Mistakes Evaluating & Purchasing APM Software

Biggest Mistakes Companies Make When Evaluating & Purchasing APM Software

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The right Application Performance Management and Monitoring solution can make all the difference. Not only can APM tools make you more productive by drastically reducing the time it takes to find the root cause of performance issues, but comprehensive APM solutions include robust reporting, real-time monitoring and alerts, and more to let you know immediately when a performance issue arises – meaning you have the opportunity to pinpoint and address problems before your users experience major performance issues.

With applications becoming increasingly complex, APM is becoming even more crucial for companies that need to ensure uptime, responsiveness, and the functionality and performance their users demand. But it’s not a matter of simply picking an APM tool out of the pack and implementing it. We wanted to learn more about the biggest mistakes companies make in this process and what you can do to avoid making them, so we searched the web for expert advice and reached out to a panel of DevOps pros and development leaders and asked them to answer this question:

“What’s the number one mistake companies make when evaluating & purchasing application performance management & monitoring software (and how can they fix it)?”

Meet Our Panel of DevOps Pros and Development Leaders:

Find out what our pros had to say and what steps you can take to choose the right APM software by reading their responses below.


Mihai CorbuleacMihai Corbuleac

@UnigmaApp

Mihai Corbuleac is an IT Consultant at Unigma.

“Working as an IT Consultant for a cloud monitoring and management company…”

Gave me the opportunity to understand how key people think when they evaluate and purchase an app performance management and monitoring tool. It is very important to know for sure what your company needs and pay only for what you need and use. A startup can do this for you, besides the fact that sometimes a startup company can serve you better than an established business because they invest in developing tools clients need at a certain point in their existence, trying to be more specific. It is a matter of approach rather than mistake.


Rishi KhannaRishi Khanna

@rishikhanna

Rishi Khanna is a passionate entrepreneur and CEO. He leads ISHIR, a global offshore technology organization & other high growth companies. Rishi has been part of the outsourcing industry since 1999 & has successfully implemented strategic outsourcing & offshore programs in IT, Cloud, Mobile/IoT, BPO & Digital Marketing functions.

“With multiple environments like virtual, mobile, physical and cloud, there is an increased need to monitor and manage applications efficiently…”

It is critical to choose the right Application Performance Management (APM) software to ensure a great user experience.

Most of the enterprises will simply select an APM software that is popular in the market. That, of course, is not the right approach. It is critical to compare all the APM solution options and choose a trusted advisor to implement it. However, there are some simple checks to evaluate if the software meets your technical requirements:

  • How will the APM software help enhance your end-user experience?
  • Is the software capable of managing multiple technologies?
  • Is the software ready to be deployed in a production environment?
  • Is the software capable of managing current application architecture, like managing complexity and being able to manage noise?
  • How equipped is the software to manage democratization of data and provide value addition to the various roles and teams throughout your organization?


Antony EdwardsAntony Edwards

@AntonyEdwards

Antony Edwards studied computer engineering at the University of South Wales, Australia. He worked as a developer in Sydney before joining IBM Research in New York. Moving to London, Antony joined mobile operating system builder Symbian, moving from system architecture to eventually become a VP and member of the executive team. More recently he held the position of CTO with a major US on-line entertainment company, TestPlant.

“The #1 problem is…”

That organizations focus entirely on the software and don’t think about how they are actually going to use any of the data coming back. Buying software/infrastructure is easy, so people like to focus on that. But APM software is only useful if you have the process and people to take that data, analyze it, define improvements, feed that into the development team, and release improved products.

Therefore, it’s only useful gathering all this data if you have the capability to use it. Putting that capability in place is hard, so people don’t do it. You also have to get that turn-around process fast, or the link between feedback-change-impact is lost and you’re back to just guessing. So the #1 problem is that people focus on buying software to support a process/capability they don’t have. It’s like people buying SalesForce without having a sales process – it’s not going to achieve much.


Puneet GangalPuneet Gangal

@askaciron

Puneet Gangal is the CEO and Founder of Aciron Consulting, a business management and technology consulting firm based in Boston, MA, with a focus on the client’s specific needs and helping them achieve greater efficiencies in business/IT alignment. He has over 20 years of technology and management consulting experience.

“The number one mistake companies make is…”

Not establishing a solid software evaluation plan. Without truly knowing what you need, you cannot select an appropriate solution. Before anything else, companies should talk with all key stakeholders (such as end users, IT personnel, and management) and examine the existing IT environment to come up with a full list of specific business and technical requirements.

