Welcome!

Microservices Expo Authors: Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Yeshim Deniz, Carmen Gonzalez

Related Topics: Microservices Expo

Microservices Expo: Blog Feed Post

A Formula for Quantifying Productivity of Web Applications

Ever wanted to prove or understand how the network impacts productivity? There is a formula for that…

We often talk in abstract terms about the affects of application performance on productivity. It seems to make sense that if an application is performing poorly – or unavailable – that it will certainly affect the productivity of those who rely upon that application. But it’s hard enough to justify the investment in application acceleration or optimization without being able to demonstrate a real impact on the organization. And right now justification is more of an issue than it’s ever been. 

So let’s take the example of a call center to begin with. Could be customer service supporting customers/users, or a help desk supporting internal users, or even a phone-based order-entry department. Any “call center” that relies on a combination of the telephone and an application to support its processes is sensitive to delays in delivering and outages of applications. 

This excellent article from Call Center Magazine details some of the essential Call Center KPIs, the metrics upon which call center efficiency and thus productivity is measured.

tiredThe best measure of labor efficiency is agent utilization. Because labor costs represent the overwhelming majority of call center expenses, if agent utilization is high, the cost per call will inevitably be low. Conversely, when agent utilization is low, labor costs, and hence cost per call, will be high.

That all makes sense, but what we want – and need – is a formula for determining “agent utilization.”

The formula for determining agent utilization is somewhat complicated. It factors in the length of the work day, break times, vacation and sick time, training time and a number of other factors. But there is an easy way to approximate agent utilization without going to all this trouble:

Let's say, for example that the agents in a particular call center handle an average of 1,250 calls per month at an average handle time of 5 minutes. Additionally, these agents work an average of 21 days per month, and their work day is 7.5 hours after subtracting lunch and break times. The simplified utilization formula above would work out to the following:

Once again, this is not a perfect measure of agent utilization, but it is quick and easy, and gets you within 5% of the true agent utilization figure.

Okay, again that makes sense. And now that we’ve got a formula from which to work we can look at the impact of application performance – both negative and positive – on “agent utilization.”


HIGHER UTILIZATION NOT ALWAYS DESIRABLE


You’ve heard it, I’m sure. The plaintive “my computer is slow today, please hang on a moment…” coming from the other end of the phone is a dead-ringer for “application performance has degraded.” Those of us intimately familiar with data centers and application delivery understand it isn’t really the “computer” that’s slow, but the application – and likely the underlying application delivery network responsible for ensuring things are going smoothly.

The reason the explanation is plaintive is because call center employees of every kind know exactly how they’re rated and measured and understand that a “slow computer” necessarily adds time to their average call handle time. And the higher the average call handle time, the lower their utilization, which brings down the overall efficiency of the call center. But just how much does application performance affect average call handle time?

Let’s assume that the number of “screens” or “pages” a call center handler has to navigate during a call to retrieve relevant information is five. If the average handle time is five minutes, that’s one minute per page. If application performance problems increase the average time per page to one minute and twelve seconds, that’d bring our total time per call up to six minutes.

          1250 x 6 / 9450 = 79.3%

Hey, that’s actually better, isn’t it? Higher utilization of agents means lower costs per call, which certainly makes it appear as though we ought to introduce some latency into the network to make the numbers look better. There are a couple of reasons why this is not true. First and foremost is the effect of high utilization on people. As is pointed out by the aforementioned article:

Whenever utilization numbers approach 80% - 90%, that call center will see relatively high agent turnover rates because they are pushing the agents too hard.

Turnover, of course, is bad because it incurs costs in terms of employee acquisition and training, during which time the efficiency of the call center is reduced. There is also the potential for a cascading effect from turnover in which the bulk of calls are placed upon the shoulders of experienced call center workers which increases their utilization and leads to even higher turnover rates. Like a snowball, the effect of turnover on a call center is quickly cumulative.

Secondly, increasing call handle time also adversely affects the total number of calls a handler can deal with in any given time period. As handle time per call increases, total number of calls per month decreases, which actually changes the equation. There are 9450 minutes in a month, which means at 5 minutes per call there is a maximum of 1890 calls that can be handled. At 6 minutes per call that decreases to 1575. That’s a 17% decrease in total for every minute the average call handle time increases. No call center handles 100% of the calls it theoretically could, but the impact on the number of calls possible will still be affected – decreased – by an increase in the average call handle time due to poor application performance.


GENERALIZING THE FORMULA


What this ultimately means is that worsening application performance reduces the efficiency of call centers by decreasing the number of calls it can handle. That’s productivity in a call center. Applying the same theory to other applications should yield unsurprisingly similar results: degradation of application performance means degrading productivity which means less work is getting done. Any role within the organization that relies upon an application can be essentially measured in terms of the number of “processes” that can be completed in a given time interval. Using that figure it then becomes a matter of decomposing the process into steps (pages, screens, etc…) and determining how much time is spent per step. Application performance affects the whole, but is especially detrimental to individual steps in a process as lengthening one draws out the entire process and thus reduces the total number of “processes” that can be completed.

