Going deeper than cosmetic application analytics for ‘flawless’ applications

Software application intelligence company Dynatrace has added User Experience Analytics to its log analytics functions to automatically connect logs with corresponding user sessions – an action which may signify and reflect the wider trend to optimise experiences at all levels of enterprise software.

Software programming concept. Mobile app developer on purple background, statistic user interface

Software today has a list of fundamentals. Every vendor of enterprise software needs to have an open source policy, a defined user privacy policy, an interoperability position and a documented approach to describe its environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) stance.

That list could probably be longer i.e. we could add a cloud-first approach and mindset, an embrace of API-driven application flexibility and a pledge to strive for ethical AI. But the exercise here is not an attempt to list every cornerstone of software engineering, the point is to suggest one of the newer foundation stones that all IT stacks should feature - user experience.

The concept of user experience (or User eXperience (UX) if you absolutely must) sits at two levels. There is the upper tier more cosmetic level of experience that a user will feel when interacting with an application’s presentation layer or user interface; but deeper, there is the digital experience monitoring side of the equation where we concentrate on whether an application is performant and functional, rather than whether it looks pretty and makes people happy.

Cosmetic look-and-feel UX will undoubtedly continue to flourish, but this discussion centres around the deeper seam of application worth.

Session replay defined

In a move widely understood to be ‘not just another product release’, software intelligence company Dynatrace has unified its AI-powered log analytics functions with its digital experience monitoring capabilities. This includes a technology known as session replay, a function that systems analysts use to be able to watch a user’s session with an application or service ‘as they experienced it’ -- this includes all ‘logged user events’, meaning everything from mouse movements and clicks to keyboard inputs and so on.

Dynatrace’s branded Session Replay product is described as functional enough to transform how development teams approach enhancing the digital experience by empowering them with high-definition video replays of any click, tap, or swipe so they can implement optimisations in-line with customer expectations.

In the Dynatrace universe, digital experience monitoring (or DEM) solutions extend our traditional notion of Application Performance Monitoring (APM) by including the outside-in perspective to ensure applications and services are available, functional and performant (there’s that key word again), across all channels of the digital customer experience in real time.

The company says that DEM monitoring tools combine application performance data, real user behaviour, synthetic monitoring, and deeper experience insights like session replays, to pinpoint digital experience issues and understand the precise impact to business Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

Contextualised, optimised, unified

This latest enhancement to the Dynatrace platform is said to enable development teams to automatically gain deeper insights into specific user journeys by connecting logs to the user sessions that generated them. This additional context allows teams to use the platform’s unified DEM capabilities to analyse relevant user sessions and behaviour and playback the actions of any user journey via Session Replay to gain contextualised insights that detail how to optimise the user experience. 

“As technology stacks have become more distributed and logs and user session data more fragmented, developers have been challenged to understand the link between back-end system performance and front-end user experience,” said Steve Tack, SVP of product management at Dynatrace.

“By bridging this gap and unifying logs, user sessions and visual Session Replays, Dynatrace makes it easier for teams to ensure optimal user journeys while proactively solving any issues that may have gone into production undetected. This automated, customer-centric approach to software optimisation gives teams the confidence to innovate at speed and scale,” added Tack.

Smashing software silos

Front and back-end development teams that have historically worked in silos, manually trying to match log events with their corresponding user sessions, will now benefit from having this data linked automatically. This enables them to collaborate more effectively and reduces their reliance on manual processes. As a result, these teams can now allocate more time to driving innovation and delivering better-quality software faster. 

The upward trend that may result from this type of technology could manifest itself in some new corporate performance jargon in and of itself. Dynatrace customer ConTe.it (an Italian automotive insurance company) has said that it uses these products to ensure its applications work flawlessly as a primary objective.

Just as you want to work with a firm that has good eco-credentials, a solid data privacy position and a sustainability policy that would make Greta Thunberg blush, you will also now want to work with enterprises that offer ‘flawless applications’ as a core part of their go-to-market strategy.

If you hear that claim pledged, be sure to question whether user experience analytics is behind that promise.