End User Analytics – Proven Solutions

Executive Summary

In their May, 2015 report G00275894, Gartner writes:

"IT leaders responsible for end-user computing are challenged with determining the right set of tools to maximize user productivity and engagement without duplicating costs and capabilities."

We at Lakeside Software, Inc., understand the changing role of the End User Computing (EUC) IT support professional. We recognize that this role has morphed into an all-inclusive focal point of multiple support requirements: desktop; (virtual/physical); mobile; BYOD (Bring Your Own Device(s)); SaaS (Software as a Service); SBC (Server Based Computing); Cloud provisioned; and virtualization. We also understand the ever increasing end user experience expectations, driven by sophisticated consumer applications which are routinely used by the workforce of today. Never mind that the slick new web enabled consumer application has one purpose and its infrastructure is totally controlled by the provider (a luxury not enjoyed by the corporate IT professional): it becomes the benchmark of success. This last point is boldly stated in Gartner's "Unified Workspaces: The Convergence of the Mobile and End-User Computing Journey", G00293326 report:

"The time it takes to get to unified workspaces may be considerable, but do not delay — consumer- grade apps and services are IT's competition, and they improve with urgency. To not do the same is to risk the worst of all IT perceptions: obsolescence."

Lakeside Software's SysTrack, through its proprietary DataMine™ technology for IT End User Analytics, is the ultimate utility tool in an IT shop's tool belt. With multiple successful deployments across a variety of industries and over 3 million end user seats worldwide, this white paper will outline how the unparalleled granularity of data captured by SysTrack can drive down the EUC cost for:

  1. Service Desk Augmentation
  2. Asset Optimization
  3. End User Experience Management

— while simultaneously providing the IT professional insights into key aspects of the end user experience/needs.

Relating to SysTrack's unique "inside-out" view of the end user's experience, (i.e. a view from the instrumented device's operating system), Gartner's Nathan Hill recently was quoted as saying:

"End-user analytics provide data in customizable reports (and in some cases recommended actions) around power consumption and management, performance monitoring, event management, latency and end-user experience, and application resource analysis. They are used in support of transformation initiatives, or for chargeback, desktop virtualization assessment and planning, user auditing, and more. Increasingly, the tools are also used as ongoing management tools, to spot new application requirements and changing work styles."

SysTrack's Solution Support Model

As illustrated below, some SysTrack benefits overlap these three traditional EUC budget/project areas.

In addition to explaining the features and benefits that a SysTrack enabled environment can provide to the three support towers shown above, this white paper will provide access to the "SysTrack ROI Estimator" tool. This tool is intended to quickly assist you in determining the potential savings available to your organization, through SysTrack's "inside out" toolset.

The following use cases detail SysTrack features which have proven beneficial to clients all over the globe. While no two organizations are exactly alike, frequently the issues which plague IT support groups are the same or similar. The use cases described below are a small subset of the many examples of how SysTrack is being used in businesses around the world, ranging from a few hundred end users to over 300K end users. If we've left your use case out, please contact us at Lakeside Software, we'd enjoy the opportunity to discuss it with you.

Solution 1: End User Experience Management

SysTrack delivers metrics which measure and trend in hours per week the productivity impact caused by IT infrastructure. Data is broken down into various factors including: under-specified infrastructure (e.g. CPU, memory, network bandwidth), network latency, VM host performance issues, application start-up times, hangs, crashes, updates, and hardware problems.

SysTrack's comprehensive data collection enables very granular planning of golden images to optimize and minimize management overhead. Image management is a trade-off between minimizing the number of application licenses installed and minimizing the number of images to be maintained. Using SysTrack tools such as SysTrack Image Planner, user and application usage data informs the optimum number of images that can be modelled factoring in application deployment methods and license purchasing decisions.

Issue

SysTrack Feature

Resolution/Impact

The CIO at a large healthcare company was notified of significant performance issues on a key in-house application. The problem was so bad, the productivity of ~80% of the end users was being negatively impacted.

  • SysTrack Resolve's Black Box and SysTrack Analyze were used to diagnose and identify the root cause.
  • Root cause analysis identified a dependent web application and its linkage to the business application as the underlying issue.
  • The data provided by SysTrack was used as evidence of the need for application remediation.
  • Networking changes were implemented along with application modifications, which resulted in improved performance.
  • End users reported a significant increase in their productivity and service desk calls for the problem were eliminated.

A large financial industry client reported performance impacts due to hangs/crashes associated with two key business applications. End user productivity was greatly degraded.

