Users want Conversations, not Monologues — How does that change DevOps and APM?
My blog last week about the new reign of the end-user has started some interesting discussions, both online and off. In particular, I had a Google Hangout with some of my colleagues, and we got on to topic of end-user monitoring and DevOps. Chris Dancy (@servicesphere) riffed off of my comment about the low switching costs of moving from one web app to another, and talked about empowering users. Users (That is ME, YOU, US) are no longer dependent on their business’ IT department, their ISP, or techie neighbor to get what they need from technology. If we don’t get what we want from our provider, we will do it ourselves, or got to a “competitor”. The “walls” to personal innovation just aren’t there anymore.
I made the comment that what we really need is “End User Activity Monitoring”, which my good friend Dave Williams has talked about extensively. The basic idea is that, to give the user the experience they really want, we need to be able to measure that experience no matter where they are or what device they are using. We can extend that “monitoring” in a more human way by asking “questions” as opposed to just monitoring bits and bytes. Jason Frye (@fryfrye) responded to this in the Google Hangout with the great observation that we can take it one step further and show them their own data. The provider can be proactive and let the user know that there are problems, and that a solution is being worked.
So, as I was thinking about this, it really came together with one idea. Humans want to converse, not be talked at. I was amazed to learn that my 18-month learns language not simply by hearing it, but by listening to, and watching, a human speak it. She want to talk WITH me, even before she can actually speak. And I think it goes to technology as well. I want my world to respond to me. My experience with certain brands (like Amazon.com and Apple) has become almost familial (which makes Kindle and iPad seem like a slightly awkward argument over dinner). When Amazon asks for my review, I feel included. Even though I am annoyed when a shipment is delayed — telling me somehow makes it less annoying. Even with consumer gadgets, it applies. I love my Garmin watch when I run, not because I really do anything with all that GPS data. I just love the second by second feedback on my performance.
So, what does this all have to do with DevOps and App Performance Management (APM)?
Well, I think it is very easy to thinking of the relationship with the “user” as a one-way relationship. Even when trying to make the user happy, it is more a push, then persuasion. So, what is DevOps tools could take not only live APM data on the measurement of end-user performance, but also more subjective data from the user, into account. What if the application proactively warns you of trouble, and makes suggestions. What if the application actually suggests other things you might like (like other applications). I think this concept is pretty well understood in retail (like with Amazon.com or Zappos.com), but I am not sure that it has really made its way into the thought behind DevOps and APM. The Social IT revolution is no less powerful than the DevOps movement, and it is in our (IT professionals) best interest to bring them together. User not only need a relationship with the help desk — they need relationships with IT operations staff, Developers, and all the other powers behind the curtains. Clearly some internet companies have mastered parts of this, but I would really like to see this interactive empowering of the end-user to work its deeper in IT. We are ALL users after all, aren’t we? So we should understand how they feel.