Time for a Change – Welcome to The APM Practice

APM – Application Performance Management – is a very well established technology (~20 years old) for gathering and disseminating performance information about business applications.  This simple concept generates a lot of complexity because of the very broad impact it can have on an organization’s IT Operations, the Business Sponsor, Software Testing and Software Development.  There are also some complexities introduced by vendor positioning – claims, features, functionality and capabilities.  And there is also a fluid set of priorities and terminology introduced by the various research firms who evaluate the vendors and define the marketplace.  To the newcomer – it’s a mess of conflicting messages.  To the ‘salty dog’ – it’s just software sales and marketing 101.

My goal is to cut through the hype and focus on how you actually live with and employ these tools.  What do you really get?  What do you need to do to be successful?  What are the impediments to success you need to avoid?  What should you be doing to be a superstar?  Most of this will be from the ‘practitioner viewpoint’ – how exactly how I get it done with the artifacts I’ll make available under open-source principles.  And I will also discuss the tools I’m looking for and what I think the future may bring.  I don’t want the recipe for success to be a secret any longer nor overburdened by the unavoidable market positioning.

I’ve spent the last 12 years collecting and refining best practices around performance management but was unable to establish a consistent delivery model for bringing these techniques to the organizations that need them.  That’s on me – I could not get the elephant to dance.  Part of it was because the original offerings were considered proprietary as they conferred a powerful competitive advantage in selling performance management software.  No one likes to give that advantage away.  At the same time, the techniques were actually “vendor neutral” and could exploit any variety of tools in establishing a capable practice around APM, not simply the product I was representing at the time.  This makes for an uncomfortable feeling among the sales team as the product distinctions dissolve away, even as it would result in stunning deal-size multiples later.  When you educate a customer on how to be successful with technology, they never forget who gave them that education.

But the biggest impediment is that establishing a viable, renewable, APM practice simply cannot be achieved in a calendar week or two.  While it actually only needs about 100-150 hrs, these contact hours need to be delivered over 6-18 months.  This is what I call discontinuous service delivery and it makes consulting/services organizations cringe!  It makes it really hard to schedule resources to be on-site.  It makes it really hard to keep consultants busy and billable (utilization target and bonus).  It makes it really hard to predict revenue and long-term staffing needs.  Over the years, I’ve spoken with dozens of integrator and service firms and this is the absolute reality – they simply cannot solve the ask within the traditional services business model.

Why does it take 6-18 months when the technology can be deployed in days!!!

Simple.  In my experience, 95% of achieving a successful APM practice is about organizational change.  It really has almost nothing to do with the tools and technology.  Really.  The tools generate the data easy enough but harnessing the data – that’s where the bulk of organizational change is required.  This APM visibility is something that folks have not had before, nor have they had to consider bringing all of the stakeholders in coordination in employing the data.

So what is actually happening, over the 6-18 months that it takes an APM practice to be successfully established, is process re-engineering, process documentation, acceptance criteria AND a deployment phase of some 12-16 weeks, depending on scope.

So what processes?  What is a phased deployment?  Who staffs this initiative?  What does my project manager do?  How do I get funding?  Show me a schedule!  When can we start!!

These are the questions that I will be answering, over the next couple months.  I’m planning a bunch of videos – should be cool.  If you really, really can’t wait, I already told the story (spoiler alert) in APM best practices: Realizing Application Performance Management – check it out (paper and electronic).  I’ve also collected some other papers, articles PPT and webinars here, and I’ll be adding to this resource page as I find (or contribute) items of merit.

One of the upcoming videos will be a discussion of the service offerings available from The APM Practice, LLC.  I’m using a retainer-based model to solve the discontinuous service delivery problem, not unlike a legal practice.  You can get access to my experience and wisdom, as needed, throughout your journey in harnessing APM visibility, remote and on-site, as appropriate.

But I really expect most of you all, to do this yourselves.  So the videos will include the same introductory presentation I make to prospective clients.  You’ll see the same proposal overview for a Service Bureau or COE.  You’ll see the same introduction to the APM Maturity Model as well as the typical technology topics I am asked to illuminate.  As APM vendors allow, I’ll even share the mentoring sessions I deliver that demonstrate exactly how to employ a given tool to participate in a specific process – but this is a stretch goal.  The primary goal of this consultancy is to provide the materials so that a couple of hours on your part will be useful to guide and accelerate your own initiative.  And if it is too hard a problem – then that’s where I can come in and join your team.

Another feature I’ll be implementing is to establish a practitioner track.  There are a variety of roles that an APM initiative will introduce.  The APM Specialist role is a particular track that was used to mentor candidates for the APM SWAT team that I recently left.  This is a self-paced mentoring program, not unlike the Data Scientist track at Coursera.  The mentoring program was pretty effective at going from ‘zero to hero’ for internal candidates.  There is no reason some of you might not benefit from a little more structure in your own practice.

Could I also offer an “APM Practitioner Certification”?  Might be a good idea – your comments will let me know.  The Skills Assessment practice component was originally established to evaluate reseller progress with APM.  The Competency exercises in the book are used during a Service Bureau or COE project, to ensure folks demonstrate the appropriate skills set.  All the foundation is ready.

Could I also put the whole thing on Coursera?  I’d be open to that but we all need to keep perspective – APM is really a highly specialized community – not a lot of people!  Let’s see what we can accomplish through our APM Community.  But if the demand is there – why not! My commitment is to ‘tear down the wall’ about how to be successful with APM.  There is no future success for me – unless there is ongoing success for you.  Believe me – I am “all in” on this one!