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What CIOs need to know about digital experience monitoring

As evaluating user and employee digital experience becomes more common, CIOs need to learn how the technologies work and what they stand to gain by implementing DEM.

With more people working from home in the wake of the pandemic and compute workloads continuing their rapid migration to the cloud, huge portions of an enterprise's business now happen outside the office. Keeping track of how things are running has never been a greater challenge. Enter digital experiencing monitoring.

What is digital experiencing monitoring?

Digital experience monitoring (DEM) is growing in popularity as a new hybrid capability that blends infrastructure monitoring with end-user experience monitoring. Businesses are excited about the possibility of connecting the dots between IT purchases, service provisioning and software deployments with metrics in areas like revenue and net promoter score.

Gartner predicts that DEM adoption in enterprises could grow from 15% in 2020 to 70% by 2025, with a current market of between $600 million and $800 million.

Brett Thomas, back-end engineering director at OneSignal, a push notification service that has adopted DEM, said, "As businesses have become more decentralized and utilize more third-party services, it's become clear that the traditional application-based or lower-level monitoring is insufficient to capture the true user experience."

Brett Thomas headshotBrett Thomas

DEM has developed to bridge the gap between how the application is working and how the customer is using the service to provide insight into the total customer experience over multiple services and technologies.

How DEM works

Bob Taylor headshotBob Taylor

CIOs are moving their infrastructure to the cloud, increasing network bandwidth and proliferating end-user devices. However, "great experiences need the technology to work or customers will feel like it is too slow, error prone, too hard and leave," said Bob Taylor, chief digital officer at From, a digital transformation consultancy.

In response to that, DEM sets up monitoring to identify where the tech will fail the UX. This includes building models that assess usages that have led to slowdowns and outages. Once analyzed, levers are then designed to do something about the problem. DEM uses various approaches for measuring or estimating performance from the user's point of view. Externally, this is correlated with how changes in performance might impact revenue generation, reputation and customer loyalty. Internally, these metrics help assess how changes improve or worsen the employee experience and the performance of the business.

Paul Barrett headshotPaul Barrett

Paul Barrett, CTO of enterprise at Netscout, an application and network performance management tools provider, said end-user experience can be divided into several components including availability, reliability, responsiveness and security. Quality metrics are also captured for unified communications applications, which have become more difficult to manage with the move to home networking.

These kinds of monitoring capabilities help CIOs pinpoint problems that may span hybrid multi-cloud IT deployments as they lose some control over parts of their infrastructure. Nevertheless, IT managers are still held accountable for the services delivered to customers and employees.

"Unfortunately, it is all too easy to fall into a time-consuming, finger-pointing exercise with a third-party provider while the root cause of the issue, and thereby responsibility for its resolution, remains unidentified, and customers and employees continue to have a poor digital experience," Barrett said.

DEM capabilities

Three core digital experience monitoring capabilities include real user monitoring, endpoint monitoring and synthetic transaction monitoring.

Real user monitoring captures data about performance from the perspective of the application without installing anything on the client's end. It's useful for doing root cause analysis of application performance problems. It's also helpful for examining performance across different channels such as voice capabilities, chat applications, mobile devices and browser interactions.

Endpoint monitoring assesses the performance of an application using a small piece of code that runs on the device. It's useful for monitoring remote applications, identifying the effect of app configuration changes on the user side and tracking technology adoption and employee engagement. It's also suited for identifying problems that impact employees.

Synthetic transaction monitoring estimates the application experience by continuously testing the performance of all services and networks involved in delivering an application and simulating the likely UX. This is a good choice for analyzing the performance of SaaS applications and correlating it with the user experiences.

DEM benefits

One of the biggest drivers for DEM has been the work-from-home culture resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Brian Berns headshotBrian Berns

Brian Berns, CEO of Knoa Software, a DEM solutions provider, said, "With so many people telecommuting, companies realize that they need a way to make sure that their employees remain productive and engaged."

Many employees aren't comfortable with admitting that they are having difficulty adapting to the "new normal." However, if management can identify issues with employee efficiency and focus, they can come up with ways to help.

Another big driver has been cloud migration. Berns said DEM tools enable companies to answer crucial questions such as:

  • How can we ensure that our massive tech investment will not go to waste?
  • How can we make sure that our mostly remote workforce is not encountering problems, lightly using or even ignoring the new software altogether?
  • How can we optimize our cloud to ensure all employees are well trained and productively using the new software?

The key is to focus on the UX aspect to glean insights into employees' interactions with their enterprise software suites. This enables businesses to pinpoint and resolve any issues that impact productivity, such as lagging software, confusing screens, inefficient processes or simply the need for additional training.

Troy McAlpin headshotTroy McAlpin

DEM can also help identify issues associated with new software releases. DevOps and site reliability engineer teams are challenged with juggling expectations to not only continually innovate, but also regularly address and quickly resolve any service degradations before they become serious, customer-impacting issues, said Troy McAlpin, CEO at XMatters, a digital service management platform.

Features like synthetic transaction monitoring can proactively identify potential issues associated with new releases and technology deployments. This can free up time to focus on delivering new features without sacrificing quality or exceeding risk thresholds.

Why CIOs need to consider DEM

Jay Klauser headshotJay Klauser

"Ultimately the most effective experience monitoring programs are those that can be tied directly to core business objectives," said Jay Klauser, vice president of strategic alliances and sales engineering at NetMotion Software, a network optimization tools provider.

IT leaders should attempt to find links between DEM and meaningful impact. If network problems are identified and remediated, organizations can then evaluate how remote worker productivity was impacted and how to measure it. For example, fixing issues for customer support agents can sometimes result in faster response times and increase the number of tickets resolved per day.

CIOs that consider digital experience monitoring also need to weigh the tradeoffs between a consistent DEM platform and a better capability for customization. An enterprise-wide DEM program may benefit from a common approach across the company's IT portfolio. If a company pursues a program on a case-by-case basis, they may see a lot of rework as IT teams customize logging and metrics for each new application or business case.

Gartner argues that the adoption of a DEM program can help provide consistency for these efforts across both internal and external IT initiatives.

Lucas Sommer headshotLucas Sommer

At the other extreme, some DEM program managers are seeing bigger gains with customized DEM programs that provide better context. Lucas Sommer, director of marketing at LeadsRx, a lead attribution service, said that exploring more complex scenarios can provide real benefit. But this means teams must figure out which information to combine and how to display it on a case-by-case basis.

Delivering consistently reliable, responsive and enjoyable experiences are table stakes.

"It is even more critical that customers love the service so much that they're willing to recommend it," said XMatter's McAlpin.

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