How well do you know your critical-business applications? You will know what they are and the role they play in your business, but do you understand how they work? What are the application inter-dependencies? How does each component communicate with each other? What are the requirements of the underlying technology platforms, networks, storage, and compute layers?
This is the area where most organisations lack the detail. This is not surprising, after all, applications are becoming ever more distributed and therefore complex, even the simplest application map will look like a spider’s web of inter-connectivity and that is before we overlay the security profiles and compliance restrictions.
Understanding this detail is critical; if you cannot clearly map the full ecosystem enabling your critical applications, you cannot be confident that you are delivering the best possible customer experience.
It’s More Than Just Up-Time
One of the key indicators by which technology teams are always measured is service availability. Whether that is the network, storage, compute, or virtualisation teams, they all have the same priority: to ensure their technology platform is continually operational and available. To do this they independently leverage their own operational toolsets to monitor system components, ensuring resiliency and performance targets via the telemetry and analytics their platform provides.
When it comes to supporting or enabling a major application, traditional platform teams do not necessarily consider or understand how their platforms might impact application availability or customer experience. In some cases, their only interest is in proving the platform is ‘up’ or ‘all green’, but platform uptime and five 9s availability does not give the full picture of performance; it provides no insight into how customer expectations are being met (or not) as they interact with your brand and its digital services.
Being laser-focused on an individual technology silo’s availability means that you are unlikely to gain the insight and deep understanding of the application and its IT component dependencies. The result is that IT is unable to provide assurance to the business that it can support the overall customer experience or seek to enrich it further; the business is missing the most critical measure of relevance to revenue stability and growth –that’s customer experience.
We need to focus on Customer Experience
Consistently exceeding customer expectations is no easy feat. After all, as consumers we all have different definitions of ‘good’ and ‘great’. But whether we like it or not, customer experience has become the number one measure by which performance is judged. It is so important we need to find a way of measuring this through the technology lens.
The reality is that customer experience is far more application-centric than it is infrastructure-centric. This has been driven by the digital era where customers consume services and information online. Digital service provision and consumption breeds highly demanding and fickle consumers – it’s easy to find, compare and consider alternatives, and it’s easier than ever to switch providers. If a company is not considering its customers’ experience, there’s a high chance they’ll lose them and take others away at the same time.
There is a complex mesh of contributing technology elements that work together to ensure that the application might meet customer expectations. Organisations need to consider how to profile their key business applications and baseline the performance and security requirements holistically and measure the experience that the end user is getting in real time.
Fortunately, real time performance reporting is no longer a manual activity. Technology has advanced significantly in the area of sophisticated analytics, cognitive machine learning and the automation of environment provisioning and management. Automation allows a faster diagnosis and remediation of root problems when experience falls below a set threshold.
Introducing Application Assurance
Application Assurance is a capability that surfaces whether your business-critical applications are meeting the defined performance, security, and throughput requirements in real-time. Measuring the performance of critical applications on an ongoing basis ensures they provide the best customer experience, but in order to do this a number of steps are required.
Step 1 – Identify
You need to gain an in-depth understanding of the critical business applications’ components, application flows, security posture, location, and performance. Application dependency mapping allows you to produce a thorough map of how the various strands come together to make the service work, surfacing telemetry data to build an application profile.
Step 2 – Understand
This stage seeks to confirm whether the application is meeting performance, security and even location requirements. Once the application is mapped and visualised, it is critical to get a real time view of the application’s characteristics. At this stage, the placement of components can be analysed to determine whether location affects performance, enabling intelligent workload placement and optimisation of business-critical applications to ensure that these consistently perform in the best way possible.
Step 3 – Assure
The final stage of the process sees the transition to a phase of continuous application assurance, where telemetry and performance metrics and thresholds are measured and provided in real time. Anomalies against a known baseline are identified and alerted to the right technology or application team for targeted remediation steps to take place.
All of this contributes to peace of mind for the business, plus increased agility and empowerment to the technology departments that contribute towards a high-performing application. We see a switch from the ‘blame game’ if things go wrong and a commitment to solving problems collectively to deliver superior customer experience.
Ensuring that your business-critical applications are meeting the needs of your customers is fundamental to achieving ongoing revenue growth and increased digital wallet share.
Taking an Application Assurance approach to this need provides you with fundamental insights into the performance of technology components in real time, allowing you to respond to the needs of the customers with agility. And if that’s the end to an obsession with up-time, then I’m sure it will ultimately be to the benefit of your customers.
We explain more about this approach to Application Assurance in our Best Practice Guide – Application Assurance for the Digital Era.