Then, companies must prioritize their needs. By separating the Must-Haves from the Nice-to-Haves, companies will be better prepared to evaluate their options. Some of the key factors to evaluate include: fit with requirements, cost, flexibility, ease of use, ease of implementation, ease of maintenance, and scalability.

To narrow down your software options, develop a structured matrix that maps the solutions against your prioritized requirements. Next, test out your top 2 or 3 software options – you should not buy software that you have not seen in action. Try to obtain free trials to see if the software is easy for end users to understand and use and to determine if the software will fit your needs. Once you have done this research, select the best option, which should meet at least 80% of your requirements. After the software has been purchased, companies should then start planning for a successful implementation by creating a plan of action for rollout, testing, and user adoption.


N3N - David HowardDavid Howard

@N3N_IoT

David Howard is the Director of Marketing at N3N, Inc. He is a Silicon Valley veteran with experience spanning telephony and networking equipment providers, SaaS call center vendors, and most recently, data analytics with Platfora and Salesforce Analytics Cloud BU.

“A common problem/mistake in evaluating and selecting monitoring and management solutions is…”

The failure to consider whether the offering can put IT problems into business context.

It’s one thing to get an alert about an application being down or broken. It’s another thing to get an alert that the order entry application is down and it’s also the last day of the quarter, and sales people are furiously trying to enter orders, and this app should be prioritized because the outage has significant material impacts on the business.

IT folks routinely deal with long punch/ticket lists of things to fix, and their priority should be determined by the business impacts, not by the apparent speed and ease with which it may be fixed. The IT folks need to speak the same language as their users and the senior management team and how they view outages, not how IT views outages.

Otherwise, they may be working on the wrong things.


Pax BhatiPax Bhati

@EY_US

Pax Bhati is a Senior Manager (Director level role) at EY with 15 years of experience in Finance, and Technology. He advises clients on technology to solve their complex financial problems with a focus on Risk Management. Over the years, he has launched various e-com products, mobile apps, and developed digital strategies for various clients in addition to working on risk management topics like CCAR (stress testing for banks).

“The common mistakes companies make when evaluating and purchasing APM software include…”

  • Measuring against yourself
  • Looking backward
  • Putting your faith in numbers
  • Gaming your metrics
  • Sticking to your numbers too long
  • Ignoring the signs
  • Setting vague goals
  • Using subjective scoring
  • Putting off performance discussion meetings


Michael AzoffMichael Azoff

@mazoff

Principal Analyst Michael Azoff is a member of Ovum’s IT infrastructure solutions group, leading a range of software development and lifecycle management research initiatives. His current research interests include cloud native computing, DevOps methodologies and SaaS market analysis.

NOTE: The following information is excerpted from Choosing an APM Solution via APMdigest.

“APM remains a market with many different types of solutions, from hardware-based appliances to pure-software solutions…”

Typically, vendors approach the market with particular strengths and build out their coverage portfolio on top of these – for example, building solutions around complex event processing engines, or Big Data real-time analytics capabilities.


Free Download

The market has seen a definite shift towards solutions supporting the latest mobile and cloud computing trends. As enterprises make better use of cloud services, and enterprise end users and consumers increasingly use smart mobile devices, the need to manage performance on these environments correspondingly grows. Another noticeable trend is the availability of APM-as-a-Service solutions.


TechTarget - SearchSoftwareQualityJustin Rohrman and Matt Heusser

@SoftwareTestTT

Justin Rohrman and Matt Heusser are contributors to TechTarget’s SearchSoftwareQuality, “an online community for developers, architects and executives interested in building high-quality software, or are involved in software project management, software testing and quality assurance (QA), application performance management (APM), application lifecycle management (ALM), plus many more related topics.”

NOTE: The following information is excerpted from What exactly does APM software do? via SearchSoftwareQuality. 

“Reporting is probably the most important aspect of APM…”

Data that you don’t have access to, and that you can’t shape into different formats and views, isn’t that useful. There are many different ways to deliver information about application performance. The simplest is a stream of real-time data displaying information about your servers and virtual machines, as well as application data. I like to have this running on an extra monitor to scan when I feel the need. Another popular reporting style is based on triggers, specific words or events, which result in emails and text messages being sent to operations and developers (and sometimes managers) to let them know something bad might be happening.


