End-User Activity Monitoring – a Silver Bullet for IT Operations

I’ve received interesting questions regarding a recent article I wrote on the value end-user activity monitoring (EUAM) provides and how it should relate to IT Operations.  A management product that focuses on the end user isn’t a natural high priority choice for IT organizations that have traditionally focused on the datacenter.  However, things are changing fast and the core focus for IT is moving from the datacenter to the user (ref blogs http://opsleuth.com/?p=114http://newtoniannuggets.com/2012/11/20/it-has-been-deposed-long-live-king-user/). As such I believe that EUAM is already a critical management function. Here’s my first BMC post on the subject (with more to come). I welcome your thoughts and opinions:

 

Monitoring end user activity has been attempted for decades. It was always difficult even when the corporate datacenter really was the center of the IT universe. Reaching out to the end user started with desktop monitoring and evolved to synthetic transaction monitoring, which originated from the dev test world to simulate application response time performance.  These tools found a home in IT operations used routinely to assess end-user response times for specific application transactions and support root cause analysis. The trouble is to gain an accurate understanding of end user activity it is not something that can be sampled using a number of specific browser based activities.

 

What is needed is a way to monitor users in real time to allow issues to be identified well before a problem is identified in whatever datacenter the applications are sourced.

 

EUAM provides a wealth of information that may be easier to leverage when it’s incorporated into existing IT operations management technology, but there are challenges to make this happen. Most users continue to be supported through the service desk and are enabled through the management of the devices they use. This level of support alone does not give users the ability to solve IT problems independently and it doesn’t provide visibility into how people use IT. We’re seeing this change now because end users are beginning to play a major role in influencing IT decisions, especially when it comes to how IT applications are chosen, supplied, consumed, and evaluated to support the business.

 

Forward-thinking IT Operations teams are now using management products that provide greater visibility into how users consume IT. The initial step for implementing these tools is to understand the output from these tools and incorporate lessons learned into IT management practices to enhance the value of existing IT tools. The primary tools that EUAM augments are application performance monitoring (APM), IT service management (ITSM), and the management of mobile devices. I’ll cover EUAM with APM in this blog and take on ITSM and mobile computing in subsequent posts.

 

Integrating End-User Activity Monitoring and Application Performance Monitoring

 

Monitoring end-user activity provides application performance monitoring with visibility at the endpoint of the user. APM has two areas of focus: the back-end datacenter communication layers and the front-end transactional communication (to the end user). The problem with gaining a coherent view of applications availability using current APM tools is that they focus on a specific application or communication method. Assuming that the same people are monitoring both the back-end and front-end performance, they will fail to provide an understanding on how multiple applications impact each other at the back end (e.g., the database) or support the overall service needs at the end-point — the end user.

 

By adding EUAM to an APM solution, IT operations can understand how the end-user is experiencing IT services, regardless of how many applications are being used or where they are sourced. This allows IT to correctly measure true application usage and assess the experience with established service levels.

 

The value that EUAM provides APM depends on how well IT is prepared to monitor the end user. Gaining a view of end-user activity is valuable only if the IT operations team is measured against end-user satisfaction metrics. If the end user is simply considered as a peripheral endpoint component, then the value that end-user activity monitoring provides is potentially low, relegating it to a nice-to-have piece of the monitoring puzzle.

 

The powerful combination of these two capabilities provides the following value:

  • “Last-mile” applications data
  • Visibility into applications performance and usage irrespective of each application’s source
  • Visibility into end-user activity and applications experience

 

 

In my next post, I’ll delve into how EUAM coupled with IT Service Management can drive excellent user experience.

These postings are my own and do not necessarily represent BMC's position, strategies, or opinion.

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