How to Explain APM to Your CEO
April 03, 2015

Sharon Bell
CDNetworks

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Explaining why your CEO should care about Application Performance Management (APM) is not always an easy task. Your CEO wants to know in as little time as possible what it is, why I need it, and how it works, perhaps in that order.

Here is how to translate APM into CEO-speak and improve your chances of executive buy-in. To better sustain your CEO’s attention, consider adding in your own company-specific examples to show your CEO the bottom line of APM as it relates to your company.

What is Application Performance Management (APM)?

Your CEO wants a high level overview of the concept. Your CEO also wants to understand in what ways APM applies to the company’s specific products, services, marketing initiatives, operational practices, etc.

Try this general definition:

Application Performance Management (APM) is the use of tools and processes required to monitor software applications. APM helps IT detect and correct performance issues as soon as possible.

How it relates to your company:

Let’s say you’re a healthcare company. You might explain to your CEO that in addition to the general definition above, APM is the way you monitor your member portal.

During an open enrollment period when there is a sudden spike in traffic, your APM tool can alert you whenever a specific component of the portal becomes overloaded. You could tell your CEO that this vital intel helps IT get to the source of the problem and correct it sooner, so your new members will experience minimal poor performance accessing the portal for the first time.

Why do I need APM?

This is likely the most important question to your CEO. The CEO is asking you to justify APM and explain why you’re doing it — or why you should.

Remember, justifying an APM investment or improvement also requires you to explain why it is better than current practices and how it will help with your CEO’s bottom line. Time is money to your CEO, so use that fact to your advantage when you discuss how APM can help. Explain that a sound APM solution can enhance security, ensure application stability, and reduce the current cost of management.

General response:

An APM solution will fix or enhance our applications, making them more stable and secure. This will reduce overhead monitoring costs and provide a better opportunity for increased conversions.

How it relates to your company:

An ecommerce company might use a payment software application, A/B conversion testing software, and a mobile CDN solution to optimize customer transactions. With so many different applications running, it can be difficult to accurately protect and diagnose issues on your site without a solid APM solution.

If customers cannot complete transactions, IT needs to know immediately if fault lies with your lagging A/B conversion software loading the page or a compromised payment application, for example. Explain to your CEO that APM tools are essential to keep customers buying from your site and not your competitors’.

How does APM work?

A word of caution here: Your CEO is probably not asking you for technical details on how your proposed end-to-end solution will improve your J2EE monitoring. Your CEO wants to know how it will take fewer resources to reliably monitor application performance, which then promotes a consistent user experience and reduces lost revenue from downtime.

General explanation:

APM tools automatically repair performance and quality issues within our web, streaming and cloud applications or give IT an early warning sign. APM keeps apps running smoothly for our customers and prevents lost revenue due to technical difficulties.

How it relates to your company:

A travel and tourism company might have a custom search application to help vacationers decide where and when to go based on availability. Your CEO sees this application is critical to entice vacationers to buy. Explain that your application performance tool monitors each element of the search application and senses when an element is under stress. Tell your CEO that the APM tool will either ease the data load on the stressed element, or alert IT to the specific problem to be corrected if it cannot be done so automatically.

Final Thoughts

Speaking your CEO’s language and relating APM to your company can help you focus on your own bottom line and get executive buy-in. As Albert Einstein once said, "If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough." Consider defining complex terms beginning with a "[term] is…" structure. This will help you get to the essence of what you really want to convey to your CEO and build the foundation for further discussion.

Sharon Bell is Director of Marketing at CDNetworks.

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