Gian Trotta: Welcome to another "First Look" podcast. I'm your host, ebizQ Product Manager, Gian Trotta. Our guest today is Thad Eidman, CEO of Knoa Software, who will describe Knoa's unique tool-based approach to EPM experience and performance management. Done right, it provides effective measurements of adoption, efficient use and effective use of applications by end users. Welcome, Thad, and thanks for joining us.
Thad Eidman: Thanks, Gian. I look forward to speaking with you today.
GT: Okay, glad to be so anticipated! First question, Thad: There seems to be a growing level of interest in end-user experience in management software. Can you tell us what these solutions do and what you think is driving the high levels of interest?
TE: Sure, Gian! Well, what we see in our meetings with CIOs and business executives is the growing realization that, at the end of the day, it's the ability of the end user to actually execute that really matters. And--let me describe that and bring that to life a little bit. Let's say you are the CEO of a major corporation. And, of course, you have a set of operating objectives, right? And along the way to executing these objectives, you decide that you can do it most effectively with some software. So you do some analysis and you spend generally a lot of money buying a software package or creating internally and probably a lot more actually implementing it.
And then, what happens? Well, you want to know at the end of the day after you've implemented it, are people able to effectively use this stuff? Now, if you're a CEO today and you ask that question, you're not going to get a great answer. And you're certainly not going to get much in the way of metrics. So user performance is really the realization that what matters is the ability of users to actually execute major software applications.
And so, what we're doing is providing management of these corporations with the metrics required to drive adoption and effective use of these mission-critical applications. And basically, what it nets out to is that, by driving efficient and effective use, the benefits of these applications can be realized in a reduced risk environment. So the net is that user performance management is about driving user effectiveness and creating a set of metrics, which enables corporate management to understand whether or not users are able to effectively execute.
GT: That's understood. What kind of particular companies are deploying Knoa at this point, and what particular groups inside the company will benefit from end user experience management the most?
TE: Okay. Well, those are great questions! I think, first of all, not to get into the Knoa technology in any details but it's important to understand that Knoa does work with any windows or Web application. So basically any third party or proprietary application that a company is running that is critical to them, we have the ability to work with them on. Our initial focus has been with major enterprise offerings from SAP, Oracle, Microsoft, so -- Microsoft Outlook, for example, which is an enterprise application.
Our initial rush of customers were the big guys. So Fortune 500 companies like British Telecom and Kimberly Clark, Ingram Micro, Disney, etc. This group of companies really shares a common set of challenges regardless of the particular applications they've chosen, and that is they have tens of thousands of users, particularly distributed globally and they really just don't have any visibility into the experience that these users are experiencing with the application or the performance that they are able to achieve.
For these very large companies, increases in adoption and effective use across--as you can imagine--thousands of users can have a very significant impact on business results. The other thing that's interesting is that as we drive user proficiency, what we also find is a decrease in the total cost of ownership. So, for example, if my users can execute more effectively, it means they create fewer errors, which means they have fewer phone calls into user support and IT support, etc.
What we find is that, as the big customers are able to use the Knoa tool to identify where specifically, they can drive user proficiency, they are also at the same time lowering their cost of ownership. Now the other thing that is really interesting that's happened to us over really in the last six months or so is dramatic expansion into the mid market.
GT: Right, I can understand. Return on investment is return on investment. And if the end user justifies the means, you're scaling down to smaller enterprises.
TE: Well, exactly. What we find is that, of course, the major enterprise application vendors themselves have heavily targeted the mid market. And we're following their lead. But what we find is with smaller companies that might have, let's say, 750 to 1500 users. Have really many of the same issues in terms of, are the users able to effectively execute? And the other additional challenge they have is even fewer levels of resources to deal with it.
So Knoa can point out to them precisely where their performance challenge is in which groups of users, then they can address it much more efficiently in terms of the resources they have available.
GT: Oh, that's understood. I mean, obviously if a company is interested in evaluating their need for end user experience software, what specifically should they be looking for and what product characteristics are important?
TE: Well, I think there's a few things that customers need to look at. First is that in order to provide a reliable and complete end user experience and performance management solution, the key of course is to take your measurement from the end user perspective. So with Knoa, for example, our measurement capability is out with the end user themselves. So we're observing and tracking and monitoring end users from the end user perspective. I think that's really critical.
I think the second thing that's important is looking at things from a transaction level. Maybe looking at a HTPP monitor somewhere within a network is helpful for managing IT root cause analysis but is not helpful for managing user root cause analysis. So one of the things that we find in using a tool like Knoa, which looks at transactions and is able to look down inside transactions at the user's actions before, during and after a transaction, is that companies now have the ability to, if you will, understand what's happening in the user community in terms of errors received and errors created and response issues, etc, and relay those.
I think a third area that's important is that the technology needs to be adaptive in nature. One of the things that companies have found is that when they try to execute tools that are monitoring and tracking, that when they change their underlying application, the tools break. So one of the things we've done with Knoa is to make our technology adaptive, so that as customers actually upgrade the applications that we're working to measure, our software automatically adapts and changes its nature to work with a new version.
