any of those companies rely on what happens if they go down. So that ideal, how do you not only make sure the system works, but it’s resilient to those four aspects, performance, availability, reachability, and reliability, right? So that’s going to be kind of a new objective. not only for IT or even for marketing and marketing operations, but for the business as a whole.