“Understand the Secret Sauce” and Finer Points About Business Transactions and Evolving APM

On this planet, water is essential. Air is essential. And I could argue that for APM, Thomas Tammann’s “10 Tips for Every New AppDynamics Customer” is essential. While his “Top 10” doesn’t carry the same life-dependent intensity as sun to earth, it is core to success for modern APM.

I’ll set the scene: London, AppD Summit Europe, May 2017. The stage is dark. The audience is in high-spirits. Thomas bounds on stage. His tall, lanky form leaning into the experience. Genuine confidence into the insights he’s about to share are based on years of customer partnership as an AppDynamics Solutions Architect. His knowledge is lifted from the context of our customers, their customers, and the backdrop of evolving digital transformation trends. We’re set for a worthy session that any application team can learn from.

Thomas shows us that simple ideas are tough ideas. Some of the key points he covers may seem obvious, but they’re not initially observed by a majority of customers. Only after challenges do customers see how essential it is to invest in each of the tips described.

Here Are My “Top 4”, Paraphrased from Thomas’s “10 Tips”:

 #1. Set an APM strategy.

If APM is just another tool, IT is doomed to service the business. Our most successful customers have adopted a business-first IT mindset. They view APM as a strategy, not a tool.  This is because application performance drives business performance. A tool adjusts performance, but a strategy ensures you’re using performance to gain advantage. Thomas advocates that it’s critical to invest time in setting a strategy and most importantly, to align your team to it. Teams are made up of people, and when people have different understandings about the direction the team is headed, you’re all bound to get lost. To illustrate this point, Thomas had the audience stand up, close their eyes, and point to “true north”. When he asked us to open our eyes, we witnessed the reality that we were all pointing in different directions — our individual ideas of “true north” were entirely scattered. So, strategy is powerful and communicating that strategy has a unifying effect, increasing chances for success.

#2. Go with the flow.

We give visibility to your Business Transactions — every detail, every dependency, complex or not. Don’t sacrifice knowledge for a pretty picture. All too often customers superficially edit the reality of their application flow-map because they believe it’s easier to understand. “Not true,” suggests Thomas. By “understanding the secret sauce” (that is, how and why AppDynamics does what it does), you can embrace the complexity of the true-flow and benefit in the long term.

#3. Automate.

Thomas uses unconventional wisdom (AKA, “When lazy is good”) to show us the beauty within the AppDynamics platform. Simply put, as soon you do something twice, you should automate it.  AppD helps you do this. For example, dynamic performance baselines are easily created to automate alerts that show you when performance deviates from norm. This helps prevent IT alert storms. AppD also enables customization of automation. For example, you can automate agent deployment, monitoring for on-prem controllers, configuration deployment (the new scope configuration brings you additional power), and integration with event systems.

#4. Configure signals from the noise.

Business Transactions are the critical first step. But know that data ingestion is just the beginning and that when you gather indiscriminately, you end up not knowing and not using what you have. Data isn’t knowledge — it’s how you process it that makes it useful. As Thomas suggests, often times, “getting everything and having nothing” is the result of a data deluge. Collecting data which serves as foundation for information and then knowledge is the goal.

Consider learning more about best practices for AppDynamics customers by reading our eBook, scheduled for delivery during the summer of 2017.

General Note: The title, “Ten Tips for Every New AppDynamics Customer” comes from Thomas’s experience working with customers that had around two years use of the tool. The “10 Tips” are not necessary for new customers, but also immature customers (in using the platform of course; they are ripe with wisdom in every other sense). That’s why Thomas originally called his talk the “10 Commandments”, as every customer, new or old, has to consider them. I would simply think of them as best practices.