One of the major themes that emerged from CMSWire’s DX Summit conference in Chicago two weeks ago was the need for marketing professionals to have access to performance data describing their customers’ experiences.

Some of these people did not know this data may already be collected by their own organizations or how to get a hold of it.

A principal vendor in the applications performance management (APM) space is New Relic, which sent a liaison to DX Summit to speak with us and with our attendees. The following week, New Relic produced its own conference in San Francisco, FutureStack 15, where one of the emerging themes was the same dilemma, but from the reverse angle:

APM specialists and DevOps professionals say they’re making the business case for opening up performance data for analytical access by all stakeholders, including marketing. But they’re not getting the “buy-in” they need, especially from executives and operations managers who control the budgets.

Developers First

CMSWire spoke with New Relic Chief Product Officer Jim Gochee, who sees the same trend from both sides now, from up and down. And still somehow, even though New Relic is building its APM service into an analytics cloud accessible to all, the solution to getting every stakeholder in their respective departments on the same page, has not presented itself.

New Relic Chief Product Officer Jim Gochee at FutureStack 15

“Our theory behind it is, it all goes through the software development team,” said Gochee.

“Your customers are in your software, engaging with your company. Who’s interested in that? Well, everybody in the company, in different ways,” he continued, “the marketing people, sales people, tech support people, developers, product managers.”

Software architects and IT professionals are the people most responsible for bringing New Relic — and any other APM tool, for that matter — into the enterprise, the CPO noted. This creates a phenomenon that Gochee refers to as “digital exhaust.”

It’s a cloudy way of referring to all the event data generated through the signals produced by distributed software. By itself, it may not make a lot of sense to marketing professionals.

Making sense out of it requires a process of annotation — of tagging certain signals, so that rules and policies can locate them amid the “exhaust.”

“So now you don’t have this anonymous flow of data; you have this rich sense of who the customer is,” explained Gochee. “Then maybe the marketing team or the sales team will start to look for patterns among customers spending a certain amount of money, or customers with more than twenty users accessing.

“To get that extra level of richness requires a bit of source code modification,” he proceeded.

Inciting the act of modification is the puzzle that all APM vendors — certainly Dynatrace, as we discovered last month, and competitor New Relic this month — are working to solve. Gochee said New Relic believes getting the marketing team on-board requires a bit of hook-baiting.

Developers Second

He perceives software development teams as being the center of their organizations. (You may disagree, but keep in mind that developers definitely are the core of New Relic’s customer base.)

The “bait” comes in the form of analytics dashboards — bits and pieces of well-charted, graphically splendid data based on live, accumulated performance data. In Gochee’s experience, executives don’t sign off on expenditures for something they can’t see with their own eyes.

“Then it organically starts to grow,” New Relic’s CPO told CMSWire. “We don’t push it. We don’t promote it. We almost don’t even really fully understand how the organics happen.

“But we know that when we give the tech team access to insights, and they start to use it for themselves, it’s like planting a seed. Then that seed starts to grow inside of the company.”

As one example, Gochee cited New Relic customer Rackspace, which brought its APM and Insights query tool into its organization to conduct live network performance analysis.

At some point within Rackspace, he said, the germination of the idea of using performance analysis to track customer experience, simply happened. It wasn’t promoted or suggested from outside — and Gochee implied that, if it had been, it might actually never have happened at all.

Software developers are clever people, he said. If there’s a way to market something inside an organization in such a way that even marketers will listen to it, developers will find a way.

Dynatrace is already moving toward a kind of “customer experience index” or “customer performance index” (depending upon who’s looking at it; it’s the same index), presented as a pre-configured happiness meter of sorts for its own analytics tool. Should New Relic plan something similar?

“I think that’s definitely an area we’re looking at for the future,” said Gochee. “What we have today is very much a tool kit; we don’t really expect businesspeople to fully get in and customize the toolkit. We expect developers to assist.”

And Would You Believe, Developers Third?

Certainly competitors are making strong marketing pushes toward business users, he acknowledged. “But what we believe happens is, the business users don’t really try to make it work, because they’re busy people and they don’t typically have time to go explore and try things out.”

For this reason, he said, businesspeople will look to more technically-minded people for assistance. Here’s where it gets tricky, because the more technically-minded people should be — but all too often, for whatever reason, are not — the same people who actually have access to this data.

“I honestly question whether businesspeople are really configuring and setting anything up,” New Relic’s CPO told CMSWire. “Nevertheless, I think the vision of the future that you paint — a more curated customer experience interface, where there’s a lot out-of-the-box, and a lot of insights right from the get-go — is definitely something we see in our future at some point. It’s the next logical step for us.”

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Title image by David Straight