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October 2020
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Keeping Apps on Track: The Business Case for Application Performance Management

Sascha Giese, Head Geek™, SolarWinds

By Sascha Giese, Head Geek, SolarWinds

The U.K. public sector has never been more digital than it is now, and an increasing use of applications—both within organisations and for use by the general public—have allowed the sector to work more efficiently and provide better services. But, the more applications in use, the higher the risk something could go wrong. The problem needn’t be something as severe as the app breaking entirely, but could include something as simple as it not performing optimally. If, for example, an app for patients to book GP appointments is slow and tricky to use, most patients will give up and call their surgery instead, making the app unnecessary and increasing the pressure on GP receptionists.

That’s why “slow” is the new “down.” Users have high expectations from technology now, and the public sector must keep up. There are five key reasons why organisations need a comprehensive performance management strategy to track and measure all of their digital touchpoints and mitigate the impact to both the organisation and the user.

  1. Keeping Everything on a Tight Schedule 

Until recently, most organisations across all sectors typically ran on analogue models, where users or customers would physically go to the organisation and initiate an interaction to receive certain products or services. The old system worked fine in most cases, but compared with new methodologies the analogue model was inefficient. It required more advanced prep, longer wait times, and led to higher overheads.

Now the public sector—along with the rest of the world—is interconnected, often by custom apps and websites (custom, because each organisation is different, with different needs unable to be fulfilled by a “one-size-fits-all” approach). When it works well, everything runs smoothly. But a small blip can mean disaster. Every modern, digitally-interconnected system is kept in good working order by monitoring. Everything about the app and the site is monitored and measured to the “nth degree.” How is the mobile app performing? How long did the user stay on a page? How quickly did the app fulfill a request?

Monitoring allows you to find this out quickly, and fix any problems before they grow. This is known as application performance monitoring, or APM, and it’s rapidly becoming a must-have for organisations to ensure poor performance is avoided.

  1. Speed Should Be a Top Priority 

In the business world, speed is rapidly becoming one of the most important features of apps and websites. In 2018, Google changed its algorithm to make site speed a ranking factor in mobile search, prioritising sites providing users with a fast response. Businesses unable to provide this can miss out on potential sales, because customers expect quick transaction times.

A similar challenge is becoming evident in the public sector—users interact with digital services far more than before, but if a site is slow to load, they may be tempted to seek the same help elsewhere. A recent study by Decibel found 95% of consumers in the U.S. and U.K. will leave an e-commerce or brand site if they’re having a frustrating time. Google says a mobile site should load within three seconds. Take longer than five seconds, and the probability of users bouncing increases by 90%. Every organisation, therefore, needs to know where and when they jump. You can find out with APM. It gives you continuous visibility into how your application is performing and helps answer the question, “is my app any good?”

  1. But Speed Isn’t the Only Priority 

In the early days of cloud, the majority of IT leaders were impressed by its ability to disconnect from messy interactions with on-premises equipment. It was elastic, scalable, and agile; they could quickly deploy more resources if anything slowed down in the cloud. However, it didn’t automatically guarantee a better user experience.

Teams still need proactive visibility. With continuous monitoring, you can understand the performance of both the application and the infrastructure it runs on. Instead of always reacting to any problems, you can start delivering better results. APM tells you where you’re getting value and where you’re not, and highlights when you’re spending too much on a less vital feature. Successful monitoring isn’t necessarily about spending the most money—it’s about knowing where and when to spend it. APM won’t solve everything, but it does give you a perspective of the cost of running your applications and the performance of running those applications—and it does this proactively.

  1. Ensuring Teams Can See Clearly 

Having full visibility of all IT systems and applications ensures problems potentially causing delays or outages can be kept to a minimum. But when there are interruptions, end-to-end visibility shows you the links between the application and the infrastructure. Technology teams can rapidly do root-cause analysis and fix the problem much faster because they’re no longer guessing at where the issues might be.

It means IT isn’t wasting time pointing fingers, and in the public sector where budgets and time are often limited, this is particularly important. Teams can work off a consistent and standard set of information. Additionally, for traditional IT organisations, APM gives advanced visibility into infrastructure, whether on-premises, cloud, or hybrid. It also gives key stakeholders a view into important metrics, helping them keep up to date and showing the value of the investment.

  1. Developing the Perfect Application 

There are many reasons why applications don’t always perform well. They could have other applications contending for resources or custom applications could be poorly written. APM is especially useful in the development stage of applications because it allows people writing the applications to understand how their application code is performing immediately. This way, they can optimise their code before it goes live.

That app can be written in any number of languages, and it can be designed for any location. APM instruments these apps and allows you to see how those apps are performing down to the code level. The likelihood of deploying poorly performing code into production is then greatly reduced.

The key takeaways for public sector IT leaders are that APM might be an expense now, but it enables organisations to deliver better performing applications, and have confidence in doing it quickly and efficiently. Without APM, you have an unknown level of risk associated with the availability and performance of your applications, their transactions, and your infrastructure. And for stakeholders, APM is a valuable tool to boost visibility, so they can be sure their investment provides value to users who can help continue to improve public services across the country.

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