Improving availability and performance of customer-facing applications with Cisco Full-Stack Observability (FSO)
The largest bank in the United Arab Emirates and one of the world's safest financial institutions creates value for employees, customers, shareholders, and communities through differentiation, agility, and innovation.
Industry: Financial services
Location: Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Partner: Perform IT
First Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB) is more than the largest bank in the United Arab Emirates. It's one of the country's most customer-focused institutions that is always looking to improve its services across a large portfolio of financial solutions, products, and services to better serve its corporate and retail clients. FAB is also a beacon of progress. From its commitment to invest more than US$75 billion in sustainable initiatives by 2030 to partnering with Visa to empower female entrepreneurs, the company is helping to lead the UAE forward to a healthier future, both financially and socially.
This commitment to customer success and progress is now driving a digital transformation within FAB. Since 2018, the bank has taken an increasingly proactive approach to the monitoring and performance of its customer-facing applications, leading to dramatic improvements in service quality and reliability.
Through its digital transformation, FAB's business, development, and IT operations teams embarked on the task of collecting consistent performance data on its many applications to improve visibility into core key performance indicators, such as service availability, mean time to market (MTTM), and business transaction health.
Teams wanted better insights into infrastructure performance and ways to monitor their performance without silos. They prioritized eliminating inefficiencies and downtime in FAB's customer service to remain competitive and continue delivering a superior customer experience.
"We can't rely on customers to tell us something is wrong. That would be unacceptable," says Emma Lewis, head of technology service management at FAB. "We need complete visibility across everything that's happening within our applications, so we can spot and address performance issues before they do."
To that end, FAB completed an audit to determine where it needed to focus its IT investment to break down data silos and gain more control over the customer experience. One opportunity stood out: the need to improve application performance management.
Perform IT, an AppDynamics Titan partner, replaced the previous monitoring tools with Cisco AppDynamics, allowing FAB to have a more agile and integrated approach to application management. Proactive alerts and dynamic baselining allow teams to quickly spot and address performance issues before they impact customers. What's more, complete visibility across the application system allows FAB to understand the root causes of performance issues and triage them at their sources, rather than simply patching them at the surface. "When adopting next-generation application and performance monitoring software like Cisco AppDynamics, you want to make sure you get the most out of the solution, and then some," explains Stanislav Ivanov, chief information officer at Perform IT. "The value that we provide is best practices and interoperability when it comes to interfacing with AppDynamics. We support the local FAB team in their effort to standardize onboarding and enable application teams in the right usage of the tool."
“The combination of AppDynamics and ThousandEyes will give us deeper visibility across the full digital supply chain. As we continue on our path to full-stack observability, we'll be equipped to deliver stellar experiences for our customers.”Emma Lewis, Head of Technology Service Management
FAB initially onboarded 60 business applications onto AppDynamics, but strong results and positive feedback from employees saw that figure increase to 120 applications just one year after going live. Today, the company uses AppDynamics to monitor more than 180 applications, delivering value to teams across the organization. Perform IT supports the local FAB team in their effort to standardize onboarding and enable application teams in the right usage of the tool.
"We saw instant results from AppDynamics, and the speed with which we continue to onboard new applications onto the solution is a testament to the value it delivers," says Navid Thakur, vice president of enterprise tools and automation at FAB. "It's also a testament to our employees and their commitment to continuous improvement of our services."
The impact of AppDynamics as part of the journey to full-stack observability has been widespread, enhancing the performance of FAB's business, IT operations, and development and testing teams. Importantly, the solution broke down silos between these functions, which now work together to detect, alert, and resolve performance issues in record time.
"By managing application performance more proactively with Cisco AppDynamics as part of our effort toward full-stack observability, we're providing concrete value to the entire business. More than 180 applications now run with fewer incidents and improved availability, which means less effort for our teams and a better experience for customers," says Thakur.
AppDynamics is also supporting FAB's effort to pioneer a new approach to IT among UAE banks. FAB is one of the first banks in the country to migrate from on-premises IT applications to software-as-a-service (SaaS) cloud technologies, all while maintaining visibility across these services. Perform IT brought their expertise with AppDynamics and cloud-native applications to deliver the right support to FAB and its digital transformation journey.
