The Unfiltered State of Application Survey Respondents

Published December 21, 2020

For the past seven years, my cohort Cindy Borovick and I have executed and analyzed a survey exploring how the use of applications (and applications services) is evolving in the market.

For those unfamiliar with the research, we cover a broad set of topics because ultimately, they all impact application services. Whether we’re talking digital transformation or application architectures or the importance of telemetry to measuring and maintaining a digital business, the answers to our survey help shape our understanding of the market and our strategic decisions here at F5.

Now, usually we don’t execute this survey with a lot of open-ended questions. That is, we simply provide a set of possible choices that includes vague answers like "don’t know" or that can simply be skipped.

But this year our execution included the ominous "other" option which allowed respondents to fill in their own answers.

We were not disappointed. At least, I was not disappointed.

Some of the free form answers we received were brutally honest. Others were simply amusing. Some were submitted with a snark that made us smile.

We are almost finished with analysis and are deep into the preparation phase that will culminate with a fantastic official report in the new year. But in the meantime, I wanted to share some of those free-form answers because, well, because I can.


We all know there are increasing skill gaps in networking and security. But we wondered if there were similar deficits in automation. So we asked:

Q: In which areas do you believe your organization has a skills deficit in automation?
A: "We’re Not Deficient - We Have AI Based Executives For 'Insurance'"

The snark level in this response is way off the charts, and you can almost taste the bitterness in their answer. This seems to be indicative of a situation in which practitioners recognize a deficit, but leadership is failing to acknowledge it. Automation is no longer a competitive advantage; it’s a must have. Our survey this year shows significant advancements attributed to automation efforts around deployment. We’re rooting for you, respondent.

Digital Transformation

You can’t run a survey today without asking about digital transformation. We decided we wanted to know what organizations were focusing on with those efforts. So we asked:

Q: Which business functions are priorities for your digital transformation efforts?
A: "Missing the point on what digital transformation is vs what our continuing strategy has been for the past 4-5 years"

The frustration level in this answer is obvious and highlights a disconnect we often see between the folks tasked with executing on digital transformation efforts and strategic direction set by corporate leadership. We view digital transformation as a business journey enabled by a technology evolution. This is one of the reasons IT and the business must eventually become equal partners. Mismatched strategies and priorities will impede efforts and may put companies behind the competition.

We see digital transformation journey as progressing through three phases, the second of which is Digital Expansion. In this phase, we see organizations modernizing applications as they begin to stitch them together to create digital workflows. To find out more about how organizations are modernizing applications, we asked:

Q: Which methods are you using to modernize applications?
A: "Upgrading ERP."

Well, the respondent isn’t wrong. A new version certainly could be considered modernizing. It’s good to note that this answer isn’t wrong, despite our association of modernization with modern applications (cloud-native) and glitzy user interfaces. Businesses that primarily operate in a B2B model may very well focus on updating and modernizing those business functions that will enable digital capabilities in areas like accounts payable and receivables. These are important functions for any organization, so we hope this respondent’s efforts are fruitful to their company.

What’s Your Role?

Finally, we always ask about the respondent’s role in the organization. We’ve found, over time, that developers have different perspectives than operators than do those in leadership or even security roles. We offer a comprehensive list that includes development roles. But one respondent felt the need to expand on that with my new favorite title:

                    "Web developer with a huge hat rack"

My hat is certainly off to you, respondent, for a unique response that resonated with someone who really enjoys wearing hats—and not just to mitigate the effects of weather. May your huge hat rack be overfilled with wonderous hats.

Up Next

While we really enjoyed the free-form answers to many of our questions in this survey, we were even more excited to compile and analyze the rest of the responses. We’ve got insights on application services, of course, but even more on automation, app modernization, and for the first time, analytics.

The addition of analytics-focused questions to the survey is of growing importance to F5 as well as the market in general. We’ve seen a flurry of acquisition activity over the past six months related to analytics and data and anticipate exciting advancements as the transition from physical to digital models continues to propagate.

The 2021 report will be out in the new year, with blogs from yours truly to follow. I’m looking forward to sharing additional insights with you!

Once again, I want to thank YOU for responding. Our report wouldn’t be possible without you.

I hope you all have a happy and safe holiday season!