Business applications are a bit of a paradox. They are critical to business operations; you know it, and chances are all the potential business users know it as well. However getting adoption of these platforms is often like pulling teeth. Why should it be so hard to get users to leverage the platform they know they need?
To make the problem worse, it might take years for an organization to know it is even a problem. Which means the investment in licensing, support, and setup for the application could be wasted for 1, 2, even 3 years out.
Log analysis not only will tell you what the adoption of business applications is, it will let you know before it is a problem.
If you remember when you were a kid and your parents asked you to brush your teeth. You understood the value, but it seemed like it was cutting into your pre-bed free time, and just not fun at all. Business applications are often the same way for business users. They know they need to use them for the business to operate, but they will find excuses as much as possible.
And unless it is part of your job to maintain and feed these applications such as a content managers to ECM platforms, or accounting to ERP systems, it is more of a prescriptive activity than something you see benefiting your daily work. But for IT, it’s even worse. You stand up the infrastructure and the application, and you are not even a user, much less an owner of the application. However you are expected to report on it.
If that was not bad enough these applications live in a bubble. Where portions of the application are siloed among business units, breaking the continuity organization wide. So the overall adoption of the overlaying ERP, ECM, CRM systems relate to more than one business use case and group. This forces IT to focus simply on uptime and infrastructure, because it would be impossible to give each unit individual attention.
It’s guaranteed you will be asked about it however, because you are the “gate keepers” of the technology, and thus must know how it is being use. Really nobody has enterprise wide adoption as a primary task. But everyone thinks IT must.
There is an answer, and that answer is log analysis. Nearly all of these business applications have logs, and if they don’t, they do have APIs to access information about the platform. All the applications also tie into other organization wide services such as network, directory services, and database servers. These services and components also have logs, and their data correlated with the application data paints a coherent picture of uptime, but also adoption and ROI of the individual platforms.
For example if your organization leverages SharePoint, an adoption nightmare for many, you can use ULS, Active Directory, IIS, and SQL logs to tell you more about the platform and utilization. Even for SAP you have ST03N logs that detail transactions and usage. They are cryptic in a text editor, but for a long analysis tool which specializes in making sense of bloated and complex data structures, it is a cinch.
Without much effort you can ingest these logs into a robust log analyses platform, and immediately see the results of being able to ask real world questions about their usage. With just a little bit more effort you can take it further and build dashboards for reporting.
All organizations want to know where significant investment in such platforms is going. Not only the licensing and maintenance, but also the internal resource time, outsourcing, and opportunity cost of doing something else. IT has to dedicate a lot of effort to setting up new applications that could have been spent on upgrading infrastructure.
If HR teams do not leverage the new HR application, or legal doesn’t leverage the new ECM system, there is not only lost productivity, but you lose out on all the benefits these applications had to offer – i.e. they were meant to save time and move the organization forward.
IT can transform this problem into an opportunity, by knowing in real-time what the adoption of the applications is. Before it is even a problem IT operations can help solution architects, business analyst and business stake holders to champion and increase adoption.
Forward thinking organizations can take this one step further. Such things as gamification, where departments get weekly usage statistics via email about top users. This can create a viral competitive effect across departments. Or by rewarding and identifying good users and helping them evangelize within their department.
With log analysis, you don’t need to throw platforms out to the user base and hope that it adds some value, with no real way of knowing. You can service an application, and be able to report on its usage. Within hours you can add log analysis and have enriched understanding of the value and impact of new or updated business applications. Helping make better decisions, and identifying opportunities to maximize the company’s investment.