Application performance company AppDynamics (acquired by Cisco in 2017) recently released its 2019 edition of the App Attention Index Report. The 2019 report is subtitled The Era of Digital Reflex. Joining me on this episode of DevOps Chats is Steve Long, AppDynamics regional CTO and technology strategy.
Digital connections are a near-constant. Interacting with our world through digital apps and transactions are omnipresent: making a restaurant reservation using OpenTable, making payments using an app or our smartphone digital wallet and checking our smartphones to plan and move through our day. Thus the name of the report, The Era of Digital Reflex.
In addition to insights from the report, Steve and I talk about measuring the customer’s experience, tying performance back to the desired business outcoming, strategies for finding problems and reducing the time it takes to fix problems. Join us on this compelling discussion about application performance, customer experience and business outcomes.
As usual, the streaming audio is immediately below, followed by the transcript of our conversation.
Mitch Ashley: Hi everyone, this is Mitch Ashley with DevOps.com, and you’re listening to another DevOps Chat podcast. Today I’m joined by Steve Long. He’s regional CTO and technology strategy with AppDynamics. Today we’re going to be talking about the 2019 edition of the App Attention Index Report findings, The Era of Digital Reflex. Whoa, that sounds heavy. Steve, welcome to DevOps Chat.
Steve Long: Thanks for having me today, Mitch. It’s a pleasure to be here today.
Ashley: Sorry, I kind of put on my ‘60s accent. “Whoa, man, heavy.” Would you start out be introducing yourself? Tell us a little bit about what you do and of course, in case somebody doesn’t know what AppDynamics does and what AppDynamics is about.
Long: Yeah, sure, absolutely. So I’ll go back a little bit in time. I was a vice-president of technology operations for a media company and then my last job before joining AppDynamics, I was a chief information officer for a financial tech company, a large banking services company. And I joined AppDynamics because–for two reasons. One was finding problems in the sea of–no longer a needle in the haystack–it’s a needle in a needle stack, at this point. With all of the complexities happening, it changed my career. And when Cisco and AppD joined and that merger took place, I couldn’t think of, you know, two companies that I would love to be part of, that when they joined–you know, after I left being a chief information officer to come and help drive technology strategy for AppDynamics.
So AppDynamics is a application performance management company that back in the dawn of the day I became one of their first 30 customers, about nine years ago, and really attaching to the run time and basically looking and analyzing your application performance. If the application is the north star of your business and typically how businesses are driving revenue and transactions, we’re at the forefront and the heart of that, to be able to tap into that and give an MRI to what’s happening in your cloud, your data centers and what’s happening with the complex technology running in the business.
So that’s a little bit about AppDynamics. We’re an application performance company and part of Cisco, and driving businesses to really see into what’s happening in their technology ecosystems.
Ashley: Excellent. Well you share something with me, and that is both the kind of end consumer of technology like this is a CIO but also a tech person in the product, the tech vendor. So that’s fantastic. I enjoy sharing that with you. Now tell us a little bit about the App Attention Index Report and what that’s about–what it measures, what kind of information that it discloses for us.
Long: Yeah, so “The Era of Digital Reflex” is the title, but at the core we’ve really entered into really consumers saying they use digital services almost like you would a human, like an extension of your body, like a reflex. And today we’re doing that almost automatically or unconsciously. And that shift in consumers–like if you look past five years ago, we had to proactively do that. Now, with something in the palm of your hand, you don’t realize it, but now you’re relying on digital services like every day and it’s really helping you get your jobs done and your life duties, and you’re taking decisive actions by it being a reflex.
And it’s kind of a wake-up call for the industry and businesses, because at this point we’re looking at the performance of these applications being application loyalty and it’s taken over to be the new brand loyalty. So if businesses really want to stay competitive, they really have to have a really flawless experience for their users. Otherwise it impacts their brand loyalty and their application loyalty and other things. So that’s the heart of the report at a high level.
