Application Performance Management is now mainstream, but grossly underutilized

Tools for improving business applications are being used in nearly all organizations, but only for troubleshooting. They are capable of doing much more.

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A report from IT software company SolarWinds finds that nearly nine out of ten organizations are using Application Performance Management (APM) tools, but most aren't using them to its full potential.

APM tools aren't exactly new, but the near universal adoption found in this survey has led SolarWinds to say it has finally gone mainstream--though largely only for troubleshooting app performance. 

What do APM tools do?

APM tools are designed to "translate IT metrics into business value," which basically amounts to doing four things: 

  1. Monitoring software from the top down (i.e. from the user's perspective)
  2. Monitoring software from the bottom up (i.e. keeping an eye on infrastructure)
  3. Incident management
  4. Performance metrics

When used to its fullest extent, APM tools can help users troubleshoot problems in both locally installed and cloud-hosted software as well as returning metrics that can help IT, and business leaders make informed decisions about their business software. 

Therein lies the key problem, SolarWinds' report found: 78% of respondents said they spend less than 10% of their time using APM tools proactively. That means most are only able to use APM software to troubleshoot, leaving business metrics ignored in the background.

That doesn't mean IT departments don't see the value in the metrics APM tools provide: One of the key findings that SolarWinds cites in the report is that "tech pros value the business insights delivered from APM tools, but greater skills development is needed in establishing KPIs and communicating IT performance to the business."

How businesses can use APM to its fullest

IT may see the benefit of APM, but only 32% say they're confident in collaborating with other team members. The report doesn't put the  blame on IT for letting metrics die before seeing the light of day, but rather states "there's a need to bridge the gap between business metrics collected and tech pros' confidence in their ability to communicate performance to the business."

SolarWinds provided several recommendations for how to help businesses, and IT teams, get the most out of their APM software.

How to get the most out of your APM software

Use the right APM tools: APM software isn't one size fits all. Depending on what kinds of metrics you want, the kind of software APM is monitoring, and the type of infrastructure you have, APM software can vary greatly. Make sure the suite your organization uses is correct.

Develop an APM plan: Like any major business undertaking, APM requires serious planning to benefit the most out of it. SolarWinds recommends a five-step plan for launching an APM initiative:

  1. Inventory your apps;
  2. Determine which insights you want to gain, and therefore what software to monitor;
  3. Evaluate different APM tools;
  4. Test several different APM tools;
  5. Track your ROI to be sure the initiative is worth it.

Translate metrics to business language: APM dashboards shouldn't just be built for IT. Business leaders should be able to view and understand what's going on as well. Translate IT lingo to things like market share, revenue, and customer satisfaction so that business leaders can make quick decisions based on what APM software is discovering.

Develop skills: IT teams and business leaders will need new skills to make the most of APM software--especially considering the report found that more than one third of tech pros feel they need to improve their skills to help them translate IT metrics into actionable business items. 

Take the time to plan for employee education, both in IT and outside of it. A key part of APM software is collaboration, and if your teams can't understand what each other are saying then you'll never get your organization past the troubleshooting phase of APM use.

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