That a bad IT performance is disastrous for the success of an organization does not require any further explanation anymore. If you want to get started with application performance management (APM) and IT chain monitoring, you will need the right APM software. But how to determine what APM software is most suitable? Often this research begins at Gartner’s Magic Quadrant. As far as we are concerned, that is a good start. And what else do you need to take into account?
The Magic Quadrant for Application Performance Monitoring Suites of Gartner is a well-known phenomenon in the APM world. With “APM suites”, Gartner refers to one or more software and/or hardware components that can facilitate the three most important functional measurements:
- Digital Experience Monitoring (DEM)
- Application Discovery, Tracing and Diagnostics (ADTD)
- Application Analytics (AA)
With its Magic Quadrant, Gartner offers an overview of a selection of available APM suites, including their strengths and weaknesses. This makes the selection process for tooling a lot easier. Important to note is that not all APM suites are mentioned.
‘A FOOL WITH A TOOL IS STILL A FOOL’
The majority of companies eventually choose software from the leaders’ quadrant. Usually a good and safe choice. Nevertheless, a supplier from the leaders’ quadrant is no guarantee for success. APM projects regularly fail or the purchased software remains unused. As also recognised by Gartner. In many cases projects fail because the APM issue is not addressed in an integral way. Purchasing and implementing a tool is one thing, but to get the desired insights and improvements out of it, is a second. After all, it is not just the software that makes it a success. For a successful APM strategy it is important to take into account the factors Product, People and Process.
At a technical level, much is possible and each APM tool has its own strengths and weaknesses. A successful product strategy therefore stands or falls with the awareness of information needs. What insights are needed? For example, do you need technical metrics, or insight into the end user experience? Only then a comparison can be made between products. An over-complete tool with numerous functionalities (with often corresponding high pricing) is not always the best solution. It is also recommended to map which tools are already in use and whether it is necessary to integrate them with the new APM software. And is there a need for a product or a service?
Ideally, a roadmap is created for the company’s IT organisation, starting with creating insight into the IT environment, present technologies, applications and user experiences. Based on this information, we can determine what should be the next step: from reactive to proactive IT management? Or is it about taking preventive measures and creating automated management? The future ambitions are part of the choice of product.
In addition to choosing what APM software you need, processes regarding IT performance management will have to be considered. Companies that are successful with application performance management owe this a change in their mind-set and the organisation of processes. Are you monitoring an IT chain? Then there is a need for support among all components in that chain. A single dashboard with metrics is not enough. When monitoring just one application, you will also need support among the people that are supposed to act on the monitoring information. In short, the monitoring processes need to be embedded in the organisation. For example, alarm bells should not only ring when values exceed a critical limit, but also when certain sequential events or other specific events occur. And when is the performance actually good enough? It is important to think carefully about these things and involve the right stakeholders in the organisation.
Finally, it is important to map the necessary knowledge. Some APM software is relatively easy to manage in-house, while other suites are so specialized that either training or external support is required. In addition to knowledge about the tool, specific knowledge is also needed to act on the acquired insights to develop better and faster, or to match results with business objectives. This means a training program should be twofold: on the one hand to use the tool, and on the other hand to manage new processes.
WHAT APM SOFTWARE IS MOST SUITABLE?
What (combination of) APM software products is most suitable depends on the above-mentioned trinity. The chosen software should fit all parts within the strategy. IT performance management is a discipline that is often underestimated. The field is also constantly moving and a good software product only is not getting you there. In addition to the software of Gartner’s leaders, it is worth looking into other low-threshold solutions that can reinforce already present tools. Therefore, pay close attention to all aspects of APM and see which solution best fits current and future ambitions.
Gartner is thus a great first exploration, but not sanctifying. Much more important is to decide what insights are needed and what service and support is desired, together with all stakeholders. Based on that, you can look for the golden combination of APM software and vendors.