• July 27, 2004
  • By Coreen Bailor, (former) Associate Editor, CRM Magazine

Real-Time Measurement for Real Customers

When serving customers online, seconds count. Consequently, measuring such service delivery items as page-load times can help retain impatient customers, who are one click away from finding a competitor's Web site. Today there are several ways to measure CRM-related IT service levels. One is synthetic measurements, which are approximations that try to mimic what real users are doing, says analyst Peter Sevcik, president of NetForecast. Another is real-time measurements, which are actual measurements of activity. According to Sevcik, companies will soon come to realize that real-time measurements are much more accurate than synthetic measurements. "You just can't run a synthetic measurement against all your pages, all your transactions, from all the locations where real users are," Sevcik says. "If you did that you'd double your load." Furthermore, Sevcik says there would have to be a synthetic agent next to every real user. "When you start to ask questions like Is the synthetic agent hitting my page at the same time my real user does? and Is the synthetic agent hitting exactly the kind of pages that my real users are and all of those pages that my real users hit?, you find that the overlap...of what you can do with synthetic [measurement systems] and what real is is very small. It's a very small overlap and where it really matters is where something goes wrong." Real measurements provide a much more accurate measurement compared with its synthetic counterpart. One company that provides real-time analysis is Adlex, which recently announced its new product, ITvisibility, a real-time measurement tool involving hardware and software that allows the direct measurement of application service levels as users experience them, according to Dave Zwicker, vice president of marketing at Adlex. Companies that use synthetic measurement services "[measure] a tiny percentage of the total real users that you have, and you're doing it on maybe an every 15 minute interval at best," Zwicker says. ITvisibility encompasses hardware and software elements, including passive listening devices that attach to a company's network, a centralized data warehouse, and application modules for report servers that give real-time analysis of usage as well as availability and performance for all users. Another element, fault domain isolation, pinpoints where the service problem is, the probable cause, and accelerates the time needed to repair the problem to restore quality service, Zwicker says. Adlex's service-delivery management tools are experiencing uptake among financial services companies, as optimizing the response time of their Web applications has a direct correlation to their top line revenues. "If the industry average is 2.27 seconds per page, or about 26 pages per minute of transaction volume, then eight seconds of page load time represents only 7.5 pages per minute of transaction capacity, or 62 percent downtime," Zwicker says. "For stock traders who value their hourly transaction time at 14 million dollars of equity trades, 62 percent downtime is millions of dollars in lost trades and with lost trades go lost commissions. Any e-business application will benefit from the increased transaction capacity enabled by fast pages." Allmerica Financial, for example, wanted an application with the capacity to track end-user response time. The company implemented Adlex's ITvisibility. "The tool is actually heavily utilized by our application development groups, because it gives them an insight into the various bandwidths that are out there, how their application is performing from a page size, server-response time, [and] network-response time," says Brett MacNutt, operations manager for network services at Allmerica. "Also it gives the technicians a drill-drown capability to isolate where response time issues are on the back end...." IT organizations want solutions that improve their customers' experiences. As Sevcik says, "It's all a part of the maturing of this industry." Related articles: Delivering a Value Proposition Is Not Enough--Companies Must Show Their Value Measurement
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