Ashley: Makes total sense. I mean, you’re talking about our digital world and our connection to it. It’s not only true today, but it’s even more so–every day there’s a new function we do on our phones, on our computers, on our TVs, on whatever device is connected to some cloud somewhere. It’s almost all a digital transaction.
Long: Yeah, absolutely.
Ashley: So tell us a little bit about this year’s report–what some of the findings were. What would be some of the most interesting things that came out of it?
Long: I’d like to actually use an example that I have personally, and it’s based on the report. So I actually had a lunch with colleagues, a friend and a customer last week, and it was about six of us. And I said, “Hey, just out of curiosity, how many applications have you guys used today?” And to a one, they looked at their phone and all kind of raised their heads back up and one rattled 13, one 17, one 12, one 19. I was like, “How did you do that?” And they were like, “Well we tend to close out our applications at the end of the day and it’s 2 p.m. and I counted up from the last application used to now.” And I was blown away. And so I did the same thing and went back to the last one that I hadn’t closed and counted and I was at all 11 at that point in time, at 2 p.m. And I thought to myself, “Wow, okay.”
And then I asked–the secondary question was, “Well, did any of those give you any problems? And I’m relating back to the app index, because if it had a problem, what did you do?” and the first example that came back was, “I had a reservation at a restaurant last night and I had to go close one and go to the other because it didn’t have my reservation, so I ended up having–for every application that I have, I have a competitor.” And if it’s really sticky, maybe like banking or something else, maybe they don’t, but they’ve got a few ride shares, a few travel apps, a few restaurant apps. And it’s really that wake-up call, because the metric that comes out of the report is about 55% of the people can’t go without their mobile device for up to four hours.
I did that today before this, just to see if I could do it. And right before I got on here I had to give up, because I needed to see if I had a notification or a text or something that I had missed. And so personally it is that reflex, that extension. It’s what we do now unconsciously.
Ashley: I think I’d rather hold my breath than try to live without my digital–
Long: No doubt. No doubt.
Ashley: So when you count the number of applications that people are using, do you count like, for example, on your phone you can look to see, how much battery time did you consume with different applications is another way to measure effectively kind of usage. How do you look at it?
Long: Well I mean, it’s habitual. So we just looked at ones that were open. But I mean, if I go back and look at my day, my alarm goes up and I pick up my phone. And the first thing I did there was, “Now that I have my phone in my hand, I’m going to look at an application.” My schedule, maybe my e-mail, maybe a text. And we’re basically saying now that the first thing we do is not talk to humans; it’s to look at our apps. And nowadays–you know, if I go back five or six years, my house is now fully connected. So I’m looking at my security camera and any events, I’m looking at my thermostat. Did I leave my air conditioning or heat on? Is my car charged? You know, and do I need to set the thermostat in there? Is it 100 degrees out and do I need to put the AC on before I get in my car? And all of a sudden I’ve got energy usage tools.
So these applications can be anything from a browser-based service, but they’re there to help you with your life. And then as you get to work it becomes even more–more of a need, with reminders and you know, calendaring and everything going on in your work world and sharing documents and collaboration. And that’s why at 2 o’clock you can hit somebody who’s had 20 and in a day they can be hitting 30 to 50. So it’s pretty amazing what these digital services are doing and how intrinsic they are to our daily lives.
Ashley: Well it’s amazing, because one of the things–I’m guessing I’m probably not part of your report–but occasionally I’ll look to see how many connected devices or IP addresses have been allocated in my home. And it has gone from a dozen to two dozen to over 70 in a year and a half.
Ashley: And that’s just as I kind of went to a connected home. And every one of those is not just talking to stuff in the home. It’s talking to the cloud, you know, for the temperature management, for the door locks, for the security system, whatever–it’s all talking to something, if not me or one of my family members through an app on the phone or browser.
Long: And think about when they don’t work and they can’t talk to that cloud or digital service. And since it’s an extension of your human interactions, now you can have expectations that are super high that you just had a disruption, and it can impact your mood. It can cause frustration. It can do things that you don’t even know are happening. And that’s why we call it–you know, it’s a reflex now. It’s intrinsic, it’s unconscious and it can cause strife in our lives when it doesn’t work.
