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The Hows and Whys of Digital Performance Management Excellence

Mike Sargent
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Digital transformation is happening, and it’s happening in a big way. By 2021, IDC expects that at least 50% of global GDP will be digitized1. To propel these digital initiatives forward, enterprises will invest an estimated $2.1 trillion in cloud, mobile, IoT, and other next-generation technologies over the next few years alone2.

Digital Performance is critical to Superior Customer Experiences

In order to start stitching this picture together, IT needs to form a holistic approach to digital performance management.

Maximizing the return on these investments hinges on one primary goal: delivering the best digital experience for all customers, employees, and partners. After all, that experience is at the center of digital transformation—it’s critical for keeping both internal and external users engaged and loyal, so companies can continue to grow and secure a lasting competitive advantage.

In order to deliver these experiences, it’s imperative that businesses ensure the performance of their applications and digital services, as they are the primary means by which business is conducted today. Results from a recent Riverbed survey underscore this criticality, as 98% of executives agreed that optimizing digital performance is essential to business success.

But in an era where users expect instant responses from their apps and services, tolerance for error is nearly zero. Unfortunately, the IT landscape has become increasingly complex and dynamic, making it difficult to deliver on these lofty expectations. In fact, 80% of those same survey respondents indicate that poor performance impacts digital services at least once a month.

To succeed, IT and business leaders need a shared view into digital performance, where fluctuations to service health automatically correlate to impacts on a user’s experience and, by extension, how that experience affects business outcomes.

In order to start stitching this picture together, IT needs to form a holistic approach to digital performance management. That approach combines the right set of technologies, skills, processes, and KPIs to keep apps and other digital services up and running at top-notch speeds, while delivering the requisite insights into users’ satisfaction with such offerings.

The hows: performance management maturity model dimensions and ratings

To help enterprises chart their path toward digital performance maturity, Riverbed commissioned a study with Enterprise Strategy Group to assess performance management practices. The study surveyed nearly 350 enterprises on their digital performance behaviors and characteristics, the outcome of which was a data-driven model, comprised of the following four dimensions:

  1. Organization: Who within IT is tasked with performance management—ensuring service availability, resolving issues as they arise, and continuously looking for ways to improve application delivery. Enterprises with dedicated teams such as a performance center of excellence—led with executive oversight—proved to have more advanced practices. On the opposite end of the spectrum were organizations that only allocate individual contributors to address issues on an ad-hoc basis.
  2. Business Alignment: Giving business leaders a seat at the table is key for any performance management practice. After all, the idea is to tie service health and availability to actual business outcomes. Leading IT organizations report on a number of advanced metrics, and provide business stakeholders with on-demand, role-based dashboards consisting of the relevant performance data they need to make quick, informed decisions.
  3. Process: Teams with clearly documented workflows and service-level agreements achieve higher marks when it comes to ensuring digital service performance. Moreover, these groups regularly revisit and refine these workflows to make them more efficient, and they also engage business leaders for input and approval into desired service-level targets.
  4. Technology: Traditionally, IT has relied on point monitoring tools to gain visibility into various aspects of an application and the underlying infrastructure that delivers it. However, this approach creates blind spots and conflicting conclusions across IT. Moreover, most teams monitor only a small subset of critical apps, which limits value. Conversely, organizations that have sufficient coverage across most (if not all) apps via an integrated platform that presents data in a unified manner, via a single management console, prove to be more effective and deliver better results for the business.

Responses to each question in the dimensions described above was assigned a point value. Scoring was designed to give each segmentation criteria roughly equal weight while still ensuring particularly forward-looking behaviors were given an appropriately high maturity score. Respondents could earn a maximum of 40 maturity points and were segmented as follows:

  • Nascent: 0-13 points
  • Aspiring: 14-26 points
  • Expert: 27-40 points

When all was said and done, only 9% of participants were rated as Experts, while 63% were Aspiring, and 28% were Nascent.

The whys: outcomes of mature digital performance management practices

With so few organizations being ranked as Experts, one would naturally assume that those organizations drive much better results for their businesses. That assumption is correct.

Experts not only exhibit more behaviors that are characteristic of successful digital initiatives—like more pervasive adoption of cloud and embracing practices like DevOps—they are also more adept at demonstrating the value they deliver to the business. More specifically, Experts:

  • Experience far fewer outages: In the digital age, slow is the new down, and even a minor service degradation can have a huge impact on revenue, productivity, and customer satisfaction. Experts encounter far fewer problems, as they are twice as likely as other organizations to report less than 5 percent of critical apps have monthly issues.
  • Resolve problems faster:Application environments are complex, so problems will still inevitably arise. But when they do, advanced teams solve them four times faster than their lower-performing peers, frequently in less than 30 minutes.
  • Develop apps faster: To beat the competition to market and keep users loyal, businesses are adopting agile practices to develop faster, higher-quality application releases. Experts deploy 80% of apps at or ahead of schedule, and experience far fewer break/fix events.
  • Demonstrate clear business impact: Half of Experts can automatically translate application performance and user experience data into quantifiable impacts on productivity and revenue. Just as important, they’re seven times more likely to be viewed as competitive differentiators by their lines-of-business stakeholders.

Assess your organization’s maturity and discover ways to improve

Performance management Experts clearly make an impact on the digital business bottom-line. That said, based on the Riverbed-ESG study, 91% of organizations need to improve their ratings to help their businesses achieve similar outcomes.

Read the full research report to learn what other behaviors and characteristics Expert organizations share. Then, see how your organization compares by taking five minutes to complete this self-assessment to understand your strengths and weaknesses and gain recommendations on how to improve.

1. [“IDC Predictions Provide a Blueprint and Key Building Blocks for Becoming a Digital Native Enterprise,” IDC, Oct. 31, 2017]

2. [Ibid]

Originally posted on Forbes.com.

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