Four steps to application nirvana

Good application performance management is about people and process.

Many companies start down the application performance management path by investing in management products and stop there. But NetForecast's research shows that the biggest performance bang for the buck comes from investing in people who implement APM best practices.

NetForecast recently completed a benchmarking survey of 300 enterprises and their APM practices and results. Here's what we found:

• Enterprises investing the most in good practices more than double application performance effectiveness compared with those investing the least.

• In particular, they experience a better than 300% improvement in their ability to solve problems quickly, a nearly 150% improvement in their ability to learn about problems proactively rather than through user complaints, and they are twice as likely to favorably assess response times for their important applications.

• This year’s results show a 10% overall improvement in benchmark scores compared with last year, indicating that enterprises are doing a better job of implementing best practices.

• In addition we learned that the ITIL ITSM framework is gaining popularity, while the FCAPS framework is on its way out.

Four steps to APM best practices and benchmarking

When all is said and done, what matters is how users experience an application — can they reach it, and once there, can they remain productive. Good application performance management optimizes application availability and response time, and best practices help make that happen.

Best practices harness human behavior, education, relationships and communication to understand, measure and communicate about application performance — as well as to link application performance to the business. These best practices must be embedded into a continuous improvement process that ensures application performance meets your business needs.

This process begins by understanding your user and application needs, gathering (and measuring) relevant performance data, and reporting (or communicating) that data in understandable form to the right people.

The reports serve as input for IT and business groups to collectively determine what measurements and thresholds best support the business (such as linking).

Here are the four best practices and some examples of what they entail:

1. Understand:

• Define what technical parameters are important.

• Establish which applications are mission critical.

• Document this information and distribute it throughout the organization.

2. Measure:

• Measure the important technical parameters defined above.

• Track those measurements over time.

• Set critical thresholds.

• Automate data gathering and correlation.

3. Report:

• Submit relevant performance reports regularly to management.

• Communicate important measurement information throughout the enterprise (along with explanations about what it means and how it should be used — when needed).

4. Link:

• Work with business managers to ensure that applications monitored are business critical.

• Establish business-relevant performance targets, and application-level service-level agreements.

• Meet periodically with business managers to review the above.

Benchmarking these best practices allows you to assess your progress. A benchmark score shows on a numerical scale how well you are implementing best practices. This allows you to compare your own best practice implementations with the industry norm and with those who are executing well and achieving best results.

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