|By Andreas Grabner||
|October 28, 2011 11:15 AM EDT||
The term Business Transactions and Business Transaction Management is widely used in the industry but it's not always well understood what we really mean by it. The BTM Industry Portal provides some good articles on this topic and is definitely recommended to check out. The general goal is to answer business-relevant questions that business owners have for application owners: "How much revenue is generated by a certain products?", "What are my conversion and bounce rates and what impacts them?" or "Do we meet our SLAs to our premium account users?"
Challenge 1: Contextual Information Is More than just the URL
In order to answer these questions we need information captured from the underlying technical transactions that get executed by your applications when users interact with your services/web site. Knowing the accessed URL, its average response time and then mapping it to a Business Transaction is the simplest form of Business Transaction Management - but doesn't work in most cases because modern applications don't pass the whole business transaction context in the URL.
Business Context information such as the username, product details or cash information usually comes from method arguments, the user session on the application server or from service calls that are made along the processed transaction.
Challenge 2: Business Context Is Somewhere Along a Distributed Transactions
Modern applications are no longer monolithic. The challenge with that is that transactions are distributed, they take different paths, and data we need for our business context (username, product information, cash information...) is often available on different tiers. This requires us to trace every single transaction across all tiers in order to collect this data for a single user transaction:
Every transaction is different, it involves different services, crosses multiple tiers and we need to capture business information along the full end-to-end transaction
Challenge 3: Understanding Your Users Means: All Users, All Actions, All the Time
Knowing that a certain transaction of a user failed, including all contextual information, is great. In modern applications users have many ways to reach a certain point in the application, e.g.: checking out. So the questions are: How did the user get to this point? What were the actions prior to the problem? Is one of the previous actions responsible for the problem we see?
In order to answer these questions we need access to all transactions of every single user. This allows us to understand:
- How our users interact with the system
- How users reach our site (identify Landing Pages)
- Where users drop off the site (important for bounce rate and bounce page evaluation)
- Which paths tend to lead to errors
It also supports a critical use case in Business Transaction Management which is User Complaint Resolution, e.g., when user "Maria" calls the support line we can look up all her transactions, follow her steps and identify where things went wrong:
Knowing every action of every user allows us to better understand our users, follow their click path and speed up individual problem resolutions
Why Continue Reading?
In this article I provide more examples on Business Transaction Management and focus on the challenges I just explained:
- It's more than just URLs we need to analyze as modern web applications are more complex
- We live in a distributed transactional world where business context data can come from every involved tier
- We need to focus on every user and every action to understand our users
To make it easier to understand I also bring examples from PGAC and other real-life BTM implementations.
An Example of Business Transactions
Let's assume we have a website for a travel agency. The interesting business data for this type of application is
- What destinations are people searching for as I want to make sure I offer trips to those regions and people find what they are looking for
- How many trips are actually being sold?
- How much money do we make?
- How many people that search actually buy (convert)? Are there certain trips that have a better conversion rate?
From a technical perspective we can monitor every single technical transaction - that means we can look at every single Web Request that is processed by our application server. If we do that, we basically look at a huge set of technical transactions. Some of these transactions represent those that handle search requests. Some of them handle the shopping cart or check-out procedure. The first goal for us, however, is to identify the individual business transactions such as "Search":
Among all technical transactions we want to identify those that perform a certain Business Transaction, e.g., Search, Checkout, Logon...
Now not every search is the same. In our case the search keyword or trip destination is interesting so we want to split the search transactions by the destination used in the search criteria. That allows us to see how many search requests are executed by destination and also how long these search requests take to execute. Assuming we have to query external services to fetch the latest trip offerings, it could be very interesting to see how fast or slow searches for specific destinations are or whether the number of search results impacts query time and therefore user experience.
