Brands may be scrambling to bring more of their customer experiences to online channels, but digital apps and e-commerce systems may fail the stress test of constant usage, an AppDynamics executive warns.
Based in San Francisco and owned by network gear maker Cisco, AppDynamics recently published its 2020 Agents of Transformation report, a survey of more than 1,000 IT professionals globally working at firms with more than $500 million in revenue.
The research showed that while an overwhelming majority of 88 per cent said they are now prioritizing digital experiences, more than three quarters, or 76 per cent, are concerned about the long-term impact of digital projects they’ve rushed to complete amid COVID-19.
With many stores still closed or limited in terms of how many people they can welcome inside, for instance, online shopping has become one of the few channels for growth, and pandemic-friendly options like curbside pickup and delivery are often managed through digital tools.
Unfortunately, 81 per cent of those surveyed said they’re now struggling to deal with web site traffic and providing a digital experience across all channels.
According to Joe Byrne, regional chief technology officer for AppDynamics based near its headquarters, the urgency of bringing those experiences to customers may have come with some challenging tradeoffs. Applications may face bottlenecks that lead to errors, the inability to complete transactions and other pitfalls that leave customers frustrated and ready to look elsewhere.
“Nobody wants to spend a lot of time diagnosing anomalies once you’re in production, just like NASCAR drivers don’t wait to understand how the car performs on race day,” Byrne told 360 Magazine. “Being able to see all the dependencies (a digital experience has) and how it will perform are very helpful in terms of being able to get the product out right the first time.”
AppDynamics offers tools, such as business IQ (BIQ), that can look deeply into a particular digital experience to forewarn organizations about what might go wrong. It can also tie its findings into more business-oriented metrics including conversions and impact on revenue.
The company also offers an Experience Journey Map that focuses on what various pieces of IT have to do as a customer interacts with them to get ahead of potential failures. The most recent version allows users to segment performance data by device, operating system, browser and geo-location.
Byrne said the Experience Journey Map doesn’t tend to replace the more over-arching customer journey maps that CX professionals use, but it can offer a sort of technical complement to them.
“There’s often a difference between how people imagine something is working and reality,” he said. “We’ll show them traffic patterns on their site and they’ll say, ‘We didn’t realize people were going to that area,’ or we’ll be showing workflows and what’s putting a strain on their compute resources and they’ll say, ‘I’d swear we decommissioned that server.’”
Byrne, who started out in the grocery sector, said it’s easy for the strain on IT to creep up on organizations. He pointed to grocers who are trying to digitize the process of ordering a cake, for instance, whether through an app or a kiosk. These things can enhance the experience but also introduce additional complexity to the network or simply more demand on an existing application.
“As those sorts of services grow, it will be even more important to have end-to-end monitoring active,” he said. “When you see the use of more devices, more applications, you’ll also want to truly understand what that experience is looking like.”
Those digital experiences are not only affected by activity from customers on the front end but the increased use of technology behind the scenes.
“Internal applications employees use are also getting more stressed. In some cases they’re no longer on the local network but in their home office trying to connect back to Cisco applications,” he said. “That is growing, and I think that’s forcing organizations to take a better look at what the application experience is and make sure that it’s efficient.”