Blog · 10 Nov 2021

How to improve application experience in the hybrid workplace

Limited visibility over complex hybrid networks can prolong issues and hold back an organisation’s performance.

Senior Manager Managed Network Services, BT

Application experience defines your organisation and how you’re viewed in your landscape of competitors.

If you don’t provide rich content and a network that’s capable of giving applications all the support they need to deliver a great experience, then your customers are likely to look elsewhere. It’s a point of judgment both internally and externally, so ensuring your applications perform consistently - especially in our new hybrid working world - must be a priority.

Yet our partner Riverbed’s research shows that seven out of ten organisations still have limited visibility into how applications are performing across their hybrid environment. Added to that, we also know that four in ten remote workers are struggling with poor application experience. So, isn’t it time organisations start asking themselves, ‘what impact is lack of visibility into performance having on my business?’.

During Riverbed’s recent End User Conference, we set out to explore the importance of visibility, control and acceleration across global organisations’ networks and applications, using real-life examples to bring home the points.

Visibility is key to sustained hybrid working

The rise of hybrid working has underlined how critical continually measuring the digital experience can be to smooth and effective working with serious knock-on effects for operations and performance. Visibility means you can have the right conversations with the right people to sort out difficulties rapidly. So, rather than everybody just automatically blaming ‘the network’ when they have problems, you have the insight to get to the true root cause - whether that’s an application deployment issue, a hitch with a particular type of connectivity, equipment issues, or it’s genuinely something in the network arena.

One example of the network not being the source of the problem came from a large pharmaceutical company. When agents working from home had call quality issues, everyone looked to the network. But applying a visibility tool showed that some of the difficulties were related to home wi-fi and some were down to laptop performance causing applications to crash.

On other occasions, the network is involved. For example, during the first lockdown of 2020, a larger manufacturing organisation was experiencing an issue with voice and video quality on Teams, which was holding them back from rolling out the application across their entire organisation. Like so many other organisations at this time, they’d rapidly switched to a mixture of on premise and remote working, via a wide range of connections including virtual private networks, direct internet access and even mobile phone connectivity. Overnight, their network had become far more complex, and they’d lost considerable visibility into what was really going on - so much so that they hadn’t realised a known configuration error on a web security gateway was the root cause of their trouble with Teams. 

By using a Digital Experience Index solution they were able to measure their organisation’s digital workplace experience. They compared the experience of different locations and types of connection, right down to the level of every individual employee’s device to detect common traits, and this really accelerated the investigative process. Interestingly, this solution also meant they were able to use anonymised data to benchmark the digital experience they were providing against other organisations in their sector, giving an important perspective on performance and ambitions.

A holistic view reveals the total cost of failure

Establishing a perspective that includes the experience of your entire workforce is also vital. What at the individual level is often written off as ‘just one of those things’ could well be an indication of a bigger problem – but without an overall view, you won’t know.

In fact, across their entire estate, the manufacturer we mentioned had been completely unaware of the true extent of the amount of application crashes taking place. The ‘blue screen of death’ had become a common problem, but with so many staff working remotely, each fault had been experienced in isolation and hadn’t been reported.

A more holistic view of your network helps you realise just how much downtime is occurring and how it’s impacting your operations. The initial cost per ticket may not seem significant, but when you see the bigger picture, you can understand the total cost of failure for your organisation – and take rapid steps to remediate it.

Increasing visibility also supports advanced troubleshooting

Swift remediation often means pushing through ‘standard’ troubleshooting investigations that can fail to pinpoint the source of the problem. A frequent scenario is all the vendors in an application delivery chain reporting that they don’t have issues and they’re meeting their SLAs – yet the IT department is getting reports of significant application and performance issues.

For a different global manufacturer, adding a visibility solution meant they could trace the issues back to handovers between wi-fi access points that weren’t happening correctly and differences between configurations in different geographic regions. Our customer believes that increased visibility saved them three months of investigation.

Can SD-WAN fully meet visibility needs?

Many customers point to their adoption of SD-WAN and rely on that for their visibility needs. However, it’s important to keep this in perspective, because SD-WAN only provides visibility on application performance between SD-WAN endpoints. It doesn’t offer visibility down to device level or up into the cloud hyperscaler environment.

To optimise every end user’s experience, IT departments need to adopt end-to-end visibility solutions which enable them to see across both their overlay and underlay and consider the deployment of acceleration to safeguard application performance. Then, right down to each mouse click and screen render, you can monitor an application’s performance whether it’s local, in the cloud, or a Software-as-a-Service application on any network.

A crystal-clear picture to help you reach optimum performance

By bringing all of your connectivity paths together into one place, you can support all of your users and customers, wherever they are. That’s why, with our partner of ten years, Riverbed, we’re offering two new solutions to support hybrid working.

Our latest Visibility-as-a-Service solution is built to help organisations monitor and manage their application performance over their entire hybrid network. At the same time, our combined Software-as-a-Service solution is created for employees working at home or in the office, so that IT departments can boost users’ performance, agility and productivity by safeguarding the performance of applications no matter where they work from.

We’ve also created a blueprint for hybrid networking to help guide you through the whole process, highlighting what to look out for, and sharing practical advice on making your ambitions a reality.

Download your blueprint today.