  • SysTrack Resolve's Black Box was used to roll back to the specific points in time when poor performance was reported.
  • Multiple observations pointed to a number of unsupported applications on many of the impacted systems.
  • SysTrack was used to identify rogue/non-standard images in the environment, resulting in the discovery of many of these.
  • Governance was put in place to monitor for rogue images and to alert IT when they were detected.
  • Applications known to create conflicts with the key business applications were blacklisted using SysTrack's SysLock.
  • End users reported improved productivity and service desk calls decreased.

End users complained to the Service Desk of missing applications and/or applications that didn't function, following system refreshes.

  • SysTrack Visualizer and Analyze were used to identify systems which did not have the correct image installed or for which applications had not been installed.
  • It was determined the install process included secondary installation of some key applications, and those installs were not consistently happening.
  • A SysTrack software inventory scan was implemented for all refreshed desktops, prior to their reintroduction to an end user. Missing applications were quickly identified and installed as needed.
  • End user productivity increased and deskside visits were reduced by over 85% for this issue.

A major financial client was engaged in a Persona Discovery project to improve the understanding of "how their end users do their jobs". This insight was to be used to underpin overall process improvements in the enterprise.

  • SysTrack was used to augment data collected via manual questionnaires.
  • Automated SysTrack captured and exported data included:
    • All applications used o Applications with high "in focus" time
    • Domain memberships o Devices used and their locations
    • Mapped drive history o Mobility use and frequency
    • USB port use o Web traffic history o EUC Productivity impactors
  • The company was able to improve the accuracy of their "Day in the Life" studies by using precise, actual observed events.
  • SysTrack data was integrated with additional questionnaire data to arrive at the best understanding of many of the company's Personas/Roles, ever developed.
  • The automated data acquisition from SysTrack saved an estimated 1 hour of data collection per interviewee and was deemed more accurate.

Solution 2: Asset Optimization

SysTrack provides a complete inventory of installed hardware and software. Moreover, the software inventory includes observations of applications/processes which have not been packaged and installed by an IT approved process. For example, if an end user launches an application they've installed manually or an executable they've received via email or from a website, those processes are detected and recorded by SysTrack.

SysTrack's asset inventory acquisition provides easy answers to the basic questions:

  • Who is using what software/hardware?
  • When is the software/hardware being used?
  • Where (location) is the software/hardware being used?
  • Why are asset entitlements mismatched?
  • How much workload is being imposed by the software on the hardware?

The hardware inventory collected by SysTrack can be used to quickly identify systems in need of retirement based on device age, functional deficiencies (limited memory, video, CPU, etc.), manufacturer, or any other hardware related identifier. Alternatively, the hardware inventory frequently identifies systems due to be retired which would have significant useful life if repurposed for lighter duty workloads.

This quick hardware segmentation feature can result in significant time saved in determining which systems are in need of being refreshed/replaced. Furthermore, SysTrack can help identify hardware that is not under stress and can therefore be kept in service beyond standard write down periods. In the case of virtual desktop environments, SysTrack frequently identifies over provisioned VMs. By simply right sizing the over provisioned VMs, higher overall densities can be achieved.

Accurate software usage by user and device is collected and recorded. This information is readily available in multiple report formats. Provided with actual software usage history, IT professionals can identify opportunities to reduce license and subscription costs, and ensure compliance across the enterprise. This ensures software assets are right sized for actual usage rather than planned or forecasted requirements. Also the corporation can be audit ready when third party OEM software vendors require proof of actual usage.

Issue

SysTrack Feature

Resolution/Impact

Application usage could not be verified as no SAM (Software Asset Management) tool existed.

  • SysTrack Visualizer report of actual application use by end user, was integrated into the company's governance model as their SAM.
  • The company became third party audit ready with an easily accessible historical software usage record.
  • Application costs for several titles were reduced by over 75%. The net result was a software cost reduction of over 15% for the entire enterprise.
  • Risk avoidance was estimated at over $150K/year, through software audit readiness.

A large financial industry customer was threatened with collection of a $35M penalty for unlicensed software by an OEM.

  • SysTrack had been installed as a response to a previous unlicensed software penalty payment of $20M. Software usage history from SysTrack was used to provide an audit trail for the threatened $35M penalty.
  • SysTrack's software usage audit history was accepted and the penalty was avoided.

A client's security team imposed a new requirement for browser based "plug-ins".

  • SysTrack alarm notifications were enabled for Event Log entries associated with plug-in installation activity. Within seconds of the installation attempt a warning text was sent to the user and notification was sent to IT.
  • Monthly reports of threats which had been discovered and mitigated were generated. This met the requirements of the security team.

A "one size fits all" policy at one customer, resulted in laptops for all. There was suspicion that not all systems were being used as mobile devices.

