No matter how impressively a CRM or ERP application performs within a company, if it flunks with customers, it can become a staggeringly expensive piece of shelfware. To avoid this outcome, companies increasingly are purchasing software or services that monitor how end users interact with applications, hardware, services and customer-service initiatives.
Several vendors are active in the end-user monitoring space, but Meta Group analystPeter Firstbrook told CRM Buyer that the leaders are Keynote Systems, Mercury Interactiveand Rational Technologies, with FineGround playing a role as an up-and-comer. Just because numerous companies are serving this niche, however, does not mean they compete head-on with each other.
In fact, each vendor has distinctive strengths, although all share a common goal ofhelping large companies keep their end-user goals within reach.
Use of software from firms like Keynote Systems and Mercury Interactive is becoming more of a necessity than a luxury for companies of all sizes, although large companies tend to need monitoring and optimization to a greater degree than smaller firms, according to Beagle Research founder Denis Pombriant.
“The idea of monitoring is becoming increasingly important,” Pombriant told CRM Buyer. “Companies are realizing that the old way of gathering market intelligence or customer feedback [does not provide] enough information.”
He noted that the traditional method of monitoring end users was to gather batches of information through surveys and focus groups. This approach, although widely accepted in industry, was time-consuming and sometimes prone to error. Worse, the information could become outdated before it ever hit a CEO’s desk.
“Today, companies use a variety of tools to monitor and analyze all sorts of things, and they get the information in pretty close to real-time,” Pombriant said. “If the old way was batch-oriented, this is a steady stream.”
Fields of Expertise
Companies that lead the pack in monitoring and optimization have different areas of specialty and strength, according to Meta Group’s Firstbrook. For example, he noted, Keynote focuses more intently on the e-commerce sector, whereas FineGround targets large companies like Supervalu, Whirlpool and Cargill.
“Keynote doesn’t go much inside the firewall,” Firstbrook added, “whereas FineGround starts inside the firewall and has more interaction with clients.” However, he said, Keynote now has several initiatives in the works that could bring it within the firewall as well.
In a different vein, he said, Mercury Interactive is primarily an application development testing platform. The company’s greatest strength is in providing statistics and recommendations about weak components of a client’s end-user efforts.
Additionally, Mercury Interactive has been aggressive in expanding its repertoire ofservices.
When the company first opened its doors, Firstbrook explained, it focused on the application delivery portion of the market, but in the last five years, it has moved into applying its services across all parts of the application development and implementation processes. Mercury now provides IT governance, application management and application delivery if necessary.
Mukund Mohan, Mercury’s director of product development, told CRM Buyer that he sees clients seeking insight into end-user experience in an effort to prevent problems rather than address them after the fact.
“With many of our customers, the way that they found out about customercomplaints was that they’d get phone calls and nasty voicemails,” Mohansaid. “So, people came to us and said, ‘Why can’t we know what’s going onbefore the customers do?’ And that’s what we deliver.”
Mercury provides measurement of its end-user monitoring with extensivebusiness metrics and statistics on end-user behavior and how a client’sinfrastructure is affecting those numbers. “With these figures, it reducesoperational cost,” Mohan said.
Key in the Door
Another company in the end-user monitoring space, Keynote, has taken a different path. Roopak Patel, the company’s senior Internet analyst, told CRM Buyer that clients need testing, tuning and compliance services.
“Our origins are in the performance management space,” he said, “but we’vereally expanded beyond that.”
The firm now helps customers gain insight into how they can use their resources most effectively in terms of site content, usability and compliance.
A major component of Keynote’s offering is its indices, which measure Web site performance. “Our indices set the norm,” Patel said. “It allows for comparisons and goal setting.”
Another Keynote service is extensive usability testing thatgoes beyond the traditional usability lab that measures experiences of justa handful of testers. John Klinke, Keynote’s senior product manager for testingservices, told CRM Buyer that Keynote can capture results from thousands of people,unlike usability labs that can capture data from only 5 to 80 individuals.
“This can help us see what a real customer experience is like,” Klinke said.
Of course, Web monitoring is not the only form of end-user monitoring.Another contender in the space, FineGround, prides itself on its end-usermonitoring without the use of agents. CEO Nat Kausik told CRM Buyer that thisagentless strategy is a boon to IT departments that want to save time andmoney on end-user monitoring of both employees and customers.
“You want an agentless approach to be able to verify what kind of responseyou’re getting in real-time,” he said. “If you have agents on every server,not only do you have to install them all manually, but they don’t work inreal-time.”
FineGround has built its reputation by focusing on serving large-enterprisecustomers. Kausik noted that the difficulties encountered by big business areunique.
“With a large enterprise, there’s considerably more weight on the ITorganization,” he said. “That means there’s more need for understandinghow applications are performing.”