Facebook data center

The writing is on the wall. The growth of computing in the cloud is driving innovation and projects worldwide. What started as a way to improve servers soon spread to startups wanting to avoid unnecessary expenses and IT departments looking for better ways to scale up without wasting days creating patches.

Just like the success of Google accelerated the growth of search-engine technology, the cloud is hastening the adoption and integration of machine learning, such as the increased use of artificial intelligence APIs.

We've seen firsthand how moving to the cloud has allowed companies to refocus their energies on developing their own resources and improving their own security. But, we've also seen that in order to get to that state, the reluctance of CIOs and production departments must be overcome. Functional capabilities must be judged, and every deployed SaaS application needs to generate satisfaction.

Old-fashioned key performance indicators such as server loads and network throughput might have been easy to describe and measure but it was challenging for IT departments to link those to the company's goals. Those who could got their budgets approved. Those who couldn't suffered, the importance and merits of their work unnoticed by upper management. Then, as now, knowing how to align the technology with the company's needs was a big part of the job.

With the cloud, many KPIs are out of reach (e.g. server throughput is no longer found in the office storeroom but in faraway data centers) while other duties are now automated. For instance, with Microsoft Office 365, the days of first assessing new features and their relevance to a company's particular operations are gone. Features are rolled out system-wide, sometimes without an IT department's awareness.

But, since the CIO is still a member of organizations' executive committees, and is still accountable for its information system's overall health -- including enterprise and operational needs -- it means that being in the cloud requires a new set of metrics, information and governance.

For instance, network-related tools that simply ping a site and link its use to network capacity are not really delivering a true picture of how the system is truly being used. Just having a server and network up and running is no longer the benchmark for success, not when end-users report low satisfaction.

This new demand has led to new companies being created, developing custom applications to provide the modern CIO with the information he or she demands -- companies such as New Relic and AppDynamics.

One of these areas where appropriate data is in short supply is with fast-growing SaaS applications. Office 365 and Salesforce are the best known examples, but there are many smaller, more focused products. Undoubtedly, every organization is using dozens of these SaaS apps without even being aware of it.

At GSX, we have spent many hours working with a wide variety of IT departments, helping them migrate to the cloud. The most successful ones kept the end-user's experience as their goal and core KPI metric, and they have no problem letting department and corporate heads know if new systems are being used and what the staff's satisfaction is.

Industry analyst firm Gartner has coined a term for these new metrics: "digital experience monitoring", or DEM. This method basically involves gathering data from synthetic transactions and complementing those with elements to properly assess how systems are used, and to what degree.

Gartner's reports state that only 5 percent of large organizations currently have a DEM initiative. But, it expects that number to grow by an astonishing 30 percent in just three years.

That is exactly the growth we've predicted at GSX. Our tools are critical for IT organizations that are moving their workloads to hybrid clouds. To achieve these DEMs, we deploy robot users which report on how various applications -- such as Microsoft Exchange, Skype and SharePoint -- are used at the transactional level at every critical location. It also reports on usage statistics and what impacts the level of service. The goal is to learn what applications are used and how often. While the current focus is on Office 365, these robot users are available for other applications, too.

Today, everyday tasks such as email, CRM, expense processing, HR and ERP are all increasingly taking place in the cloud, even if the end-users don't know it. Those who we've helped integrate into this new world report back improved returns and greater end-user satisfaction. Even more importantly, their own work has become more fun and interesting, and they're at last getting well-deserved credit for a job well done.#

About the author:

Antoine Leboyer, President and CEO of GSX Solutions. He holds an engineering degree from the Ecole Superieure d'Electricité in France and an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School. He is co-author of the book "Building Routes to Customers: Proven Strategies for Profitable Growth." In his spare time, Antoine is a frequent contributor to www.concertonet.com.

LinkedIN: https://www.linkedin.com/in/antoineleboyer/