How user monitoring promotes online citizen satisfaction
- By Joel Dolisy
- Oct 27, 2015
Forget about writing a letter to your congressman – today citizens use the web, email and social media to make their voices heard on the state, local and federal levels.
Much of this participation is due to the ubiquity of mobile devices. Because people can do just about everything with a smartphone or tablet -- from collaborating with remote colleagues to ordering a pizza -- they expect their interactions with the government to be just as satisfying and simple.
Unfortunately, recent data suggests this has not been the case. According to a January 2015 report by the American Customer Satisfaction Index, citizen satisfaction with federal government services continued to decline in 2014. This, despite Cross-Agency Priority Goals that require federal agencies to “utilize technology to improve the customer experience.”
Open data initiatives can help solve some satisfaction issues, but such efforts are creating new and different challenges for agency IT pros. First, they must design services that allow users to easily access information and interact with their governments using any type of device. This means creating mobile-optimized websites, applications and easy-to-access citizen portals. Then, they must monitor these services to ensure they continue to deliver optimal experiences. The last thing an agency IT manager wants is for frustrated users to take to Twitter with posts about a poorly functioning government website.
Those who wish to avoid the ire of the citizenry would do well to add automated end-user monitoring to their IT toolkit. End-user monitoring allows agency IT managers to continuously observe the user experience without having to manually check to see if a website or portal is functioning properly. It can help ensure that applications and sites remain problem-free-- and enhance a government’s relationship with its citizens.
There are three types of end-user monitoring solutions IT professionals can use. These solutions work together to identify and prevent problems with user-facing applications and websites, though each goes about it a bit differently. Agencies should use them together to ensure their services are running at peak performance.
First, there is web performance monitoring, which can proactively identify slow or non-performing websites that could hamper the user experience. Automated web performance monitoring tools can also report on load-times of page elements so that administrators can adjust and fix slow-loading pages accordingly.
Synthetic end-user monitoring (SEUM) allows IT administrators to run simulated tests on different scenarios to anticipate the outcome of certain events. For example, in the days leading up to an election or critical vote on the Hill, agency IT professionals may wish to test certain applications to ensure they can handle spikes in traffic. Depending on the results, managers can make adjustments to handle the influx.
Likewise, SEUM allows for testing of beta applications or sites, so managers can gauge the positive or negative aspects of the user experience before the services go live. The ability to simulate scenarios from different locations in testing can help managers deliver the best possible user experience on day one.
Finally, real-time end-user monitoring effectively complements its synthetic partner. It is a passive monitoring process that -- unlike SEUM, which uses simulated data -- gathers actual performance data as end users are visiting and interacting with the web application in real time. It can be implemented after an application or site goes live, and it will alert administrators to any sort of anomaly. This type of reporting allows managers to react and repair items quickly and easily.
Using these monitoring techniques, IT teams can address user experience issues from certain locations – helping to ascertain why a response rate from a user in Washington, D.C., might be dramatically different from one in Austin, Texas.
Today, governments are trying to become more agile and responsive and are committed to innovation. They’re also looking for ways to better service their customers. The potent combination of synthetic, real-time and web performance monitoring can help them achieve all of these goals by greatly enhancing end-user satisfaction and overall citizen engagement.
Joel Dolisy is the CIO at SolarWinds.