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Blog: Getting a Leg Up On Application Performance

Blog: Getting a Leg Up On Application Performance

These End User Performance and Management (EPM) solutions provide a complete picture of end user experience by focusing on both the experience the end user receives from the application and the performance the end user achieves working with the application. A fully featured EPM solution uniquely captures a complete picture of the end user experience and behavior:

  • Actual user-experienced response time for key system transactions, such as navigating between application screens, save operations, execute operations, etc.
  • Complete "quality of experience", including system and application errors and user created errors
  • Comprehensive perspective of application utilization — which transactions are used, in what sequence, for how long, etc.

Like traditional end user experience management solutions, EPM solutions are used for alerting, proactive remediation and root cause analysis of end user issues and application performance problems. However, with the insight they provide about user performance, they also provide actionable insight into process compliance, training requirements, adoption issues and a number of other application management dimensions that are beyond the scope of a traditional performance management remit.

Unusual Perspective Delivers Unusual Insight

The end user vantage point is the parallax view for performance management. By measuring performance from the perspective of the end user, you observe application performance from a new angle, thus gain insights unavailable before. Consider this real life situation experience from a financial services company who deployed an EPM solution along with their CRM solution.

The time to execute searches, particularly user-defined queries, was exceptionally long — an inefficiency that is particularly painful with the high cost workforce and high stake relationships in financial services. Without the visibility provided by the EPM solution, the IT team would have begun to look at the 'usual suspects' — the server utilization, the network, the database structure — even though all backend systems were showing green on all the systems management dashboards. The application performance team would have revisited the load testing to try to find the bottlenecks. And all to no avail. Because the problem was directly tied to the common end user behavior of executing the queries with no specified parameters.

This particular usage, which could have been predicted to be problematic, had been overlooked in the training. But, as often happens, end users do unexpected things in unpredictable ways. In this case, the EPM system quickly highlighted that fact, having captured the actual user behavior before, during and after the transaction. Based on data about actual end user behavior, the IT department promptly identified the root cause, which was then addressed with a two-fold strategy: first, they provided targeted user training in order to avoid the problem; and secondly, they re-engineered the application to disable that possibility for a long term fix.

With insight gained via the parallax view of the end-user's perspective, the real root cause of the performance problem was quickly detected. The productivity losses and infrastructure impact of excessively long (and often failed) queries had amounted to thousands of dollars each day. A consumer packaged goods company deployed an EPM solution to optimize end user proficiency with their ERP solution. They had reached a sustainable maturity level in their ERP implementation and wanted to focus on optimizing the effectiveness of the employee population when using the application. They knew they needed quantitative metrics about how the end users were utilizing the application and a complete picture of their total experience with the application. In the first months they had some dramatic insights.

The first was the revelation that just five transactions were accounting for 90% of all user errors in one of their ERP modules. This discovery enabled the company to transform its annual user refresher course from a week-long classroom program to a one-hour e-learning module. This one change alone generates annual, recurring savings of US$395,000. Another EPM nugget was discovering the root cause behind troubles with one vexing transaction which kept generating exceptionally long completion times. Users complained the transaction was cumbersome — a plaint borne out by EPM metrics showing that the average navigation time was double the execution time. Users spent more time reviewing drop-down options than in doing useful work with these options.

The fix was disarmingly simple; the training team developed a clarifying Quick Reference Card, accelerating transaction times by 20 percent. The EPM solution also proved helpful in monitoring compliant use of the application. Company best practices include a policy guideline that cost center owners access their Actual/Plan/Variance Report with a certain frequency. EPM Usage and Utilization metrics confirmed that most managers were adhering to the guidelines, but several were not. Not surprisingly, compliance in such matters is much easier to both track and promote when actual behavior is a matter of record.

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