IT plays an interesting role in customer service; most often it is in response to issues opened up at the service desk. However, increasing demands on the business are forcing IT to play a more proactive role to ensure an optimal customer experience before users are impacted by IT issues.
These demands, which can stem from growing complexities on the enterprise side to a need for streamlined operations as a cost-saving measure, often come out of IT location strategies where specific processes are offshored or outsourced. In order to actually realize cost savings from these approaches, the efficiency of these groups must be high.
This has created opportunities for technology vendors to enhance their products by building in automation to help drive efficiency by avoiding a dependency on eyes-on-screen monitoring to catch problems. It is just not cost-effective to expect an offshore team to stare at a monitor and try to catch a problem by looking at an event log when, truth be told, they are also monitoring many other systems at the same time. Their “eyes” need to be doing other things. By staying focused on driving customer service as a business metric and adopting these newer technologies that build analysis and automation into their solutions, IT will find itself better equipped to help deliver superior customer service.
The constraints of competitive pressures, requirements for sustainable cost reduction and regulatory compliance are what make this so challenging. However, these constraints are not going away in the foreseeable future, and IT must learn to adapt. Enterprises will be spending less on IT strategy, outsourcing as much as possible and watching the dollar. Therefore, IT services must become more autonomic.
Recently, I have observed a trend in the marketplace where focus and attention are being placed on the technology details of how application performance monitoring (APM) itself works and sometimes overlooking the real reason we use the technology. Monitoring the performance of your applications is not the goal. Collecting events is not the goal. These are simply a means to an end.
Ultimately, the goal is to provide high-quality service to your customers and to do that you need to keep the performance and availability of your applications high. But this isn’t easy when every year the amount of events you collect grows at a fast rate. What can you do? Throwing bodies at it ahead of time is no longer an option nor is the blame game afterwards. Without real-time analytics we are just storing meaningless data and reacting to fire drills after the users contact the service desk.
But APM coupled with analytics provides early warnings, avoids having to institute eyes-on-screen monitoring and cuts down on false positives. APM itself is nothing new. Organizations have monitored transaction and messaging environments for quite some time. What is new is the ability to couple real-time analytics with monitoring and scale to handle the Big Data from events. And the quantity of events from monitoring is increasing daily.
I am not saying that the nuances and capabilities from tool to tool are not important — they are — but only in the context of providing high-quality, high-uptime service to the customer. We are at risk of allowing the technology innovation to shift our attention away from the customer service metric. There is a time and a place for debate around the means of application performance monitoring, but it should never replace the importance of why we monitor application performance in the first place.
IT can help improve customer service and help their enterprise be more successful in the market by looking at the reasons behind “why we monitor” and manage those business goals.
There is little doubt that the customer is still king. Customer service has even been cited by some as the only true business metric for growth. Happy customers are profitable customers. At the end of the day, the customer is not going to care what APM tool is being used, what level of visibility it provides or even how well the applications are performing. All they want to know is that the systems will do what they expect without interruptions, delays or other unpleasantness.
Technology capabilities are only important in the context of providing high-quality service to the customer. By staying focused on driving customer service as a business metric, IT will find itself better equipped in the long run to address the ever-evolving needs of their customers.
Charles Rich, vice president of product management and marketing at Nastel, is a product management and marketing professional with over 20 years of experience working with application performance monitoring and IT service management software