The painting on the wall is clear: the growth of the cloud is a new driver of innovation and projects worldwide. Cloud computing started as a way to improve servers, initially used for development purposes and startups wanting to avoid unnecessary expenses. When IT departments realized the ability for cloud deployments to scale, the cloud became an attractive value proposition. This has allowed IT departments to refocus on value-added tasks, rather than spending days patching servers at data centers.
Much like Google once accelerated learning by popularizing search technology, cloud computing is now accelerating the adoption of new innovations. For example, Artificial Intelligence APIs are now ready for integration into cloud-based platforms.
Our experience at GSX is that this cloud adoption is happening because of access to innovation, refocus of resources, and security. But what our experience also tells us is that CIOs and production departments must be convinced of its overall value. Functional capabilities are one part of the decision. Each application, deployed on hybrid SaaS platforms, needs to provide satisfaction.
Governance in the old world was clear to describe and measure (although metrics were not as often followed as one would think). These would be technical Key Performance Indicators such as server loads and network throughput.
The challenge for IT departments on classic deployments was not to measure KPIs, but to link them to business imperatives. Those who could do this, in our experience, had no problem getting budgets approved. Those who could not, regardless of the quality of their operations, were often complaining about management’s inability to recognize their merits. Learning how to align business needs with end-user communication is a major part of the job.
In the cloud world, the challenge is twofold: It is as much linking indicators to business needs as finding the right business needs.
Let’s take the example of Office 365, which we know well. You cannot measure servers’ KPIs as they are on data centers. You used to control application changes, like when to implement new features after having assessed their relevance on operations. Now, features are rolled out sometimes without you being aware of them.
The same is also true of non-collaboration applications. Salesforce’s new features are often introduced. Several of our clients are in the finance or the healthcare sector, and they do not decide when new features are introduced. This does not mean that these features have to be stopped and their roll-out slowed down, because they add value.
What this means is that running operations in the cloud now requires new metrics, and ultimately a new governance for IT. The CIO remains in the executive committee of organizations and is accountable for the overall health of the information system, including enterprise and operational needs.
Classic infrastructure tools, while being very helpful, find themselves like old servers compared to the cloud. They may not be 100 percent fitted for new hybrid environments and provide “old data” of limited value for Devops. This has led to a rise in new entrants for companies developing custom applications that provide IT the information it needs. Companies including New Relic and AppDynamics are now established recognized players that can help Devops deploy applications with an eye on new metrics.
This is also true for network-related tools that fail to describe the exact health of applications. Just “pinging” a site and linking its usage to the network capacity does not reflect how the system is really used. In the past with on-premises, we would hear comments like, “My server and network are up, so my application is running fine” while end-users’ satisfaction was low. This was always our value proposition.
There remains one growing key area where appropriate data needs to be provided: fast-growing SaaS applications. Salesforce and Office 365 are the most visible players, but there are many smaller players that are growing with a more vertical focus. Look at your own operations, and you are likely to use tens of such SaaS applications without being aware of them.
Back to Office 365 governance, we work with many IT organizations and have spent many hours by their side as they were working on their migrations. The most successful ones have always put end-user experience as their core metric. They can link IT KPIs to end-user experience, and have little problem reporting to department heads if new systems are being used and to what satisfaction.
Gartner has coined a term for these metrics: Digital Experience Monitoring, or DEM. They state that only 5 percent of large organizations have a DEM initiative today, a number that’s expected to grow by 30 percent in 3 years. Criteria for DEM basically involves gathering data from synthetic transactions and complementing that with elements to assess how much systems are used.
This matches 100 percent with our vision at GSX. In the past, we have deployed two families of projects. One is linked to the deployment of Robot Users that report on how applications (Exchange, Office 365, Skype, SharePoint, MDM Servers) are used at the transactional level in every critical location, and what impacts the level of service as well as usage statistics. The goal is to know which applications are used, and how frequently.
GSX’s tools are critical for IT organizations that are moving their workloads to hybrid clouds. They are the new metric of governance for these applications. We are currently focusing on Office 365, but we are already looking at other workloads on our labs (if you are interested in having Robot Users for other applications, please reach out to us.)
In this brave new world, the end-users may not be aware, but it is likely that their email, CRM, expense processing, HR, and ERP are integrating on hybrid deployments with an increasing part in the Cloud. The clients that we accompany in this journey are yielding improved returns and greater satisfaction for end-users. More importantly, their jobs are becoming more interesting and they have all the elements to finally get greater well-deserved credit for their hard work.