PCMagPCMag

@PCMag

PCMag has been redefining technology news and reviews since 1982. It’s a part of Ziff Davis, a subsidiary of j2 Global, Inc. j2 Global is a leading global digital-media company operating in four core verticals: Technology, Gaming, Healthcare and Shopping.

NOTE: The following information is excerpted from Application Performance Management via PCMag’s Business Software Index. 

“There are many factors to consider which will help you choose your application performance management tool…”

Your service agreement with your customers likely outlines some basic service level standards that you’re legally required to maintain. Ensure that your APM can assist you with preventing unplanned downtime while minimizing planned downtime. You need to understand your user’s experience and business processes to ensure that you can discover as many issues as possible before your customers are aware of them. That’s the easiest way to avoid negative experiences for your customers. This includes being able to determine the root cause when a transaction isn’t completed. Did the customer abandon the transaction, or did the transaction fail, causing the customer to abandon their cart. Your APM needs to be able to deliver actionable data to your IT team, so having the capability to analyze raw performance data and convert it into usable information is important. That means that your customer click rates and click response times become reports on what users clicked on, how quickly apps responded to the clicks and a click-stream analysis.


Karun SubramanianKarun Subramanian

Karun Subramanian is passionate about IT operations. His website is dedicated to supplying useful information and tools to effectively manage your Linux,DevOps and APM environments.

NOTE: The following information is excerpted from APM Selection Guide: How to choose the right Application Performance Management System via KarunSubramanian.com. 

“Do NOT begin the search of an APM solution unless you have clearly defined the requirements…”

You may be thinking, “This is not a software application that we are developing. This is a monitoring tool! What
do you mean by requirements?” Well, consider the following questions:

  1. Do you need deep insights such as code level diagnostics?
  2. What are the various types of technologies you need to monitor? PHP? Ruby? Java? Mainframe?
  3. Do you need end-to-end visualization with end-user experience monitoring?
  4. Do you need to build custom Dashboards for your IT Operations folks to use?
  5. Are you particular about using agent-less monitoring?
  6. Do you need SAAS (Software as a service) solution?

These are just few critical questions that can help you narrow down your search for an APM solution.


QUEQUE

@KINGnet

QUE.com is a privately owned company, based in Fairfax, VA, with multiple virtual moderators and volunteers around the globe.

NOTE: The following information is excerpted from How to Choose Application Performance Management Software via Que.com. 

“The overall goal of any APM software is to compile data on the performance of one or more applications and present that information in a way that managers and developers can understand and make changes if necessary…”

But in order to do this, APM software will have several components including hardware usage statistics, software performance metrics, reporting tools and user and transaction information.

You will also want to take into account the configuration process for the software itself. You should be able to connect to be able to connect to large commercial applications within a few clicks, and the software should include support for the most popular commercial databases like Microsoft SQL, IBM DB2, Oracle and others.


Sylvia Fong NySylvia Fong Ny

@germainapm

Sylvia Fong Ny is a Sales Consultant at Germain Software and contributes to the Germain APM Blog, a blog focused on application performance management.

NOTE: The following information is excerpted from 5 Essential APM Software Functions to Enhance User Experience and Business Process Monitoring via Germain APM. 

“Being able to easily define and configure critical business processes is one of the most important APM software features when it comes to understanding User Experience, because…”

It’s what allows you to understand how the application is used and by who, at a much higher level than the user click stream that can be so overwhelming. Understanding that helps with planning and experimenting with new customizations before putting them into production.

Of course, you want to be able to store multiple business process configuration settings so that you can perform side-by-side comparisons and get clear data on which settings best meet your company’s goals.


Cristian VantiCristian Vanti

Cristian Vanti is a performance-oriented Solution Architect with over 20 years as an IT professional in several different roles. He’s passionate about bleeding edge technologies, fast paced environments, and challenging projects.

NOTE: The following information is excerpted from Choosing the Right APM – A Fool with a Tool is Still a Fool via LinkedIn. 

“When a company decides to buy a tool, it must create value, satisfy specific needs, and ultimately solve problems…”

To make a long story short, it must implement a strategy.

What still surprises me is that the performance culture isn’t yet widespread, and often managers buy software or services that are very appealing or trendy, but aren’t actually an element of any strategy.

Web performance is a war that must be fought every day. Every day customers ask for new features and expect quicker systems. You can’t think that a tool like Application Performance Management is a magic wand that can solve all your problems forever. First comes the strategy, then the budget, and then, only then, you can look at the market to choose your tools. This is a process we often help our customers to understand.


