More Data, More Data, More Data
The Application Performance Management (APM) market is littered with products focused on more data, more data, more data. When I visit customers I am shocked at what APM Experts have done with these tools. In their Network Operations Center (NOC), I see screen after screen of performance graphs, error charts, red and green lights, etc. I watch in amazement when an APM administrator recognizes a slight variation in one of the lines on one chart and after 7 or 8 clicks can tell if it's something to be worried about or just a temporary anomaly.
If a Tree Falls in the Forest …
After seeing this time and time again over the past 20+ years I've been in this space, I've asked myself, does it really have to be that complicated? And what happens when the expert(s) goes on vacation, or if they were to leave the company? How does someone know if a particular issue discovered in one area of an application truly impacted a real user or interface, begging the age old question regarding if a tree falls in the forest and nobody is there to hear it does it make a sound?
Why can't we just Keep It Simple Silly (edited version)? I believe we can and I like to narrow it down to something simple I can easily relate to, is the end user of the application Happy or Sad. Issues that are creating "frowny faced" users should be clearly identified and take top priority. This is why a customer's ability to measure the "true" end user experience is so vital.
The Two Most Important Questions APM Should Answer
What really matters in the APM world boils down to two questions:
1. Is the user experience being negatively impacted?
2. If so, what is the cause of the negative user experience?
It really is that simple. We have visited with hundreds of APM customers and not once has someone told us that this is incorrect. Yes, there are a number of other very valuable questions APM can answer, but if customers keep their focus on maintaining ‘smiley faced' users their business will flourish.
You Need Two Views
APM solutions traditionally provide a view of the user experience by monitoring different application components. They monitor and report on the performance of the backend systems, application and web tiers and finally have some exposure to what the end user is really experiencing. We call this an Inside-Out view, looking at the inside application components to understand the outside experience. But without enabling the camera on the end user's device with facial recognition to determine if that user is truly smiling or frowning you can only get so far with an Inside-Out approach. That's where you need to combine your Inside-Out approach with an Outside-In approach. This approach starts with monitoring the user experience first, not yet with cameras, as that's creepy and wouldn't fly, but with the ability to virtually peak over the shoulder of the user to understand their user experience. Are they seeing long spinney dials, fumbling around the application because they can't find what they want, or experiencing application errors/crashes. These types of questions can only be answered by leveraging a product with an Outside-In approach.
Both Views Need to be Integrated
There are a number of Outside-In focused products monitoring the end users experience to identify smiley and frowny faced users. But without the link into an Inside-Out view of the application, they can only tell you if your users are smiling or frowning. For frowns caused by the supporting application components they can't answer the questions of "why" or get to root cause. Because of this you need both views and a tight integration between them.
CA Provides Both
CA's latest APM solution has a number of new patent pending technologies that are focused on keeping it simple. For example, a new feature called "Assisted Triage" is your APM expert. Without the APM expert required to use the solution to tell you why, it does the investigation for you and lists it up front along with a simple application health metric to tell you if there's truly an issue or not. And when CA Application Performance Management is combined with CA App Experience Analytics, which gives you that virtual peek over the shoulder of your users with features like screen interaction heat maps and virtual session playback, you have the ability to combine both an Inside-Out and Outside-In integrated view of your applications. Answering the questions, is the user experience being negatively impacted, and If so, what is the cause of the negative user experience?
To learn more, watch this short video:
Bryan Whitmarsh is Sr. Principal Product Manager at CA Technologies.