Sometimes the Squeaky Wheel Should NOT Get the Grease



Anyone who works in IT Operations or a Service Desk team knows that priorities are often set by user complaints of poor service. The squeaky wheel can drive our business. The louder the complaints, the higher the priority. The more senior the impacted end user, the more urgency required. We all know the importance of moving from reactive to proactive problem management, but when that wheel is squeaking, you just have to fix it, so you can then concentrate on other things.

Every so often, after greasing the squeaky wheel, the cart still doesn’t run well. In response to users’ complaints of poor service, IT investigates the problem, identifies the root cause, and resolves it. Yet even after the problem is fixed, and end users no longer complain, the business still has improvement to make.

A real estate firm fixes a squeaky people soft wheel

Such was the case for one of my customers, a large real estate firm with offices around the country. Their IT Operations and Service Desk staff are centrally located, supported by both internal IT staff and contractors in remote offices. Their agents and office staff rely on a large PeopleSoft environment that they use to process daily account changes, transactions, charges, etc. IT uses Aternity’s business activity analytics to monitor several time-sensitive business activities for conformance to expected SLA targets.

Recently, IT had received complaints from agents and office staff about the ‘Load Monthly Reports’ activity taking an excessive amount of time to run. As seen in the Application Status dashboard below, the average time for executing this business activity was 17 seconds, and color-coded orange to indicate deviation from expected performance baselines.

To investigate the cause of this slow response, IT used Aternity’s unique ability to capture the key-to-glass response time of any activity performed within any application. As shown in the Activity Analysis dashboard below, Aternity breaks down overall response time into that contributed by the client and that contributed by the infrastructure. In this case, the slow activity was caused by the excessive time taken to render the screen on users’ machines, but the infrastructure processing time was very quick.

Client side latency is the key driver of overall response time for the slowest performing activity

IT reviewed the machine configurations of users complaining and identified the need for more memory. Once upgraded, the symptoms disappeared. A simple problem with a simple solution.

The wheel no longer squeaks, but it’s work isn’t done

Although IT fixed the problem that was generating end user complaints, their job wasn’t done. Even though users no longer complained, other business activities within the PeopleSoft application were still taking extra time. The slow response time had existed for so long that users saw that performance as ‘normal.’ It didn’t rise to a level of frustration that caused them to call IT.

The real problem was that, by focusing on the squeaky wheel and addressing the complaints of the vocal few, IT failed to find problems that were impacting the majority of the end users suffering in silence. Optimizing the end user experience of business critical applications requires more than responding to user complaints. It requires understanding the end user experience of all users, on any device, across the entire enterprise. It requires setting baselines for expected performance so that deviations from those expectations can kick off a proactive approach to problem solving.

Aternity provides usage trends, as well as application and activity response times. This gives IT insight into what users are really experiencing, even if they are not reporting problems. As shown below, the volume of the second PeopleSoft business activity, ‘Save and Submit Changes,’ is significantly higher than all of the others, including the top one. Improving the response time of that business activity could produce a larger benefit to the business. Just as above, IT can analyse the breakdown in overall activity response time between client and infrastructure time to determine how to optimize performance.

Optimize the performance of the most performed activity even though it wasn’t reported as problematic

Resolution: A proactive approach to problem management

A targeted approach to reported problems is the bread and butter of every IT organization. IT frequently receives complaints from users, and investigates the problem based on reported symptoms. Spending time and money treating a symptom of a mildly nagging condition, i.e. a squeaky wheel, distracts us from looking at the system as a whole and identifying long standing issues that users may have just gotten used to and are not even reporting to IT.

If you’re experiencing problems similar to those I’ve described, register for a free product evaluation today!


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