I was talking to Phil West, the CIO of Gainsco Insurace yesterday and he said something that I have yet to hear an IT exec say so clearly; “Speed Solves a Lot of Problems”. Everyone talks about the fact that slow applications are a big issue in their organization and that it is important that the end user experience is tended to. What I do not hear is the notion that speeding up your applications can solve problems beyond just end user complains about slowness.
Phil gave a great example:
If I have a certain business process that takes 10 steps to complete [take for example the creation of a new insurance policy by an agent] and someone else comes along and finds a way to do the same thing in 4 steps – as long as my application runs fast and those 10 steps take as long as the 4 [as a result of application slowness] – no one is going to complain because the application feels snappy and efficient.
Say you are an IT exec who is stuck with running a super clunky application in terms of usability because that is what “The Business” demands for compliance, etc. Phil’s point is that if you make an effort to make sure that the application runs as fast as possible – users are much less likely to complain.
This should not be news to anyone – and it makes plenty of sense – but what I do not understand is why, in practice, I do not see more organizations adopting end user experience monitoring tools. When I talk to people, it just doesn’t seem to be a priority. Even while talking to performance professionals at the Velocity conference people were really just focused on seeing what response times they were getting on their own computer and relying on that for their analysis of the end user experience. I bet you most of them have quad core mac book pros and are sitting on fiber optic broadband.
One really simple thing that Phil does with his end user experience monitoring tool on a regular basis is:
I am always looking at my top 10 slowest business transactions and making an effort to continuously improve three of them at a time. It helps IT staff focus on the areas which need the most work.
Once again – pure common sense which simple is not adopted by as many companies as you would expect.
One potential answer to this question that I pose is that end user experience does not have an owner at most organizations – something that I wrote about a couple of weeks ago in “5 Individuals who could Own Performance Monitoring”.
Another answer could be that the people who manage IT do not want to expose the slowness of the applications that they manage because it could make them look bad or create more work – something Yaron touched on in “What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You”. It is a lot easier to just keep all of the CPU, Memory and Disk I/O numbers in the “green” and pretend that doing so translates into happy users.
If you are interested in learning more about Phil’s best practices – sign up for the webinar he is speaking at called “Confessions of a successful CIO: Seven innovative ways to measure, manage and improve service levels”.