Gerald HaydtnerGerald Haydtner

@Dynatrace

Gerald Haydtner works for Dynatrace, the leader in digital performance management that enables companies to manage thousands of servers with very small IT monitoring teams. Gerald is a trained software developer with a passion for performance optimization.

NOTE: The following information is excerpted from APM on-premises or SaaS: What’s the best fit? via DevOps.com.

“When you decide on an application performance monitoring (APM) solution, you can choose between an on-premises approach or SaaS-based solutions (“Monitoring as a Service”)…”

Every deployment option brings its pros and cons or has advantages for special use cases. An installation on-premises for example works best if you want to monitor an intranet that you want to keep isolated.

Which APM deployment option makes most sense for your organization? There‘s no simple answer to this question. A lot depends on your environment and requirements.


Cody ArsenaultCody Arsenault

@CodyArsenault5

Cody Arsenault is a Web Performance Advocate at KeyCDN and a lover of all things business, web development, and entrepreneurship.

NOTE: The following information is excerpted from Essential Application Performance Management Tips and Tools via KeyCDN.com. 

“Tech research firm Gartner created a handy guide to help individuals and development teams make an APM plan for their projects…”

Such a detailed plan may not be necessary for smaller applications, but following these five steps will ensure that all of your bases are covered.

Step 1: Start With the End-User Experience
Numbers only tell you so much, so you must see for yourself how users experience the application. Monitoring the end-user experience will help you identify how performance issues directly impact your audience.

Step 2: Model the Application’s Architecture
Make a visual representation of your application’s runtime architecture so that you can identify all of the different components and how they interact with one another.

Step 3: Trace Your User Transactions
Trace how transactions flow down possible paths of your architecture model to determine which nodes could be potential sources of problems for users.

Step 4: Do Some Deep-Diving
Set up deep-dive monitoring for each component that impacts user transactions.

Step 5: Analyze the Data
Conduct IT operations analytics on the data you collected from monitoring to identify weak links and anticipate potential end-user problems.

Professional development teams use a combination of different automated monitoring tools from various vendors to meet their application performance goals. Many APM solutions boast big data analytics; however, if you don’t consider the end-user experience, then there’s no point in collecting data. If you take anything away from Garter’s 5-step plan, remember to put users first and save data analysis for last.


Bob BalabanBob Balaban

@LooseleafLLC

Bob Balaban is an expert technology leader, entrepreneur, innovator, software developer, software architect, consultant, trainer, researcher and author with 25+ years’ experience developing world-class enterprise products and tools with an emphasis on product leadership, architecture, design, and development in enterprise collaboration and databases. He has organized and led dispersed development and QA teams, evangelized products, and built/nourished ISV communities. He blogs at BobzBlog.com.

NOTE: The following information is excerpted from Recommendations for Evaluating Application Performance Monitoring Tools via BobzBlog.com. 

“Application Performance Monitoring (‘APM’) tools are a great way to gain end-to-end transparency into how well your large-scale applications are performing…”

They are especially applicable to 3-tier/N-tier architectures supporting large web sites, hosted applications, and “cloud”/SaaS (software as a service) apps.

While the value of a good APM tool is large (when applied appropriately), they can be tricky to install and deploy across many servers and tiers in a large data center. It is therefore important to plan and conduct a significant (lasting at least 2 months) “Proof of Concept” (POC) trial, to fully understand the capabilities, requirements and value to your particular situation.


Larry DragichLarry Dragich

Larry Dragich is Director of Customer Experience Management at the Auto Club Group.

NOTE: The following information is excerpted from The Anatomy of APM – 4 Foundational Elements to a Successful Strategy via APMDigest. 

“By embracing End-User-Experience (EUE) measurements as a key vehicle for demonstrating productivity, you build trust with your constituents in a very tangible way…”

The translation of IT metrics into business meaning (value) is what APM is all about.

The goal here is to simplify a complicated technology space by walking through a high-level view within each core element. I’m suggesting that the success factors in APM adoption center around the EUE and the integration touch points with the Incident Management process.

When looking at APM at 20,000 feet, four foundational elements come into view:

  • Top Down Monitoring (RUM)
  • Bottom Up Monitoring (Infrastructure)
  • Incident Management Process (ITIL)
  • Reporting (Metrics)

As you go deeper in your exploration of APM and begin sifting through the technical dogma (e.g., transaction tagging, script injection, application profiling, stitching engines, etc.) for key decision points, take a step back and ask yourself why you’re doing this in the first place: To translate IT metrics into an End-User-Experience that provides value back to the business.