GT: Thad, can both those capabilities--the earlier capabilities you described, and visibility, that you also described... Can that help a company identify patterns that then can be used in an SOA or other efficiencies?
TE: Absolutely. What happens is that there's kind of two aspects to the Knoa product. One is our unique ability to collect information from the user perspective and to do so in a templated fashion, so it's all pre-defined. The second is the ability to analyze that information and to show our customers on a prioritized basis which specific transactions or which specific areas within an application are those where users are having issues with execution so they are making lots of errors, or they are dropping out of processes, that kind of thing. Which areas of the application are users receiving a large number of issues. So the receiving errors or response time issues, etc.
We can also flip that around and look at it on an individual user basis. So, for example, which individual users are having the most trouble? So, by being able to analyze the data from a number of different perspectives, we have the ability to identify and prioritize those areas where companies need to look.
GT: And do you think, Thad, eventually a company using Knoa, would eventually be able to raise their rate of successful integration projects?
TE: Absolutely. We're seeing that already with customers. And if you think about it, it's a very simple concept, which is today when customers do an implementation, typically they have to wait 60 to 90 days before they get feedback. I recall meeting with a CIO recently and I asked him a very simple question, because they had a major implementation. And I said, "Well, how's it going?" He said, "I think it's going really well." I said, "Well, how do you know?" He said, "Because the phone isn't ringing."
So, I think what happens is it just takes a tremendous amount of time before companies get feedback on how the implementation is going. And the problem is that, if users are already encountering major issues, response time issues, or they're creating errors or they're receiving errors, then they really drop out of the process. They will stop using the application or certain kinds of functionality and it will take a long time to get them back.
So with Knoa, you really have some very precise metrics that tell you, you know, within 24 hours basically, of a launch of a new application, launch of an upgrade, etc. Who is using it, how are they using it, when are they using it, where are they using it, what kinds of issues are they running into. And when you can take these kinds of proactive resolution processes, and implement them so that you can aggressively and proactively address issues, you really catch the user community early before they have an opportunity to kind of drop out of the share of mind, if you will, of a new application.
GT: Which is where we are all headed. I think judge a company by how it executes mind share these days.
TE: Absolutely! Absolutely!
GT: It's all about exposing the business intelligence within the enterprise, which you do. And I guess a last quick question: Do you see the companies that are actually managing Knoa, are they doing it--is it the IT staff themselves or is it an SOA competency center or any other department that seems to especially like to implement a program like Knoa?
TE: Well, once we're implemented against the selected application for that particular customer, typically there are four groups within a Knoa customer that use the Knoa console and Knoa information. The first group is user support. So what happens is we collect a very detailed view of the user's actions in real time. And so user support can use this real-time information in order to assist a user that is having an issue. So if you have a user that's experiencing an error or creating an error, they are having difficulty with execution, what happens is that the user support team, either in answer to a user call or even without the user calling, can proactively understand what is happening with that user and makes some remedial recommendation.
So, for user support, what it's all about is being proactive. No. 2, when calls do come, it's reducing the amount of time required for each of those calls, and third, it's about eliminating issues from the cycle. I had a funny story the other day working with an executive over at user support group. And he described to me that in some cases, when a user calls in, that the remediation, the effective result, is to tell the user to reboot. And if the user can then move on to their next activity, then it's checked as a resolved issue. But keep into mind, that same issue can come in, you know, across the floor in five minutes. So, with Knoa, you're able to identify and eliminate the issue.
The second group that uses Knoa is IT support. And IT support has got a very difficult challenge ahead of it. Because of SOA, you mentioned earlier, in our conversation and grid computing. Increasingly, the actual delivery of performance to a user is really done dynamically. So it's done with a dynamically assembled group of components. So how do you measure the performance that you're providing when everything is assembled dynamically? And, of course, as you move to rich applications on the desktop, increasingly it is going to be about actions that users are performing.
So, IT has a very tough putt in terms of this changing architecture and with Knoa, IT has the ability to measure this performance, really from where it matters, which is the net result to the end user.
GT: I understand. The processes are becoming less quantifiable but the user experience remains.
TE: Absolutely! And you know, the user doesn't care --whether it's grid computing or SOA or what have you. They just want a good experience.
GT: That's for sure! This has been fascinating, Thad. Where should interested listeners go to learn more about managing end user experiences in general and, or Knoa in particular?
TE: Well, what we tried to do with the Knoa Web site is to provide quite a bit of information about user performance management in general, as well as our own product, of course. So people are welcome to come to www.knoa.com and I think at the site, they'll find a wealth of information about user performance management in general and overall characteristics, and of course -- Knoa products.
GT: Okay! Sounds fascinating. And I want to thank you, Thad, for taking time out of a busy schedule to talk to our audience.
TE: Thank you very much. It was a pleasure to have a conversation with you.
GT: Okay! This is Gian Trotta of ebizQ. I'm going to sign off now and remind you all that for more cutting-edge podcasts, Webinars, virtual conferences and white papers, the address is www.ebizq.net
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