  • SysTrack Visualizer was used to identify all "mobile capable" devices in the enterprise.
  • SysTrack Visualizer was used to identify all systems which had been observed to have been used in various locations over a 90-day window.
  • End user device segmentation methodology was used to match the user to the appropriate device.
  • It was observed, that over 20% of the laptops were not moved in a 90-day window.
  • The cost of laptops were over $1,400 vs desktops at $700. With over 8,000 laptops with no observed mobility identified the savings were significant.

Solution 3: Service Desk Augmentation

By using comprehensive alerting mechanisms within SysTrack, Service/Help Desks can be alerted to and proactively fix conditions likely to cause new incidents. Real time dashboards can be used to proactively monitor and identify potential conditions leading to incidents. Furthermore, clients can implement procedures and scripts associated with alerts to automatically correct conditions to avoid and reduce new incident reports.

Every alert created can have actions associated with it such as the automation of a help desk ticket in software such as ServiceNow or Remedy. Also an alert can initiate the execution of a script to automate a known resolution activity, forward as an SNMP trap or email/IM another user.

SysTrack tools can be used to:

  • Effectively "roll back" the affected system's clock to a point in time of special interest. Once the time of interest is in focus, processes, connections, alarms, users, resource footprints, etc. can be easily observed and compared to other systems or other times/events.
  • Tune alerting to spot learned problem conditions and auto correct
  • Trend software crashes/faults - fix or upgrade identified crashing software components
  • Alert and trend against key user experience issues (session hangs, login times, app start-up times, observed latency)
  • Create dependency maps across infrastructure and apps to identify latency, performance bottlenecks and unhealthy components

Just a few of the Service Desk use cases described by our valued clients include:

Issue

SysTrack Feature

Resolution/Impact

Slow VDI performance

  • SysTrack Resolve's Black Box was used to prove that slow performance was not the result of under provisioning.
  • Dependency mapping was used to identify a highly dependent database with constant communication demands and a high latency.
  • Database was relocated to VDI provisioning datacenter.
  • Performance improved for all users.
  • Service desk calls for this issue went down by over 50%.

Intermittent slow VDI performance with various/random applications.

  • SysTrack Resolve's Black Box was used to roll back to the specific points in time when poor performance was reported.
  • Multiple observations pointed to an A/V (AntiVirus) interaction with some applications.
  • A/V was observed to be holding open key application connections and disallowing read/write activity.
  • Network modifications were implemented.
  • Third party A/V vendor was engaged and customized settings enabled.
  • Service desk calls for this issue were eliminated.

Intermittent slowness was reported in a key inhouse developed business critical application.

  • SysTrack Resolve's Black Box was used to observe the application's use over time and during specific times of reported slowness.
  • Disk space observations with SysTrack Resolve pointed to infrequent "out of space" errors due to temp file explosion by the application, resulting in no cache space.
  • Temporarily, SysTrack was used to set an alarm on minimum disk space. An automated script was then run to delete the temp files.
  • An application remediation budget was approved.
  • Service desk calls for this issue were reduced by over 80%.

Intermittent incidents were reported with the user's desktop becoming so slow it was unusable. The problem would typically resolve itself with a reboot or after about 1 hour.

  • SysTrack Resolve's Black Box was used to observe desktop behavior of affected systems by rolling back to the time of the reported incidents.
  • SysTrack Resolve's Black Box provided evidence of simultaneous executions of SCCM and A/V, meaning they randomly happened to launch at the same time. When this occurred the CPU utilization exceeded 80% and little to no memory was available.
  • An SCCM update policy was established to avoid distributions during peak business hours by geography.
  • The problem had been endemic for over 11 months, resulting in over 200 unresolved Help tickets. All tickets were closed after the root cause was determined.
  • Service desk calls for this issue were reduced by over 90%.

SysTrack ROI Estimator — Quantifiable Savings

In the on-going challenge to "do more with less", IT professionals are frequently charged with cost justifying the addition of any new tool, regardless of the apparent value. In the event SysTrack is displacing a tool which only provides a subset of SysTrack's benefits, a simple cost comparison is frequently sufficient. In most cases, there is no replaceable product in the environment, thus requiring a formal ROI (Return on Investment) or business case.

Because of Lakeside's more than 17 years of experience and feedback from our clients, we are frequently advised of successful use cases which result in significant savings. Some of those use cases have been cited in section 2.

