SysTrack Use Case: Investigating Problem Applications with SysTrack

One of the goals at Lakeside is to make IT systems as transparent as possible so as to reveal the problem areas in the environment that most need to be addressed in order to improve the end-user experience. Some of the most frequent culprits impacting end-user experience are applications with excessive and unexpected resource consumption or continual faults, errors, and hangs. Fortunately, SysTrack provides several tools and various methods with which these problem applications can be addressed. I’ll be giving a quick walkthrough of these, covering the cases in which the problem application is unknown and needs to be identified and then moving into how to go about monitoring a known problem application more closely. In no way will the list of methods I provide be exhaustive but they can serve as a strong starting point.

Let’s begin with the first case, the unknown application that is potentially tanking performance and productivity and just being a general pain for end-users. Assume for a moment that there have been reports of impacted performance on several systems in the environment and a handful of rather unhelpful support tickets have been generated. “My Outlook is slow, my internet is taking forever, my BLANK keeps crashing.” You have a – hopefully short – list of users, systems, and the times at which they were experiencing difficulty; but where do you start the search? The first tool to utilize when given such a specific location and timeframe is SysTrack Resolve. Launch Resolve and change focus to select a system to observe, then navigate to the Overview section to see a list of all recent impacts on end-user experience discovered by SysTrack.

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This will provide some context as to with which areas a system may be struggling. If there are a large number of reported application errors or consumption related events visible here, then it should prove much simpler to identify the source of these in the next step due to their frequency. Once we’ve had that cursory look next we’ll dive into the black box and select a timeframe during which users have reported problems with the system. Highlight an area of the chart with high or unexpected resource consumption by clicking there and the applications panel will display the resource consumption of each application that was running at that point in time.

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By observing the applications at that given point in time it’s possible to find applications that are impacting the end-user by correlating the system performance with the application’s consumption and begin to address the possible causes. Once some of these problem applications have been found and triaged it may become apparent that several of them should be monitored more closely to limit or prevent future impact. That’s where the next set of tools come in, the ability to create and report on custom alarms. Within SysTrack Deploy, the SysTrack deployment tool, under Alarms and Configuration > Scripting and Response Time it’s possible to create custom SQL scripts for a system configuration that run against the child database at set intervals of time, compare their results to a threshold, and generate custom alarms that make their way up to the master.

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Say for example that one of the problem applications in your environment has excessive application load times that are indicative of a poor end-user experience and you need to know when they happen. A series of custom alarms could be implemented that that run every 10 minutes and report the maximum application load time for the past 10 minutes, filtered to only include the problem application. If the returned value is greater than 10 seconds or 20 seconds then a Yellow or Red alarm is generated respectively. Alternatively, the script itself could contain the thresholds and return a count of the number of applications that exceed said threshold in an alarm. Combining these custom alarms in an environment would provide much needed data that allows IT personnel to quickly locate periods of time when the target application was “acting up” and also gauge how common and frequent this behavior is.

Once this monitoring data has been generated you then need a way to readily access it. Since the alarms themselves are already custom, I find that it works best to rely on another custom tool, the SysTrack Dashboard Builder, to filter out unwanted alarms and focus on just the ones we want. Use a simple drag-and-drop interface and a little SQL knowhow to filter the results and you can get an excellent look at the data you want.

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There’s no way of knowing exactly which pieces of information will be important for every given application, but with the robustness and flexibility provided by SysTrack it’s possible to identify what you need to know and put systems in place to monitor it.  By familiarizing yourself with your environments problem applications at present you can keep them from being the problem applications of the future.

 

Focus on Personas

One area of particular strength in SysTrack’s suite of value added functions is its ability to provide automated EUC Persona insight, aka “End User Segmentation”.  In their research note, “Segment Users by Workspace to Allocate Physical Devices, Digital Tools, Support and Services,” Gartner analyst Federica Troni states:

IT leaders responsible for end-user computing are challenged with determining the right set of tools to maximize user productivity and engagement without duplicating costs and capabilities.

Such a framework helps IT leaders determine the right choices to accommodate diverse user requirements.

Lakeside’s approach to end user segmentation is consistent with and supportive of the process advocated by Gartner.  The granular End User Computing (EUC) data collected, aggregated, and visualized by SysTrack is exactly the kind of data needed to identify user groups within an enterprise who have common device, application, service, connectivity, and support needs.  No longer must IT rely on outdated questionnaires, anecdotal input, and/or educated guesses.  Using real EUC data, collected from actual systems, with real users; the results are accurate, fast, and non-controversial. Thus “data driven” vs “instinct and intuitive” based decisions can drive EUC provisioning, access, and support choices.

This data driven methodology for Persona discovery can pay big dividends.  Proper matches between end users, the devices, applications, and services they use, typically result in:

    • Productivity improvements – Having the “right tool for the job” is an age old adage and is as important in IT as in any other form of work.
      • An over/under provisioned workstation represents waste. Either too much was spent on an over provisioned system or an end user of an under provisioned system can’t effectively do their job.
      • Mismatched application suites to job requirements represent waste. Providing more applications than end users need results in unused licenses, increased support costs, increased workload demands, and an increased risk of application or system conflicts.  Failing to provide appropriate applications to do the job, results in lower end user output.
      • Mobile and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) initiatives require proper orchestration. Opening an enterprises’ infrastructure to any/all devices the EUC community chooses to use can be a security risk, support nightmare, and connectivity challenge.  A better approach is to understand the work behaviour of all end users and identify where mobile and BYOD adoption is appropriate.

 

  • Asset optimization – Rather than a “one size fits all’ approach, a proper understanding of the personas within an enterprise can lead to the distribution of end user devices which are appropriate for the job.

In a recent SysTrack assessment at a large auto manufacturer it was determined only 10% of the enterprises’ 25,000 laptops were observed to have been moved from their office location.   This while the average cost of a laptop was $150 more than a desktop and the average failure rate on the laptops were about 10% higher.

In another assessment it was observed that more than 80% of the enterprises’ users were not taking advantage of several of the applications within a suite of applications.  A lower license cost was negotiated with the application suite’s manufacturer based on the historical SysTrack data, this resulted in over $15M in savings for the company.

  • Service Desk Support Optimization – By reviewing “day in the life” data for various personas, an enterprises’ service desk resources can be staffed with appropriate skill sets for the times when needed. Frequently, a “one size fits all” service desk with 7 x 24 coverage is provided for the entire EUC community.  One recent study revealed a client had fewer than 5% of their EUC users accessing any resources after 8pm on Fridays and before 6am on Mondays.  The decision was made to curtail the service desk staffing on weekends and increasing the coverage during normal business hours, resulting in significant cost savings and improved EUC satisfaction, as the response time was improved during the time the service was actually needed.
  • EUC on-boarding optimization – Proper persona and job role identification, documentation, and definitions, provide a very efficient method for on-boarding new employees or changing employee job assignments. An enterprise with fully defined personas and job roles can quickly assign the proper resources (end user device, applications, services, connectivity, etc.) based on the job description of the end user at any point in time.

One customer reported the on-boarding time for new employees was reduced from 8 days to 1 day by properly identifying the various personas and job roles within the organization and automating the on-boarding process to take advantage of the persona insights.

  • Cloud Affinity – Significant savings are being realized by enterprises through adoption of “Cloud” services. SysTrack can identify which enterprise workloads are suited for “The Cloud” and who among the end users are ready to utilize cloud based services.