By more deeply examining how applications are performing via total performance monitoring and metrics these enterprises slashed mean time to resolution and later significantly reduced the number of IT incidents.
To learn how to build high confidence that IT disruptions can be managed, and even headed off in advance, BriefingsDirect sat down with Thomas Baumann, IT Performance Architect at Swiss Mobiliar in Bern, and Merve Duran, Management System Specialist at Avea in Istanbul. The discussion is moderated by me, Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.
Here are some excerpts:
Gardner: Thomas, tell us about Swiss Mobiliar and what you’re doing to increase the performance of your applications.
Baumann: Swiss Mobiliar is Switzerland’s largest personal insurance company. It’s also the oldest insurance company, founded in 1826, and every third Swiss household is insured at Mobiliar. We are number one in household contents insurance.
My role at Swiss Mobiliar is Minister of Performance. I'm responsible for optimizing all the applications, infrastructure, etc.
Gardner: Tell us about the challenges that you’ve had in terms of keeping all of your applications performing well. How many end users do you support with those applications?
Baumann: There are about 4,500 internal users, but we also deliver applications directly to our customers. So that makes a group of users that’s at about 2.5 million people.
Gardner: What requirements have you been trying to meet in terms of better performance and how do you go about achieving that?
We chose HP’s Real User Monitoring (RUM) and HP’s Operations Management i (OMi) to help us decrease our mean time to repair and to obtain a better understanding of end-user performance and how our applications are used by our customers.
Gardner: Thomas, how important is the acquisition of data and the use of that data? Have you changed either your attitude or culture when it comes to being data-driven, as a path to this better performance?
Baumann: Yes. Initially we had very little data, and data that was generated by syntactical measurements. Now, we measure real end-user traffic at all times, at all locations, and from all users, for the top applications that we have. We don’t use it for all applications.
Gardner: Do you have any sense of performance metrics and improvements? How do you measure your success?
Baumann: Regarding end-user response times, we created a performance index, comparable to New York Stock Exchange's Dow Jones Index. Calculating the average response times of the most important functions of an application, and the mean time of all these response times, gives us this performance score value.
We started in 2012, and there was a performance score value of 100, just to have a base level where we can measure the improvement. Now, with an important sales application, we're at 220, an increase of a factor of 2.2 in performance.
Gardner: Have you been able to translate that through some sort of a feedback loop or the ability to predict where problems either are or are beginning, so that you can head off problems altogether? Has that been something you’ve been able to achieve?
Baumann: Yes. OMi helped us to achieve this, because now we're able to detect very small incidents before they start to impact our service. In many cases we can avoid a major incident or a large problem that would lead to an availability problem in our company just by analyzing those very small defects or incidents that are detected by our machines.
Gardner: Before your customers and users detect them?
Baumann: Exactly. Sometimes you tell the customers that they have to do this and this, and they're very surprised because they didn't know there was a problem before I mentioned it.
Gardner: Let’s now go to Merve at Avea. Tell us a little bit about your company, how large it is, and what you’re doing to improve your application’s performance?
Duran: Avea, is the sole GSM 1-800 mobile operator of Turkey and was founded in 2004. It’s the youngest operator in Turkey, and we perform as management at Avea’s IT domain.
Gardner: What did you put in place and what were you trying to improve upon as you’ve gone to a higher level of performance? How did you want to measure that? How did you want to improve?
Duran: As an example, we have more than 20 mobile applications in Avea for iOS and Android-based mobile devices. We know that these applications get many hits in a day and we know that the response times of these hits play a significant role in the overall user experience.
Gardner: Have you been able to measure and determine how that performance has improved? What you’ve been able to use to determine the success of your activities?
Duran: Before this solution, we had almost no end-user data on hand, so root cause analysis was too hard for us and it took long times when a problem occurred. Also we didn't know how many problems were occurring. With this solution, we can do the root cause analysis and we know how many issues are occurred. Before this solution, we only found out if the customers complained. So the mobile RUM and BPM solution are quite important to us.
Metrics of success
Gardner: Looking to the future, Thomas, where do you see things going next? What’s the next plane of improvement when it comes to applications? Where do you see yourselves going next at your organization?
Baumann: For now, we use RUM to analyze response times. What we start to do now is analyze the behavior of the user: How are they using our applications? We can improve the workflow of whole business process by analyzing how the applications are used, who is using them, from which location, etc.
Gardner: And do you see the data that you’re gathering and using, being used in other aspects of IT? Does this have an adjacency benefit in some way, or is this something that you're just using specifically for application performance?
Baumann: For now, we use it specifically for application performance, but we see large opportunities to mix these data with other data to get more insight and have a greater overview of how applications are used.
Maybe we can compare it to an airplane. We were flying as a visual-only flight and now we've migrated to instrumental flight. We also have those black boxes so we can analyze how all those measurements developed over the last period, what happened exactly before the crash, or in general how the systems are used and how we can improve it.
Gardner: That's a very good analogy. It's one thing to just get to your destination. Now, you can make that much more scientific and understood. Therefore, you can devise your future based on a plan rather than a reaction. That's important.
I just want to go in one more direction before we end, and that would be the type of applications that you're using. Do you see more of a feedback loop to your developers? You're doing most of your activity in operations, but as we know that the better you design an application, the better it will then perform.
DevOps is an important trend these days. Do you see yourselves as application performance professionals starting to have more impact on the development process of feedback of information to developers, maybe the next generation of an application, or may be for entirely new applications. Any thoughts, Merve?
Duran: For BPM mobile solution, yes, this is quite helpful for us, because we can use this solution when we develop a new release of an application. So it will be good to test it before new application releases.
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