Humanized Digital Experience Monitoring (DEM) has quickly become an essential IT requirement for enterprise organizations supporting the new world of work. Every business has gone digital to some degree. And every employee is dependent on workplace technology to be successful in their role. A recent report from Gartner listed the following prediction.
That is a huge change in just one year. As a result, IT Operations will become more adept at monitoring the digital experience for their employees to measure the success of their digital transformation. But there is a new wrinkle that has appeared over the past few years. Starting with the work-from-home mandates put in place during the pandemic, employees have grown accustomed to working remotely. This lit the candle for the Work-from-Anywhere (WFA) culture, and it has a direct impact on the challenges to effectively monitor all employees’ digital experience. It MUST now include those users working remotely.
This blog is focused on that discussion and will outline the necessary requirements for modern, next level DEM solutions to successfully gather performance data from that last mile – the starting point for the digital journey, namely the employee’s endpoint device and their unmanaged network. But let’s start at the beginning. Where did this new DEM classification begin and what were its predecessors?
Digital Experience Monitoring – Early Origins
Today, Gartner defines DEM as: “an availability and performance monitoring discipline that supports the optimization of the operational experience and behavior of a digital agent, human or machine, as it interacts with enterprise applications and services.”
But it originated from two different models that were designed to measure the client-side interactions of an application, and then separately monitor the responsive performance of that application. These were the original Application Performance Management (APM) and End-user Experience Monitoring (EUEM) disciplines. Often the EUEM model would also use surveys and response quizzes to determine user sentiment about an application’s usability and performance.
By merging those two monitoring methodologies, DEM combines the best of both worlds. It helps to bridge the gap between IT technology performance and the direct consequences they have on an employee’s digital experience for any application, cloud based or otherwise. Thus, business productivity becomes more visible and manageable since client-side interactions can be accurately cross-examined with application availability and performance.
Additionally, thanks to the functions that new humanized digital experience monitoring solutions leverage (i.e., Real User Monitoring, Synthetic Transaction Monitoring, network visibility, endpoint device visibility, etc.), the user journey becomes more cohesive. And that bird’s-eye view allows IT Operations to spotlight bottlenecks, optimize underperforming components, and improve the overall digital experience based on real and simulated metrics.
Work-from-Anywhere Culture is the New Norm
As mentioned earlier, an added complexity to effective DEM initiatives stems from the ongoing acceptance of working remotely, specifically outside an infrastructure managed by IT Operations. According to a Pew Research study this year, nearly 60% of U.S. workers with jobs that can be done remotely are continuing to work from home all or most of the time. Even after the global pandemic has slowed, this new WFA culture remains strong.
It used to be known as Teleworking in the 1980s, where knowledge workers would remain at home to complete their tasks. However, only a modest 20% of people sometimes worked outside the office before the start of the pandemic. This was partly due to the belief that employees required manager oversight to maintain productivity. But during the pandemic, companies invested immensely in technologies that allowed work to continue outside the office. And in most cases they found a productive workforce despite the lack of a manager’s in-person presence.
Workplace culture and office dynamics are now fundamentally changed due to the de-centralization of teams. How colleagues interact, solve problems, and communicate now largely depends on technology. It is very difficult at present to imagine companies removing flexible work arrangements, particularly to those whose tasks can be completed effectively outside the office, without risking the loss of a percentage of their employees. So, it’s safe to say that this new WFA culture will remain, and this phenomenon will continue to challenge IT Operations groups to monitor their employees’ digital experience successfully.
Blind Spots for Humanized Digital Experience Monitoring of Remote Workers
Traditional network monitoring and DEM tools are optimized for data centers and centralized office locations where employees access systems and cloud-based applications from the corporate infrastructure. These tools no longer work in today’s hybrid IT environment with so many users working remotely. There are huge gaps, or blind spots, with monitoring the digital experience for these remote workers. It is commonly known as the “Last Mile” of visibility, and it continues to be a challenge where IT Operations groups struggle.
Why is that “Last Mile” of visibility so important? It’s very simple. You can’t manage what you can’t measure. Having the viewpoint from the end-user perspective is of utmost importance when trying to research performance issues reported by remote workers. And troubleshooting networks you didn’t build is hard enough, but when you have limited visibility and no access it gets even harder. True performance monitoring for remote, home offices and unmanaged networks begins at each endpoint.
That is why it is so important to gather user experience metrics from the source endpoints. Only when you link the client-side systems and devices to the network performance analytics do you have a full understanding of application performance for cloud services. Microsoft 365 and Teams is a perfect example of this scenario. Employees are leveraging these cloud-based applications for their day-to-day communications and collaboration. They run the apps from their PCs at home, or coffee shops, or any WFA location. But they are reliant on local Wi-Fi and intermediary ISPs to access far-flung data centers on Microsoft’s cloud network around the world.
Optimizing the Digital Experience for Remote Workers
What if all the information you needed to review, analyze, and troubleshoot a reported performance issue from a remote worker was at your fingertips? What if you had a single pane-of-glass view into exactly what was happening on their endpoint device during the time they were using a cloud application? And what if you could proactively identify those users with poor performance so you could help them out?
