Large financial services enterprises are known to invest in tools which are not always fully adopted. Many are excellent tools which for one reason or another ended up being adopted to a fraction of their potential or, even worse, were shelved without making an appearance in a production environment.
Thinking about these tools often reminds me of my favorite Michael McIntyre sketch, herbs and spices. Sometimes, in my head, I like to replace the unused herbs and spices with tools I have come across in my career which were selected by large enterprises but weren’t properly adopted (I know it’s a bit sad ☺).
Achieving successful tool adoption in large enterprises can be challenging. It requires special attention in a number of areas which I will highlight in this blog.
So let’s set the scene: A large global bank decides to invest in a best of breed application intelligence solution, in this case AppDynamics. The tool is selected to help accelerate the bank’s digital transformation programmers to improve its application performance and to replace older tools which became shelfware. The tool is expected to be used by an estimated 800 applications, utilizing up to 10,000 application agents. So where do we start?
Enablement — Delivering Monitoring Capabilities
Enablement refers to the delivery of monitoring capabilities. This includes the back-end controller (whether on-premises or SaaS) and the agent instrumentation mechanism. The back-end implementation is crucial, but usually straightforward, so I won’t expand on it in this post. The instrumentation delivery is also key and from my experience, requires special attention.
The 80/20 Rule — Platforms First
When it comes to agent instrumentation in large enterprises, the Pareto principle applies very well. Around 80% of the target applications in our large global bank will be deployed on a strategic platform service. The efforts of implementing an automated instrumentation mechanism by the platform engineering team are not huge and should fit into a standard sprint or two.
So “platforms first” should be the rule of thumb. This will ease the adoption process and give a professional experience to the users who’ll be able to start using AppDynamics with a click of a button.
The 20% applies to applications that don’t follow the strategic deployment process. These applications are hosted on physical or virtual servers outside of the strategic platform. They might be running mainframes, quirky ESBs, use third party products which are not compatible with the strategic platform, or are just tagged as “legacy”, making them unsuitable for investment or migration into the strategic platform. It’s fairly easy to see why 20% of the applications can consume 80% of the instrumentation efforts, as the instrumentation approach will have to be on a case-by-case basis.
Other challenges with the enablement phase deliveries are:
• Shortcuts in platform instrumentation will create technical debts, so try to avoid them.
• Minimal business benefits can be realized directly following a successful enablement phase, so set the right expectations.
Usage Standards — Enhance the Default
Once successful enablement is complete, internal applications can start onboarding and using the tool.
During these early implementation stages, the tools adoption service should focus on driving best practices and consistent usage standards through comprehensive out of the box functionality.
Best of breed application intelligence products like AppDynamics often come with out of the box functionality and benefits. However, it’s important to enhance these internally and address as many repeatable use cases as possible by configuring relevant detection rules, alerting rules, branded dashboards, reports, and more. The more the users get out of the box, the more likely they are to buy-in, contribute to the quality of the adoption, and encourage others to use the tool.
The initial efforts to create enhanced out of the box functionalities are key, but at the same time it’s important to establish processes which will make continuous improvements to these centralized configuration items.
The early adoption stage is also the best time to capture, measure, and realise benefits and values. It’s important to invest in tracking and documenting success stories, especially those of the benefits delivered out of the box.
Knowledge — It’s a No-brainer
Here are three assumptions I like to make about knowledge:
• The more product experts there are in the organization, the more successful the product adoption is
• Knowledge is one of the main drivers to careers in IT
• Large enterprises use formal training to invest in their staff’s development
If you agree with these assumptions, then we agree that staff like to gather knowledge, enterprises like to invest in staff knowledge, and good knowledge helps in achieving successful adoption. So here’s a simple adoption guideline: A good training strategy will improve the quality of the adoption.
From my experience, a good training strategy should combine internal knowledge sharing together with formal certification. The external certification will provide users with generic knowledge of how to master the product, while internal knowledge sharing sessions can focus on more specific areas, using some of the bank’s applications and the most relevant use cases.
When the knowledge spreads, many good things start to happen. For example, self-appointed product evangelists appear and start to challenge and push the product’s adoption forward. In many cases you also see a centre of excellence appear, initiated by SMEs who are keen to collaborate and share knowledge. Such a snowball of knowledge and drive is one of the best indicators of successful adoption, so if you’re looking to deliver successful adoption, it’s worth investing in forming this snowball and giving it a little push…
In summary, to make our large global banking client successful and to gain organisational adoption, my recommendation is to give extra attention to enablement, usage standards, and knowledge. Obviously, there are many other areas that require attention, but in my opinion the secret to a successful adoption lies with these three.
About the Author
Peretz Shamir is a Service Delivery Manager at Mansion House Consulting, leading services for Application Intelligence Tools Adoption across MHC’s financial services clients. Peretz is also part of the AppDynamics Instructors community, delivering training services on behalf of AppDynamics Education to its customers.
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