Splitting the searches by destination allows us to see how many searches are actually executed and whether there are any performance implications on specific destinations
The next interesting aspect is of course the actual business we do or don't do. If our website serves different markets (US, EMEA, ASIA...) it's interesting to see revenue by market. The next illustration shows that we can focus on the actual Purchase Business Transactions. On these we evaluate generated revenue, the market that generated the revenue and whether there is a performance impact on business by looking at Response Time as well.
Looking at those Business Transactions that actually handle the purchase allows us to see how much money we actually make split by markets we serve
Contextual Information for Every Transaction
In order for all of this to actually work we need more than just capturing the URL and Response Time. A lot of times the type of context information we need is in the user session, in the HTTP POST Body or some parameter on a method call or SQL Bind Value. The next illustration shows us what technical information we are talking about in order to map these values to Business Transactions.
Capturing context information for every single technical transaction is mandatory for business transaction management
As we live in a distributed transactional world we need the full end-to-end transaction and on that transaction the ability to capture this type of technical but business relevant data.
Every Action of Every Visit to Identify Landing Pages, Conversion and Bounce Rates
Some of the most interesting metrics for Business Owners are Conversion Rates, Bounce Rates, User Satisfaction and how well Landing Pages do. In order to get these metrics we need to identify every individual user (typically called Visitor), all actions (individual technical transactions/requests) for the user and the information on whether the user had a good or bad experience (we factor performance and functional problems into that). With that information we can:
- Identify the Landing Page of a Visitor: that's the first page that was requested by an individual Visitor. The Landing Page tells you how people get to your website and whether promotions or ads/banners work
- Identify the Bounce Rates and Bounce Pages: a Visitor bounces of your site if only one page was visited. We want to know which pages typically let people bounce off the page so we can optimize them. If you spend a lot of money on marketing campaigns but due to bad performance or a problem on these landing pages people bounce off its money that is wasted
- Identify click paths visitors take until they actually convert (buy a product) or where along this path they actually leave: Visitors usually need to click through a series of pages before they click on the "Confirm" button. If they do these Visitors convert. If they don't and leave your site somewhere along the way we want to know where and why they are leaving in order to optimize these pages and therefore increase conversion rates
- Identify how satisfied our end users are based by looking at response times and any functional problems along their execution path: Visitors that experience long page load times or run into any type of functional problem are more likely to be frustrated and leave the site before converting. Therefore we want to track this and identify which actions result in a bad user experience.
Landing Pages Impact Whether Users Make It Across the First Site Impression
Knowing the first action of every visit lets us identify our Landing Pages. Visitors that don't make it further than the landing page bounce off our site right away. This is the first problem we want to address as these people are never going to generate any business. The next screenshot shows how we want to analyze landing pages. It is interesting to see which landing pages we have, which are frequented more often, what's the bounce rate of these landing pages and is there any correlation to performance (e.g., higher bounce rate on pages that take longer).
Landing Page Report shows Bounce Rates, Access Count and compares Load Time to the industry standard
Bounce and Conversion Rates, User Satisfaction and Activity Are Important Metrics for Business Owners
Having every action of every visitor available, knowing whether visitors only visit the landing page and bounce off or whether they also make it to the checkout page allows us to calculate Bounce and Conversion Rates. Also looking at response times, request count and errors allows us to look at Visitor Satisfaction and usage. The following illustration shows all these metrics a Business Owner is interest in.
Dashboard for Business Owner to monitor those metrics that impact Business
Understanding Which Path Visitors Take Allows You to Improve Conversion and Lower Bounce Rates
The underlying data of all these metrics we just discussed are the individual actions of every visitor. Only with that information can we identify why certain Visitors convert and others don't, which will help us to improve Conversion Rate and lower the Bounce Rate. The following screenshot shows a detailed view of visits. Having all this data allows us to see which visitors actually bounce off of the site after just looking at their landing page, which users actually convert and what path users take when interacting with our web site.
