Digital Experience Monitoring (DEM) is a relatively new concept. It was not that long ago when agencies measured digital service performance simply by how fast a web page loaded. Today, things are far more complex.
Agencies are moving quickly from paper processes to digital services—to providing critical information more efficiently online instead of through paper-based forms and physical distribution methods. As a result of this shift, about 30 percent of global enterprises will implement Digital Experience Monitoring technologies or services by 2020—up from fewer than five percent today, according to market research firm Gartner®.
What, exactly, is Digital Experience Monitoring? In a nutshell, it’s understanding and maximizing each individual user’s online experience.
Just a few short years ago, website performance did not consider the user; the only question the IT team had to answer was, “How fast does the page load?” In contrast, DEM looks at the entire user experience: how fast did the home page load? Once it loaded, how much time did the user spend on the site? Where did they go? What did they do? Taking DEM even further, many agencies will gather information about the user’s device to help further understand the user experience: was the user on a smartphone or on a laptop? What browser was used to access the site?
Maximizing the user experience—answering all of these questions to ensure the user was able to find precisely what they were looking for—requires an incredible amount of data. This brings its own challenge: all that data can make relevant information difficult to find. Additionally, federal IT pros must be able to understand how the IT infrastructure impacts service delivery and the citizen experience.
Luckily, there are an increasing number of new tools available that help provide context to the data and help the federal IT pro make highly informed decisions to maximize each citizen’s digital experience.
DEM tool benefits
DEM-specific tools provide a range of benefits that other tools do not. Specifically, because DEM inherently works with lots of data, these DEM tools are designed to help solve what have historically been thought of as big-data challenges.
For example, DEM tools have the ability to recognize patterns within large amounts of data. Let’s say a specific cluster of users is having a sub-optimal experience. Automatic pattern recognition will help the federal IT pro understand if, say, all these users are taking a particular route that is having bandwidth issues. Or, perhaps all these users are trying to access a particular page, form, or application on the site. Without the ability to recognize patterns among users, it would be far more difficult to find the root of the problem and provide a quick solution.
A DEM-specific tool can also identify anomalies—a historically difficult challenge to find and fix. Constant problems are relatively easy to identify and solve because, well, they’re constant and likely fixed by scaling capacity. But if there’s an anomaly, finding it requires a different type of capability.
First, the federal IT pro must create a baseline to understand ordinary network behavior. With that in place, an anomaly is easier to identify. Add in the ability to apply pattern recognition—what happens before the anomaly each time it appears and the problem and solution are far easier to find and implement.
And finally, because they can provide a historic perspective, DEM-specific tools can help the federal IT pro forecast infrastructure changes before implementation. Let’s say an agency is undergoing a modernization effort. Many DEM tools provide the ability to forecast based on the baseline and historic information already collected. A solid DEM tool will allow the federal IT pro to mimic changes, and understand the result of those changes throughout the infrastructure, in advance. The reality is, any infrastructure change can impact user experience, so being able to understand the impact in advance is critical.
Federal IT pros have been using performance monitoring tools for years. That said, the landscape is changing. Using ordinary tools—or, ordinary tools alone—may no longer be an option. With the importance of digital engagement growing quickly within the federal government, it is important to understand the role DEM plays within agency IT departments. In turn, this allows you to recognize the value in bringing in the right tools to help perform this new, critical role.
By Joe Kim, SVP and Global CTO, SolarWinds