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The Importance of Customer-Focused Reliability Engineering

Dan Holloran May 16, 2018

DevOps Monitoring & Alerting SRE

Reliability—it’s something people expect in every aspect of their lives. If you order food online, you expect the restaurant to get the order, make the food, and get it delivered to your address in a reasonable amount of time. So why would the expectations or importance of reliability be any different when it comes to your monitoring, alerting, and incident management tools?

Consistent reliability applies to the tools you use everyday. A well-designed reliability engineering system is important because it nurtures continuous integration and delivery, application availability, and leads to positive customer experiences.

“Reliability is our most important feature.” - Dan Jones, CTO at VictorOps

Why Customers Care

For one thing, according to, Fortune 1000 companies average between $1.25 billion and $2.5 billion in total annual costs due to unplanned application downtime. Of course these numbers scale up or down based on the size of your business. But, the importance of reliability engineering is not only financial—it’s also behavioral.

Let’s look at why customer-first reliability engineering saves you from the costs of downtime and ultimately makes customers happier.

Expectations and Time

Have you ever tried to order a shirt online and the payment processing doesn’t work? What do you do? Refresh the page and re-enter your payment information? Maybe. Some people will simply leave the page. If it doesn’t work a second time, even the persistent ones will likely abandon cart and never shop from that website again.

The more roadblocks or inconsistencies put in your customer’s way results in bad experiences, loss of revenue, and increased costs. Add up the customer’s wasted time and lack of purchase, engineering time and cost of fixing the issue, and other miscellaneous opportunity costs (i.e. how long was payment processing broken, how many other customers were affected, and development time lost), and you’ll find you’ve lost a lot of time and money.

It’s important to remember that reliability engineering always needs to be customer-focused. This means not simply building reliable applications or systems, but also building reliable customer interactions. Customers expect your service to function and they expect positive feelings and experiences throughout the process. If they lose out on either, you can bet they’ll tell other people who, otherwise, may have been interested in your offering.

Reliable Customer-Focused Productivity

Reliable systems equals more time for development. Customers may love your current product, but there’s always room for improvement. Never has a successful company stopped developing new features or improving current features. The more you’re able to push out new features or product enhancements to customers, the happier they’ll be.

Reliability engineering allows your team to spend less time fighting fires and more time continuously delivering to customers. The best way to cultivate a culture of reliable productivity is by implementing a DevOps-based SRE structure. When every engineer is as responsible for reliability as they are development, robust systems will be built more consistently, and in turn, customers receive more product value faster.

Visibility and System Exposure

Reliability engineering, when implemented across an entire organization, gives developers more visibility to application performance and provides more exposure to the production environment. When an incident occurs, everyone on the team has the information and the adequate experience working in production to efficiently remediate problems.

The importance of effective monitoring and alerting can’t be overstated either. More often than not, teams should be able to proactively identify, diagnose, and resolve an incident before a customer ever sees anything wrong. So, customers are impacted less and can continue having a positive experience with your service.

Customer is King

If you’re looking to gain reliable customers, you need to create reliable services. It’s important to see the long-term benefits of reliability engineering. You’ll save costs, reduce downtime, and build features faster, all while building trust with your customers. Don’t only build reliable applications because it makes on-call responsibilities easier, but because it’s what your customers expect and need to be successful. As you continuously improve your system, don’t forget the importance of customer-focused reliability engineering.

At VictorOps, we have a genuine passion for reliability. Sign up for a 14-day free trial to see how our incident management software can help you make more reliable systems.

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