Deploying APM in the Enterprise Part 7: Dashboards and Reports – Get the Business on Your Side

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Welcome back to my series on Deploying APM in the Enterprise. In Part 6: Spread the APM Love we talked about ways to increase user adoption of your APM tool and thereby make your organization more successful.

This week we focus on Dashboards and Reports. I’m a huge believer in unlocking the information and intelligence contained within your monitoring tools, and turning that data into actionable information. Over time your tooling ecosystem will collect a wealth of data that can be used for capacity planning, business intelligence, development planning, and many other business and IT activities that require information about usage patterns and operational statistics. By unlocking this value, and surfacing it to the business and IT organizations in a meaningful way, you take another step up the maturity ladder and solidify your rockstar status within your organization. A huge benefit of providing useful information to the business is that they will fight for your tools and projects if they are ever in question!

Dashboards

Dashboards should be used to provide real-time insight into critical business and IT indicators. A failed server doesn’t always mean that there is impact to the business.

Several of our customers are using AppDynamics dashboards to better understand business activity. For example, we have multiple e-commerce customers that are tracking revenue and order volumes in real time.

Let’s take a look at some different perspectives within the organization and explore what type of dashboard each role requires.

Management

Most managers don’t need to know the sordid details about the infrastructure that supports the business applications. For each application within the managers realm of responsibility they need to understand key business indicators and have an overall indication of their application performance and health. Take a look at the dashboard below…

 MgmtDashThmb

This is the type of dashboard that managers want to keep an eye on throughout the workday. Any impact to the business will be easily identified on this dashboard so that the manager can make sure the impact is being addressed. There should be alerts associated with these metrics so that the operations center is notified of business impact but it’s not always an IT problem when business metrics deviate from normal behavior. It’s possible that sales volume is impacted by a competitor offering lower prices on the same product. This will show up as business impact and there is nothing that the IT staff can do to fix it. This is a business problem that needs to be addressed by the appropriate department.

Of course any IT infrastructure problems that impact the business will also show up on the managers dashboard but only by way of business metrics that have deviated from normal behavior. This fosters communication between IT and the business which should lead to improved cooperation and coordination over time.

Application Support

Application support rides the fence between the business and IT. If something goes wrong with their application, the business makes sure that app support hears about it and gets the problem resolved in a timely manner. Application support teams need a view of key business indicators (similar to what the managers are looking at) as well as key IT indicators so they know when there are problems with the application or the infrastructure they depend upon.

Operations

The operations teams need to know when infrastructure components are nearing capacity, throwing errors, or failing completely. It is their responsibility to ensure the proper functionality of the infrastructure and as such need an infrastructure centric view of the components they are responsible for. This is a very classic enterprise monitoring view that has been long established and still has its place in the modern monitoring world. With that said, its beneficial to show the operations teams a few key business indicators so they know how urgent it is to replace that failed piece of hardware.

Reports

Given that dashboards are best utilized to provide real-time status information, reports are the go-to solution for information that drives action in the future. Reports can be about the application, infrastructure, business, or anything else that makes sense given the data you ave to work with. What I want to focus on in this blog are the insights I have picked up over the years when developing and utilizing reports at my past companies.

  • Reports should contain information that is actionable. There is little value in receiving a report that you cannot use to decide if action is required.
  • Reports need to be concise. Very few people are interested in reading a 50 page report. Try to keep them to a few pages or at least summarized in the first couple of pages with supporting details in the rest of the report.
  • Don’t send an avalanche of reports. People usually don’t have the time or desire to read multiple reports per day. Ideally you should send reports only when there is something in the report that needs attention.
  • If you can, include the source of the report and a description of what they report is used for. I’ve received reports in the past where I didn’t know what system sent them and why I needed to see them.
  • Know your audience. Make sure the business gets business related information and IT gets technology related information.
  • Don’t blast reports to email groups (usually). Most reports need to be seen by only a few people in your organization. Email distribution groups tend to contain way more people than are truly interested in your report. No need to clog up the email system with a 50 page PDF sent to 2000 addresses.

Reports are important and can help your organization avoid issues down the road but you need to implement them carefully or they become just another piece of internal spam. The best report that I can ever receive is the one that only shows up when there is a problem brewing within the next few weeks, clearly identifies the problem, and I am the right person to make sure it gets addressed. That would be reporting done right!

Dashboards and reports need to be implemented properly to get the most out of your monitoring investments. You can amplify the value of all of your monitoring investments by combining, analyzing, and displaying the data contained within each disparate repository. The most mature organizations will build out their monitoring ecosystem and then invest in analytics to derive business and technology value and to create the best dashboards and reports possible.

Thanks for taking the time to read this series. The final post will be next week and will focus on how to keep up the momentum and stay relevant when it comes to monitoring within your organization.

Click here to read Deploying APM in the Enterprise Part 8: Stay Thirsty (and Relevant) My Friends

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