My latest research found that only about 65% of commercial enterprise management products purchased are currently in use– the rest are languishing on a shelf somewhere, just waiting to be dusted off and deployed. Here are a few tips to ensure that your purchases don’t end up in a back room collecting dust.
Define your requirements: From my perspective, this is the number one most important consideration when purchasing APM tools and here’s why. The definition of “APM” varies from user to user, from analyst to analyst, and from vendor to vendor. Most vendors define the acronym in a way that highlights its specific tools portfolio. Across vendors, even the simplest technologies– such as synthetic transaction tools– vary considerably in terms of ease of use, applications monitored, and ongoing administration requirements. So, although requirements definition may be far less interesting than “kicking the tires”, first define exactly what you want the tool to do. Some questions to ask include:
• Will it be used to monitor applications for internal users, external users, or both?
• Will it monitor web applications, tiered applications, or both?
• Will your staff use it for code drill down, or is it ok to monitor at the Operational level?
• Will the mainframe be part of the end-to-end transaction?
In short, lack of requirements translates to lack of use, once products are in-house.
Try before you buy: Nothing reveals the functions and features of a product like a trial run. Again, proofs of concept can be time-consuming, but they enable you to very quickly determine whether or not a given product performs as expected. Many vendors offer free downloads or cloud-enabled software for this purpose and most also offer free support during the evaluation phase. Take advantage of all the freebies available BEFORE the purchase to ensure that you don’t find out— too late– that the product does not fit your needs.
Invest in up-front training: Another factor contributing to the “shelfware syndrome” is lack of training. Even simple products– such as log analyzers and synthetic transaction monitors– have a wealth of hidden features “under the covers”. In my interviews with end users of the most wildly successful APM solutions, most stressed the fact that “the more you put into learning the tool, the more you get out of it.” If you’re investing $100K in a tool, go the extra mile and spend $5K on training. It can make the difference between letting $100K “go down the drain” as shelfware OR getting $200K of value from a product that cost half that much.
Tools alone don’t ensure quality applications– people do. Training helps them use the tools to best advantage.
This blog entry is also available at the APMdigest site at: http://www.apmdigest.com/just-say-no-to-shelfware.