3 Takeaways from Velocity New York 2014 - and What This Means for APM
September 26, 2014

Laura Strassman

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While exhibiting with the SmartBear AlertSite UXM team in Velocity last week, I managed to skip away from the booth quite a bit to squeeze in as many sessions as possible. The more sessions I attended, the more some common themes started materializing. The three themes that finally emerged are all very different, but are ultimately all related at the end of the day.

Here they are, my 3 big takeaways from Velocity NY 2014:

1. We live in a complex world of our own making

2. Failure is the nature of complex systems technological or organizational

3. Organizational change is necessary to effect solutions and sustain them

The theme of complexity appeared in several sessions ranging from fixing healthcare.com, to a very academic talk about complex systems, to stories about corporate deployments. There were a few layers to complexity. The first layer was about how as teams concerned with performance we were by our very nature, pushing systems to the edge and introducing complexity. The second layer revolved around how deployments are just so big that organizational complexity is introduced - who manages what? If the pieces are all managed separately, complexity is increased, organizationally.

Which leads directly to a discussion of failure. If we are pushing the edge, and delivering increasingly complex systems, then failures will happen. The nature of the discussion has to change from preventing all failure, to failing gracefully. What do we do when there is a failure? How have we planned, in advance, to handle a failure?

Efficiently handling failure involves a collaborative approach. I know you thought I was going to say that deploying great applications involves a collaborative approach, and it does but I think it’s more crucial for failures. At all the conferences I have been to this year, organization change has been a huge topic. It seems to have two parts to it:

1. Hero/Unicorn culture needs to be replaced by a team culture for the health of the organization and the health of the individual.

2. Performance, by its nature, requires a cross functional approach to be successful.

There seems to be a prominent backlash against the culture of the special individual that takes on heroic efforts and saves the day. I think this is partly due to a maturing of the industry but also there is an inherent conflict between this and the need to work cross functionally to solve problems in complex environments. Several sessions went in depth on this theme.

As I passed the first half dozen APM vendors or so when returning back to the exhibition hall with these themes fresh in my mind, the thought occurred to me that if any of these solutions planned to earn or keep the business of any of these other attendees leaving the same sessions I am, they had better be able to do the following:

1. Make it easier for teams to get their work done. If not help reduce complexity, then at very least you better provide efficient methods to help cope with complexity.

2. Help resolve the inevitable failures quickly.

3. Enhance collaboration, not impede it.

I suspect that APM vendors that fail to deliver on these items might not be exhibiting at Velocity Conferences for too long …

Laura Strassman is Sr. Product Marketing Manager at SmartBear Software.

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