Study Finds Performance Review Moves to Front Burner

When it comes to making sure applications and systems are running optimally, IT attitudes in the last three years have changed dramatically, even if some bad habits remain.

When it comes to making sure applications and systems are running optimally, IT attitudes in the last three years have changed dramatically, even if some bad habits remain.

A new study by market research company Newport Group Inc. found that many more IT shops today continually seek feedback on the performance of their applications and systems.

The study, a repeat of one conducted in 1999, found that 53 percent of participants regularly review reported data to measure performance. Thats an 800 percent increase over the 6 percent who did so three years ago.

"We see that IT managers and CIOs are more attuned with the performance of their applications. As organizations have deployed front-facing, revenue-generating applications, they realize the performance of these applications is tied to revenue," said study author Kevin Gallagher, an analyst at Newport Group, in South Yarmouth, Mass.

Study participants were directly involved in the management of application performance and represented a number of large IT shops at insurance companies, manufacturers and government agencies. They reported average annual IT budgets of $303 million.

Such organizations may be taking their cue from e-commerce companies, which live and die by the availability and performance of their applications, industry sources say.

"Weve always looked at our performance continuously," said Inc. CIO Ron Rose, in Norwalk, Conn. "Even at my level, I look at various business metrics every hour to verify the transaction flow through our system is healthy."

A larger number of participants this year said they cared to know if their applications were performing optimally. Seventy-five percent indicated they cared to know versus 58 percent of the participants in 1999.

Despite the downturn in IT spending, 67 percent expected to see an increase in their budgets over the next 24 months for performance management tools. But with the heavy emphasis on return on investment, that trend is likely to favor smaller vendors with less expensive and easier-to-implement tools, Newport Groups Gallagher said.

"We found IT managers are required to prove ROI to upper management. They cant afford to invest in something thats expensive, long to implement and may not work," Gallagher said.

One thing that hasnt changed, however, is the lack of collaboration and communication among IT groups. Only 42 percent of participants said their IT application development staff and operations staff worked "very collaboratively" with strong lines of communication. In 1999, 50 percent reported good collaboration and communication.

Lack of collaboration could explain why the average time to resolve a performance problem is still around 25 hours, according to the study.

"There is still a lot of finger pointing that has a major impact on the success of projects," said Gallagher. "The organizations that have a higher percentage of success have strong lines of communication among the departments that have a stake in the technology."

But the advent of Web services could serve to change that dynamic, said Pricelines Rose.

"Weve never had [finger pointing among groups], and I dont think we ever will. When we have a production problem, we get a representative from every group involved in the resolution of each problem. People are taught from the very early days were all in this together as a team," Rose said.