Having every Visitor and all its Actions allows us to manage and optimize business transactions
Speed up User Complaint Resolution with All Actions Available
As already explained in the introduction section of this blog, one important use case is speeding up the resolution process of individual users. If you have a call center and one of our users complain about a problem, it is best to see what this particular user did to get to the explained error. Having all user actions available and knowing the actual user along the captured transactions allows us to look up only those transactions for that particular user and with that really seeing what happened.
When user Maria calls in we can look up all the actions from this user and see exactly what error occurred
Deep Technical Information for Fast Problem Resolution
Besides using technical context information as input for business transactions (e.g., username, search keywords, cash amount ...) we also need very deep technical information in scenarios where we need to troubleshoot problems. If visitors bounce of the page because of slow response time or because of an error we want to identify and fix this problem right away. In order to do that our engineers need access to the technical data captured for those users that ran into a particular problem. The following screenshot shows a user that experienced a problem on one of the pages which is great information for the Business Owner as he can proactively contact this user. The engineer can now go deeper and access the underlying captured technical information including transactional traces that show the encountered problem such as a failed Web Service Call, a long running database statement or an unhandled exception.
From Business Impact to Technical Problem Description: Technical context information helps to solve problems faster
To Sum Up: What We Need for Business Transaction Management
There are several key elements we need to perform the type of Business Transaction Management explained.
- All Visitors, All Actions, All the Time
- First Action is Landing Page
- Last Action is Bounce Page
- Helps us to understand the Click Path through the site, where people bounce off, which path people take that convert
- Knowing the Click Paths allows us to improve Conversion Rate and lower Bounce Rates
- Looking up the actions of a complaining users speeds up problem resolution
- Technical Context Information on a Distributed Transaction
- URLs alone are not enough as the Business Transaction itself is not always reflected in URL or URL Parameters
- Need to capture Business Context Information from HTTP Session, Method Arguments, Web Service Calls, SQL Statements, ...
- This information comes from multiple tiers that participate in a distributed transaction
- Technical context information speeds up problem resolution
Out-of-the-Box Business Transactions for Standard Applications
From an implementation perspective the question that always comes up is: Do I need to configure all my business transactions manually? The answer is: not all, but for most applications we have seen that it's necessary as business context information is somewhere buried along the technical transaction and is not necessarily part of the URL. Identifying Business Transactions based on the URL or Web Services that get called is of course a valid start and is something that most Business Transaction Management Solutions provide, and it actually works quite well for standard applications that use standard Web Frameworks. For more complex or customized applications it is a different story.
Business Transactions by URL
The easiest way to identify Business Transactions is by URL, assuming your application uses URLs that tell you something about the related business transactions. If your application uses URLs like the following list, you can easily map these URLs to Business Transactions:
- /home maps to "Home"
- /search maps to "Search"
- /user/cart maps to "Cart"
- /search?q=shoes still maps to "Search" but it would be great to actually see the Search by Keyword
The following screenshot shows the automatically identified Business Transactions based on URLs in dynaTrace. We automatically get the information if there are any errors on these transactions, what the response time is or how much time is spent in the database.
Business Transactions by Web Request URL works well for standard web applications meaningful URLs that can easily be mapped
Business Transactions by Service/Servlet
Another often-seen scenario is Business Transactions based on Servlet Names or Web Service calls that are executed by the technical transaction. This is most often very interesting as you want to know how your calls to the Search or CreditCard Web Service are doing. The name of the invoked web service method is often very descriptive and can therefore be used for automatic business transactions. Here is an example:
Business Transactions by Web Service Method name works well as method names are often very descriptive
Business Transactions by Page Titles
Better than URLs are very often Page Titles - that's the actual Title of the Pages users visit. The following shows us business transactions per page title including information on whether problems are to be found in the browser (Browser Errors), Client, Network or Server allowing a first quick root cause analysis.
