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Network World - Riddle this: All your core performance metrics are glowing green, but customers on the other end of the network are still cursing your service. How can IT get to the root of the problem? Network World Editor in Chief John Dix put the question to two experts: Tony Davis, vice president solution strategy at CA Technologies, who once faced that challenge working for FedEx on the company’s web site and now shares what he learned with CA customers, and Jimmy Cunningham, senior manager tech support enterprise monitoring, BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina.
We’re here to talk about improving customer experience so Tony, why don’t we start with you because you talk a lot about the concept of Business Service Reliability. Explain what that’s all about.
DAVIS: Business Service Reliability is a top-down approach to how IT should operate compared to traditional models. It is an actual execution strategy that emphasizes the reliable creation, production care and feeding, and mathematical measurement of a business service. It then takes that business service and translates it into real time customer experience. We provide solutions to automate this transformation strategy, but the secret sauce is in the methodology used to implement the strategy and the automation and measurements used to verify success.
How did you get involved with BlueCross?
DAVIS: The CA Account Executive for BlueCross BlueShield South Carolina had heard about the concepts of Business Service Reliability and stepped up to provide the program at no charge as a way to ensure long term success with the investments they had made in CA solutions. I first met with the executive in charge of the enterprise strategy for reliability, and he introduced me to Jimmy who was leading the initiative and we have been partnering ever since.
So Jimmy, when Tony plugged in you were already neck deep in an effort to improve customer experience by getting a better handle on the performance of core services. Explain that effort.
CUNNINGHAM: Five years ago we didn’t have a unified approach to monitoring system performance or system availability. Our CIO, Steve Wiggins, used to say we were flying blind in that we would deploy our applications and often find out from customers that we had pieces and parts that were broken. He was tired of customers telling us we had something wrong before we knew it was wrong, so he decided to form the Enterprise Monitoring System (EMS) group to rectify that, pulling in people from around the company. One of the first things our group did was take control of the main monitoring tools that existed inside BlueCross. Prior to that every group would buy and deploy tools as they saw fit, meaning another group could buy a similar tool and deploy it.
We were tasked with consolidating the tools and, at the same time, we invested in CA’s Customer Experience Manager (CEM) and Introscope, both of which are now part of the company’s Application Performance Management product, to augment and replace some existing tools. CEM does customer experience monitoring and allows us to monitor HTTP(s) traffic and see the elapsed time and experience our customers have as they use our websites and desktops. Introscope is a Java deep dive analysis tool that works in tandem with CEM to provide detailed metrics on the services and programs supporting our applications and desktops. We also use Introscope to monitor MQ, MQ Broker, DB2 calls to the host, and more. When we had all of that in place our group built standards around the tools and worked with various levels of management to figure out how to deploy the tools in a holistic fashion to help monitor applications.