What is digital experience monitoring (DEM)?
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Published: 2/16/2024
Contributors: Keith O'Brien

What is digital experience monitoring (DEM)?

Digital experience monitoring (DEM) is a performance analysis practice that combines application performance monitoring (APM) and end user experience monitoring to analyze the performance of digital applications and services.

The goal of DEM, sometimes called digital experience management, is to understand the performance of mobile and web applications, APIs, websites and other endpoints—and the experience of the users who interact with them. With this information, organizations can determine how to optimize service and application performance.

As more organizations engage in digital transformation initiatives and start digital businesses or business components, the number of digital application and service users (and user devices) has increased. As a result, IT environments have grown more complex, making end-to-end visibility more difficult. McKinsey reported (link resides outside ibm.com) in 2021 that IT monitoring is now a USD 11.8 billion industry.

DEM solutions, most of which are software-as-a-service (SaaS) tools, provide organizations with several important benefits. DEM dashboards give DevOps professionals, such as site reliability engineers, the ability to observe user experience, correlate incidents with larger problems, and set and evaluate performance benchmarks. DEM is a tool for both customer relationship management and employee experience management, as both parties use an organization’s applications.

The ability to observe application functionality and network performance in real time is critical to delivering an excellent customer experience. Such user experiences help drive positive business outcomes.

DEM is a core component of application performance monitoring (APM), a discipline that’s grown in importance given the demands of modern customers regarding downtime, latency, or other factors that influence substandard services.

DEM evaluates the entire end-to-end journey from the backend and data center to user device. End-user experience monitoring (EUEM), which concerns itself only with the effect on the end user, is a component of DEM.

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Why is digital experience monitoring important?

There are three specific reasons why DEM is a critical IT services function:

DEM orients the organization’s view toward the end user:

Understanding how end users experience a solution is the best way to gauge how its performance.

DEM helps identify issues:

The increase in complexity in IT services means that an incident can have an incremental effect on other parts of the organization. It’s best to identify an incident before it turns into a larger problem that creates additional issues.

DEM helps diagnose complications in the user experience:

DEM tools evaluate how users interact with an organization’s web services to see if there are too many steps involved, or if too much information is requested, factors that prevent interested parties from becoming customers.

Digital experience monitoring tools and techniques

IT operations teams create a comprehensive DEM strategy that involves several key DEM tools and techniques to ensure the best possible performance of their applications. DEM tools help improve observability, which is the ability to understand a system’s current state based on system output.

Real user monitoring (RUM):

Also known as end user monitoring (EUM), real user monitoring examines activity on live websites and apps by analyzing real-time browser request times, route loading times, or mobile app loading times. It accounts for unique user behavior and provides realistic performance data that allows DevOps teams to address issues, conduct remediation and optimize applications.

Synthetic transaction monitoring (STM):

This technique simulates user actions through scripts and monitors the results to identify actionable insights such as slow response times, security issues or login issues. Synthetic monitoring is a powerful tool that is used to trace applications throughout the customer journey to understand the application’s functionality. STM can create API test scripts to determine whether errors, slow response times or missing functions are likely.

Using an STM program to proactively detect incidents enables DevOps teams to address them before they become larger issues on the live site. Organizations can set up STMs to run at continuous intervals.

Most DEM providers combine RUM and STM data in one dashboard to help ITOps and DevOps teams troubleshoot user experience issues as quickly as possible.

Real-time performance metrics:

DEM tools provide insights on the digital experience as a whole. They produce data points regarding page load time issues, including first and largest contentful paint (LCP); errors, such as broken links and server outages; and network performance issues like latency and bandwidth capacity.

Automatic, distributed tracing:

This technology helps determine root causes, prevent incidents, and assist IT professionals in managing incident remediation. It enables organizations to optimize and fortify their digital endpoints.

Smart alerts

Smart alerts enable IT operations teams to receive immediate diagnostic information if an STM test fails or if there are issues with real-world user interactions.

Common digital experience monitoring use cases

Digital experience monitoring solutions are often used to generate deep insights and improve performance in the following areas:

Website login

It is critical for a modern organization to ensure that its users can securely log in to the organization’s website to make a payment, receive emails or cancel a subscription. Recognizing and troubleshooting website login issues is a key component to improving customer satisfaction.

API endpoints

Organizations depend on application programming interfaces (APIs) to provide more robust services to their customers and employees. APIs enable the organization’s server or application to communicate with third-party applications.

Examples include the ability to log into a website by using your login information from a social media platform or email provider, or a restaurant reservation application that includes weather data by pulling information from a weather forecast provider. An issue with an API call can have a compounding effect on an organization’s other services. This highlights the importance of DEM in identifying incidents before they become larger problems.

Website or application responsiveness

DEM tools monitor the performance of web pages and applications, and the overall experience of the user accessing them. If latency issues or unanticipated downtime exist, a DEM tool alerts DevOps teams that these issues need to be remediated.

Financial transactions

Organizations that sell goods or services online must pay close attention to their ability to accept payments safely, securely and seamlessly. Users will cancel a transaction if a system takes too long or if they feel their bank or credit card information is not safe. Since many payments today involve the use of third-party API calls, it is important to regularly monitor this process to ensure that it is working as intended.

Holistic user journey analysis

To be most effective, IT team monitoring capabilities must cover the entire customer journey. DEM tools help teams achieve this, allowing them to monitor the entire process, from the moment a user accesses a website or application until they exit.

Key digital experience monitoring benefits

DEM solutions provide several benefits, including:

- Responsive digital endpoints:
IT teams that can monitor digital experience from the customer’s perspective will be able to ensure a higher degree of endpoint responsiveness, minimizing the potential for unscheduled downtime. This is important to maintain high user satisfaction.

- Faster website and application response times:
Understanding whether the organization’s services are underperforming—and if so, by how much—enables site reliability managers and IT teams to make more educated decisions about remediation. Quick alerts help minimize the number of employees or customers who have negative experiences.

- Better end-user experiences: Examining how users interact with an organization’s web services helps improve customer experience. For example, if users are not completing a sign-up or payment process, it might be because there is an issue in the process. Maybe there are too many steps needed to complete an action, or there is an especially slow-loading page, or the user is asked to complete too many fields. DEM tools help detect errors and log user reactions to subpar experiences.

Service level agreement (SLA) compliance: Many organizations offer customers a certain expectation of website or application uptime and availability, pursuant to the contract the customer signs when procuring services. DEM provides an organization with the SLA metrics that are needed to uphold these SLAs.

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