Deeksha MalikDeeksha Malik

@GetApp

Deeksha Malik is a Senior Researcher at GetApp.

NOTE: The following information is excerpted from What’s so good about application performance monitoring software like AppDynamics and New Relic? Why do customers love it? via Quora. 

“Monitoring the performance of your web applications is no easy feat…”

Application monitoring is necessary to ensure that a software application is performing in an expected manner and scope. An application performance monitoring (APM) solution reduces manual work associated with IT systems monitoring and streamlines the performance monitoring process. The tool also evaluates the end-user experience and component-level performance of the app.

There are quite a few popular and powerful APM solutions on the marketplace. All the tools have some basic features but what sets them apart from each other is the unique set of functionalities they offer.

Before you decide to choose any tool for your business, it’s essential for you to understand what exactly you want an APM tool to assist you with. Listed below are few of the basic features which an APM solution should offer.

  • Activity Monitoring
  • Applications Management
  • Real Time Analytics
  • Real Time Monitoring
  • Server Performance
  • Transaction Monitoring
  • Uptime Monitoring
  • Automatic Notifications


IT Central StationIT Central Station

@ITCenSta

Russell Rothstein, IT Central Station’s Station Master and CEO, and co-founder Naftali Marcus, designed a dynamic community site with reviews, recommendations, and other expert advice for technology buyers. IT Central Station has grown into a dynamic, real-time platform that offers user information that is current, objective, and relevant.

NOTE: The following information is excerpted from Application Performance Management (APM) via IT Central Station. 

“According to members of the IT Central Station community, APM tools serve multiple masters…”

Developers need to understand app performance characteristics in order to ensure an optimal software experience for end users. Business managers and IT department leaders use APM data to help make decisions about infrastructure and architecture.

As applications grow more complex and interdependent, APM users express high expectations for potential APM toolsets. Accessibility, manageability and scalability are essential. Users argue that an effective APM tool must give business stakeholders accurate, understandable data while allowing developers to dive deeply into stored data over the long term.

APM users want APM tools to measure the deep internal transactions that take place inside an application or between integrated system elements. They want APM data in real time, across multiple application tiers, with transparency along the entire application process chain. Some refer to this as “full stack tracing.”

Ideally, APM data should be measured against user experience as a key performance indicator. For example, if a bottleneck is being caused by database latency, users want to understand the root cause so they can fix it immediately. This might require an alerting based on patterns and “baselining.”

Some expect APM tools to enable the discovery of complex distributed application architecture or even microservices and containers. After all, not all application architecture is known at the outset, and it certainly changes over time. Users need APM tools to be proactive whether they are used in dev, test, QA or production environments.


Joshua NapierJoshua Napier

@CAinc

Joshua Napier is a Sr. Principal Product Marketing Manager at CA Technologies, which helps customers succeed in a future where every business — from apparel to energy — is being rewritten by software.

NOTE: The following information is excerpted from Choosing an Application Performance Management Solution via CA Technologies. 

“When evaluating the technical capabilities of an APM provider, it’s helpful to first consider your goals…”

Virtually all software is created to provide or support a quality experience for the end user. People are using applications in new ways and have higher expectations than ever before. In the application economy, you have more opportunities to impress, as well as more pressure to provide an optimal experience. The quality of a customer’s experience is increasingly defined by the quality of the digital experience delivered to them.

Regardless of how an end user accesses your application, it’s critical that you understand their experience. Whether logging in from a web browser, a mobile device or a wearable device, users expect your application to perform—and in many cases, they’ll go somewhere else if their expectations are not met. A stellar user experience gives your organization a competitive advantage, which is why complete visibility into that experience is a crucial aspect of an APM solution.

As important as it is to recognize the performance of each individual transaction, understanding user behavior can be just as critical. Consider how the APM solution you select will help you decipher users’ actions. Are they giving up while trying to navigate a confusing shopping cart? Does a new promotion increase utilization of certain transaction flows? You must go beyond simple end-user experience to understand how people use your applications. Capabilities such as mobile session tracking and usage heat maps can go a long way in reaching this advanced understanding.

 

Check out this post for tips on the most important APM features to look for, and read our comparison of 18 APM tools to find out which solutions meet your company’s needs. When you’re ready to expand your dev toolkit, download our Ultimate Dev Toolbox to discover lightweight, portable, and cost-effective solutions that can help you build better.

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