Business Transaction by Page Title helps us to understand End User Experience
Customized Business Transactions for Non-standard Applications
A lot of applications our customers are using don't use standard web frameworks where URLs tell them everything they need to identify their business transactions. Here are some examples:
- Web 2.0 applications use a single service URL. The actual executed business transaction name can only be captured from a method argument of the dispatcher method on the backend
- Enforcing SLAs by account types (Free, Premium, Elite Members). The account type of a user doesn't come via the URL but is enumerated with an authentication call on the backend
- Search options are passed via URL using internal IDs. The "human readable" name of this option is queried from the database.
- The Booking Business Transaction is only valid if multiple conditions along the technical transaction are fulfilled, e.g, CreditCardCheck OK and Booking was forwarded to Delivery.
Let's have a look of some examples on how we use Customized Business Transactions in our own environment
Requests by User Type
On our Community Portal we have different User Types that access our pages. It includes employees, customers, partners, etc.; when a user is logged in we only get the actual user type from an authentication call that is made to the backend JIRA Authentication Service. We can capture the return value of the getGroup service call and use this to define a Business Transaction that splits all authenticated transactions by this User Type allowing me to see which types of users are actually consuming content on our Community Portal.
Using a method return value allows me to analyze activity per user type
Search Conversion Rates
We have a custom search feature on our community portal. In order to ensure that people find content based on their keywords I need to understand two things:
- What keywords are used and
- Which keywords result in a successful click to a search result and which ones don't - that helps me to optimize the search index.
The following screenshot shows the two Business Transactions I created. The first splits the search requests based on the keyword which is passed as HTTP POST Parameter on an AJAX call. The second looks at clicks to content pages and shows those that actually came from a previous search result. For that I use the referrer header (I know the user came from a search result page) and I use the last used search keyword (part of the user session).
Using HTTP POST Parameter, Referrer Header and HTTP Session Information to identify Search Keywords and the Conversion Rate to actual Result Clicks
These were just two examples on how we internally use Business Transactions. In the described use cases it's not possible to just look at a URL, a Servlet or Web Service Name to identify the actual Business Transaction. In these scenarios and scenarios that we always see with our customers it is required to capture information from within the technical transaction and then define these Business Transactions based on the captured context data.
A Practical Example: How PGAC uses Business Transactions
As a last example on Business Transaction Management in real life I want to highlight some of what was shown during last week's Webinar by Glen Taylor, Web Service Architect, from PGAC. PGAC runs TheGeneral.com and PGAC.com. Their web application doesn't have URLs that tells them whether the user is currently asking for an insurance quote or whether they are in the process of verifying their credit card. The information about the actual business transaction comes from the Instance Class of an object passed to their ProcessFactory. dynaTrace captures the object passed as argument and its actual class. With that information they are able to split their technical transactions into Business Transactions.
PGAC uses the instance name of a class to define their Business Transactions
If you are interested in their full story check out the recorded webinar. It will be available for download on the dynaTrace recorded webinar page.
More on Business Transaction Management
If you are already a dynaTrace user you should check out the material we have on our dynaTrace Community Portal: Business Transaction in Core Concepts and Business Transactions in Production
SYS-CON Events announced today that Micron Technology, Inc., a global leader in advanced semiconductor systems, will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Micron’s broad portfolio of high-performance memory technologies – including DRAM, NAND and NOR Flash – is the basis for solid state drives, modules, multichip packages and other system solutions. Backed by more than 35 years of technology leadership, Micron's memory solutions enable the world's most innovative computing, consumer,...
Aug. 30, 2015 01:30 PM EDT Reads: 204
SYS-CON Events announced today that Pythian, a global IT services company specializing in helping companies leverage disruptive technologies to optimize revenue-generating systems, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 17th Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Founded in 1997, Pythian is a global IT services company that helps companies compete by adopting disruptive technologies such as cloud, Big Data, advanced analytics, and DevOps to advance innovation and increase agility. Specializing in designing, imple...