So we can generalize into a formula that is:

    ((total # of processes per month) * (average number of minutes to complete a process)) / 9450

where 9450 is the total number of minutes available per month. Adjust as necessary.

To determine the impact of degrading application performance, lengthen the process complete time in minutes appropriately while simultaneously adjusting the total number of processes that can be carried out in a month. Try not to exceed a 70% utilization rate as just as with call center employees, burnout from too many back-to-back processes can result in a higher turnover rate.

 


THE IMPACT OF APPLICATION DELIVERY


 

Finally, we can examine whether or not application delivery can improve the productivity of those who rely on the applications you are charged with delivering. To determine the impact of application delivery this time shorten the process complete time in minutes appropriately while simultaneously adjusting the total number of processes that can be handled per month. Again, try not to exceed a 70% utilization rate.

Alternatively, you could use the base formula to determine what kind of improvements in application performance are necessary in order to increase productivity or, in some cases, maintain it. Many folks have experienced an “upgrade” in an enterprise application that causes productivity to plummet because the newer system my have more bells and whistles, but it’s slower for some reason. Basically you need to determine the number of processes you need to handle per month and the utilization rate you’re trying to achieve and use the following formula to determine exactly how much time each process can take before you miss that mark:

(9450 x Utilization Rate ) / # of processes = process time

This allows you to work backward and understand how much time any given process can take before it starts to adversely affect productivity. You’ll need to understand how much of the process time should be allotted to mundane steps in the process, i.e. taking information from customers, entering the data, etc…, and factor that out to determine how much time can be spent traversing the network and in application execution time. Given that number you can then figure out what kind of application delivery solutions will be able to help you meet that target number and ensure that IT is not a productivity bottleneck. Whether it’s acceleration or optimization, or scaling out to meet higher capacity you are likely to find what you need to meet your piece of the productivity puzzle in an application delivery solution.

This also means that you can be confident that “the computer was slow” is not a valid excuse when productivity metrics are missed, and probably more importantly, you can prove it.

Follow me on Twitter View Lori's profile on SlideShare friendfeedicon_facebook AddThis Feed Button Bookmark and Share

Related blogs & articles:

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Lori MacVittie

Lori MacVittie is responsible for education and evangelism of application services available across F5’s entire product suite. Her role includes authorship of technical materials and participation in a number of community-based forums and industry standards organizations, among other efforts. MacVittie has extensive programming experience as an application architect, as well as network and systems development and administration expertise. Prior to joining F5, MacVittie was an award-winning Senior Technology Editor at Network Computing Magazine, where she conducted product research and evaluation focused on integration with application and network architectures, and authored articles on a variety of topics aimed at IT professionals. Her most recent area of focus included SOA-related products and architectures. She holds a B.S. in Information and Computing Science from the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay, and an M.S. in Computer Science from Nova Southeastern University.

