What Is Digital Experience Monitoring (and Why Should You Care)?

Digital experience monitoring (DEM) is a newly defined area within the world of application performance monitoring (APM). Gartner has broken up APM into three “functional dimensions” for coverage in their magic quadrant market assessment tool: DEM, application discovery, tracing and diagnostics (ADTD), and application analytics (AA).

Gartner defines DEM as “an availability and performance monitoring discipline that supports the optimization of the operational experience and behavior of a digital agent, human or machine, as it interacts with enterprise applications and services. For the purposes of this evaluation, it includes real-user monitoring (RUM) and synthetic transaction monitoring (STM) for both web- and mobile-based end users.”

As a testament to the growing significance of the DEM market, Gartner will continue to include DEM in its evaluations of APM vendors but also break out DEM to keep track of its own market metrics.

Here’s a top level view of what is happening with DEM now and how this discipline is likely to impact you in the days to come.

DEM Reverses Omnichannel Fragmentation

In many ways, the average enterprise is far more fragmented than it has ever been. You may have work teams devoted to digital marketing, web management, cyber security, application development, social business and more. Each team has its own processes and jargon, so specialists in each field may have difficulties communicating with each other.

The biggest problem with that fragmentation is that the customer does not see you that way at all. Your business is one entity that the customer might interact with through a mobile app, the company website, a social network and any online tools you provide for them. As a single entity, you are expected to provide them with a singular, recognizable experience across a myriad of channels and technological conduits. How are you going to keep them all in sync?

DEM is a mission-critical capability to develop or bring in from the outside if you want to meet customer expectations. According to Gartner’s projections, 70 percent of the buyers for APM suite technology (including DEM) will come from departments outside traditional IT operations by 2020. That is less than three years away.

The takeaway is that all enterprises that are undergoing digital transformation will need to put a solid DEM plan in place to ensure optimal customer experience at every contact point. Embracing DevOps means prioritizing the experience for the end user and not just internal build processes. Those who do not focus on maintaining an optimal user-experience will watch as their customer bases churn away.

Prioritizing the digital experience is also a key component of moving towards a more agile development process.

Leading Tools for DEM: RUM and STM

Your own network can look pristine while the end user registers your site as “glitchy.” What’s going on? It may not be your fault, but it still impacts the user perception of your brand. It could be the user’s device limitations, the browser version or a regional public cloud outage. Real user monitoring (RUM) gives you the answers by recording all interactions with your applications from the user’s point of view. Your development and operations teams will be able to swiftly trace errors and diagnose the specific application point of failure. RUM keeps track of actual service-level quality delivered to end user’s device.

Before you release any app into production, though, you should conduct a reasonable amount of testing to eliminate potential errors and performance bottlenecks. How can you test your apps thoroughly when they are is still in a development or pre-production stage? Synthetic transaction monitoring (STM) simulates user actions with behavioral scripts. This insight is mission-critical if you are running an online store or any site where you can reasonably expect traffic spikes. These anomalies are how your performance engineers will be able to identify and eliminate application issues before the customer reports them.

Mobile monitoring has to include not only your server performance but how your tools specifically execute on native mobile platforms. Outside of mobile, DEM concerns itself with web apps delivered to a traditional browser. Meanwhile, on the back end, there are APIs and code execution that may cause slowdown and impact the overall user experience. There could be many different departments involved in the creation and operation of all these systems, but DEM has to assure optimal performance for all of them.

Your DEM Strategy

It is becoming more apparent by the day that the term Internet of Things (IoT) was a bit of an understatement. Digitization is transforming the world into the Internet of Everything. What analysts sometimes forget to mention is that wherever connectivity and sensors go, monitoring has to follow close behind.

The customers of today and tomorrow expect all of your online tools and communications channels to work flawlessly. Whether you’re undergoing your own digital transformation or consolidating an existing strategy, the customer expectations are the only measure that matter and performance is your only key to success. Luckily, your customers are rarely disappointed, due to advances in APM suite technologies. To keep that unstated promise as more devices come online and put increasing strain on the capacity of the user-experience, you will need full visibility into all available channels and a central command to watch over them. That is why the acronym DEM is about to get a lot more play in offices all over the planet and why a solid DEM strategy is critical to your business success.

About the Author

Kevin Goldberg works in marketing at SolarWinds working on the Monitoring Cloud team. Along with his day job, he runs Discover Pods -- a place to find your next favorite podcast. Follow his ramblings on Twitter at @Kevin_Goldberg.

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