Aug. 30, 2015 01:00 PM EDT Reads: 258
SYS-CON Events announced today that HPM Networks will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. For 20 years, HPM Networks has been integrating technology solutions that solve complex business challenges. HPM Networks has designed solutions for both SMB and enterprise customers throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
Aug. 30, 2015 10:30 AM EDT Reads: 861
Consumer IoT applications provide data about the user that just doesn’t exist in traditional PC or mobile web applications. This rich data, or “context,” enables the highly personalized consumer experiences that characterize many consumer IoT apps. This same data is also providing brands with unprecedented insight into how their connected products are being used, while, at the same time, powering highly targeted engagement and marketing opportunities. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Nathan Treloar, President and COO of Bebaio, will explore examples of brands transforming their businesses by t...
Aug. 30, 2015 10:15 AM EDT Reads: 208
With the proliferation of connected devices underpinning new Internet of Things systems, Brandon Schulz, Director of Luxoft IoT – Retail, will be looking at the transformation of the retail customer experience in brick and mortar stores in his session at @ThingsExpo. Questions he will address include: Will beacons drop to the wayside like QR codes, or be a proximity-based profit driver? How will the customer experience change in stores of all types when everything can be instrumented and analyzed? As an area of investment, how might a retail company move towards an innovation methodolo...
Aug. 30, 2015 09:15 AM EDT Reads: 432
Through WebRTC, audio and video communications are being embedded more easily than ever into applications, helping carriers, enterprises and independent software vendors deliver greater functionality to their end users. With today’s business world increasingly focused on outcomes, users’ growing calls for ease of use, and businesses craving smarter, tighter integration, what’s the next step in delivering a richer, more immersive experience? That richer, more fully integrated experience comes about through a Communications Platform as a Service which allows for messaging, screen sharing, video...
Aug. 30, 2015 09:15 AM EDT Reads: 602
The Internet of Things (IoT) is about the digitization of physical assets including sensors, devices, machines, gateways, and the network. It creates possibilities for significant value creation and new revenue generating business models via data democratization and ubiquitous analytics across IoT networks. The explosion of data in all forms in IoT requires a more robust and broader lens in order to enable smarter timely actions and better outcomes. Business operations become the key driver of IoT applications and projects. Business operations, IT, and data scientists need advanced analytics t...
Aug. 30, 2015 08:30 AM EDT Reads: 385
A producer of the first smartphones and tablets, presenter Lee M. Williams will talk about how he is now applying his experience in mobile technology to the design and development of the next generation of Environmental and Sustainability Services at ETwater. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Lee Williams, COO of ETwater, will talk about how he is now applying his experience in mobile technology to the design and development of the next generation of Environmental and Sustainability Services at ETwater.
Aug. 30, 2015 07:00 AM EDT Reads: 116
SYS-CON Events announced today that IceWarp will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. IceWarp, the leader of cloud and on-premise messaging, delivers secured email, chat, documents, conferencing and collaboration to today's mobile workforce, all in one unified interface
Aug. 30, 2015 01:00 AM EDT Reads: 385
WebRTC has had a real tough three or four years, and so have those working with it. Only a few short years ago, the development world were excited about WebRTC and proclaiming how awesome it was. You might have played with the technology a couple of years ago, only to find the extra infrastructure requirements were painful to implement and poorly documented. This probably left a bitter taste in your mouth, especially when things went wrong.
Aug. 30, 2015 01:00 AM EDT Reads: 429
While many app developers are comfortable building apps for the smartphone, there is a whole new world out there. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Narayan Sainaney, Co-founder and CTO of Mojio, will discuss how the business case for connected car apps is growing and, with open platform companies having already done the heavy lifting, there really is no barrier to entry.
Aug. 29, 2015 10:30 AM EDT Reads: 112
As more intelligent IoT applications shift into gear, they’re merging into the ever-increasing traffic flow of the Internet. It won’t be long before we experience bottlenecks, as IoT traffic peaks during rush hours. Organizations that are unprepared will find themselves by the side of the road unable to cross back into the fast lane. As billions of new devices begin to communicate and exchange data – will your infrastructure be scalable enough to handle this new interconnected world?
