A Cautionary Tale: Why CIOs Don’t Enforce Performance/Stress Testing for Each Release

I have recently worked with a client where customer growth has been averaging over 25% annually, and systems were becoming slower, call center representatives complaining of frequent crashes and lost data. The CIO had begun a new CRM system development, but was faced with the question – “How long will my current systems last at this growth rate?”

This CIO succumbed to ‘make it work first’ – and had never commissioned performance or stress testing – so he didn’t have the following::

1) Any idea of when the system reached capacity.
2) An agreed-upon set of Service Levels with the business (typically, agreed-to response times for the most critical transactions).
3) A dedicated performance environment.

The highlights of our approach for this client are shown in this diagram:

 

Performance / Stress Testing

We scripted the most popular transactions, ran them in Production and Test environments and measured baseline systems response times. We then stress-tested the systems in the Test environment by doubling and tripling the number of virtual users… to find the breaking point.

In addition to understanding the system performance under load, a side benefit of this work was a dialog with the Customer Care Center to agree to a set of transaction times for critical transactions.

Model Business Processes

Companies frequently document business processes in tools for reference.   Yet, our innovative approach was to A) create process models for the popular end-to-end transactions (such as orders and trouble tickets), B) enter actual system transaction times underlying the processes, and C) and build in response time delays (from Stress Test results) as the volume of orders and transactions increased.  The result was a realistic model of not just business processes but also the actual systems performance in production.

Run Simulations and Analyze Results

The truly innovative work occurred when EMC worked with this carrier’s IT organization to

a)      Explain and describe bottlenecks in processes due to specific system transaction performance

b)      Suggest specific improvements to systems

c)      Collaboratively use the Process Simulation tool to predict the impact of improvements on business processes

While we performed our work on systems already in production, our recommendations included  developing the performance scripts during final stages of testing of a system… and execute process simulations simultaneously with performance and stress testing – all BEFORE the system goes live.

To wrap up – a musical group’s preparation is never complete without a full dress rehearsal in the actual venue for a performance.  Similarly, an IT organization should never launch a system or release into production without functional, end-to-end, UAT, PLUS performance/stress testing with predictive process simulation of the expected impact on a business organization’s processes.

The above blog is just an excerpt of EMC’s methodology – contact me for more details.

Next Week:  Title:   How EMC’s Big Data Solutions Reduce Telecom Wireless Churn and Support Revenue Assurance

I hope you will join me and will pass on the link to your friends and networks.  Please … subscribe, send me feedback, and check back next week for the next installment.   If nothing else, I promise the International Travel tips will be extremely useful!

Today’s International Travel Tip:  Don’t be bitten by Seat Selection Technology

In my prior blog, I raved (positively) on American Express Travel’s tool for Platinum travelers that provides a database of all the world’s flights.  This week, I provide a cautionary tale of well-meaning Information Technology – with unintended consequences.

Last year, American Express Travel introduced a new software ‘feature’ in its reservation system.  This ‘feature’, called ‘Seat Checker’, routinely operated as a background software task, constantly checking your airline’s seat availability for your flight.  Ostensibly, the use case is as follows:

1)      I make a reservation on a very long flight.  My Amex profile indicates I prefer aisle seats.  There are no aisle seats available at the time of making the reservation, and I am initially assigned a window seat.

2)      Seat Checker software constantly runs and checks the seat map for availability of an aisle seat on your flight.

3)      If the program finds an aisle seat, it automatically assigns you the new seat and updates your reservation record.

On the surface – sounds great, right?  Well, not so fast, as I painfully found out.

You, like me, are probably pretty picky when it comes to seats.  Plus, you have all the seat maps memorized for your favorite carriers and flights.  Here are the unintended consequences of the above ‘Seat Checker’ program:

1)      I make a reservation on a redeye from Dulles to Buenos Aires.  Business Class and First Class are full.  Knowing the seat map, I select seat 30A in economy, which is an exit row window seat on a 777.  The exit row is a godsend for redeye flights, because there is no one reclining into your lap.  The exit row window seat is better than almost every other aisle seat in economy, which is why I select it.

2)      But wait: the Seat Checker program runs in the background in the days leading up to departure.

3)      I get to the airport and check in – only to be told my seat is now 27B… an aisle seat, with (you guessed it) someone reclining into my lap.

4)      At first I assume the airline made the change… they deny it.  After sleuthing, American Express Travel confesses to this change…which is how I learn about the Seat Checker software.

So, I of course raised an issue with American Express.  I told them to change their software to allow me to ‘turn off’ the Seat Checker program on my profile.  At first they said there was no way to do so.  Then, Amex figured out it would be a good idea.  So, my contribution to the Seat Checker software was the profile-selectable ‘OFF SWITCH’. 

Guidance to travelers: If you are picky about seat selection – Please ask your travel agent if they use a system with ‘automatic seat checker software’.  Request that it be turned off if you personally select your seats and don’t want your selections changed.

About the Author: Laddie Suk

Laddie leads a cross-functional Dell Technologies Consulting team focused on digital transformation and industry solutions. He is a seasoned industry veteran with deep experience across multiple industries, solutions, and technologies. As a former Verizon Network CIO and Network Executive at AT&T and Bell Labs, he has extensive hands-on experience in leading strategic network and IT development projects and managing communication service provider environments. He has also led strategic and tactical engagements in network transformation, IT transformation, and business process and performance improvement for clients throughout the Americas.