@MicroservicesExpo Stories
Building custom add-ons does not need to be limited to the ideas you see on a marketplace. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Sukhbir Dhillon, CEO and founder of Addteq, will go over some adventures they faced in developing integrations using Atlassian SDK and other technologies/platforms and how it has enabled development teams to experiment with newer paradigms like Serverless and newer features of Atlassian SDKs. In this presentation, you will be taken on a journey of Add-On and Integration ...
Culture is the most important ingredient of DevOps. The challenge for most organizations is defining and communicating a vision of beneficial DevOps culture for their organizations, and then facilitating the changes needed to achieve that. Often this comes down to an ability to provide true leadership. As a CIO, are your direct reports IT managers or are they IT leaders? The hard truth is that many IT managers have risen through the ranks based on their technical skills, not their leadership abi...
The essence of cloud computing is that all consumable IT resources are delivered as services. In his session at 15th Cloud Expo, Yung Chou, Technology Evangelist at Microsoft, demonstrated the concepts and implementations of two important cloud computing deliveries: Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS). He discussed from business and technical viewpoints what exactly they are, why we care, how they are different and in what ways, and the strategies for IT to transi...
Without a clear strategy for cost control and an architecture designed with cloud services in mind, costs and operational performance can quickly get out of control. To avoid multiple architectural redesigns requires extensive thought and planning. Boundary (now part of BMC) launched a new public-facing multi-tenant high resolution monitoring service on Amazon AWS two years ago, facing challenges and learning best practices in the early days of the new service.
All organizations that did not originate this moment have a pre-existing culture as well as legacy technology and processes that can be more or less amenable to DevOps implementation. That organizational culture is influenced by the personalities and management styles of Executive Management, the wider culture in which the organization is situated, and the personalities of key team members at all levels of the organization. This culture and entrenched interests usually throw a wrench in the work...
DevOps is often described as a combination of technology and culture. Without both, DevOps isn't complete. However, applying the culture to outdated technology is a recipe for disaster; as response times grow and connections between teams are delayed by technology, the culture will die. A Nutanix Enterprise Cloud has many benefits that provide the needed base for a true DevOps paradigm.
As software becomes more and more complex, we, as software developers, have been splitting up our code into smaller and smaller components. This is also true for the environment in which we run our code: going from bare metal, to VMs to the modern-day Cloud Native world of containers, schedulers and micro services. While we have figured out how to run containerized applications in the cloud using schedulers, we've yet to come up with a good solution to bridge the gap between getting your contain...
As organizations realize the scope of the Internet of Things, gaining key insights from Big Data, through the use of advanced analytics, becomes crucial. However, IoT also creates the need for petabyte scale storage of data from millions of devices. A new type of Storage is required which seamlessly integrates robust data analytics with massive scale. These storage systems will act as “smart systems” provide in-place analytics that speed discovery and enable businesses to quickly derive meaningf...
DevOps is often described as a combination of technology and culture. Without both, DevOps isn't complete. However, applying the culture to outdated technology is a recipe for disaster; as response times grow and connections between teams are delayed by technology, the culture will die. A Nutanix Enterprise Cloud has many benefits that provide the needed base for a true DevOps paradigm. In his Day 3 Keynote at 20th Cloud Expo, Chris Brown, a Solutions Marketing Manager at Nutanix, will explore t...
DevOps has often been described in terms of CAMS: Culture, Automation, Measuring, Sharing. While we’ve seen a lot of focus on the “A” and even on the “M”, there are very few examples of why the “C" is equally important in the DevOps equation. In her session at @DevOps Summit, Lori MacVittie, of F5 Networks, explored HTTP/1 and HTTP/2 along with Microservices to illustrate why a collaborative culture between Dev, Ops, and the Network is critical to ensuring success.
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing Cloud strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @CloudExpo | @ThingsExpo, June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY and October 31 - November 2, 2017, Santa Clara Convention Center, CA. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is on the right path to Digital Transformation.
Everyone wants to use containers, but monitoring containers is hard. New ephemeral architecture introduces new challenges in how monitoring tools need to monitor and visualize containers, so your team can make sense of everything. In his session at @DevOpsSummit, David Gildeh, co-founder and CEO of Outlyer, will go through the challenges and show there is light at the end of the tunnel if you use the right tools and understand what you need to be monitoring to successfully use containers in your...
What if you could build a web application that could support true web-scale traffic without having to ever provision or manage a single server? Sounds magical, and it is! In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Chris Munns, Senior Developer Advocate for Serverless Applications at Amazon Web Services, will show how to build a serverless website that scales automatically using services like AWS Lambda, Amazon API Gateway, and Amazon S3. We will review several frameworks that can help you build serverle...
The IT industry is undergoing a significant evolution to keep up with cloud application demand. We see this happening as a mindset shift, from traditional IT teams to more well-rounded, cloud-focused job roles. The IT industry has become so cloud-minded that Gartner predicts that by 2020, this cloud shift will impact more than $1 trillion of global IT spending. This shift, however, has left some IT professionals feeling a little anxious about what lies ahead. The good news is that cloud computin...
SYS-CON Events announced today that HTBase will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. HTBase (Gartner 2016 Cool Vendor) delivers a Composable IT infrastructure solution architected for agility and increased efficiency. It turns compute, storage, and fabric into fluid pools of resources that are easily composed and re-composed to meet each application’s needs. With HTBase, companies can quickly prov...
An overall theme of Cloud computing and the specific practices within it is fundamentally one of automation. The core value of technology is to continually automate low level procedures to free up people to work on more value add activities, ultimately leading to the utopian goal of full Autonomic Computing. For example a great way to define your plan for DevOps tool chain adoption is through this lens. In this TechTarget article they outline a simple maturity model for planning this.
While DevOps most critically and famously fosters collaboration, communication, and integration through cultural change, culture is more of an output than an input. In order to actively drive cultural evolution, organizations must make substantial organizational and process changes, and adopt new technologies, to encourage a DevOps culture. Moderated by Andi Mann, panelists discussed how to balance these three pillars of DevOps, where to focus attention (and resources), where organizations might...
The rise of containers and microservices has skyrocketed the rate at which new applications are moved into production environments today. While developers have been deploying containers to speed up the development processes for some time, there still remain challenges with running microservices efficiently. Most existing IT monitoring tools don’t actually maintain visibility into the containers that make up microservices. As those container applications move into production, some IT operations t...
For organizations that have amassed large sums of software complexity, taking a microservices approach is the first step toward DevOps and continuous improvement / development. Integrating system-level analysis with microservices makes it easier to change and add functionality to applications at any time without the increase of risk. Before you start big transformation projects or a cloud migration, make sure these changes won’t take down your entire organization.
Software development is a moving target. You have to keep your eye on trends in the tech space that haven’t even happened yet just to stay current. Consider what’s happened with augmented reality (AR) in this year alone. If you said you were working on an AR app in 2015, you might have gotten a lot of blank stares or jokes about Google Glass. Then Pokémon GO happened. Like AR, the trends listed below have been building steam for some time, but they’ll be taking off in surprising new directions b...