While there is no such thing as a single guaranteed ROI for all use cases and for all companies, the best alternative is a general approach with some defendable benchmark estimates as a starting point. That is the approach taken in the "SysTrack ROI Estimator". The tool relies heavily on the TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) methodology advocated by Gartner, augmented with specific savings typically reported to Lakeside by our clients. The "SysTrack ROI Estimator" is broken into three towers of value:

  1. Service Desk
  2. Asset Optimization
  3. End User Experience Management

In other words, the same support areas described in Section 2.

A number of assumptions have been made in the tool to create an initial estimate of savings in each of these three areas. However, all assumptions can be overridden in the event the reader has in-house data which is more accurate for their specific use case.

It is advised the reader ask themselves the following questions, before modifying the proposed savings estimates:

  1. Service Desk – If I had the ability to…
    1. … automatically collect data normally gathered from the end user by phone, e.g. workstation name, IP address, mapped drives assigned, last reboot time, recent/current alarms, and recent observed system stresses, could the response time be improved? If yes, by how much?
    2. … roll back the clock on a system the end user claims to have been performing poorly, a day or two before at a specific time, and inspect every process running, the complete workload footprint, all connections, all sessions, and all dependent system latencies…could I find the root cause more quickly? If yes, by how much?
    3. … track the historical Health of the end user's system, along with information on the 13 categories of KPIs which are monitored automatically by SysTrack…could the Service Desk be more responsive and identify patterns in productivity impacts? If yes, by how much?
    4. … observe the number of systems across the entire enterprise, which are experiencing the same or similar issues…could the Service Desk be more proactive? If yes, by how much?
  2. Asset Optimization – If I had the ability to observe…
    1. … actual usage of each application in the environment, even those not distributed by IT…could I limit my exposure to unknown, unlicensed applications running in the environment? If yes, what is that worth?
    2. … actual usage, down to the number of hours/month by user for each application in the environment…could I be audit ready for license compliance? If yes, what is this reduced risk value?
    3. … enterprise wide, system attributes, i.e. CPU, memory, disk size, age, Serial number, and manufacture…could I make more informed decisions regarding what systems to retire, reuse, and/or refresh? If yes, how much savings would that result in?
  3. End User Experience Management – If I had the ability to…
    1. … improve end user productivity by reducing the amount of time to resolve issues and/or eliminate many of the on-going issues, could there be a net gain in corporate revenue through more productive and happier end users? If yes, by how much?
    2. … improve Software Engineering productivity through awareness of software use, application fault history, pre-requisite modules, dependencies, and potential conflicts between applications, could you reduce your Software Engineering costs? If yes, by how much?

If you are interested in a ROI analysis of your environment please contact Lakeside and we can assist you.

Conclusion

SysTrack provides the means by which an enterprise can achieve a heightened awareness of their end user computing environment. It provides on-going monitoring of all processes and connections on instrumented end user devices. When combined with Lakeside Software's patented DataMine™ technology, data visualizers, and interactive report generators; it delivers unparalleled opportunities for end user computing governance. The old adage, "if you can't measure it, you can't monitor it – if you can't monitor it, you can't manage it" is never more true than with end user computing. IT professionals around the world have discovered the value of measuring, monitoring, and managing their end user computing environments…they've discovered SysTrack!

Appendix 1. Tools Used to Enable Benefits

License Management and Compliance

SysTrack provides an inventory of installed software and accurate software usage measurement on user, package, and feature time correlated to help identify opportunities for clients to reduce application portfolio costs. Figure 1 demonstrates how application usage is summarized in the tool.

Figure 1 - Application Usage View

Hardware Management and Utilization

SysTrack helps avoid unnecessary refresh of desktops, laptops and servers through observed consumption and health metrics. The granularity of system and user data captured helps justify and plan refreshes and avoids the unnecessary spend associated with fixed duration refresh projects. Figure 2 presents the Hardware Inventory View of SysTrack.

Figure 2 - Hardware Inventory View

Migration Planning

SysTrack Virtual Machine Planner (VMP) provides an integrated tool suite that provides VDI assessment, VDI capacity planning, virtualization modelling and predictive analysis, migration planning, storage throughput and space planning, power planning, firewall and latency analysis, user and application behavior analysis, image planning and application virtualization compatibility analysis. See Figure 3 below for an example of Virtual Machine Planning.

Figure 3 - Virtual Machine Planning View

Incident Resolution Cost Reduction

SysTrack provides root cause diagnosis tools enabling support staff to almost eliminate the data gathering phase of incident diagnosis. Leveraging rich data collected on resource shortages, network constraints, latency, infrastructure health, software faults and alarms, the support staff can quickly roll back the clock to understand and address the root cause; shortening support calls by up to 50% and increasing first call resolution rates. SysTrack Resolve's Black Box shown in Figure 4 demonstrates how a Support Team Advisor can roll back the clock to identify the root cause of an issue even if the device was offline at that time. This is a feature that is not available in competing products.

