Category Archives: DevOps

5 things your business needs to do now to win the game of CX

#include <std_disclaimer.h>

I love the now and the place we are going. It’s so exciting for businesses and customers!

Trying to understand how business is changing technology and technology is changing business is so much fun. One of the themes I’ve been thinking a lot about lately is that IT and business have changed each other so much they are now one.

Call it the digital transformation that’s the driving force, ok, but that transformation is at least in part driven by our own over-indulged interactions with our digital devices and need for the constant pulse of engagement. I think everyone in my household could use a little 12-step digital addiction counseling including me :)

What a wonderful opportunity for brands to take advantage of human nature and pervasive connectedness!

Capitalizing on this opportunity for customer engagement will rely, at least in part, on how well your organization understands your conceptual value chain and can generate the three fuels that feed success.

The conceptual value chain looks something like this:

Business outcomes from
User behaviors because of
UX = Available + Feelsfast + Usable + Enjoyable (delivered by)
Applications depending on
Services running on
Servers residing in
Datacenters

That value chain runs on these fuels:

Customer experience planning and design is customer experience management largely as defined by Forrester. And they do a very good job of publishing guidance on the processes and roles required to do this well. The concept of the truly empowered “product owner” from Agile model is a much leaner interpretation for small teams. It really comes down to who owns the customer experience and the business outcomes generated.

Customer acquisition is primarily a sales and marketing function, and frankly there should be very little light shining between the cracks. Today, marketing is sales at scale. Brand message and core value proposition should be consistent in an omni-channel world. And it is the larger customer experience design – the what we have and why people care about it – that defines the product and experience. Sales and marketing almost becomes the way we project the emotional and business impact of the planned customer experience with it’s delightful fulfillment.

Fulfillment of the user experience has a hard and soft component. The hard component is the service delivery of the application. Is it available and does it feel fast? It’s the applications running on services that use servers in different data centers hierarchy. The soft component is the result of customer experience design and driven by usability factors like utility, ease and enjoyment.

Here are 5 things your organization can do right now to create the fuel you need to win big:

1 Tie the value chain together so everyone can understand and own business outcomes.
This means the what and the why needs to be very clearly stated. What is the desired business result? What user behaviors will get us to that business result? What user experience must be delivered to drive that user behavior? and so on. This means monitoring and metrics, metrics, metrics.

2 Get serious about UX
User experience is contact patch with the customer. It’s the blender that mixes the “just right experience” by carefully combining innovative CX planning and operational service delivery. The importance of UX needs executive voice as well as support at every level of the organization. Saying get serious about UX is almost like saying get serious about winning.

3 Be a team!
Stop having the business make requirements and IT produce deliverables. We – the business and IT people – need to use information and technology to collaborate and break through traditional business perimeters. To win big you have to win as a team!

4 Go faster.
Run projects with an Agile format and adopt a DevOps approach to your test and deploy methodology. Use the cloud to dev, build, test and deploy. It takes a lot less time that ordering, racking, and configuring hardware. These are big cultural changes so pick a project to start with and show the rest of your teams how successful and fun for the team the new ways can be.

5 Leverage analytics and big data.
We all talk about data-driven decisions, but a team of analysts spending a week gathering data in Excel from systems spread all over the company for last weeks data doesn’t cut it anymore. Monitoring both the service delivery systems and customer acquisition systems at every step of the value chain with real-time granular data is needed. There are so many areas where this can impact success. Analytics are the thread of data that ties the value chain together and shows you the business the moving parts as well as the whole. Analytics and anomaly detection are an important power tool so mere humans can get help knowing what might be changing and important to pay attention to in the sea of big data. Software analytics are the silent voice of the customer pointing to product usage and frustration.

Let’s stop building software and start building amazing user experiences that people can’t wait to share!

Namebench – a tool for speeding up the DNS part of your browsing experiences

All of the free tools so far have focused on measuring and optimizing the Web and Mobile user experiences – availability and performance – your sites are delivering to desktop and mobile visitors, until now. Let’s take a break from that and do something for ourselves.

Namebench is an open source DNS benchmark utility. It’s a tool for selecting the DNS servers that will give the best performance for your location. DNS is that magic piece of the internet infrastructure that let’s us humans remember Yahoo.com rather than the IP addresses (kinda like phone #s). It’s like the Yellow Pages for all of the addresses on the internet.  And DNS plays a role in evaluating which servers every resource on a web page should be fetched from.

Using the recommended settings from Namebench can significantly improve the browsing experience. A faster Web is a happier Web! If you are an administrator then you already understand how this could make for a better general experience for everyone in the office if your results look like mine. If you’re just a renegade desktop user, you could run a quick test and adjust your own personal settings.

After installing Namebench, start the application. It should detect good defaults. Mine look like this from an AT&T Uverse connection.

dns_performance_testing_site_screen

I just clicked “start” to begin the test. It did run for several minutes on this old core 2 duo. After running through it’s paces, Namebench estimates that the default DNS settings can be improved by over 70%. Wow! (I’d like to do a little before and after testing using @sitespeedio at some point but I’ll have to re-install it now that I put the new M500 ssd in the old Mac.)

dns_performance_benchmark

Looking deeper into the comparison report we are presented with a stack ranking of each of the DNS servers tested by mean and fastest response.

dns_performance_graphs

A detailed response time distribution is also reported.

response_time_distribution_chart

Now go speed up the Web for you and some co-workers!

Ken

Use sitespeed.io to Analyze your Website Performance and Optimization

Sitespeed.io is a really wonderful open source tool that automatically provides a rich set of information about Web site performance and how well Web pages are optimized versus best practices. Sitespeed.io can crawl all of the pages on Web site or just the Web pages you wish. It’s a little more complicated than some of the other free tools (link) I have been sharing. Let’s call this a pro-sumer tool rather than a consumer tool. But really, if you don’t mind rolling up your sleeves just a little – it’s very worth it.

