Applications Support Managers and End-to-End Transaction Visibility

Part 1 of the “Who Owns the End-to-End Transaction?” blog series

Customer satisfaction is king!

That is more than just a euphemism – it is now the raison d’etre for the Applications Support manager and their team. Of all the stakeholders in the business, Applications Support is truly the team in the trenches.  They have to hold the line against the toughest, most challenging and important members of the whole IT ecosystem – application users!

In many cases, application users are the paying customers whose loyalty makes (or breaks) the business.  Ensuring that their experience is optimal can often keep the Applications Support manager working late into the night.  Today’s Applications Support managers have a hefty set of responsibilities that include:

  • Analyzing and resolving issues in application performance as they arise;
  • Dealing with customers – managing incoming calls and complaints, triaging complex performance issues, prioritizing team response and focusing attention on key areas of the system;
  • Defining, implementing, and ensuring SLAs with vendors and with customers;
  • Continuously monitoring and measuring end-user experience and satisfaction;
  • Building and developing key relationships with vendors who provide services, systems, and components of the application system;
  • Assessing the alignment of an application and its performance with respect to business strategy and objectives;
  • Tracking and reporting on root causes, SLAs and performance issues, trends, and cost metrics to business management;
  • Coordinating with IT teams responsible for the underlying infrastructure, critical services, and application resources;

You know it’s time to move beyond your existing application performance management (APM) tools if… 

With a growing emphasis on end-user experience (EUE) metrics, the highly distributed and complex nature of modern applications has made Applications Support teams increasingly sensitive to changes in infrastructure, services, and customer behavior.  Monitoring, measuring and quickly resolving application performance issues in a dynamic environment that often involves a virtual, software-as-a-service or Cloud-based infrastructure means Applications Support teams may need to append existing suites of performance management tools to gain visibility into systems-wide performance across all applications.

Applications Support must also keep ahead of the customer by being proactive about performance assurance in tight coordination with the other IT stakeholders.  Bounds of ownership and responsibility are often difficult to define and yet harder to ignore. No matter who “owns” the problem, it ends up affecting the customer experience one way or the other.  It is not enough for them to defer responsibility to somebody else further down the line, especially if a key goal is to shift from reactive triage to proactive management, and isolate issues before the customer even knows there is a problem.

Network-based APM:  Capturing metrics and diagnostic data that is shareable and end-to-end

As a result, Applications Support managers need to maintain critical relationships not only with the customer, but with vendors, service providers, business management, and other internal IT teams.   With all those important relationships and SLAs, efficient coordination and collaboration are essential.  Applications Support needs metrics and diagnostic data that are shareable and end-to-end.  The metrics should:

  • Support rapid root cause analysis and proactive problem isolation
  • Correspond closely with vendor and customer SLAs
  • Correlate directly to the system behaviors that reflect application performance and end-user experience
  • Distinguish the infrastructure such as the network, from the services, and from the end-to-end

Network-based Application Performance Management (APM) solutions capture these critical metrics and tie them directly to the infrastructure, services, customer experience, and business outcomes.  Network-based APM solutions (otherwise known as Business Transaction Management solutions) deliver end-to-end visibility into critical business transactions, monitor the performance of multi-tiered applications, and manage network infrastructures that involve virtual, Cloud-based, and third party software-as-a-service components.

The focus for most Applications Support teams tends to be on EUE metrics such as application response times.  However these do not mean as much to the other teams as they do to the customer.  Using a network-based APM solution, Application Support can also track the response times of individual services and network infrastructure components to show other teams how they contribute to the end-to-end performance, and explain how network issues can also affect what the customer experiences.

Network-based APM provides a wealth of detail about individual transactions and sub-transactions.  Application behaviors can be qualified in terms of specific functional operations, outcomes, and application data.   Rates of complete and incomplete transactions can be tracked.  Response times for particular steps in the customer interaction can be determined.  And the relationship between application transaction data and resulting failures can be analyzed.

Network-based APM provides multiple levels of visibility into all the tiers of the business – from the network infrastructure, to the individual services, to the end-to-end application – and can subsequently relate those views directly to business performance.

The Unified Transaction Model – Making sense of big transaction data

These levels are formalized in the Unified Transaction Model (UTM) which explicitly defines transactions with respect to those above and below.  For Application Support managers, this means that they can better understand their customers, coordinate tightly with other teams and quickly provide that stakeholder with data specific to their part of the infrastructure, ensure that SLAs are met, and report effectively to business management.  All within a coherent end-to-end monitoring and management framework.

Without end-to-end visibility, Applications Solution managers face increasingly poor visibility and process inefficiencies that waste, waste, and waste – time, energy, good will and cost to the business.  The job is demanding and has become much harder with the increasing complexity of distributed applications.  If you cannot see it, you cannot manage it.

Network-based APM provides a timely answer to the latest needs of the Application Solution manager – an effective end-to-end view of application performance, from the infrastructure to 3rd party services to the resulting customer experience.  Improve EUE, move from reactive triage to faster problem isolation, coordinate more efficiently with those involves and leave the other teams to attend to their regular business.

Be sure to check back in the following weeks for Part 2 of this 6-Part series, discussing how IT Operations teams can benefit from end-to-end visibility. 

You can also watch the on-demand webinar or download the whitepaper titled, “Who Owns the End-to-End Transaction: Mapping IT Stakeholders to Transaction-Derived Metrics”.