Software robots made by Servicetrace have been available since 2004. Sonja Weigl, a long-term key account manager at Servicetrace, is also responsible for the field of application performance monitoring (APM). Here, software robots imitate users of business-critical applications and constantly check whether these systems can be accessed and operated by real end users. The market uses various terms to describe this, such as digital experience monitoring (Gartner), active or synthetic end-to-end monitoring, and end-user experience monitoring. No matter what you call it, availability and performance checks from the user's perspective minimize the risk of downtime, ensure business continuity and increase customer satisfaction.

Sonja, can you tell us what end-user experience monitoring is and how it differs from more general application performance monitoring?

Whether it’s a company’s worldwide SAP system or a simple online shop, business-critical systems and applications need to run smoothly. Poor performance or outages in digital environments have a negative impact on business: Employee productivity and customer satisfaction decline, high (and unnecessary) costs arise due to errors – and sooner or later, this affects a company’s success and reputation.

Sonja Weigl, Servicetrace

“There is a tendency to cut back on end-user experience monitoring. It’s evident in the current Covid-19 crisis: Investments in risk minimization aren’t considered until an emergency occurs. In reality, a proactive approach to the end user experience offers companies many business benefits.”

Sonja Weigl, Key Account Manager (Software Robotics), Servicetrace

Large companies with several locations and 3,000 users or more have more complex data center constellations. At this scale, effective application monitoring from the user perspective is essential. This is what we refer to as end-user experience monitoring. The end user might be an internal member of an IT department or an external customer. Basically, it's all about the continuous availability and functionality of IT systems, but always from the end user's point of view.

In large organizations, IT services are usually covered by a dedicated team and defined service level agreements (SLAs). Our end-user experience monitoring solution helps IT departments prove that these SLAs are being fulfilled from the user's perspective. This is particularly interesting for large outsourcing companies, of course.

In recent years, the issue of end-user experience monitoring has moved up the IT agenda. We’re also noticing strong demand for end-user experience monitoring in real time.By proactively monitoring the end user experience, an IT service can take action before a traditional application performance monitoring tool would recognize the problem.

So how has this market developed in recent years?

The potential customer base has increased. Now more than ever, the advance of digitalization (including new digital business models) requires proactive end-user experience monitoring. There are two drivers with regard to external customers: purchasing behavior that reflects high standards, and an increased digital presence. Faster release cycles and the faster introduction of innovations also require more monitoring. Once a company generates digital revenue, it should safeguard it while minimizing risks. To understand this, just imagine what it would mean for a "digital pure player" like Uber or Alibaba if their applications were to fail.

Customer expectations also apply to internal customers, of course, but they won’t immediately change providers if an internal application isn’t available. Meanwhile, this is another area where globalization has its price: As companies operate in increasingly international and interconnected networks, the more complex the methods of their IT departments become – in virtualized IT environments such as Citrix, for example. In settings like these, traditional application performance monitoring systems frequently reach their limits because they don’t include the end user.

In terms of suppliers, the market has consolidated. The major APM vendors have withdrawn from proactive end-user experience monitoring in order to focus on "big-picture" APM.

As relevant as proactive end-user monitoring is to digitalization, it also bears similarities to the issue of IT security. When the focus is on budgets and saving costs, such monitoring is often no longer a priority. Unfortunately, prevention and risk management tend to appear on the agenda only when a worst-case scenario actually occurs, as we’re seeing now with the coronavirus pandemic. This is why it’s much easier to bring up topics such as prevention, risk minimization and safety at the moment.

What challenges are customers currently facing when it comes to end-user experience monitoring?

On the one hand, they want it to be easy to implement in technical terms. Process automation needs to be fast and simple – and above all, not reliant on third-party suppliers. This increases both overall acceptance and the ways in which monitoring can be used. At the same time, large organizations in particular need a solution that can cope with the complex requirements of their data centers.

Another challenge for companies is internationality. A good end-user experience solution is easy to use in different time zones around the world. The topic of change management is also very important because the dynamics of the economy and technology are constantly resulting in new conditions and opportunities. This is something IT needs to adapt to, as well, so a monitoring product needs to make it easy to map and manage changes.

Simple and flexible licensing models are also important to our customers. The flexibility helps them deploy end-user experience monitoring that’s tailored to their specific needs in a cost-efficient manner.

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Why do customers choose Servicetrace’s end-user experience solution?

People quickly recognize the added value of our solution. Servicetrace’s end-user experience monitoring integrates seamlessly into existing APM systems such as Dynatrace, Splunk or Microsoft SCOM and feeds these platforms with valuable KPIs on performance from the user's perspective. The solution is very comprehensive and maps every user activity in every application. Plus, its multi-client-capable architecture and integrated time zone management are designed for international use.

At the same time, Servicetrace’s solution is uniquely easy to use from a technical perspective. After a short training session, users can set up and maintain software robots themselves – without the need for additional external service providers and the associated follow-up costs. This is really resonating with our customers.

There are two other big advantages that many of our customers appreciate:

  • First, Servicetrace’s solution really can monitor any application regardless of the underlying technology. In this respect, we score particularly well in end-user experience monitoring for virtualized desktop environments such as Citrix. This is a pitfall for many competing solutions. To ensure reliably stable Citrix automation, Servicetrace is equipped with sophisticated image-recognition technology, as well as intelligent and powerful optical character recognition (OCR).

  • Secondly, Servicetrace has developed a patented process that is unique in the market and enables both compliant, secure operation and cost-efficient scaling of the monitoring environment.

For example, we replaced 500 robotic machines with just five at a large international bank. That amounts to a tenfold reduction in costs! It was made possible by our vertical scaling approach, which allows several software robots to work in parallel on one physical terminal or virtual machine.

Last but not least, our customers appreciate how accessible we are and the professional support we provide. Since this owner-managed German company was founded, we’ve been developing our software in close cooperation with our users. Our CEO, Markus Duus, works alongside our employees at our customers' offices. This creates valuable synergies for both our customers and us. That’s why staying in touch with our customers and their needs is our credo.

To learn more about Servicetrace’s unique Secure Session technology, download this whitepaper.