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Digital Experience Monitoring’s role in government

Level 11

By Paul Parker, SolarWinds Federal & National Government Chief Technologist

I like the idea of taking a holistic view of the user experience. Here's an interesting article from my colleague Joe Kim, where he introduces and discusses Digital Experience Monitoring (DEM).

Agencies are moving quickly from paper processes to digital services to providing critical information more efficiently online, rather than paper-based forms and physical distribution methods. As a result, about 30% of global enterprises will implement DEM technologies or services by 2020—up from fewer than 5% today, according to market research firm Gartner®.

What, exactly, is Digital Experience Monitoring? In a nutshell, it’s understanding and maximizing each individual user’s online experience.

DEM looks at the entire user experience: how fast did the home page load? Once it loaded, how much time did the user spend on the site? Where did they go? What did they do? Taking DEM even further, many agencies will gather information about the user’s device to help further understand the user experience: was the user on a smartphone or on a laptop? What browser?

Maximizing the user experience requires an incredible amount of data. This brings its own challenge: all that data can make relevant information difficult to find. Additionally, federal IT pros must be able to understand how the IT infrastructure impacts service delivery and the citizen experience.

Luckily, there are an increasing number of new tools available that help give context to the data and help the federal IT pro make highly informed decisions to maximize each citizen’s digital experience.

DEM tool benefits

DEM-specific tools provide a range of benefits that other tools do not. Specifically, because DEM inherently works with lots of data, these DEM tools are designed to help solve what have historically been thought of as big-data challenges.

For example, DEM tools have the ability to recognize patterns within large amounts of data. Let’s say a specific cluster of users is having a sub-optimal experience. Automatic pattern recognition will help the federal IT pro understand if, say, all these users are taking a particular route that is having bandwidth issues. Or, perhaps all these users are trying to access a particular page, form, or application on the site. Without the ability to recognize patterns among users, it would be far more difficult to find the root of the problem and provide a quick solution.

A DEM-specific tool can also identify anomalies, a historically difficult challenge to find and fix.

First, the federal IT pro must create a baseline to understand ordinary network behavior. With that in place, an anomaly is easier to identify. Add in the ability to apply pattern recognition—what happens before the anomaly each time it appears—and the problem and solution are far easier to find and implement.

And finally, because they can provide a historic perspective, DEM-specific tools can help the federal IT pro forecast infrastructure changes before implementation. Let’s say an agency is undergoing a modernization effort. Many DEM tools provide the ability to forecast based on the baseline and historic information already collected. A solid DEM tool will allow the federal IT pro to mimic changes, and understand the result of those changes throughout the infrastructure, in advance. The reality is, any infrastructure change can impact user experience, so being able to understand the impact in advance is critical.

Conclusion

Federal IT pros have been using performance monitoring tools for years. That said, the landscape is changing. Using ordinary tools—or, ordinary tools alone—may no longer be an option. It is important to understand the role DEM plays within agency IT departments. In turn, this allows you to recognize the value in bringing in the right tools to help perform this new, critical role.

Find the full article on our partner DLT’s blog Technically Speaking.

12 Comments

Obviously we're talking about NPM's QoE here, and the equivalent deep-dive into apps with SAM  and DPA, and performance with WPM, and cloud-based monitoring.

Digital monitoring is, in my opinion, a poor description for this process.  That's because computers are digital, not analog, and we've been monitoring them for scores of years.  Grant, in the old days monitoring was done with analog meters that showed temperature and power.  But since the 1960's there's been digital monitoring, and I'd go out on a limb to say everything monitored is done digitally.

QoE is a better description of what this article covers.

Synthetic accounts that go out and check every step of a process flow, that identify and record benchmark times for what's normal, and that flag what's not normal, are what we're talking about, and Solarwinds does this well.

Let's not beat around the bush and mince words.  DEM is NOT performance and user experience monitoring.  QoE and Solarwinds' other tools ARE the way to go.

And this is nothing new, so it shouldn't be touted as if DEM is the next new thing everyone needs to be doing.  They should have been monitoring users' experiences for many years already.  And doing it automatically and "digitally" instead of using Help Desk complaints as the gauge.

Nothing new here.

MVP
MVP

Nice -> the write up + comments ........

Level 16

Nice write up! We have been doing this for years but it has taken a suite of tools from many different vendors to accomplish it.

MVP
MVP

Sounds like the Fed's are behind the curve...tools have been available to do this for over a decade.

BTW, any marketing research by Gartner I see I immediately apply a few pieces of rock salt about the size of a softball......

I think they likely are, but I think a lot of other people are too. Too often monitoring stops at: 'is it running' because you have to know know your application better to monitor more, and because you may have to maintain the monitor more as you upgrade the application.

Level 14

We are lucky if we can maintain the systems to allow access at all never mind fast access.  I guess it's all down to what you have to provide and how much money you have.

Level 20

WPM can also do this for website performance.

I have to imagine every tech decision or action made in the Fed corridors security has to be absolutely positively paramount every time.  From the outside it feels that the Feds are continually under siege.

MVP
MVP

That may be part of it.  In some cases there may not be good hooks into the product or even a command line interface to interrogate it as to it's health and responsiveness.  Building a full on synthetic transaction end user experience/ end to end solution for a single app can be a huge undertaking and changes to the environment as simple as a small web page change can throw the entire thing in the trash until you rebuild it.  Not all of them allow you to break those into blocks or chunks you reuse and rebuild without having to start from scratch...again (WPM).

Level 13

Nice Article

MVP
MVP

Hardware has become so powerful that the experience has been brought to the forefront as our expectations have grown to immediate response. This is a part of the culture of IT and society in general so it's critical that we look, proactively, to watch performance and experience and take action before it impacts that end users.

Level 21

I think User Experience monitoring is important but not at the cost of more traditional monitoring.  A buddy of mine works for a company that had this great idea of just focusing on User Experience monitoring with the idea that knowing their User Experience should be their focal point.  What they had not considered was what they were going to do when the tool indicated a degraded user experience, how were they going to identify the source of the problem?  This is why monitoring the underlying component that make up a service or an experience are still critically important.

About the Author
Paul Parker, a 25-year information technology industry veteran, and expert in Government. He leads SolarWinds’ efforts to help public sector customers manage the security and performance of their systems by using technology. Parker most recently served as vice president of engineering at Infoblox‘s federal division. Before that, he served in C-level or senior management positions at Ward Solutions, Eagle Alliance and Dynamics Research Corp.