Keys to the smart city: How to make initiatives successful

INDUSTRY INSIGHT

How streamlining IT can transform government functionality

Is waiting in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles a relic of the past? Maybe not yet, but we’re on our way there. As transactions between citizens and government move online, back-end technology that supports this valuable automation becomes mission critical. Downtime or technological snags on citizen-facing websites cost agencies not just financially, but in trust and reputation as well. For organizations handling truly life-or-death matters -- think public safety departments or social services agencies at risk of becoming disconnected from their people in the field -- the implications grow even more serious.

So how can agencies ensure their teams and applications are supported with tools that streamline IT operations and minimize system failures?

Transparency and visibility are two crucial capabilities for maintaining mission-critical applications reliably and seamlessly. When IT teams can monitor the path of a transaction from the end-user’s browser all the way through the back-end database to the third-party application code, it’s much easier to see if, when and where things may go wrong. Furthermore, it’s easier to make fixes and get ahead of any wider system outages or end-user complaints.

IT operations through a single pane of glass

There’s no doubting the value of system visibility. A “single pane of glass” application performance management (APM) solution provides the ability to rapidly and clearly identify the origins of slowdowns and spot where performance is trending in the wrong direction. In turn, it enables IT teams to diagnose and proactively respond to any problem that’s unfolding.

Traditionally, systems monitoring has been conducted in siloed environments with separate tools and teams. In that scenario, there’s often no awareness of a problem until a customer complains, and those siloed groups with their independent tools must convene a “war room” session to troubleshoot the issue.

A single-pane-of-glass solution would show the entire transaction so the team responsible for the trouble area -- and only that team -- could pinpoint and resolve the issue quickly. Less time troubleshooting and arguing over responsibility means more time innovating and developing new capabilities, tools and approaches.

For many organizations, leveraging insights to better deliver services is a major advantage of implementing an APM -- it’s the primary reason they do so. But there are additional benefits that decision-makers considering IT monitoring capabilities may not be considering.

The business case for APM

Besides the core capability of seamlessly delivering insight into the IT environment and improving detection, remediation and solution of tech issues, a good APM also can pool business metrics from applications. All applications generate data; with the right tools in place, that data can correlate an application’s functionality to business performance.

What if the state comptroller office could see the direct dollar-value impact of application errors on revenue generation? If the website goes down or the application isn’t working properly, odds are it’s going to be much harder to collect taxes and fees.

By the same token, application-generated data correlated to performance can also inform compliance offices. If employees of the state health and human services agency can’t conduct eligibility checks for their programs because they can’t connect to the main server from the field, that becomes a major liability for a taxpayer-funded organization that by law must provide those services.

Without the system visibility that speeds insight and response, IT teams are stuck troubleshooting the problem by a process of elimination. Not only is that scenario much less effective, it’s heavy on time and operational costs.

It doesn’t have to be that way, though. The same way the consumerization of technology has driven digitized services that better serve consumers, it’s also created a platform for the public sector to better align with commercial technologies we all use every day.

If registering a new car is as easy as getting an Uber, everyone benefits: Constituents are happier with their experiences, agencies achieve their mission and taxpayer dollars are put to better use. The value of visibility, then, is priceless.

About the Author

Matt Smith is a sales director for the AppDynamics state and local government team.

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