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Business Process SLAs? Four End User Experience Monitoring Steps to ‘Yes’

Aternity October 11, 2016


The last in the series of five new End User Experience Monitoring use cases enabled by Riverbed’s acquisition of Aternity covers how SteelCentral Aternity enables IT and business executives to establish business process SLAs. This capability is much easier said than done. In fact, in our experience in working with our global 2000 customer base, we’ve found few cases where IT executives consider this possible until after we explain our approach to End User Experience Monitoring. But as IT executives face increasing pressure to demonstrate value to the business, establishing business process SLAs is becoming a ‘must have.’

Traditional SLAs don’t show how well IT supports the business

Most IT shops offer SLAs to their internal customers for business critical applications. Commitments on application availability, up-time, or even network latency are common components of application SLAs, along with goals for first call resolution time and mean time to repair. It’s clear why IT relies on these metrics for their SLAs. It’s because this is the data their monitoring tools provide them.

But SLAs based on metrics like these fall short when it comes to showing the extent to which IT is (or is not) supporting the business. None of these metrics has anything to do with what a user sees when they use an application to execute a critical business process. For a retail bank, this might be a customer service agent looking up a customer account in the CRM app. Or a member of a hospital’s medical staff accessing a patient record in the EHR. Or a cashier scanning the bar code of the products at the POS in the check-out line.

You can’t set a business process SLA if you don’t know what ‘normal’ is

Companies struggle with establishing business process SLAs because they lack an understanding of the ‘normal’ performance for those processes. Some IT shops try stop-watch timing in QA, running a synthetic script, or simply searching the web to find articles on acceptable service levels.

The first two approaches fail because the data collected is not statistically significant enough for enterprises with tens of thousands of employees. Using the web as a resource fails because most SLA articles are focused on simple B2C transactions for web apps. These articles often mention 2-5 seconds as what constitutes an ‘acceptable’ response time, but this target may not be relevant as a business process SLA for a more complex, multi-step activity.

Four end user experience monitoring steps to solve these problems

Here’s a four step method for using SteelCentral Aternity to addresses these short-comings in establishing business process SLAs.

1.   Monitor IT from the point of consumption

Rather than monitoring IT from the perspective of the network or the data center, SteelCentral Aternity monitors IT from the point of consumption—the end user’s device. Whether that device is a physical device like a PC or laptop, a virtual device like a Citrix server, or a mobile device, SteelCentral Aternity monitors end user experience as applications render on the screen of the device. Watch this short, coffee-related video, for an easy understanding of this approach to end user experience monitoring.

2.   Use business activity analytics to measure what matters

When measuring the extent to which IT supports the business, what counts is the response time that users see as they interact with applications in the course of doing their jobs. With SteelCentral Aternity’s Business Activity Analytics, enterprises can define user interactions with any type of local, web, cloud, or mobile application in the context of a business workflow.

3.   Set reasonable SLA targets

SteelCentral Aternity real-time performance analytics provides IT and business executives the data they need to establish reasonable targets for business process SLAs. For every application, device and user performance metric collected, SteelCentral Aternity automatically generates a baseline. These baselines can be split automatically, by location, subnet or target server, so that a granular baseline exists for every group of users sharing the same experience for the same transaction or business process. These baselines provide the intelligence for IT and the business to establish manual SLA targets which represent acceptable levels of service.

4.   Measure every instance of every user’s interaction

When it comes to determining the extent to which business process SLA targets are being met, monitoring only a sample of users’ interactions isn’t enough. You need to measure every instance of every user’s interaction with every business critical application. Here’s where SteelCentral Aternity end user experience monitoring really shines. Imagine if you could stand over the shoulder of every user in your organization and stopwatch time every instance of them executing those activities. That kind of ‘virtual stopwatch timing’ is effectively what SteelCentral Aternity does.

Business process SLAs—putting it all together

The dashboard below shows how SteelCentral Aternity enables you to measure business process SLAs. SteelCentral Aternity automatically generates a baseline (1) that constitutes ‘normal’ performance for every monitored business activity within every application in your enterprise. It also enables you to manually set a threshold (2) for what constitutes acceptable performance. It measures every single business activity performed by every monitored end user (3) and tracks the number that exceed the threshold (4), providing a color-coded indicator of overall acceptable rate. Conformance to business process SLAs can be displayed in a variety of ways – by department, geography, device type used by the workforce, etc.

More information on other SteelCentral Aternity end user experience monitoring use cases

As mentioned in the kick-off blog to this series, SteelCentral Aternity brings five new end user experience monitoring moves to Riverbed customers. See the related blogs, which cover device troubleshooting for the Desktop Services team, Mobile APM, the use of SteelCentral Aternity in the Service Desk, and Change Management. You can also register for a free evaluation of SteelCentral Aternity here.


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