Swarovski, the Austrian maker of cut crystal and related luxury products, says it got proper visibility into the IT function by adopting an application performance management (APM) suite from Compuware. It also sped online checkouts by 20%, potentially saving the company a fortune in abandoned sales.
René Neubacher, team leader for eBusiness B2C operations at the company, told CBR that in Austria alone Swarovski has over 300 staff in IT, while its various websites receive over 600 million visitors per year in 24 countries. It has seen 30-50% growth each year since it launched an online business in 2001.
But the company was finding it difficult to get an accurate and timely view of whether applications were really performing. "We have different departments for everything and lots of IT monitoring tools that give us metrics on things like CPU, RAM and so on, but the business was really dissatisfied. Ultimately the business is using applications so that is what we need to support. But we didn’t have any dashboards to show the business how applications were really running," Neubacher told CBR.
Neubacher said there can also be finger-pointing within the different IT roles when a problem occurs, because none of the tools were able to quickly pinpoint where an error had occurred when an error did happen.
"In Autumn 2010 we started looking around for a tool that could give us proper APM [application performance management]," Neubacher says. "After a proof of concept we were really happy with Compuware APM [dynaTrace Enterprise edition] and that’s what we chose."
Neubacher said the firm was reassured by the fact that a problem connecting clients to servers during the P.O.C stage was solved by Compuware by lunchtime, while rival vendors said they needed more time or a signed contract before they could help fix the issue.
Neubacher also said the team were grateful for dynaTrace’s ease of use and configurability, and slick user interface which means business people can make use of the dashboarding capability.
Once they had chosen a tool, Neubacher and his team approached Swarovski’s CIO to get the budget, with a business case. "We showed how we would be able to save on mean time before resolution and his eyes started sparkling," says Neubacher. "He was asking if we could save on developers, but we explained that if anything we might need more because we would discover more issues."
The APM tool was installed in two to three days after the P.O.C had already helped kick-start the process.
According to Neubacher, the tool very quickly helped the organisation identify some low-hanging fruit. "We almost immediately discovered with the tool that there was a problem with a connector to SAP, which was causing latency due to poorly configured logging," Neubacher says. "Just that one discovery saved us 20% for customers at online checkouts."
The firm also identified a lot of ‘background noise’ in the systems caused by other machine to machine processes that were slowing transactions, and that had little to do with serving customers.
There were direct benefits in the back office, too. "In the back office a lot of time is spent searching for orders by customer name or whatever," says Neubacher. "DynaTrace helped us speed that by 80% by helping us optimise SQL queries."
Neubacher said the tool helps identify problems far faster regardless of the underlying infrastructure, leading to a reduction in mean time to resolution of 50-80%.
But Neubacher also says that the biggest benefit has been in ‘softer’ areas – for example finger-pointing between IT roles has stopped almost completely now that errors can be identified far faster; business people now have proper dashboards that are not only up-to-date but present application performance data in a way that is meaningful to them; and the tool has also been valuable in assisting the quality assurance (QA) process when rolling out new applications.
As for lessons learned along the way, Neubacher has nothing but praise for the Compuware tool. But he does advise those looking at APM that, "APM is a process, so it’s important you get your process in place. The Compuware APM helps handle the whole lifecycle but you also need responsible people to make best use of the tool – it’s very powerful but you will start finding issues, and if anything you may even need more developers because you are going to want to fix what the tool finds."
Neubacher said the business users have been overwhelmingly positive, now that they too have well-presented dashboards showing them how well the business is performing against various metrics. He said the tool has helped improve the IT department’s standing in the organisation because where there is an error now, the IT function can pinpoint the cause faster and of course get it fixed quicker too.
About the firm
Swarovski was founded by glass apprentice Daniel Swarovski — who patented an electric cutting machine that facilitated the production of crystal glass — and two financiers, Armand Kosman and Franz Weis, back in 1895. While the founders were from Bohemia (now the Czech Republic), Austria was chosen as a base because of the availability of hydroelectricity for the energy-intensive grinding processes Daniel Swarovski had patented.
Today the Swarovski Crystal range includes crystal glass sculptures and miniatures, jewelry and couture, home decor, and chandeliers. All sculptures are marked with a logo. The original Swarovski logo was an edelweiss flower, which was replaced by an S.A.L. logo, which was finally replaced with the current swan logo in 1988.