Moving to the cloud has presented challenges for companies forced to do so faster than planned during the pandemic. For many businesses, it saved the day, but not without cost.
“In the race to make everything work, we may have inadvertently introduced some things like technology sprawl, and we did that at a time when we did everything we had to do to get people operating,” said IT World Canada’s CIO Jim Love during a recent webinar entitled Five Ways to Deliver Quality Application Performance.
“Don’t get me wrong. This was heroic and wonderful. But we’re in a world where business transactions and application performance have never been more important than they are today. If the application performance suffers, the customer experience suffers. And if the customer experience suffers, the business suffers.”
Diagnosing the causes of that suffering can be a problem. Users expect applications to function and to perform well, and the consequences of failing to meet those expectations can be expensive. Gregg Ostrowski, regional CTO at application performance management (APM) software vendor AppDynamics, noted that third-party research commissioned by his company revealed that a delay of just 100 milliseconds can result in a 7 per cent drop in conversion rates.
“You started thinking about the stakes that are so high,” he said. “So when you look at what the user (in the research) is saying, 49 per cent are willing to switch because of poor performance.”
Poor Performance Has A Price
Tom McIlwham, co-founder and chief strategy officer at Optimiz, is aware of the price of poor performance. He knows that 49 per cent of users are willing to switch brands to get a better experience. He also knows there’s an additional group of users who may not be experiencing issues themselves but are influenced by the complaints on social media from those who are.
That makes robust app performance a business issue, not just an IT issue. And that, Ostrowski said, is where products like AppDynamics come in, providing a unified view of the application infrastructure to help IT determine where problems actually lie, rather than indulging in unproductive finger-pointing.
Where to Get Started
The question is, where to get started in improving customer experience. Ostrowski thinks the best place is with APM, which reveals the flow of the application and thus helps pinpoint performance issues. These five tips will point you in the right direction.
Understand the link between application performance and business performance
“For every CIO I’ve talked to, their big driver is to become more business-centric,” he said. “Their entire IT stack and their entire decisions and strategy are always to drive business results. And I think that’s where we see the market moving.”
Love agreed. “The customers are looking for an intuitive, responsive, always available application,” he said.
Update your toolset
Companies need to adopt new tools and to automate mundane tasks to succeed, Ostrowski said, adapting hockey superstar Wayne Gretzky’s famous comment about anticipating where the puck will be.
“You’ve got to think about where your technologies need to be. You need to be where the puck is going,” he said. “And if you’re going to use things that you’ve done, the way we’ve done it for the last 25 years, you’re going to fail.”
Think of IT as a Business Enabler not an Expense
Technology in organizations had always been viewed as an expense centre, not a revenue centre, added McIlwham, but that has flipped in the past 5 – 10 years. “We have to be seen in technology as business enablers, as opposed to business inhibitors,” he said. “And now, with those underpinning applications supporting the business, if we don’t have them available 7/24, then your competition is eating your lunch.”
Technology underpins every line of business nowadays, he pointed out, so systems must be available and providing critical business information to the lines of business to grow the company.
Reward Productivity Not Heroics
McIlwham said as an industry, the focus has too frequently been on the next bright shiny object.
“We continue to reward heroics. I think there is an allergic reaction to the word productivity in technology,” he said with a chuckle.
Products like AppDynamics can be deployed in pre-production environments to catch issues before they impact end-users, he said. The results could help shift the focus back to productivity.
Collaborate with the business
When something goes wrong, companies need tools to help them identify the root cause to fix it. And they need to test before applications go into production to avoid problems once the application is live.
But, said Ostrowski, IT professionals often have difficulty creating a business case for those tools. Business leaders need to collaborate with them to help build that business case.
“IT people are a little shy,” Love agreed, adding that they have to bring in partners and have the confidence to tell management that they need tools to get the result it wants.
Added McIlwham, “We have gazillions of bytes of data. Use the tools properly to bring it all together, collate it, and turn it into meaningful, actionable outcomes that senior executives can do something with. It’s as simple as that.”