Ashley: That’s a really good point, because we always think about networks as end consumers as speed, but the reliability has also gone up significantly, and it’s going to have to increase in reliability moving forward, because that’s–it’s a reflex, it’s a dependency, it’s an expectation, it’s a customer satisfaction measure, right? Of what that experience is like.
Long: Yeah, and I think the expectation just a few years ago was much lower, and every year that goes by–I think three quarters of the people we queried–that their expectations had gone up. And it’s growing and growing, and the tolerance levels now have also become more important, and these services are just more important because they’re prompting a higher demand and better experiences, so that businesses can help you with your daily lives. And so the net of it all is we’re hungry for very positive digital experiences, and we’re willing to pay for that and have them be more personalized and know who you are and kind of know what you want, and that’s a huge differentiator between businesses competing with each other.
Ashley: Interesting. As you looked at this data, were there different ways that you slice and dice, segmented–you know, home versus business or mobile versus browser or any of those kind of ways of looking at the information, to gather some interesting facts?
Long: Yeah, we did. We have a crosscut of that. Mainly though looking at the consumer base side and how it interacts with the businesses and how the expectations of the consumer are there and need to be met and exceeded. The experiences need to grow. I know in our daily interactions from AppD, we look at e-commerce companies and banking and a number of different online services, and it’s pretty clear that the performance, the loyalties are pretty clean cut when you have a performing app versus a non-performing app. And the impact it has on the consumer. And so those can transcend almost every industry. It’s almost industry-less, where the application performance wins.
You know, every hundred milliseconds of latency–you know, that causes some level of distress, and when you start to get into situations where something might take 10 seconds, in industry A that might be acceptable because it’s a longer-term type of transaction. But in industry B, which may be more of a real-time field, like I need a ride or I need a stock trade or I need something like that, 10 seconds is unacceptable. And if you’re not able to measure that and have application performance, you can’t dissect what your problem is because ultimately it’s your business transaction which leads to your experience–a journey that you’re going through, your business journey–and at the end of that rainbow is the actual business outcome that you’re looking for. And whether that’s a sale or moving money or buying a ticket or a new shirt, that’s the key, is having that business outcome.
And the more we tie application performance to that business outcome, we’re better off as a business. At AppDynamics we look at all of the way to the edge, to the browser, to the device, to the data centers, to the cloud, but we also tack into that the ability to look at money or what the business KPI that’s being impacted. Because if you have a seasonal event like an inventory level dropping or a loss of money or you’re making more money because of a promotion, wouldn’t you want to know that your performance or your lack of performance–what the impact is to businesses?
Ashley: It’s interesting too, because it wasn’t very long ago–I mean, maybe just a few years ago–where we’re almost solely reliant on things like an NPS measurement or call times–things that we do in the call center. And outside of that, you know, one person tells five people when they have a bad experience and you don’t really know those kinds of things. But now, in this age of data for everything, you know, the last time somebody used my Lyft app, “Oh, it was poor performance. We haven’t seen them in three weeks.” Maybe they went to Uber. I may not know that, but I know what their last–there’s data there to mine and to go after, where some of the telemetry information about performance could indicate some symptom that might’ve led to a consumer change in behavior.
Long: Yeah, and it’s no longer–we talk about expectations and not meeting them, but the downside is that is your reputation risk. I mean, if you get an issue reported to you from internal or you know, somebody inside, that’s one thing, versus it being reported to your call center–that’s another thing–versus somebody switching to a competitor and posting it on a social media site. Now you’re not only worried about stock price and revenue risk; you’re talking about reputation risk. And that reputation risk really does tie back into those expectations not being met, at whatever level it is. So reputation and how, you know, media out there is picking up on that and promoting that when it’s negative–for a reason, because it’s a shared experience.
