This is the final installment of a four-part series on ‘A Day in the Life of Tech Torment’
Chapter 4: The Holistic Approach to End User Monitoring
Sooraya, our modern day protagonist, relies on an application-focused lifestyle to accomplish her day to day tasks. Previously, we saw how sometimes, that may not always pan out as planned.
The trip to Paris has come to an end and Sooraya is frantic. A phone call from her husband delivered the startling news that their older son has been hospitalized with a broken arm and Sooraya is determined to leave on the next flight back home. She logs into her airline’s website to change her flight, only to run into the worst possible hurdle – the dreaded 404 error screen when searching for alternative flights. Once, twice, three times she tries and each time all she gets is the error message. Finally, Sooraya slams her laptop shut in frustration. She pulls out her phone to call the airline instead but its peak business hours and the lines are sure to be swamped. As a cheerful voice asks her to hold, Sooraya realizes it’s almost time for midday prayers and hangs up the phone, bites back a vulgarity, and swears to herself to never fly this airline again if they can’t even keep their website online.
Sooraya’s airline uses synthetic monitoring to preemptively run scripts and test for user impact events, but a performance issue occurred in Western Europe where the company does not currently have any synthetic monitoring, leading to Sooraya’s present dilemma. However, by utilizing Real-User Monitoring (RUM) the airline has detected that traffic from Europe has dramatically decreased.
When Sooraya’s airline notices that the trend is occurring across France, they take immediate action. The airline spins up synthetic monitoring in Europe and quickly detects the scenario Sooraya is experiencing. By addressing a content delivery network bottleneck, the airline is able to get their website back online and once again streamline the customer experience efficiently. It was a costly disruption; already several potential customers have abandoned their efforts and moved to other companies.
The sample size of synthetic monitoring is relatively small, whereas with RUM it’s staggering. Instead of a small sample size, automatic baselining will intelligently detect a poor performing session and collect additional information for later troubleshooting. Fortunately, the application intelligence platform utilizes the data from RUM agents and integrate analytics engines so the sheer amount of data can be separated into relevant data. Using user analytics, companies can view the impact performance and errors are having on the business and take proactive steps in real time to re-capture abandoning users due to application performance.
After midday prayers, Sooraya is ready to make another attempt to book her flight. She re-opens her laptop one more time. To her delight and relief, Sooraya breezes through the flight change screens. With a cheerful chime the airline informs her that she’s booked on an evening flight out of Paris straight back to JFK International. Sooraya breathes a silent thanks to the airline for remedying whatever issue disrupted her flight plans quickly and hurries off to finish packing.
RUM is a powerful tool because it identifies trends that show exactly how global users like Sooraya are navigating through a site. In addition, most sites have third party services that are used to deliver additional customer experience and services. RUM and synthetic monitoring both provide waterfall charts so companies can observe how those third party services are performing at any given time and location.
The main strength of synthetic monitoring is, in a way, it’s most obvious obstacle. As stated before, synthetic monitoring doesn’t monitor actual end-users and therefore cannot offer comprehensive data on user trends. Although the monitoring is continuous, it’s staggered. Performance issues can slip between tests during the times when the scripts are not being run, which means that isolated performance issues are not always addressed. Also, if a vendor’s website is enormous and they choose only to run scripts on the most common user paths, impact events on rarely visited pages or products can go undetected.
Performance benchmarking with synthetic monitoring also ensures that a vendor keeps its competitive edge by checking to see if the new functionality is working at the same speed or better than the competition. Sooraya’s preferred airline runs scripts on its website frequently, but even when the site is meeting the performance standards, the airline still loses business to competitors, including with first time fliers. By running scripts on the competition, synthetic monitoring can analyze the performance speed of the competitors and pinpoint where the company is losing crucial seconds that can make a difference in sales.
When a vendor makes performance part of their business requirements they’re able to define standards of performance in the pre-production stage. Since a synthetic monitoring agent exists in a controlled environment, there are no variables to account for such as machine and software configuration or internet provider service. This lack of variables assures that synthetic monitoring is always measured by the same standard before functionality is activated by a web developer or vendor.
In addition, synthetic monitoring offers visual-based metrics. Vendors will know exactly how long it takes for the page to be visually complete for the user. Running scripts will time the visually complete metric to the millisecond and allow benchmarking against the competition to see where a company can optimize.
So between synthetic monitoring and RUM, which tool is better for companies to use to ensure performance standards? There’s a scene in The Matrix where Neo tries to bend a spoon with his mind. A particularly creepy child tells Neo that the answer is not to try to bend the spoon, but to accept the reality that there is no spoon.
When it comes to determine which type of end-user monitoring is the better choice, there is no answer. Rather, the reality is that RUM and synthetic monitoring are complementary made up to two symbiotic parts in the wild ecosystems of web and mobile applications. Each type of end-user monitoring has primary and secondary functions and each one has its own strengths. Using them as one consistent monitoring tool eliminates guesswork, proactively ensures performance standards, impact events from around the world, and an insight into competitive performance.
You’ve joined Sooraya as she balances her life, work, passions, and everyday responsibilities, which represent a microcosm of how digital transformation causes companies to change the way they provide excellent customer service or approach their business.
Sooraya is a traditionally-minded woman who utilizes nontraditional methods to manage her career and family. Sooraya’s goals and desires are the same, but her expectations from the vendors she patronizes have dramatically altered as digital transformation puts access to every facet of her life at her fingertips.
Just as Sooraya balances the different parts of her life, companies must innovate quickly and maintain applications to meet her new and rapidly changing expectations. Synthetic monitoring and RUM are two tools for end-user monitoring with specific strengths, functions, and goals. When they are utilized separately, neither is capable of monitoring and addressing every possible scenario that comes up in the fast-paced global market. But when brought together in a symbiotic relationship, these two tools become an effective unified solution for monitoring and proactively creating a positive front-end experience for each and every customer.
Problems are always going to arise. Unseen complications are unavoidable. Effective end-user monitoring fosters a standard of performance, provides a competitive edge in the market, and maximizes potential for profit and customer return rate. When companies monitor and eliminate user impacting events effectively, they’re not just helping themselves. They’re helping artists and entrepreneurs, CEO’s and activists, engineers and fashionistas, and regular people like Sooraya who just need to get through the day. A unified monitoring experience lets companies at the forefront of digital transformation deliver exceptional results to end-users and differentiate themselves among their peers.
Sooraya. Is. Exhausted. Exhausted, worn-down, anxious about her son, but happy and grateful that she was able to change her flight and arrive safely.
As the taxi sits in traffic, Sooraya decides that after the stress of the return flight, a little shopping therapy is in order. First she logs onto her online banking account to check her balance. It looks like the site has fixed its performance issues and she breezes through. Next she checks out her local department store for that hijab she had been hoping to find. Her son won’t be playing soccer for a few weeks, but once his arm is healed she’ll be out there sporting his colors. The department store has the perfect item and she places it in her cart. The suggestions that quickly load near the top of the page include a new series of running shoes that catch Sooraya’s eye. She decides to treat herself and orders a new pair in her favorite lavender.
Sooraya arrives home, safe, and satisfied to pull the curtain on one day where everything, online and off, went right.
Most importantly for the businesses she patronizes through her digital devices, the superior customer experience provided by a performant and properly functioning set of products and services, her brand loyalty has been retained and enhanced, and those companies will achieve better business outcomes as a result of higher funnel conversions and reduced bounced rates from a satisfied customer.