Aug. 29, 2015 07:45 AM EDT Reads: 133
As more and more data is generated from a variety of connected devices, the need to get insights from this data and predict future behavior and trends is increasingly essential for businesses. Real-time stream processing is needed in a variety of different industries such as Manufacturing, Oil and Gas, Automobile, Finance, Online Retail, Smart Grids, and Healthcare. Azure Stream Analytics is a fully managed distributed stream computation service that provides low latency, scalable processing of streaming data in the cloud with an enterprise grade SLA. It features built-in integration with Azur...
Aug. 28, 2015 07:45 PM EDT Reads: 200
Too often with compelling new technologies market participants become overly enamored with that attractiveness of the technology and neglect underlying business drivers. This tendency, what some call the “newest shiny object syndrome,” is understandable given that virtually all of us are heavily engaged in technology. But it is also mistaken. Without concrete business cases driving its deployment, IoT, like many other technologies before it, will fade into obscurity.
Aug. 28, 2015 06:00 PM EDT Reads: 332
Akana has announced the availability of the new Akana Healthcare Solution. The API-driven solution helps healthcare organizations accelerate their transition to being secure, digitally interoperable businesses. It leverages the Health Level Seven International Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (HL7 FHIR) standard to enable broader business use of medical data. Akana developed the Healthcare Solution in response to healthcare businesses that want to increase electronic, multi-device access to health records while reducing operating costs and complying with government regulations.
Aug. 26, 2015 07:00 AM EDT Reads: 124
For IoT to grow as quickly as analyst firms’ project, a lot is going to fall on developers to quickly bring applications to market. But the lack of a standard development platform threatens to slow growth and make application development more time consuming and costly, much like we’ve seen in the mobile space. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mike Weiner, Product Manager of the Omega DevCloud with KORE Telematics Inc., discussed the evolving requirements for developers as IoT matures and conducted a live demonstration of how quickly application development can happen when the need to comply wit...
Aug. 2, 2015 11:15 AM EDT Reads: 549
The Internet of Everything (IoE) brings together people, process, data and things to make networked connections more relevant and valuable than ever before – transforming information into knowledge and knowledge into wisdom. IoE creates new capabilities, richer experiences, and unprecedented opportunities to improve business and government operations, decision making and mission support capabilities.
Aug. 1, 2015 10:00 AM EDT Reads: 476
Explosive growth in connected devices. Enormous amounts of data for collection and analysis. Critical use of data for split-second decision making and actionable information. All three are factors in making the Internet of Things a reality. Yet, any one factor would have an IT organization pondering its infrastructure strategy. How should your organization enhance its IT framework to enable an Internet of Things implementation? In his session at @ThingsExpo, James Kirkland, Red Hat's Chief Architect for the Internet of Things and Intelligent Systems, described how to revolutionize your archit...
Jul. 30, 2015 07:30 PM EDT Reads: 1,563
MuleSoft has announced the findings of its 2015 Connectivity Benchmark Report on the adoption and business impact of APIs. The findings suggest traditional businesses are quickly evolving into "composable enterprises" built out of hundreds of connected software services, applications and devices. Most are embracing the Internet of Things (IoT) and microservices technologies like Docker. A majority are integrating wearables, like smart watches, and more than half plan to generate revenue with APIs within the next year.
Jul. 30, 2015 02:30 PM EDT Reads: 276
Growth hacking is common for startups to make unheard-of progress in building their business. Career Hacks can help Geek Girls and those who support them (yes, that's you too, Dad!) to excel in this typically male-dominated world. Get ready to learn the facts: Is there a bias against women in the tech / developer communities? Why are women 50% of the workforce, but hold only 24% of the STEM or IT positions? Some beginnings of what to do about it! In her Opening Keynote at 16th Cloud Expo, Sandy Carter, IBM General Manager Cloud Ecosystem and Developers, and a Social Business Evangelist, d...
Jul. 30, 2015 12:00 PM EDT Reads: 2,225