Category Archives: Use Case

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.

ProblemAppUseCase1

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.

ProblemAppUseCase2

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.

ProblemAppUseCase3

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.

ProblemAppUseCase4

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.

 

 

SysTrack Use Case: Windows 10 Migration

In June we launched a new blog series called “SysTrack Use Case.” The first post in this brand new series explored how SysTrack could help with investigating user reports of a faulting or crashing application. Each post in the ongoing series will discuss a new use case to help provide a wider perspective on the different IT projects and challenges that can be addressed with SysTrack. The follow up to the first post comes at the same time that Lakeside has released new content around the Windows 10 launch, and that gives us the perfect opportunity to explore the best way to consume that content and get the most of SysTrack before and after your Windows 10 migration. We’ve released several blog posts in the past few weeks dealing with Windows 10, so here we’ll try to take a succinct look at the basic phases of a migration and how SysTrack can help with each.

Going into a large migration project without properly developing a plan first is a recipe for disaster.  Any IT administrator will tell you the same. That’s why gathering data about the environment is so crucial; simply estimating the resources needed or the readiness of the environment for a migration won’t work. You need objective analysis. With Windows 10 hitting the market we wanted to help our customers prepare for the upgrade. A good place to start is understanding the value of Windows 10 and how it could help your organization. We recently released a whitepaper that discusses, in detail, the benefits an upgrade to Windows 10 can provide. Having a solid understanding of why the upgrade is a smart decision can start the whole project off on a good note.

The whitepaper serves as a nice initial approach, but where SysTrack really helps out is with providing data-driven insight. The Windows 10 Assessment Report, part of our MarketPlace program, is a great tool for the initial steps of sizing out the project and gathering data about the environment. MarketPlace reports are accessed through Virtual Machine Planner. You’ll just need to create and run a simple model of the environment and SysTrack will feed data gathered for the model into the Windows 10 Assessment Report. The great thing about this report is that you can go back to it after improvements, updates, or changes have been made in the environment and rerun it with SysTrack’s most up-to-date data to see the results of your changes. Maybe an initial run of the report shows Windows XP systems with a low health score, and that leads you to investigate those systems with Site Visualizer and you discovere the cause of the low health score is insufficient memory resources, for example. After implementing a fix to that problem you can execute the report again to get an updated look on your Windows 10 readiness status.

After the migration is completed you’ll want to continue monitoring the systems that received the new OS to make sure they aren’t experiencing any new problems. A great way to do this is to track the health of those systems over time. Create a SysTrack group of Windows 10 systems and use Enterprise Visualizer to graph the health over time, this is a perfect way to visualize the experience of those systems from before the OS upgrade to after the upgrade.

Health Trend

Another great steady-state tool to use is the Resolve Comparative Analytics function. This allows you to compare a selected system to other individual systems, a group of systems, and all systems. You might want to compare the Windows 10 group to systems that have yet to be upgraded, or a system of interest with Windows 10 to the rest of the group to identify if an issue is due to the upgrade itself.

Comp Analytics

From gathering your thoughts about the migration, to preparing for it, to implementing it, and finally, to validating it in the steady-state, SysTrack has the data you’ll need. If your organization is considering Windows 10 make sure to take advantage of data-driven analysis to make better decisions throughout the project that will simplify the task, save time, and minimize the risk.

SysTrack Use Case: Troubleshooting Application Faults

Troubleshooting IT issues can be an extensive and strenuous process. If you’re administering a large environment the process can quickly become overwhelming. You might start by asking all kinds of questions – is it an isolated issue? How long has this been going on? How is this impacting the users? Are users affected who may never report this problem to the helpdesk? Asking questions is great, but if you don’t have the insight to get to the answers you’ll find yourself running in circles more often than not. Luckily, SysTrack continuously monitors your environment and pays close attention to the user experience so you can get issues resolved before they have negative impacts on productivity and, ultimately, the bottom line.

Let’s take a common example to explore this a little more: A user is reporting that a particular application is unresponsive or crashing. The ticket makes its way to your desk with little helpful information. Maybe they reported a few instances with some vague descriptions of when it happened. Normally this would send you down the rabbit hole to interview the user and start running in those circles we mentioned, but here’s where SysTrack can help you avoid all that and use data to help you understand and resolve the issue.

A good place to start would be Site Visualizer. Just jump into the Observations area and open the Application Faults dataset to get a quick overview of what’s going on with the app. You’ll quickly see the number of faults this app has experienced, the number of affected systems, and when it first and last occurred. Right away you have some idea of how widespread the issue is and how long it’s been occurring.

AppFaults

Starting at a high-level overview like this can point you in the right direction for where to turn to next. If the app is only faulting on a single system you can probably assume the issue is system related and not app related and you may wish to simply reinstall the application on the affected system. But if it’s affecting a large portion of the user base then you know the app is part of the problem. A quick right-click on the number of affected systems and then choosing Show Details will show you each system that’s been affected. Maybe they’re all part of the same group that received a software patch right around the time the app started faulting, or maybe they’re the only users with that app installed. Now you can work with the application vendor or your development team in the case of a homegrown application to help resolve this problem. Having easy access to this type of data dramatically reduces the time and effort it would have taken to answer these questions.

To dig a bit deeper into the issue you could target a particular user’s systems with Resolve. Open the Faults tool and you’ll be able to see details about the fault occurrences for the app in question, how it stacks up against the enterprise as a whole, and time-correlated information so you know exactly when each fault occurred.

ResolveFaults

At this point you know how widespread the problem is, each and every system that’s been affected, and even the exact time of each individual occurrence. Once you’ve got all of this data you’re much better prepared to implement a solution.

To bring all of this back to the user experience you can even monitor the health of a system over time. Fix the case of the faulting app and see how the user’s health score has changed after the fix. This will give you a good idea of how their experience is going as well as if you’ve corrected the issue, and if there’s cause for concern due to some other problems. Avoiding that rabbit hole has never been easier.