Don't Hoard Performance Data

If you're a Lord of the Rings fan you know where hoarding led Gollum--right into the fires of Mount Doom. Keeping performance data to yourself, like hoarding other "precious" things can lead you down an unfortunate path, although hopefully not as dreadful as that. As an IT professional, you have much to gain and little to lose by sharing performance information--in fact we assure you it will be good for you as well as your employer.

We know many talented IT managers who never show their reports to anyone because they fear they may highlight a performance problem. Like Gollum, they hoard data for their own use and share it only to cover their backsides should a decision backfire. But hiding information out of fear is a lose/lose proposition. You don't get credit when an issue is brought to light so it can be solved. Others don't know there is an issue, or insufficient information leads them on wild goose chases. This bunker mentality is bad for business.

Network emulation and application development testing vendor Shunra recently told us that because IT departments routinely make it hard to share performance data feeds, they were compelled to develop a tool for application developers to gather their own real-life network data. Shunra's data gathering tool, VE Network Catcher, allows application developers to collect their own data without running the gauntlet required to wrestle data from sources or feeds within the IT organization.

Showing others your measurements and explaining performance gains or losses is just plain smart. In fact, as we wrote back in May, it is a key best practice to ensure good application performance. Not only is information sharing the right way to go, you need to generate reports that non-geeks can understand. Lest you forget, they think differently than you do. For this, Apdex is a great help because it makes it easy for even a CEO to understand performance using a single number.

The best approach to bust the bunker mentality is to "tell the customer". Although nerve wracking at first, communicating both good and bad news with your customers/users honestly and clearly will help your business. Your customers and users appreciate honesty, and honesty promotes trust. Sharing information creates a foundation for exploring new ways to improve the user experience so things get even better.

As we wrote in October e-commerce service provider GSI Commerce has figured this out. They dare to provide Apdex reports to their customers, and not only live to tell about it--it has been very good for their business.

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Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.