Last time I intimated I would dive into more useful and complex monitoring than basic IM monitoring.  We’ll get there, but first I think we should discuss the evolution of software and software monitoring.  Applications and developers have become the new kings, but there were two important losses on this journey to an app economy – human interaction and time.  I believe understanding those losses in context of the evolution helps prioritize the tools you need to put in place.

At the dawn of the computer age, mainframes quickly became essential engines of growth.  Enterprises put them to work via applications that automated mundane paperwork like checking bill due dates and scaling them to unprecedented heights.  But, for all the work they did, no actual customers interacted with a business through a computer system.  Only Infrastructure Technology employees touched them.  

If the CEO asked for every customer’s widget order next week, someone in IT would be tasked to run a report, and in the morning – like magic – it would appear on the CEO’s desk.  If there was a mainframe or software glitch running the report, the administrator might have heartburn and their manager might come close to fainting. But, after stiching things together – perhaps sacrificing a few chickens to the mainframe gods – they’d pull together the report and get it to the CEO’s desk.  The business would be none the wiser.

This example illustrates two facts.  First, neither a business nor its customers used computing – they used intermediaries. Second, time was available to patch over many different types of issues.  If a human is responding, a human can manufacture lots of wiggle room time.

Companies lost some of this manufactured time with distributed computing’s rise in the 80s/90s.  Interestingly, new computing technology thrust software into many non-IT employees hands.  Now, hardware/software issues reverberated into immediate, real pain for business users.  At the end of the day, though, employee pain only slightly raised the importance, budget, and executive attention on software systems; employees might have pain, but they were paid. Customer’s still only interacted with a teller, agent, or other representative, and so humans had the opportunity to save customer transactions manually. (remember these?)

But the Internet came along and smashed any leftover time human intermediaries afforded by taking away software and customer separation.  Websites became every company’s storefront, and their virtual nature gave equal footing to every business.  A website for a national broker with thousands of offices did not look any bigger than E*TRADE on the interwebs.  

This level playing field quickly gave rise to an interesting dynamic.  If an online broker touts painless features for something as simple as checking an account balance, it won’t be long before every broker is forced to respond.  If not, there is a near certainty they’ll have customer leakage as their customer base casually clicks around checking out features. Additionally, responding features must be as good or better than the competition.  Poorly performing or broken software is just as bad as not developing new software offerings.

Customers went from zero interaction with software to only interacting with software, and businesses lost time and employee coverage to cope with issues to save customers’ experience. Cost pressures further scaled the customer-to-employee ratio and created artificial barriers to keep customers away from real humans wherever possible.  Software and services delivered by the technology department morphed from being a necessary cost center to a critical revenue driver; quite possibly for many customers, the only revenue driver!

Now that I write it all out, it’s enough to give shivers down the spine to anyone tasked with keeping our applications up and running.  From the CEO down to the SRE, the software that drives a 5 star customer experience is top priority!  We can’t stop investing in the tools, expertise, and knowledge to help every interaction shine.  

Without a doubt, having every interaction shine is incredibly hard.  I’m excited to be part of a team building tools to help you be the rockstar that does it successfully!  As part of that team, I’d love to hear more about your challenges and needs as you labor to deliver your apps.  Please, drop me a line or leave me a note below.


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