Figure 4 - Black Box Page

Enterprise Wide Impact Analysis in a Glance

SysTrack has the ability to blend agent observed and vCenter real time data. This capability provides an impact study of applications across the entire enterprise's estate - in one easy to view/use dashboard. vScape provides an industry first, by providing details of how specific applications are impacting the entire observed set of endpoints and their provisioning infrastructure. Figure 5 illustrates this award winning capability.

Figure 5's view of the entire enterprise estate provides an up to the minute comparison of the observed health of VMs and their provisioning infrastructure. In addition, the application workload across the entire estate is presented with real-time views. It is now possible to answer questions like, "how much CPU is Microsoft Excel consuming across all my VMs…right now?"

Figure 5 – Enterprise Health and Application Impact View

Additional vScape tools provide drill in capability to view what's really happening in the environment. One example of this real-time analysis is provided in Figure 6.

Figure 6 – Real-Time Application Workload Focus with History

Reduced Incident Rates

By using comprehensive alerting mechanisms within SysTrack, Help Desks can be alerted to and proactively fix conditions likely to cause new incidents. Real time dashboards can be used to proactively monitor and identify potential conditions leading to incidents. Furthermore, clients can implement procedures and scripts associated with alerts to automatically correct conditions to avoid and reduce new incident reports. Figure 6 illustrates how the root cause of an issue can be identified and addressed before the business impact is felt.

This view of the world effectively maps the end users' interaction with IT and shows us all components involved from the back-end to the network and their platform itself. The color coding surrounding the components is designed to highlight problem areas so that support personnel know where to focus attention.

Figure 6 - Dependency Map View

Quantifiable Productivity Impact Reduction

SysTrack aggregates productivity impact caused by IT infrastructure factors such as under specified infrastructure (e.g. CPU, memory, network bandwidth), network latency, VM host performance issues, application start up times, hangs, crashes, updates, upgrades and hardware problems. SysTrack measures and trends the productivity impact in hours per week per system and group. Figure 7 shows the Productivity View of the product.

Figure 7 - Productivity Impact View

Roll Your Own Dashboards

Despite the variety of dashboards, graphs, tables, and reports which are provided "out of the box" there's frequently a need for clients to create their own corporate view of data. The SysTrack Dashboard Builder is a drag and drop tool which provides for the easy creation of customized data views, including the ability to extract data from non-SysTrack databases. Figure 8 illustrates the toolbox to be used for creating data views.

The process of creating a dashboard simply requires dragging items from the "Toolbox" on the left, into the work area. Once in the work area, the data sources are linked to the desired presentation format, saved and displayed. Libraries of databases, both SysTrack and non-SysTrack can be maintained in the "Library" for easy access. Use of the "Library" reduces the need to create SQL queries each time a new dashboard is needed.

Figure 8 – Dashboard Builder Toolset

Recommended Reading and References

The information provided in this document is based on a combination of methodologies from various TCO whitepapers, reports, and studies. Below is a partial compilation of the sources of the methods used to develop this document and the Lakeside ROI Calculator used to estimate the TCO results.

  • Desktop Total Cost of Ownership: 2013 Update, Gartner Publication ID Number G00246705
  • Notebook Total Cost of Ownership: 2013 Update, Gartner Publication ID Number: G00250520
  • Total Cost of Ownership Comparison of PCs with Hosted Virtual Desktops, 2011 Update, Gartner Publication ID Number: G00209403
  • Total Cost of Ownership Comparison of PCs with Server-Based Computing, 2011 Update, Gartner Publication ID Number: G00209456
  • Client Computing Total Cost of Ownership, 2011: A Chart of Accounts, Gartner Publication ID Number: G00210895
  • Citrix XenDesktop and VMware View Are Vying for Your Hosted Virtual Desktops, ID Number: G00213480
  • The PC Enterprise Lifecycle (Seeing the Big Picture for PC Fleet Management), Microsoft Corporation
  • PC Lifecycle Management (Tools and Strategies for Reducing TCO and Optimizing Total Value), Intel Whitepaper
  • Reducing the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of PCs, Persystent Technologies
  • PC Lifecycle Management Automation for Mid-Sized Enterprises, Enterprise Management Associates Whitepaper
  • Using Total Cost of Ownership to Determine Optimal PC Refresh Lifecycles. Wipro
  • Strategies for Reducing the Total Cost of Ownership for Desktop PCs, Dell Corporation

For More Information

For more information about SysTrack and Lakeside Software please visit us on the web http://www.lakesidesoftware.com.