Best Practices for Digital Experience Management

Content By Devops .com

The COVID-19 pandemic put digital services in the spotlight. The winners in 2020 and beyond will be those organizations which provide awesome user experiences for online products, services and apps. There is scant room for error, as digital leaders before the pandemic have upped their game even more.

For example, streaming service provider Netflix’s 2020 Q4 revenue reached $6.64 billion – almost $14 million more than expected – and added 8.5 million paid subscribers. The company had more than 200 million users in the quarter and saw viewership for non-English titles jump 50% during the year as U.S. viewers sought new content from around the globe.

Companies in more traditional sectors, such as restaurants and hospitality, also grew by investing further in digital strategies. Chipotle’s 2020 revenue increased 7.1% to $6 billion, with digital sales skyrocketing 174.1% and accounting for more than 46% of sales. Target’s digital sales increased 155% in Q4 while Costco grew e-commerce sales by 91% in FY20, as online ordering and curbside pickup became the new normal.

Digital Experience Monitoring Basics

To manage this onslaught of online customers and transactions, IT organizations are turning to digital experience monitoring (DEM). DEM is a broad area, but it comes down to delivering the best experience for your customers and employees by monitoring your IT assets and addressing issues that arise before they become problems. DEM allows you to mimic and test the end-to-end customer and worker experience. Such solutions can be used in on-premises data centers or run in multi-cloud and hybrid cloud environments.

There are two key methods for DEM:

Real user monitoring (RUM): This entails using real users’ devices to measure the performance of a page. A script is injected on each page to measure data on page load performance for every request made, monitoring the interaction of an application and the users. The data shows such aspects as how an application is being used and the geographic distribution of users.

Synthetic monitoring: This technique tests the performance of a page using an automation tool rather than users’ actual experiences. Scripts are used to simulate how a user might move through a web application and then reports are created based on that performance.

In a recent report, Gartner analysts said DEM products are evolving, moving from a focus on performance and availability to correlating infrastructure and operations (I&O) and business outcomes. Currently, fewer than 15% of digital business initiatives will require I&O leaders to report on business metrics from digital experience; that will jump to 70% by 2025, Gartner says.

For years, organizations have been using monitoring tools to measure various aspects of their infrastructure. For example, IT operations management (ITOM) solutions track metrics and manage alerts and events for infrastructure hosted on-premises or in the cloud, including servers, networking systems, storage appliances and databases. The data also can be used for historical data analysis and to map out trends.

DEM is specifically focused on the end user experience, giving IT professionals the visibility to run diagnostics, fix issues and measure performance at each point of contact between the users and the application. Acquiring a new customer is an expensive effort, and a customer can be lost because of a single poor experience. DEM is designed to ensure the optimal experience.

Getting Started with DEM

There are two common approaches for implementing DEM:

Point tools: Domain-specific monitoring tools track and measure different layers of the technology stack, such as networks and applications. The upside to this approach is you get more in-depth coverage from the point tools, but it can lead to tool sprawl, which impairs visibility and increases costs.

Platform: This approach provides native monitoring for many areas and integrates with other tools, as needed, to deliver a central, unified view that makes it easier to see everything at once. However, it doesn’t include best-of-breed performance or the deepest analysis capabilities you will want in every area.

An important first step is to identify the metrics and outcomes priorities for your organization. Then spend time researching the proper toolset for the goals you want to achieve. If you decide on deploying multiple single-domain monitoring tools, remember that you will need an integration strategy. The tools will need to easily share data and display that centrally, to deliver a holistic view of digital experience. Integration is also critical for troubleshooting and connecting metrics to a specific business service. You also will need subject matter experts in these technology domains who can ensure that the DEM tool(s) keep pace with advancements in IT infrastructure and development technologies.

The Future of Digital Experience Monitoring

The DEM field is evolving, with more parts of the I&O stack coming under its purview. Solutions will offer more capabilities and be easier to integrate out of the box with other tools because the end-to-end flow doesn’t stop with monitoring and collecting metrics. ITOps staff need to take action on critical alerts with efficient workflows and intelligent recommendations. AIOps and machine learning analytics are playing a growing role here.

DEM can reduce time-to-value for customers and workers, simplify and ease onboarding to new sites and apps and ultimately increase interactions and sales. Advanced solutions can fuel predictive analytics, form a deeper understanding of user behavior to optimize websites and apps in step with user requirements and dynamic infrastructure changes. In a digital-centric world, DEM capabilities are critical to the health and future of organizations in every sector.

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