Sitespeed.io can also crawl multiple sites allowing you to compare yourself to your key competitors. Differences in how fast your Web site feels of just a quarter or half second can have dramatic affects on conversion and retention meaning this stuff is important to the business!

Let’s take a look at what you get before providing a couple of helpful tips to help you get it running for yourself.

You get a reasonably comprehensive set of reports starting with a scorecard-like summary that provides a high-level scorecard about presenting key Web site optimization and performance metrics.

ss_web_optimization_scorecard

The detailed summary page statistically analyzes all of the optimization, content, and performance metrics.

ss_detail_web_optimization_scores

What really caught my eye were the rich Web performance and user experience data provided that are available in the latest web browsers (Chrome 30+ and IE 11) courtesy of the w3c timings API. If you are a web performance geek like me this should make you say wow!

ss_web_performance_metrics

An analysis of each individual page is provided too.

ss_Web_page_optimization_performance

There are many ways this tool can be used to help you improve site quality and performance. As part of the QA process sitespeed would be an excellent part of the tool-chain for verification that changes haven’t negatively affected optimization scores or created performance issues. Marketing should be using this tool to benchmark key site functions against core competitors to improve conversion and loyalty. The web operations team can use this as a very capable monitoring function. And for those of you out there actually doing Continuous Integration (CI), these metrics should be automatically gathered and analyzed at every build.

Sitespeed.io is really the glue and HTML report output that is consolidated from some other really great open source tools such as Yahoo’s Yslow, phantom.js, and browsertime.  These are command-line tools so you’ll need to be comfortable at a terminal screen. I configured this on a 5 year old Macbook Pro that had a fresh install of OS X Mavericks.

First you will need to install Xcode, developer tools, and homebrew. This guide was very helpful.

Before continuing you’ll want to install the latest Java from www.java.com.

Now you’re ready to follow the straightforward documentation from sitespeed.io to install and use.

If you are involved with web performance, website optimization or user experience and you’re comfortable at a terminal prompt you really should give this one a whirl.

Ken

Related links:

Free tools
xcode on appstore
sitespeed.io
homebrew for Mac
browsertime
w3c timings reference

Healthcare.gov Was a Typical Enterprise Rollout. No Big Suprise!

I’ve been listening to the ongoing Healthcare.gov conversation since it was limpingly launched in September of last year. The poor planning, mis-teps and failures have given the media and technology community a great opportunity to share every little detail about the day to day ongoings as well as opinions for how it could have or should have been done.

But really…was Heathcare.gov really all that different from any typical large-scale enterprise systems rollout?

It did’t work right or at all for the first few weeks. Then things improved some but more work needed to be done. And it is hard to anticipate the real world completely in test. Perhaps they should have had real users test drive it before opening it to the public. Real users are not already indoctrinated in the system like QA people and have fresh eyes to see problems. Can you say uTest?

How many stories have we heard about a public company faulting their new implementation of ERP for impacting quarterly results or scrapping the project completely? I have heard several.

Like a typical enterprise system deployment of yore, it was devoid of Agile practice, web-scale readiness and unable to keep up with today’s need for real-time business…even if that was the expectation.

Did anyone really expect the government to deliver as if they were a Velocity Conference headline speaker? Really?

This is just a little post to share that I’ve been thinking about for a while.

What do you think?

Ken

Why Marketing and DevOps need to work together – MarDevOps

In today’s digital world, Marketing and DevOps need to work together too. When user experience (UX) is a 50/50 split of web performance and usability  designers and deliverers of the UX have to work together to succeed.

Have you ever managed a Google Adwords account for pay-per-click (PPC)?

I have and I was paying $25 a click for top keywords. I remember needing some prompting from the company founders to stay on top when click costs went above $20 and I was uncomfortable with the rising pay-per-click (PPC) spend. PPC budgets at many companies are incredibly high. No surprise right? Advertising is what is driving Google’s financial success. I easily spent more than 5% of total revenue during the 5 or 6 years I managed our PPC accounts.

Most organizations have some planned downtime for upgrades and regularly scheduled maintenance. I say most because some online services have become so essential that a few minutes of downtime is Global news, uh, like Gmail last Friday afternoon, and because “stuff happens.” Even web properties that never “plan” for downtime sometimes have outages.

Why don’t all web application monitoring tools and services allow you to pause your Adwords campaign when your website has scheduled maintenance or experiences extended downtime?

Looking at this from the perspective of two personas. First, an actual prospect who is exposed to an Ad  – call her Pros-ephone – will click on the Ad, see the website is not available, and unless she is totally Zen, will likely have a negative Brand impression. The second persona, Mark the Marketing Guy, who is already under pressure from sales to increase inbound lead-flow and to reduce PPC costs, must wince every time he thinks about paying $20 to create a negative impression.

We need Mar-Dev-Ops! I propose we take DevOps one step further and add Marketing to the mix.

This is probably why there is so much conversation now about the battle between CMO and CIO for power. If your organization is going to deliver meaningful digital experiences then someone is going to have to own the Customer Experience (CX).  If it’s not the CMO or CIO then your organization may mint a new executive role such as Chief Digital Officer (CDO) or Chief Customer Experience Office (CCXO).

Before going, please let me introduce the innovative website monitoring company who introduced this capability. If you are a Digital Marketing Manager or a PR Agency managing PPC campaigns you might need this. They are called Killswitch (www.killswit.ch), and their web monitoring service will monitor the uptime of 1 website every single minute for ~ $10 a month or $20 for 5 sites including the integration with Google’s Adwords.

A warm round of applause for Killswit.ch for being an innovator of website monitoring services.

Ken