Modernized, humanized digital experience monitoring solutions provide detailed performance metrics from each endpoint itself. They monitor the device performance, the local network (home, office or public), the Internet Service Provider (ISP) performance, the end user´s peering distance with the cloud service provider, even the Authentication and API performance for that specific user session with each cloud application (i.e., MS Teams, SalesForce, Zoom, etc.) The entire digital user journey for every individual employee in end-user context is covered. This helps IT organizations diagnose and quickly respond to performance issues before they become chronic problems. And this process allows an enterprise IT organization to finally go on the offensive. They can objectively monitor every user’s digital experience from each endpoint, identify performance issues and proactively remediate the problems. As new users connect to the environment, or existing users upgrade their devices, they will receive the DEM smart agent to start tracking their performance. All devices and corresponding performance metrics related to a specific user are organized under their profile by leveraging their unique identity. This allows for historic tracking of digital experience across an organization.
Who does this help? Well, it certainly stops the blame game that goes on today. Reported issues from remote workers come into the Help Desk and the finger pointing starts immediately. Who should handle the investigation, Desktop Support, Network Engineering, the Cloud Apps Groups? Where is the real cause of the problem? Using a next level DEM solution, the Help Desk Support team can close in on the issues at hand by fetching specific context-sensitive information from the digital experience tracking information for that user. They can then identify the area of responsibility and assign the correct IT technical group for extended troubleshooting.
Employee Expectations for an Optimized Digital Experience
So why is this more important in today’s environment of technology dependency? Well, for employees, digital transformation is more than just a buzzword these days. Technology innovations are changing their very nature of work. Most organizations are rushing to become more digital – driven by Corporate IT. On that journey, they forget about the expectations and experiences of their employees. As IT departments rollout new cloud-based services and solutions, these tech advancements are reshaping how both managers and employees see their roles in their companies.
Simply deploying new tech and hoping it takes hold just to satisfy digital transformation timelines does not cut it. Companies need to figure out how to accommodate a huge cross-section of employees working in a hybrid, work-from-anywhere culture. They must consider the needs of everyone involved. Every new tool needs a specific lifecycle and adoption plan, and digital experience monitoring is at the center of that. Tracking the usage and fixing performance issues is critical during these rollouts. Firms that adopt this mindset can gain long-term perks and improve productivity. Remember it is more about the adoption and usage of these new technologies, not just meeting deployment deadlines.
Moving Forward with Humanized Digital Experience Monitoring
It’s no secret that successful DEM strategies require a cultural shift in Corporate IT. The very first step would be to engage in cross-team collaboration to clue everybody in and reduce the initial cultural apprehensiveness. Proper training in the use of a next level DEM solution across all IT support teams is also crucial. If you are thinking of implementing DEM it’s important to know that it will affect how other teams operate across the board. On the technical side of things, update your existing APM models and fit them with your selected DEM tools, and then gradually incorporate them to other platforms inside of the company, such as the Service Request IT ticketing system.
Selecting the best DEM solution for your organization is also critical. Most IT monitoring solutions lack a 360-degree view of the end-to-end digital experience for users, especially remote workers. This forces IT to use multiple tools and monitor silos of information without sufficient context for timely troubleshooting. Next level DEM solutions, on the other hand, were architected from the ground up to provide IT Operations groups with access to the complete picture, shining a light on all aspects of their employees’ end-to-end digital experience, no matter where they are working. And since the information is gathered from each device endpoint, the telemetry data provides the insights needed to proactively pinpoint issues, identify the area of responsibility, and make informed decisions to optimize the employees’ digital experience.
If you are going to move forward with an assessment of different next level humanized digital experience monitoring solutions then the table below will help. This is your requirements shopping list divided into five important categories. It lists some specific telemetry and performance data that you need to capture for true digital experience monitoring, management, and optimization.
Endpoint Device Performance
- Device details and hardware model
- CPU speeds and utilization
- Memory performance and utilization rates
- Software versions (OS and installed applications)
- Background processes running during work activities with apps
Home Office Network Performance
- Wired or Wireless Connection during work activities with apps
- Wi-Fi Signal Strength
- Networking Hardware (i.e., support for Docsis 3.1)
- Network Saturation
- Upload / Download Speeds
- Dropped Packets
ISP Networking Performance
- Number of Hops
- Round Trip Times
- Packet Loss
- Peering Distance to Connect into the cloud services network (Zoom, Microsoft 365, etc.)
VPN Routing and Connectivity Points to the Cloud Network
- Fastest route to Cloud Service Provider Network
- Packet inspection slowdowns
- Split-tunneling for preferred traffic (i.e. VoIP Calls)
- Security scanning slowdowns
Cloud Service Availability and Performance
- Data center locations
- Cloud service throughput times (API, Authentication, etc.)
- Uptime and availability
- Baseline comparisons with normal speeds
Digital transformation takes a lot of time and resources, yet it is necessary for business growth. And the positive impact on employee productivity can be a game changer. But only if it is implemented with the proper pace and successful adoption. Fast change may overwhelm your employees, especially if many are experiencing a less than optimal performance with the new technologies. You need to make sure no one feels out of place due to lagging performance issues. Digital transformation is all about the employee and their experience with the new technology. You need to meet their needs first to ensure customer satisfaction.