Ashley: This may be a bit of an impossible question, so I recognize that up front. Is it possible to measure what customers’ expectations are? Is it too big of a moving target? Is it too many variables? Or is it something we can get a handle on? How do you address that?
Long: Well, I firmly believe we can. And say that coming from the customer side of AppDynamics, but also–you know, businesses know their business, their KPIs, what outcomes they’re looking for. And if you don’t measure it, you can’t really make change in a positive way. So we see digital transformation–Agile–you know, we’re seeing BizDevOps–those are all things to really move businesses to become more efficient, drive the right decisions around the right business outcomes they’re looking for. And you know, I always say you do have to focus on the application performance. Being a past CIO, I tried to put myself in the customer’s shoes. I mean, if you don’t have a robust way to look at application performance then you don’t have that safeguard or those guardrails that you can put up to make sure that, you know, number one, your mission-critical applications are working, but number two, it’s the user experience. And being able to measure that and seeing that all the way from the edge to your cloud services.
And the dependencies. I mean, think about it, the number of SaaS providers, cloud providers, third-party data that you’re touching just to execute a login on any application site, it could span hundreds of transactions. And if any one of those little things go wrong, you’re not focusing on application performance or you can’t measure it, and it could have a negative user experience.
Ashley: Very good point. Because there are very few, maybe if any, closed ecosystems, to throw the “ecosystem” word in there. You really are reliant on a lot of other providers to come together to deliver that overall experience, that service, that functionality.
Long: Yeah, and that’s how you get your business outcomes. So I do think that it’s achievable and you know, that performance and correlating it to the business performance and the business outcome–that’s really the objective companies are setting, and why they’re moving to APM and companies that are expanding out to give them business metrics on top of APM and consumer metrics on top of APM. Because it’s that trifecta. And if you think about it, there’s lots of ways you can look at logs or network flow data, but at the application, since it’s the central north star of the business, it’s the most granular and contextual data that you can get to see whether or not your business is performing. So that when you have that granular and contextual data down to the line of code maybe not performing, you’re able to look at the two most important metrics to any company, which is finding and fixing problems and reducing the time it takes to get to solutions on either side of that. So the faster you find them and fix them–whether it’s a ten-second issue that you can automate out of your system, or if it turns out to be a ten-hour outage, those are radical, you know, separations that we see in companies by just implementing the right tool set, the right performance measurements and really driving their businesses to reduce those risks in any company.
Ashley: Okay. Maybe one last thing to kind of touch on–were there any other interesting findings, notable things? Maybe kind of a small little quirk thing that was “Wow, we didn’t expect to see that,” any other things to glean from the report?
Long: No, I think we’ve covered it. At a high level I always suggest, put yourself in the consumer’s shoes. Really have a robust way to look at performance, and tie that back to the business outcomes. Because ultimately the business teams have a really hard time understanding IT and engineering, but the IT teams actually can make that leap. They can tend to look at the business challenges and situations, take that complex technology of all the ecosystems and translate that into showing the business what’s actually happening under the covers in a meaningful way. And that’s the basis of the report, is that the expectations are rising, the issues are out there. Finding them and fixing them, and really, put yourself in the consumer’s shoes, because it’s only going to grow, the dependency. And the flawless application wins.
Ashley: Great. How do folks get a hold of this? How do they get to The Era of Digital Reflex report?
Long: It’s posted on our AppDynamics website. It’s AppDynamics.com, and you can go ahead and get it there, and we’d be happy to share that.
Ashley: Excellent. For you to download, I assume?
Long: Yep, sure is.
Ashley: Nice. Okay, well excellent. Thank you so much, Steve. Appreciate you being on DevOps Chat with us.
Long: Thanks, Mitch. It was a pleasure, and I appreciate the invite.
Ashley: Absolutely. I want to thank my guest today, Steve Long, regional CTO with AppDynamics. And of course we want to thank you, our listeners. We appreciate the time that you spend listening to us and ____ some feedback that you give. This is Mitch Ashley with DevOps.com. Have a great day, and be careful out there.