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Application performance in the age of the customer with Michael Allen

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14 October 2016

Global Services

Blogs by author: Global Services, We’re a leading global business communications provider

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In the age of the digital possible, users and customers increasingly call the shots. In practice this means that applications need to be available at all times and that optimal performance is key to meet growing expectations.

Moreover, in digital business we can’t afford that the platforms and applications which we use to conduct business and engage customers go down.

Bring in application performance management (APM) and Michael Allen, VP of EMEA at APM leader Dynatrace. An interview.

Traffic jams and complex application delivery chains

In a previous interview, BT’s Tom de Wit stated that bandwidth alone doesn’t improve the performance of end users or applications. And that’s why you need intelligence to the network such as the intelligence of Dynatrace. What’s your view?

Michael Allen: What Tom said is absolutely correct. When you look at it from the perspective of BT’s Connect Intelligence Dynatrace, it’s all about availability and performance. For instance when an application is constrained because it doesn’t get the right priority or the right class of service from the network, performance suffers. However, throwing additional bandwidth at an underperforming or broken application is not always the solution.

Compare it with a traffic jam on a highway. Adding a few extra lanes in theory could assist. However, if the problem isn’t the road nor the traffic itself but something else, like an accident that blocks the highway, adding those lanes doesn’t help. When you look at the number of factors that can effect application availability and user performance, there are a lot of such possible ‘accidents’. A server which serves the application could be low on resources, a server or application component might have failed, the application could be very “chatty” and therefore WAN latency sensitive or maybe there is an issue with the end user device, the list goes on.

The more complex the application delivery chain is, the higher the number of factors which can play a role. And in most modern applications there isn’t just one server but a whole chain of interconnected services which power that application. That’s where application performance management visibility comes into play. You need to be able to visualise the whole end-to-end application delivery chain.

Application performance is crucial for organisations who are obsessed with customer experience.

The need for full visibility – avoiding blind spots

It seems comparable with what a CISO said in a previous interview regarding the main challenge for today’s CISO: visibility. Is it the same for the CIO regarding application performance?

Michael Allen: Absolutely. You cannot manage what you cannot monitor or visualise. You cannot fix what you can’t see. Having blind spots only leads to guesses and assumptions. The more visibility you have, the more you will be able to detect a problem. If you only have partial visibility, you might miss the problem.

It’s also important to realise that many issues today display intermittent behaviour. So, if you didn’t capture it the first time, it might take hours, days or weeks before it happens again. It’s essential to get the problem immediately instead of just turning on problem analysis after the facts. Application performance management needs to be pro-active instead of reactive.

Application performance management with BT Connect Intelligence and Dynatrace 

Application performance management with BT Connect Intelligence and Dynatrace – learn more

On top of that, you need to see the sequence of events that ran up towards an issue. This way you can visualise what happened and see if the same problems and run-ups occur in other user journeys and analyse what they have in common. Without a full visibility that’s impossible.

You cannot fix what you can’t see. Having blind spots only leads to guesses and assumptions.

A multi-tier approach for a multitude of needs across three categories of applications

What are the key drivers that make an organisation opt for an application performance management solution as is offered with BT Connect Intelligent Dynatrace?

Michael Allen: It is multidimensional. What BT and Dynatrace built with the BT Connect Intelligent Dynatrace offering is a multi-tier managed service that can be right-sized for any business type and preference, from hosted and assisted to fully managed.

In the fully managed approach we can pro-actively go to businesses with real-time intelligence and warn them they are bound to have an issue but also offer them the diagnosis and the remedy.

The drivers also depend on the types of applications, whereby CIOs look at management through a different lens per type of applications. The needs are function of whether an application is an application of record, an application of engagement or an application of innovation. For all three types the requirements and drivers partially overlap but also differ and range from optimisation, predictability, scale, SLA’s, user productivity and DevOps code level visibility to business transaction insights.

BT made a decision to imbed Connect Intelligence by default within its larger network service engagements, a truly game changing approach to the ever increasing expectations in end user application performance (Michael Allen in 2014 at the occasion of the Global Service Provider award which Dynatrace offered BT).

Digital transformation, people, culture and the ROI of application performance optimisation

If you look at digital transformation, most projects revolve around, among others, enhancing customer experience and empowering workers. No digital transformation project works without the involvement of users, the focus on users/customers and the acceptance of applications by users. What’s your take on digital transformation and the role of user/customer experience?

Michael Allen: I agree. In the new world of digital transformation it’s also about transitioning the culture of the organisation into one which is obsessed with customer experience. Digital transformation isn’t a bolt-on strategy. It affects every part of the organisation, is a multi-year program and has to be driven top down but it all starts with this obsession around customer experience. That’s the shift in culture.

Application performance is crucial to realise this customer experience obsession in practice. If you only react to a flaw in an application, a website or any other customer-facing system when people tweet about it, it’s too late. Organisations need to act faster and as everything is interconnected this also goes for the applications and processes which drive these systems and platforms that customers use.

The more complex the application delivery chain is, the higher the number of factors which can play a role.

It’s clear that today customers and end users drive many IT decisions. In the current multimodal approach, there are still other projects that IT needs to deliver and where it’s more about costs, for instance. However, the majority of decisions are driven by the ongoing demand to innovate and enhance the digital services and customer experience to exceed the expectations of users. Because, in the end, that’s what makes the difference if you look at ROI as well. We have many case studies and research on our website, sharing how improvements in performance can make a tremendous difference.

If an application doesn’t function properly customers go elsewhere and that costs organisations in terms of conversions, brand reputation, site abandonment, shopping carts and expensive resources that get tied up as the problem persists.

So, instead of trying to solve it after the facts, it’s much better to pro-actively detect any application issue and immediately know where to deal with it in the fastest possible way.

That’s why this end-to-end visibility in the age of the customer matters so much.

Join the discussion on Twitter #DigitalPossible.

You can connect with Michael Allen via LinkedIn or in the BT Let’s Talk LinkedIn group.

This interview is conducted at the occasion of the BT Cloud Summit 2016, which took place in The Netherlands on October 12, 2016. Impressions from the event here.

Interview by BT Let’s Talk guest blogger, J-P De Clerck. J-P is a digital marketing and business analyst. He’s active on the crossroads where marketing, business, customer experience, technologies and digital transformation meet. You can connect with him on Twitter and in our Benelux LinkedIn Group.