CXO

Customer loyalty: Why application performance management is a CIO concern

Application performance is essential to the digital enterprise. CA's James Harvey explains why APM is strategic and key to driving customer engagement and loyalty.

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Image: iStockphoto.com/stevanovicigor

In an era of digital interaction, said James Harvey of CA Technologies, proactively managing customer satisfaction should be the focus of application performance management (APM). His APM business unit in Silicon Valley believes that every industry is becoming digital and that applications are "the very heart and soul" of an enterprise. You have only seconds gain your customer's loyalty — or lose it — based on how your apps perform.

The significance of APM to Harvey is strategic: Applications are the first level of contact with the customer, application performance is a customer service issue, and CIO engagement can turn effective APM into a sustainable advantage that drives revenue.

With prior experience at Taleo and Oracle, Harvey started work as General Manager, Application Performance Management at CA Technologies last year. CA is a well-known tech industry player and Fortune 500 enterprise software corporation headquartered in New York.

In March, research firm Ovum named CA Technologies as a market leader in its APM solution Decision Matrix for 2014-15. Ovum wrote in the report that "CA APM has a long history as an enterprise-strength product, one that can exploit CA Technologies' investment in its Service Assurance solutions portfolio" and that its latest 9.5 release "offers enhanced capabilities in analytics, and cloud monitoring, which ensures CA APM's place as a leading APM solution."

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Image: CA Technologies

I recently held a Q&A by email with Harvey, which touched on C-suite perspectives on APM, his role at CA, enterprise results and pain points, the current APM marketplace, and trends over the next several years.

Q&A

TechRepublic: What is your definition of application performance management (APM)? Do you think the concept has become diluted?

Harvey: In today's application economy, where apps have become the very heart and soul of your business, you have mere seconds to impress your user. The quality of the applications that the business builds and the performance of those applications are essential to the quality of your customer's digital experience.

APM is the practice of managing the performance and availability of software applications. There are a number of different ways to utilize APM — depending on how important those applications are to your business and reputation. Some organizations proactively manage their applications; others are more reactive in nature. Some apply simple APM monitoring tools just to get a sense of what is happening with their applications; others want a complete end-to-end solution to know exactly what their end user experience is and to have deep insight across their network to diagnose and resolve issues quickly.

The concept of APM hasn't been diluted, but the scope of ways to implement APM varies dramatically. We believe that every industry is becoming a digital industry. With this increased reliance on applications, it's more important than ever that enterprises monitor and manage the end user application experience across all environments: physical, virtual, cloud, and mainframe.

TechRepublic: What are the big things a C-level executive needs to know about APM?

Harvey: As more businesses increasingly rely on applications to be the front man for their business, IT organizations must adopt the customer perspective. Application outages are not IT or system faults. They are customer service problems.

This means the CIO has to be at the frontline of customer engagement. To make this happen, the CIO and IT teams need the right tools to deliver optimal customer experiences - those that will drive high customer satisfaction, increase sales, and cement long-term loyalty. It's about reacting more swiftly to application issues, obtaining better insight into what's driving application quality, and having the ability to continuously improve application experience from the customer's perspective.

When it comes to the user experience, CIOs and their teams must be able to turn application performance management into a strategic advantage, one that drives topline revenue.

TechRepublic: You started work at CA Technologies last fall. How would you define your personal mission?

Harvey: I was brought in to use my background in building world-class enterprise software products at Taleo and Oracle around two key themes — SaaS and ease-of-use. These two themes are now driving all we do in the APM business unit because that is what our customers demand in an APM solution.

My goal is to redefine APM at CA. This means we are going to modernize the APM platform to make it easier to use across multiple user segments and expertise, we are going to significantly reduce the time-to-value of our buyers, and we are going to increase the product release velocity. To enable this, we formed the APM business unit. If you were to visit our Santa Clara site, you'd see how our APM business unit is behaving more like a startup, with the goal of spurring more innovation and improving product velocity.

TechRepublic: How can an enterprise use APM to drive business results and improve the user experience?

Harvey: Unfortunately, most organizations aren't reaping the value from their application performance management efforts. Too often, the performance management tools that are in place, as well as the information they hold and the expertise to use them, are centrally located and managed.

The solution is to democratize enterprise application performance management tools, expertise, and information so that the ability to deliver high-performance experiences bridges business app owners, support teams, development and testing, and others. With the insight provided by continuous application performance assessments, enterprises are able to identify issues as they arise, prevent them altogether, and deliver an optimal user experience.

TechRepublic: What are the pain points that APM can address in an enterprise?

Harvey: The pain points are:

  • Quickly diagnose and resolve application issues. By having a 360-degree view into complex, composite applications, wherever they reside on premise or in the cloud, APM will enable you to get to the root-cause of problems.
  • Improve application quality. As enterprises roll out more and more web and mobile applications, the first impression is the one that counts the most. By democratizing APM, enterprises can use actual real-use data to improve applications that are in testing and QA.
  • Increase reputation and loyalty in an era of digital interaction. This is what APM really boils down to. APM should be about proactively managing customer satisfaction.

TechRepublic: What are the biggest challenges in the APM marketplace right now?

Harvey: Survival in today's application economy is based on growth; therefore, ease of use and scale is huge, so APM capabilities must be delivered in an easy-to-use solution that can truly scale to meet the needs of an enterprise implementation. The pressure is on APM vendors to provide IT organizations with scalable solutions that enable them to ensure a positive end-user experience with mission-critical applications, and to identify, diagnose, and fix application issues quickly. And in the world of complex composite applications, this pressure is at a boiling point. Customers are also looking for smarter APM with advanced analytics that will help spot anomalies earlier, take informed corrective action, and leverage APM big data to become much more proactive and ultimately predictive.

TechRepublic: Over the next two to three years, what are the biggest trends in APM?

Harvey: I see SaaS, Analytics, Mobility, and DevOps as the four disciplines that will reshape the industry. And to stay relevant, our entire focus and product innovations this past year have focused on these trends. With SaaS, our view of the future is focused around enterprise organizations' desire for a truly hybrid solution. This starts with our SaaS-based synthetic monitoring solution to provide up-to-the-minute insight into performance and availability. Earlier this year we showed off our first SaaS-based Mobile DevOps solution that builds and tests API-based mobile applications and gains insights into performance, user experience, and crash and log analytics.

APM also holds a critical role in the app development acceleration effort. Simply put, there is no Ops in DevOps without APM. APM enables application developers to collaborate with IT operations to accelerate the application delivery process. The introduction of agile development has made APM even more important, because it pushes performance testing closer to production. IT ops and development teams are beginning to use APM in both preproduction and production to help ensure that new applications delivering business services will perform and scale when released to production.

About Brian Taylor

Brian Taylor is a contributing writer for TechRepublic. He covers the tech trends, solutions, risks, and research that IT leaders need to know about, from startups to the enterprise. Technology is creating a new world, and he loves to report on it.

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