Let’s start off by stating the obvious: every company’s goals and priorities are unique, and improving IT operations requires a deep understanding of these issues. When looking to focus the efforts of an IT operations team, it makes sense that a business-centric approach provides the best measure of success or failure.
It used to be enough for IT operations teams to measure and report on the resource utilisation and availability of individual servers, databases, applications, networks and other IT infrastructure components. But the complexities associated with managing multi-tiered application environments, third-party service levels, and the growing mishmash of online, mobile and other self-service application types translate into a whole new set of support requirements and performance management issues that can often cross many IT silos or involve multiple infrastructure components.
Although organisations still require individual infrastructure monitoring capabilities to underpin information and communications technology delivery, most business value is now derived out of knowing, in real time, how services and business processes are being delivered. Both large and small organisations are increasingly focused on meeting customer service expectations, guaranteeing end-to-end business process delivery and modernising their IT infrastructure. This shift in business focus is driving IT operations teams to explore new ways to achieve end-to-end visibility across multiple IT domains and faster problem resolution through the convergence of “actionable” network and application performance data.
So that brings us to the question, “Why should IT operations care about transaction response times?”
1) Because they need to focus on the end customer experience
2) Because multi-tiered application environments are a reality
3) Because virtualization, SaaS and the cloud changes everything.
Take your pick...
1) Focusing on the end customer experience
Whether it is an online application, a mobile application, or some other self-service application such as an ATM or POS device, customers care about consistent service quality, timely content delivery and security. If you cannot deliver on all of these, you run a higher risk of losing a customer’s trust and ultimately, their business. IT operations teams should be able to, at any time, answer the question, “How are our services performing in the eyes of our customers?”
But according to a recent report by TRAC Research comparing infrastructure approaches to transactional approaches, 81 per cent of companies still focus on infrastructure reports, with only 39 per cent adopting application transaction views on application performance. Yet, times to resolve issues arising in multi-tiered application environments took 112 minutes on average using an infrastructure approach to solve the problem, compared to 31 minutes for a transactional approach.
Monitoring transaction response times makes it much easier for IT operations to access actionable performance analytics. It is an “always available” performance metric that truly reflects what the end customer is experiencing, providing end-to-end visibility across all applications, networks, modern infrastructure and third party service environments. Visibility into transaction response times will speed up your ability to spot performance issues affecting service deliverability and availability, such as:
• Infrastructure performance issues – Are there bottlenecks or communication issues on the network?
• Service performance issues – Are there certain services offered through your online, mobile or self-service applications that are either slow to respond or not responding at all?
• Unsuccessful hand-offs – Is there an issue with one of your customer facing device interfaces, third-party service providers, or telecommunications networks?
2) Multi-tiered application environments are a reality
As one clear example, multi-channel self-service environments in banking are a growing reality causing a whole new level of complexity that most application performance management solutions were not built to manage. These products were never intended to work as an integrated solution spanning multiple IT domains. They were not built to provide end-to-end visibility across multi-tiered application environments common today. According to Ed O’Brien, Director of Banking Channels for the Mercator Advisory Group, and Robert Johnston, Marketing Director of ATM Software at NCR, there are increasing scenarios where the customer engages regularly in self-service environments:
Multi-functional ATM/Video streaming channel combo – A bank has a rural area branch presence, but it is too expensive to retain an insurance expert at the physical location. By linking the rural branch to a call centre via video conference functionality that is built into a multi-functional ATM, customers would be able to access insurance policy services.
Multi-functional ATM/E-commerce channel combo – you go to a multi-functional ATM to deposit a check and take out some cash. As soon as you insert your card, a targeted e-commerce advertisement comes up based upon your geographic location and card purchase patterns. You select 'yes' to the offering (your checking account will be automatically debited and your purchase will be directly mailed to you), and continue on with your banking. You are then given the intelligent option to withdrawal your “usual” transaction amount, and are asked whether you would like paper receipts, moving forward.
Multi-functional ATM/Mobile banking channel combo – you are doing some banking via your mobile phone application. You decide to pre-stage your mobile transaction on your phone, and go to an ATM. Using near field communication (NFC), your mobile phone communicates with your ATM, and your transaction gets completed. This scenario can also go the other way, where someone in a different city has deposited money into the ATM, then sent you a one-time pin number on your mobile phone so that you can withdrawal the cash.
In these scenarios, there are more transaction types, service applications and third party hand-offs than ever before. Transaction response times offer IT operations early warning that something is going wrong at the network communications level, a particular application or device, or third-party hand-off. By breaking down the round-trip transaction rate on a hop by hop basis, it becomes easier and more efficient to isolate exactly where and why issues are occurring – anywhere along a transaction path.
3) Critical service applications are running in Cloud, SaaS and virtual-based environments
Cloud, SaaS and virtual infrastructures are major game changers for how IT operations teams manage application performance and service delivery. In cloud, SaaS or virtualized data centre environments, traditional key resource consumption and availability metrics such as CPU utilisation, memory, disk input/output, network bandwidth and required storage input/output are no longer useful. In these types of environments, controlling latency, capacity and response time issues become higher priority.
Transaction response times give IT operations visibility into both application and infrastructure latency issues. They provide the ability to start thinking beyond uptime and traditional ticket closure metrics as a way to measure successful service delivery levels, and tie service level agreements (SLA’s) to what matters the most: What the end customer is experiencing across all the services provided.
Transaction response times provide the best way for IT operations to adopt a new business-centric way of thinking. As more and more organisations prioritise customer service expectations, end-to-end business process delivery and modernisation of their IT infrastructures, visibility into end-to-end transaction response times will enable IT operations to:
• Deliver the best, most consistent customer experience across all applications and business activities possible.
• Ensure top performance and faster problem resolution across an increasingly diverse portfolio of multi-vendor services and multi-tiered applications.
• Manage SLA’s, critical applications and parts of the infrastructure that are running in cloud, SaaS or virtual environments.
Stacy Gorkoff is VP, strategic marketing at INETCO.