In parallel, the bank is moving toward a DevOps mentality in its application management and development. Instead of pure project delivery, where applications go into production as soon as they're ready, FAB now encourages teams to take ownership of the apps they build and optimize new services that take the customer experience to the next level.
"Our goal is for every service team at FAB to have AppDynamics open all day, every day—not only to deal with performance issues and keep our business running smoothly, but also to dive deeper to better understand how our systems behave and uncover new ways to make our applications stronger than ever," says Lewis. "How can we reduce response times? How can we eliminate blips and service issues at peak demand periods? How can we make the experience better for customers? These are the questions that can transform the way we work and serve the market, and now we have a solution that can help us find the answers we need," she adds.
FAB also plans to shift its application development to cloud microservices in the long term, managed and deployed via Kubernetes. Visibility into application performance will be essential in the new environment—yet another reason the bank has adopted AppDynamics to help modernize its IT operations.
Lack of visibility is often a challenge for application performance monitoring solutions. Using AppDynamics and the trusted system integration expertise of Perform IT, FAB has been successful at minimizing the impact of a typical distributed business flow.
AppDynamics integrates with third-party tools to take data out of—or bring data into—the system, which is becoming business-as-usual as AppDynamics starts to take a central place within the bank's monitoring suite of tools. Having the ability to immediately react and address an integration opportunity proved beneficial for the DevOps mindset where sprints can be aggressive to meet delivery timelines.
Automating the deployment of agents is an important leg in the overall monitoring adoption strategy for the FAB team. Working closely with AppDynamics and Perform IT enables FAB to seek and implement automation opportunities that work in the environment.
The first phase of FAB's undertaking, which aimed to reduce downtime and performance incidents across its application portfolio, has been a resounding success. Following a recent benefit realization exercise, dozens of employees reported improved uptime and faster issue resolution due to their use of AppDynamics to monitor and manage application performance.
For instance, FAB saw:
The team responsible for FAB's instant credit decision engine also reported it can now respond to requests from business stakeholders and find the root cause of performance issues more quickly. Instead of 120 milliseconds, responses now take as little as 70 milliseconds—a 42 percent improvement.
Equally important to Thakur is the fact that teams gained new insights into FAB's performance at a granular level. Looking through the AppDynamics dashboards has made DevOps and support teams aware of anomalies that previous monitoring solutions never picked up and empowered them to proactively address them, preventing major incidents.
"We transformed the way we work, and it all started with the visibility we gained with AppDynamics," says Thakur. "We're totally in sync with our application performance, which has made us proactive and keeps our service lines one step ahead to detect and analyze faster and pinpoint at the probable, and in various scenarios, exact root cause."
Continued Thakur, "The partnership with Cisco AppDynamics as product vendor and Perform IT as a partner to implement and onboard services to the platform has been very valuable. To operate these advanced technologies, companies need the right skills to be in place, and we experienced that with Perform IT to be the right partner for accelerating our journey with AppDynamics product."
In addition to optimizing performance, FAB's focus today is on training employees to take full advantage of AppDynamics, create their own reports and dashboards, and uncover insights that will inspire them to go even further to perfect the customer experience.
Proactivity has become the new standard for the bank's IT teams, which now monitor their systems and application code with remarkable vigor. AppDynamics allows them to detect gaps and opportunities for improvement more easily than ever, inspiring a cultural shift to accompany FAB's technology transformation. Whether it's seeing and quickly resolving a five-second delay in the payment system or fixing a coding error, AppDynamics gives the teams the tools to address issues before they impact the business in major ways.
FAB's mobile banking application, for example, notified the team of a potential service degradation, allowing the team to quickly address the issue before customers were impacted. AppDynamics also detects anomalies and proactively notifies teams, enabling them to quickly identify root cause and fix potential issues within minutes.
"We're changing the way we manage the bank's performance with a commitment to improvement and empowerment for our teams," says Lewis. "With AppDynamics, we can incentivize our application owners and recognize them for what they truly are: trailblazers who keep our business connected to its customers."
FAB continues its quest for solutions that allow for optimizing customer experiences even further. Most recently, the company added Cisco ThousandEyes to its technology stack for comprehensive digital experience monitoring.
"The combination of AppDynamics and ThousandEyes will give us deeper visibility across the full digital supply chain. As we continue on our path to full-stack observability, we'll be equipped to deliver stellar experiences for our customers," concludes Lewis.